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Posts Tagged ‘sustainable’

Windcatchers have been employed for thousands of years to cool buildings in hot climates. The windcatcher is able to chill indoor spaces in the middle of the day in a desert to frigid temperatures.

Windcatchers have been employed for thousands of years to cool buildings in hot climates. The windcatcher is able to chill indoor spaces in the middle of the day in a desert to frigid temperatures.


The following list includes dozens of low tech, low cost ways to cool buildings in hot climates passively without electricity or machinery, i.e., passive cooling or natural cooling. This list is in addition to the 11 or so simple passive cooling techniques that I talked about in my video the other day. Altogether there are over 50 practical methods for cooling your home sustainably. Despite all these wonderful methods, most people – at least in North America – live in poorly insulated boxy houses with costly, wasteful air conditioners. This is one example of “ignorance is not bliss”.
– night cooling: open the windows at night to let in cooler, fresher air.
– roof vents for improved ventilation. This could include a ridge vent and cupola.
– gable vents on gable end walls
– adequately shaded clerestory windows
– smaller windows on the east and west to prevent overheating (if the walls aren’t shaded)
– louvers and vents
– well located doors
– 50-100% more or larger windows on the leeward side than the windward side to help hot air to escape
– earth berming with moist vegetation such as grass
– keeping vegetation moist around the house to help cool the breezes (the yard)
– planting trees to funnel air toward your house
– plant trees that don’t block breezes
– wing wall to direct cool breezes into the home
– building on stilts
– stack effect: multi-story designs can be very effective at encouraging natural convection
– open plan living areas that encourage air circulation
– narrow floorplans
– orientation to catch breezes more effectively
– location: breezy locations near lakes, etc.
– outdoor living areas
– porches/verandas that shade the walls
– shaded, high thermal mass walls such as earthbags, adobe, etc.
– windscoop/windcatcher (with possible addition of a water element)
– evaporative cool wall such as double terra-cotta brick walls (low fired brick) filled with moist sand
Venturi effect
– solar chimney: chimney designed to heat air and draw air from the house
– atrium or sunroom: can act like a solar chimney if properly designed
– basement: upper floors draw cool air upwards from the basement
– cool pantry and rootcellar
– well, open air cistern or underground water canal in the basement
– earth tubes in dry climates where mold is not a problem and digging is fairly easy
– roof insulation and reflective roof insulation
– fly roof (secondary roof over the main roof)
– green roof/living roof
– soffit vents and baffles between rafters to improve roof ventilation
– light roof color that reflects sunlight
– manmade water feature such as a lily pond on the windward side
– awnings (if you don’t have large roof overhangs)
– inner courtyard/open atrium
– pergolas and trellises to shade walls
– minimize sun reflection and re-radiation from surrounding environment: plants versus gravel or pavement
– blinds: close if sunlight is entering window
– avoid skylights unless openable and tinted
– smooth plaster reflects more light than textured plaster

Note: This is just a list of practical cooling strategies. There are plenty of ‘yeah, buts’ you should be aware of to prevent problems. There isn’t time or space here to cover everything. A fair amount of research is required to learn the details so you can optimize the passive cooling design for your home and building site.

Image source: Wiki – Windcatchers (good info on windcatchers)
Good reference with more details: Passive Cooling at House-Energy.com

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It really helps to see finished examples of what others have done. Once again it’s YouTube to the rescue.

Cornell University’s Silo House
Glenburn Silo Home
Silo House aka The Cabin in the Woods (low quality footage but has some good points)

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Nice grain bin house (click to enlarge)

Nice grain bin house (click to enlarge)


Grain bin home

Grain bin home


Another grain bin house

Another grain bin house


Stuccoed grain bin home

Stuccoed grain bin home


Grain bin apartment

Grain bin apartment


Interior view of grain bin apartment (follow the link below to see more stunning pics)

Interior view of grain bin apartment (follow the link below to see more stunning pics)


Our recent blog posts about Sukup SafeT Homes and SafeT Home Videos proved popular, so I thought readers might enjoy seeing a few more grain bin homes.

Image source: Little Homestead in Boise
Image source: Mother Earth News
Image source: Greenieweenie
Image source: EcoFriend
Image source 5, 6: Travel Shack
Related:
Mother Earth News: Convert a Used Grain Bin to a New House (best article I’ve found so far on grain bin houses)

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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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Heart pine flooring is naturally harder, and insect and decay resistant than sapwood

Heart pine flooring is naturally harder, and insect and decay resistant than sapwood


Premium heart pine flooring

Premium heart pine flooring


Reclaimed antique heart pine or ‘naily heart pine’

Reclaimed antique heart pine or ‘naily heart pine’


Antique heart pine illustrating how the color deepens with age

Antique heart pine illustrating how the color deepens with age


From Woodweb.com:
“What is heart pine?
Heart pine is the actual heartwood of the tree. Since pine used to be quite large when it was logged some hundred years ago, the pine trees were able to grow large enough to develop heartwood. Now that is not the case, as pine trees do not grow as big because they are harvested at an earlier age.

The “heart” is dark colored. It is decay resistant and more stable than the white/yellow sapwood.

