Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘affordable housing’

Can anyone in Europe help line up contacts, home tours, etc.? Their contact info is on our Bulletin Board.

Hello friends,
My name is Ivo Christov and I’m writing you this letter from Sofia, Bulgaria. Allow me to introduce myself with few words: I and my wife are founders of “Charity on Wheels” Foundation, recently established and created for one simple purpose – to build an ecological village made only by earthbags. This idea is very innovative, nature-friendly, beautiful and cheap.

With this intention and for that reason we are going to raise money through a European tandem bike tour including Greece, Albania, Croatia, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, England, Nederland, Deutschland, Poland, Ukraine, Moldova and Romania.
The thing that we want from you is to help us with contacts, people, ideas, eventual workshops or places to visit and see already build domes of earth bags across the Europe.

Thank you in advance,
Best regards,
Ivo

Read Full Post »


As one of the top natural builders who influenced the direction of my life, we’ll be discussing more of Ken Kern’s building ideas. This is the stuff that fueled my imagination and passion for affordable housing when I was a young man. It was obvious to me 35-40 years ago that modern building materials are not affordable to the average person and so I’ve been intent on finding lower cost alternatives ever since.

“This is one of the finest books on low-cost owner-built homes that I have read. Mr. Kern specifies the general principles of low-energy consumption and low-cost living with an artistic expression of living spaces. In particular, he specifies ways to build your home to evolve with your life and ability to invest more in your home with passing time. His philosophy is to avoid going into deep debt, by constructing only the necessities to begin with, then enlarge the structure in a planned and integrated way. He has many original ideas and he was also an experimentalist. He researched his low-cost philosophy around the world to find new solutions to many construction problems. He plans and constructs his homes with natural heating and air conditioning integrated into the structure. Ken Kern was a heroic architectural pioneer in the field of low-cost owner-built housing.” – Google Books

Amazon.com

Read Full Post »

The number one barrier to home ownership is affordability. Many people can’t afford a home made with expensive modern materials, and bank financing. That’s why earthbag building, and natural building in general, is becoming so popular. Why not build it yourself – in stages if you have to – with low cost materials and pay with cash as you go?

Let’s look at the materials required to build a small $300 earthbag dome at about $6/square foot. (Detailed building instructions at Instructables.com)
– Recycled or misprinted bags: Polypropylene bags are widely used for rice, sugar, fertilizer, animal feed and other uses. You can often find used bags at low cost, or you can order misprinted bags at reduced cost from a manufacturer. The standard size for earthbag building is 18”x30”. Mesh bags and burlap bags are others option if you can get them cheaply.
– Subsoil: This is usually available at or near the construction site. Some builders dig a pond and use the excavated soil to build their home. Excavating companies frequently have excess ‘fill dirt’ they’ll gladly sell for cheap, especially if they’re working in the area and you can reduce their trucking costs. Excessively clayey soils can be mixed with sand from a stream or river bed (often available free for the hauling). Overly sandy soils can be mixed with a bit of clayey soil to make more solid earthbags. Another source is sand and gravel producers, who often have ‘reject fines’ or ‘road base’ at low cost.
– Gravel: This is a good fill material for lower courses and can serve as a low-cost ‘gravel bag foundation’. Gravel and/or rubble from old driveways or sidewalks can be broken up and used in a rubble trench under the first course of bags.
– Barbed wire: This adds a lot of tensile strength, which is critical for domes. Most builders use new barbed wire between courses since it’s not a major expense for a small structure. But for those on a tight budget, using recycled barbed wire from old fences is another way to save money. (Make sure it’s in good condition, especially for domes.)
– Tamped earth floors and earth plaster: Experiment with your local soil and find a mix that is suitable. If it shrinks and cracks excessively, add sand. If it doesn’t adhere well, add clay. Adding chopped straw or other fibers will reduce cracking. Earth plaster can become a work of art, with almost any color imaginable. Your floor could be made simply by tamping the mineral subsoil that’s under the dome, although in most climates it’s advantageous to add insulation under the earth floor (such as scoria or pumice) and a moisture barrier.
– Doors, windows and vents: These can all be salvaged. Short pieces of pipe can be buried in the wall for ventilation. Insert some screened pipes low in the wall and some up high on different sides of the building for optimum ventilation. Some builders add operable skylights for greater ventilation and lighting. Arched window and door openings can be formed from barrels, tires or forms built of wood scraps. Consider using old wagon wheels or culvert pipe for window frames.
– Exterior plaster or living roof: Unless you’re living in an extremely dry desert, you’ll need to protect your structure from moisture damage. There are numerous options. Some builders used a soil cement mix to create a reptilian-like scaled surface. Most use lime or cement plaster. Another way is to put 6 mil plastic sheeting and earth over the dome and create a living roof with plants. Living roofs are very beautiful, but they do require a lot of time and effort, and a favorable climate.

