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Posts Tagged ‘earthbag home’

Great Determination earthbag hermitage

Great Determination earthbag hermitage


Lotus design in earthen floor

Lotus design in earthen floor


“The small city of Athens, Ohio is a hotbed of sustainable building practices. There are nearly two dozen strawbale houses, an earthship and many off the grid dwellings in the vicinity. We did not realize this until after we had moved here. When we decided to stay we spent a year intensively researching alternatives to mainstream building techniques and settled on a plan that fit our very small budget, was simple and low tech, that two reasonably fit persons could build alone. We chose to build an earthbag house.”

Read the rest at the source: Great Determination Buddhist Hermitage

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Cedar latillas create a true Territorial feel (click to enlarge)

Cedar latillas create a true Territorial feel (click to enlarge)


Split cedar latillas create a different, yet traditional look

Split cedar latillas create a different, yet traditional look


Roundhouse ceilng made with latillas and vigas

Roundhouse ceilng made with latillas and vigas


Skipped peeled latillas

Skipped peeled latillas


Saguaro cactus rib latillas (click to enlarge)

Saguaro cactus rib latillas (click to enlarge)


Historic vigas and latillas (click to enlarge)

Historic vigas and latillas (click to enlarge)


Colored latillas and carved corbels

Colored latillas and carved corbels


Definition of latilla from Dictionary.com: “luh-tee-uh, a peeled branch or piece of wood laid between beams of a ceiling or above the vigas for decoration.”

From Southwest Building Supply: “Latilla is from the Spanish word Lata, meaning stick. These “sticks” are used as a traditional ceiling material, laid between beams or vigas. Latillas are cut from spruce or pine [or other woods] and are available in varying lengths and diameters.”

Additional facts:
– traditional latillas were mostly laid straight
– latillas in many modern homes are laid diagonally
– latillas can be peeled, stained, painted, burned, split or milled
– latilla panels are available to speed construction

Image source: Camino del Contento
Image source: Grand River Supply
Image source: Soledad Canyon
Image source: Mark Wright Construction, Inc.
Image source: Colorado Preservation.org
Image source: Idaho Forest
More good Latilla photos: Southwest Ideas.com

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This ecoresort design joins two earthbag roundhouses with private baths between. (click to enlarge)

This ecoresort design joins two earthbag roundhouses with private baths between. (click to enlarge)


Specifications: Two 16′ diameter roundhouses = 402 sq. ft. interior plus 80 sq. ft. baths, total 482 sq. ft. interior (241 per unit), 1 bed, 1 bath per unit, Footprint: 19′ x 49’

Description: This ecoresort design joins two earthbag roundhouses with private baths between. The roof extends over the porch to create a shaded area with benches for relaxing. Windows on all sides provide optimum ventilation and thermal comfort (15 degrees F or 8 degrees C cooler inside than out). Glass block and bottle walls add a splash of color and fun. Thatch could be used, although metal roofing is more durable and fire resistant, requires less maintenance and allows for roofwater collection. With just a little modification, the two units could be joined to create a home by enclosing the porch as a passageway, converting one bathroom into a laundry room, and deleting one kitchen.

Double Unit Ecoresort floorplan. (click to enlarge)

Double Unit Ecoresort floorplan. (click to enlarge)


When something works exceeding well, it makes sense to pursue similar options. I’ve been saying for some time that earthbag roundhouses are the simplest, fastest, easiest, most practical way to build with earthbags. (Domes are great in some ways, but they have certain design limitations and are not the best choice for our hot, rainy climate. Square and rectangular designs have some benefits, but tend to be a bit boring, especially for an ecoresort, and long straight walls require additional support.)

That’s one reason I’ve created designs such as Two Roundhouses with Greenhouse, Three Roundhouses Design, my Hobbit designs, as well as numerous other roundhouse designs at Earthbag House Plans. (You can easily browse all roundhouse plans by selecting ‘Round’ in the Category menu on the right side of the page.) Note — most people end up modifying these basic designs to meet their needs, which can easily be done for a modest fee.

Each step of construction is explained in this Earthbag Roundhouse Instructable.