Heart pine is generally considered to be recycled timber from first generation trees (trees that were standing when the first settlers landed in the 1600s). I believe most of the trees were long leaf pines, many as old as 300+ years. There were probably some other pine species mixed in, but the predominate tree was the long leaf. There were approximately 80,000,000 acres of these trees and almost all were gone by 1900. This wood was the primary building material for homes and factories. It is now being recycled as heart pine. Most structures built after 1900 were from second generation trees and do not exhibit the very tight rings associated with the first generation timber. So here in North Carolina heart pine being recycled is usually first generation timber with tight growth rings (I have seen as many as 30-35 per inch) and a large heartwood (usually red to yellow to orange). Anyway, if you are interested in purchasing old recycled original pine, be sure what you are getting. Prices can vary widely but, nevertheless, be prepared to pay between 5.00 to 12.00 per board foot. [Or salvage it yourself for free by helping demolish an old building.]

Heart pine does not have to be reclaimed or centuries old. It can be the heartwood of the southern pines. Often, the reclaimed or “old” pine is called antique heart pine, while pine sawn from trees today is called new heart pine.

The old mills treasured the heart because of its insect and rot resistance. There were two markets – heart pine and the less desirable sap pine. Because there were some applications where sap wood was wanted, there was still a small market for it. The trees they were sawing were, many times, filled with heartwood. Timbers and lumber were marketed with ten percent or less sapwood. The sapwood is creamy white to orange and the heartwood is reddish brown, getting darker with age. It wears better in a flooring situation too. You can still cut heart pine from trees growing today. It is just that there is not as much to go after. All you have to do is provide a board with a goodly portion of heartwood in it. Calling pine “heart pine” only because it is old and dragged from a river or because it came from an old building is just marketing. To actually be heart pine, the board must contain the heartwood of the tree.”

Source: Woodweb.com
Image source: Contemporary Floor Coverings.com
Image source 2, 3: Appalachian Woods.com
Image source: Whole Log Lumber

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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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Here’s a real nice example of integrating fruit trees, vegetables, aquaculture, composting, worms and beekeeping. This guy is getting hundreds or a thousand or more pieces of fruit off each small tree in a desert region near Joshua Tree where he was told “fruit trees won’t grow”.

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Dropping Home Values: One More Reason to Build Your Own Sustainable Home

As if you needed another reason to build and live sustainably… Okay, here’s another reason – dropping home values. Millions of people are getting badly burned on their home investments. This is another reminder to live within our means. Build and buy only what we need, not what some banker or mortgage guy tries to pitch us. Building your own low cost natural home is a lot of time and work, but this sort of lifestyle is looking better and better. Peace of mind living debt-free in your own home = priceless.

From CNN Money:
“Home prices dropped for the fifth consecutive month in January, reaching their lowest point since the end of 2002… Home prices have fallen a whopping 34.4% from the peak set in July 2006… Potential homebuyers lack confidence in the market… A big problem looming is a massive number of potential foreclosures.”

“People see that there are millions of homes underwater, and at elevated risk of foreclosure, and conclude that housing values are unlikely to appreciate in any meaningful way for many years,” he said.”

Source: CNN Money

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Diagram illustrating the coppicing cycle over a 7-20 year period

Diagram illustrating the coppicing cycle over a 7-20 year period


Coppicing is a highly effective method of producing a great deal of fast growing, sustainable timber without the need to replant.

Coppicing is a highly effective method of producing a great deal of fast growing, sustainable timber without the need to replant.


Coppiced wood has all sorts of practical uses for natural builders – sustainable fuel source, pole building, wattle and daub, pinning, braces, latilla ceilings and more.

“Coppicing is a traditional method of woodland management which takes advantage of the fact that many trees make new growth from the stump or roots if cut down. In a coppiced wood, young tree stems are repeatedly cut down to near ground level. In subsequent growth years, many new shoots will emerge, and, after a number of years the coppiced tree, or stool, is ready to be harvested, and the cycle begins again.

Typically a coppiced woodland is harvested in sections or coups on a rotation. In this way, a crop is available each year somewhere in the woodland. Coppicing has the effect of providing a rich variety of habitats, as the woodland always has a range of different-aged coppice growing in it, which is beneficial for biodiversity. The cycle length depends upon the species cut, the local custom, and the use to which the product is put. Birch can be coppiced for faggots (bundles of brushwood) on a three or four year cycle, whereas oak can be coppiced over a fifty-year cycle for poles or firewood.

Coppicing maintains trees at a juvenile stage, and a regularly coppiced tree will never die of old age—some coppice stools may therefore reach immense ages. The age of a stool may be estimated from its diameter, and some are so large—perhaps as much as 5.4 metres (18 ft) across—that they are thought to have been continuously coppiced for centuries.

The shoots (or suckers) may be used either in their young state for interweaving in wattle fencing (as is the practice with coppiced willows and hazel) or the new shoots may be allowed to grow into large poles, as was often the custom with trees such as oaks or ashes. This creates long, straight poles which do not have the bends and forks of naturally grown trees.”

Source: Wiki
Image source: Coppice.co.uk

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Black walnut tree trunk side table

Black walnut tree trunk side table


Rustic western dining room table with stump base

Rustic western dining room table with stump base


Stump wood coffee table with slab top

Stump wood coffee table with slab top


Cyprus tree stump seat, lamp stand or side table

Cyprus tree stump seat, lamp stand or side table


Zafra, one of our readers, suggested this topic on furniture made with tree stumps and tree trunks. This ultra low cost, all natural furniture is made with logging wastes. Logging companies take all the biggest, straightest pieces and leave behind large volumes of scrap wood. With a little imagination and some time, thrifty scavengers can turn these scraps into beautiful furniture that can last generations.

Image source: Iran Design.com (excellent collection)
Image source: Andy Sanchez.com (excellent collection)
Image source: Live Auctioneers.com
Image source: This Next.com

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