Learn more by going to Instructables.com and by searching any of the above keywords in the search engine. We have hundreds of pages of free information that cover virtually every topic.

Read Full Post »

A new Shelters for All affordable housing contest started November 15, 2011. They’re seeking 700-1,100 sq. ft. one story house designs for the poorest in urban areas. I’d like to enter the contest and now I’m racking my brain trying to figure out what house design to use. It takes a lot of time and effort to come up with a new design, so I’m hoping to modify one of my existing plans. The $10,000 first place prize is quite an incentive! But I don’t have many houses that will work. Most of my houses are too small and/or roundhouses, domes, spirals, etc. and not suitable for this contest. I’ve narrowed it down to three possible plans and would love your feedback. Which of the following plans do you like best? How would you modify them?

Sweet Spot (click to enlarge)

Sweet Spot (click to enlarge)


Sweet Spot (with gable roof for ease of construction, and porch)
Double Wide (click to enlarge)

Double Wide (click to enlarge)


Double Wide (make porch roof an extension of the main roof eave)
Craftsman (click to enlarge)

Craftsman (click to enlarge)


Craftsman

Read Full Post »

A brief tale of two home buyers…

John:
John bought a contractor-built house in the suburbs, largely because that’s what most people do. He didn’t give the decision a great deal of thought. He was eager to have a nice new home to show off to friends and family. It would provide a lot of personal satisfaction and be a sign to everyone who noticed that he was successful. Looking back, it was oh so easy to sign on the dotted line… It didn’t take long for the problems to begin. John’s first surprise came from unexpected repairs. He would have to foot the bill for a plumbing leak in the wall, broken faucet, new storm door and some drawer slides. With most of his spare money put into the down payment, he had to start tapping his credit card. Routine repairs and unexpected expenses suddenly became the norm. And then the regular bills hit. At first John was prepared, but bit by bit things became more difficult, especially as cold weather and higher energy bills set in. It never occurred to John to investigate the energy efficiency of his home before buying. After all, the home was only two years old. Everything should be built to code, right? Well, to his chagrin, John discovered that codes only provide minimal standards. Now he had to choose between cranking up the furnace to stay warm and pay the ridiculous heating bills, wearing winter clothes around the house or insulating and weatherizing the house. Although he couldn’t really afford it right now, he bit the bullet and paid for an insulation package. But even with the upgrade, he could feel the cold air blowing through the walls, especially around the windows and electrical outlets. And that’s when the furnace broke. The warranty had just expired, of course, so John was hit with another repair bill he couldn’t afford. This time he had to ask his parents for help since his line of credit was tapped out. Unfortunately, his dad had had some unexpected medical bills and his parents were unable to help. He was forced to renegotiate his loan on the banks’ terms. This story ends on a sad note because his bank is currently taking a tough stand against those who can’t make their payments on time. A few months later, John lost his home and down payment. The sale price was less than what he had paid, so now he is on the hook for the balance and the credit card debt. John lost all his savings and had to sell his car and other possessions.