All plans are available through Dream Green Homes. Not all plans are shown. Just ask if there’s something you don’t see.

Visit my Earthbag House Plans site for complete info.

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Built-in shelving by fireplace

Built-in shelving by fireplace


Custom built-in bookcases

Custom built-in bookcases


Built-in bookshelves and storage

Built-in bookshelves and storage


Overhead built-in bookcases

Overhead built-in bookcases


Built-in shelving and desk

Built-in shelving and desk


Extra storage space always seems to come in handy. Built-in shelving helps organize and store your books and other belongings in a way that adds warmth and character to your home. Built-in shelving is a sign of a well-built home. Lower quality homes, in contrast, typically have bare walls with few or no built-in amenities. This requires homeowners to buy and store everything in furniture that’s not attached to the home. The end result is a sense of impermanence and lack of coziness.

Built-in shelving can be as simple or as elaborate as you like. My experiences include building a simple angled corner unit (painted plywood with ¼” wood edging), an elegant antique looking kitchen shelving unit made out of whitewashed 6/4” beetle kill pine with exposed joinery, and an entire wall of southwestern style adjustable shelves made with white cedar. I bought a whole pallet of cedar fencing at a reasonable price, and paid to have it thickness sanded after gluing the boards into panels. The final design was very understated with just a simple southwestern decoration along the top. The natural warm color of the cedar bookcases harmonized perfectly with the rough sawn cedar herringbone ceiling, peeled pine vigas, oak floor and ‘doeskin’ color walls.

Image source: How to Organize a Personal Home Library
Image source: Built in Designs
Image source: Houzz.com (excellent photos)
Image source: Doornob.com (excellent photos)
Image source: Elle Decor

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Earthbag window wells allow additional sunlight and ventilation to enter basement windows or windows on bermed and underground houses. (click to enlarge)

Earthbag window wells allow additional sunlight and ventilation to enter basement windows or windows on bermed and underground houses. (click to enlarge)


Clear window well covers allow light to enter while keeping out rain, snow, leaves and pests. Security grills are also available.

Clear window well covers allow light to enter while keeping out rain, snow, leaves and pests. Security grills are also available.


Optional window well grow space.

Optional window well grow space.


With all the recent blog posts on earth bermed and underground houses, the topic of earthbag window wells seems fitting. Earth-sheltered houses can often benefit from additional lighting in certain parts of the home. Window wells allow additional sunlight and ventilation to enter through the windows, and can provide egress if necessary. Earthbag window wells function just like conventional window wells. They’re simple and easy to build — so simple in fact that I’ll point new readers to my Step-by-Step Earthbag Building Instructable that explains 99% of the basics.

Some considerations:
– Basement window wells are more prone to moisture problems than window wells built into an above grade earth berm. Use gravel-filled bags or stabilized earthbags in rainy/snowy climates and below grade applications.
– Set the earthbags on a stable base. Bermed earth will settle over time, so make sure the base is well tamped.
– Provide a drain to daylight or to a French drain. Geotextile filter fabric will help keep the drain from clogging. Periodic maintenance may be needed to remove build-up of leaves, etc.
– Include a layer of gravel in the bottom about 6” below the window so water can’t accumulate in the window well.
– Secure the earthbag window well to the main earthbag wall by overlapping bags, interconnecting barbed wire and/or pinning with rebar.
– Provide one or two layers of 6 mil plastic sheeting for moisture protection, being careful to avoid punctures as you backfill.
– Coat earthbags with lime or cement plaster. White colored plaster on the inside will reflect more light into the home.
– Window well covers are recommended for most applications. Wide roof overhangs that block most of the rain and snow may work if the window well is above grade.

Image source: Magic Vac
Image source: Vinyl Window Wells.com

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The Island Earthbag Project

The Island Earthbag Project


Oooh, this sounds so good. Here’s an opportunity to build your own earthbag home without having to buy land.

“My wife and I (vegan and otherwise ordinary middle aged Americans with 3 children) recently purchased 31 acres, which includes a small semi-attached island just off the northern coast of Maine (USA). We are planning to film and document the entire design and development of a small Earthbag community.

The initial project starts with a collaborative group-effort development of a small cottage on the attached 2 acre private Island. We are interested in building a community of 6-8 families and individuals, which will be allowed to use 2-3 acres of our land ABSOLUTELY FREE to build their own Earthbag home.

Earthbag homes are a way for people looking for a home that is earth friendly and is built from natural materials that are readily available. Because of the design, giving thick walls and the insulating qualities of earth, these homes are designed to make good use of passive solar heat, facing south or east, depending on location. They homes are also designed so that sunlight during the day is absorbed by the interior walls, keeping the room warm after the sun goes down. Often, the only source of energy used is either fireplaces or small propane or electric heaters in individual bedrooms. An important step here is to insure that exterior walls are properly finished so that the daily heat from the sun does not leak back out in the evening.”

Source: The Island Earthbag Project

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Earth covered farm homes in Keldur, Iceland. These were built in 1193, and are supposedly the oldest buildings in Iceland. (click to enlarge)

Earth covered farm homes in Keldur, Iceland. These were built in 1193, and are supposedly the oldest buildings in Iceland. (click to enlarge)


Earth-sheltered home

Earth-sheltered home


Earth-sheltered home

Earth-sheltered home


“Earth sheltering is the architectural practice of using earth against building walls for external thermal mass, to reduce heat loss, and to easily maintain a steady indoor air temperature. Earth sheltering is popular in modern times among advocates of passive solar and sustainable architecture, but has been around for nearly as long as humans have been constructing their own shelter.

The expression earth-sheltering is a generic term, with the general meaning: building design in which soil plays an integral part.

Definition of earth-sheltering: A building can be described as earth-sheltered if its external envelope is in contact with a thermally significant volume of soil or substrate (where “thermally significant” means making a functional contribution to the thermal effectiveness of the building in question.)

There may be said to be three forms of earth-sheltered building:
– earth-covered
– earth-bunded [I call this earth bermed.]
– subterranean

The benefits of earth sheltering are numerous. They include: taking advantage of the earth as a thermal mass, offering extra protection from the natural elements, energy savings, providing substantial privacy, efficient use of land in urban settings, shelters have low maintenance requirements, and earth sheltering commonly takes advantage of passive solar building design.

The Earth’s mass absorbs and retains heat. Over time, this heat is released to surrounding areas, such as an earth shelter. Because of the high density of the earth, change in the earth’s temperature occurs slowly. This is known as ‘thermal lag.’ Because of this principle, the earth provides a fairly constant temperature for the underground shelters, even when the outdoor temperature undergoes great fluctuation. In most of the United States, the average temperature of the earth once below the frost line is between 55 and 57 degrees Fahrenheit (13 to 14 degrees Celsius). Frost line depths vary from region to region. In the USA frost lines can range from roughly 20 inches to more than 40 inches. Thus, at the base of a deep earth berm, the house is heated against an exterior temperature gradient of perhaps ten to fifteen degrees, instead of against a steeper temperature grade where air is on the outside of the wall instead of earth. During the summer, the temperature gradient helps to cool the house.

The reduction of air infiltration within an earth shelter can be highly profitable. Because three walls of the structure are mainly surrounded by earth, very little surface area is exposed to the outside air. This alleviates the problem of warm air escaping the house through gaps around windows and door. Furthermore, the earth walls protect against cold winter winds which might otherwise penetrate these gaps.”

Source: Wiki
Image source: Wiki
Image source: Earth-sheltered Homes (good summary of earth-sheltered homes)
Image source: Earth-sheltered Homes

From Earth-sheltered Homes by Rob Roy:
“Back in the ’70s, earth-sheltered housing enjoyed great popularity, thanks in part to the energy crisis resulting from the 1973 oil embargo. Adventurous builders and researchers explored various forms of earth-sheltered building, from underground excavated spaces to surface-level buildings with earth piled in berms against their walls. People searching for alternatives to conventional building showed that sheltering a building with earth could reduce energy costs for both heating and cooling by half or more — at little or no increased expense… An earth-bermed house can reap about 95 percent of the energy advantages of a fully underground home, and adding an earth roof, or living roof, further promotes planetary health by “greening” the house’s footprint.”
Read the full article at Mother Earth News

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