Sara:
Sara had been saving for years for her dream sustainable home and already owned a small piece of land in the country. She determined from the outset that she wanted her own home, and there was no way she would work the bulk of her adult life paying off a mortgage. After all, almost everyone built their own home up until the last 50-100 years, so it didn’t make sense to forfeit a lifetime of earnings to a bank for things she didn’t really need. She researched every aspect of building a house – building codes, foundations, earthbag walls, insulation, cost estimating, non-toxic materials, roofing, everything. It took a lot of time and effort to learn what to do and put together a workable plan. Online videos were a big help, as were various blogs and websites that explained how to do things versus generalized content. Sarah settled on a simple starter home with only the basic necessities so she could pay with cash. She understood this would save her a ton of money, and besides, she could always add on later. It was a daunting challenge, but Sarah worked extra hard for a few months and completed her home. Not only did she manage to avoid decades of mortgage payments, she also slashed her monthly utility bills because her new home is extremely energy efficient. In addition, the home contains no man-made materials that off-gas toxic chemicals. And, her home is warm and beautiful — a reflection of who she is. It was a lot of work, but now she’s finished and has much more free time to do the things she enjoys doing most.

Read Full Post »

Solar Pit House Section View (click to enlarge)

Solar Pit House Section View (click to enlarge)


Specifications: 1,127 sq. ft. interior living space, 441 sq. ft. interior greenhouse, total = 1,568 sq. ft. interior, Footprint: 36’x53’

As explained in the previous blog post, this modern solar pit house is based on the traditional pit house. The construction is much the same. Additional ‘modules’ have been added to create an elongated rectangular design for added living space and windows added on the south for solar gain. Each module is based on wood posts set in geopolymer or concrete footings. Wood beams approximately 10”-12” diameter are joined at the posts with half lap joints and pinned in place with rebar or logging spikes. Smaller poles around the perimeter lean against the beams. 24” wide earthbag walls with a reinforced geopolymer or concrete bond beam rest on rubble trench foundations.

The entire structure is surrounded by insulation and moisture barriers, both of which can be obtained as recycled materials. The Solar Canadian [their blog is currently unavailable for some reason] reported that farmers use large plastic bags for storing grain for one year and then discard them. They should make a perfect moisture barrier. And, as discussed in a previous blog post, recycled polystyrene is available. In this design, loose polystyrene is used around the perimeter, and home-made rigid board insulation is used on the roof and under the floors. Be sure to test the rigid board insulation so it doesn’t compress and cause cracking in the slab floor.

Other features:
– Sloping, earth-sheltered design has no vertical walls exposed to the harsh wind. This greatly reduces heating cost.
– Radiant floor heating is the recommended heating system. At least one back-up heating system is called for due to the extreme climate – either a wood stove or propane heater.
– A window wall separates the greenhouse from the main living space. Solar powered, heat activated fans blow heat from the greenhouse into the home, and cold air return vents draw cool air back into the greenhouse.
– Double door airlock reduces heat loss.
– The entry or mud room has space for coats, boots, shovels, snowshoes and greenhouse window insulation (possibly more polystyrene panels).
– The entry vault helps block westerly winds and prevent drifting snow from accumulating on the greenhouse roof.
– Pantry provides long-term food storage to reduce trips to the store.
– Storage room for greenhouse supplies and potting bench.
– Buried cisterns (not shown) with gravity flow design or back-up water hand pumps in case of blackouts.
– Joseph Jenkins sawdust composting toilets greatly reduce water use. Water conservation is important since water deliveries are expensive and unreliable in remote areas.
– Enhanced livability over current low income housing: traditional design for cultural acceptance; warmer (huge psychological boost when the floor and air temperature are always comfortable); more pleasant living environment with abundance of plants and much greater daylighting (combats cabin fever); fresh food production and higher oxygen level; superinsulated design with far lower energy costs (money stays in the community); adequate space for extended families and storage; greater self sufficiency.

Note to other designers: I’d like to refine this design with input from other design professionals and make all drawings freely available on the Internet. Please email me at strawhouses [at] yahoo.com if you would like to contribute. Or just leave a comment here if you’re short on time.

Read Full Post »

There’s a huge groundswell of interest in living more lightly on the earth. On the one hand, conscientious homeowners want to pollute less and protect natural resources. But they also want to save money on construction and energy costs and still have a beautiful, safe and comfortable home. Whether you call it natural building, green building or sustainable building, the eco-friendly building techniques outlined here meet all of these goals and more.

In designing your dream eco-friendly home, perhaps the most important consideration is affordability. This requires a realistic evaluation of individual and family wants and needs. Building small and simple, only what you need, will save money and headaches every step of the way, including reduced long-term energy costs and maintenance. Building small and simple means fewer resources are consumed, resulting in a smaller energy footprint for your home. That’s good for you and the planet.

Building affordably requires discipline and the right mindset. All too often people get swept away with ideas from home design magazines and luxury home tours. To build affordably and avoid budget creep during the building phase, put everything in writing and stick to the budget. Make a list of materials and then shop and compare prices. This one step alone, just a couple hours of effort, can easily save you $1,000 on a small home.

Do your research and plan meticulously. Every hour spent on planning will reduce problems (and unnecessary costs) later. Keep a careful eye on every detail. Even professionals make mistakes, so allow for delays and cost overruns. If you’re not a professional builder, be doubly careful. It is heart wrenching tearing out mistakes and doing things over. There are thousands of small steps in building a home and many of them must proceed in a certain sequence. Being your own contractor and building your home as a do-it-yourselfer is a good way to cut costs, but again, do your research, learn as much as you can and plan judiciously.

Going low-tech is one of the easiest ways to save money. We’re constantly bombarded with advertising claims that will supposedly improve our lives, when in reality they often complicate them. Scrutinize every product, every material that goes into your home. You may want to prioritize items that quickly pay for themselves. For example, we added vents in the gable end wall of our kitchen. (It’s a hot climate, year-round.) Everyday hot air rises to the top of the cathedral ceiling and flows out the vents … for free. Our kitchen stays cooler, the air is fresher and the refrigerator doesn’t work as hard. And soon, we’ll be enjoying our outdoor kitchen that will keep most of the heat outside. [Outdoor kitchen is now finished.] These are but a few examples of working with nature to improve the design of your home.

You can read the entire article for free at Civil Engineer Group.

Read Full Post »

Stone Dome – $300 Geopolymer Earthbag Dome (click to enlarge)

Stone Dome – $300 Geopolymer Earthbag Dome (click to enlarge)


My housing designs are now posted for ‘The $300 House Open Design Challenge’. I’ve submitted two proposals so far: $300 Earthbag House – What the World Needs Now, and the Stone Dome – $300 Geopolymer Earthbag Dome. There are lots of new drawings and details included. Please, please take a look, leave comments and rate the designs (highly, of course!). The contest closes in a few days, so please act soon. A large outpouring of favorable comments and ratings will no doubt help sway the judges on the practicality of building with earthbags. A winning entry would help those in need of affordable housing, help push earthbag into the spotlight and encourage its continued development.

Read Full Post »

Building an Earthbag Home in Northern New Mexico

Building an Earthbag Home in Northern New Mexico


I just found this new blog by Aly B. Following her adventure will likely give you lots of ideas for your own home. Text below is from their site.

“How did I ever come up with the idea to build myself a dirt house? Last February I was on my way back from Egypt, long before Mubarak left, and felt miserably depressed that I had no home to go back to. During the course of the long airplane ride, I began to draw the home which has evolved from square to rectangle to dome to kidney bean to airplane hangar. After months of reading countless natural building, greywater, rainwater and permaculture books, I have landed at the design that I have today.

As I talk about later, my design has been guided by simplicity and efficiency. More than anything, what’s been most important to me is to live in a house that I myself, with no building experience whatsoever, can design, build and maintain. A natural extension of that has been the desire to live in a peaceful space. For me that means a home that’s in tune with nature, thus limiting the use of imported materials for construction, in addition to those that will be needed later on, such as for heating.

Construction will begin in April 2011! Follow the building process on my blog.”

Building an Earthbag Home in Northern New Mexico blog

Read Full Post »

Here’s another Haiti project in the works. Text below is from their website.

TYIN Haiti earthbag project

TYIN Haiti earthbag project


TYIN haiti is a TYIN tegnestue– initiative, comprised of a group of six students and two architects, all studying/ graduated from NTNU. TYIN tegnestue is a non-profit organisation working humanitarian through architecture. We aim to build strategic projects that can improve the lives of people in difficult situations.

The six architecture/industrial design students will be spending half a year in Delmas, Port-au-Prince, with guidance and visits from the architects. These days we are developing a project in cooperation with our local contact, Project Haiti, and their women’s network, Manman Troll. It is important for us to involve the locals in the project, and to get to know the situation and the people we are dealing with.

TYIN Blog

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »