umm, Gail, tell you what. I've told that story so many times i think I've worn it out. But it's a favorite of mine. Tell you what, I'm setting up a blog and if it seems likely a proper subject there I'll tell it then, okay? Peace, MO
Underground has always been the preferred choice for tornado sheltering in the Midwest, Sylvia, because the work wonderfully and are inexpensive.We design and build with an abundance of windows but you can buy or build hurricane shutters Build on a slope for water drainage away from the house and follow the advice in the books and videos as per mounding earth in a V above the uphill patio, using french drains, etc. You can also drain off on a sidehill patio. Start small and see what works for you. -- MO
All the more reason for taking special care when putting the roof down in the first place. Watch workers like a hawk that they dont cut the polyethylene with shovels, rakes (NEVER move earth around on the roof with the tines down on a rake). I'm now recommending EPDM (artificial rubber) for the first (bottom)layer on the roof. The polyethylene on the origonial $50 house has never leaked through, incidentally. It has leaked where I improperly (no glue) joined that poly with the poly on the $500 addition. Also where the poly surfaced at the extreme upper edge of the roof (needed capping) and where the girder extended into uphill patio (draped poly over that extention to keep water from dribbling down it into house.) Other than these and taking earth off and redoing I can only suggest a top layer of poly or metal roofing and use it to catch water for a cistern. (Devon Olsen, what does sub'd mean?)-- MO
I invested about $400 thirty years ago in such a devise that was used a lot in S America. It was called a CINVA Ram. Learned about it in one of the Whole Earth Cataloges. Made some bricks but they crumbled easily. Tried adding portland cement. still crumbled. came to find my soil had almost no clay. Hadn't added any straw either. If you do get a mixture that works either use it for interior walls or look up in Rob Roy's books about the plaster with fiberglas in it for the inside of exterior walls to keep the earth pressure from pushing them in. or use a vertical crawl space. -- MO
You've asked a bunch of questions that I can't possibly answer here. But I will do one: What I'd do differently is when and if I use the charred post/garbagebag method again I will get a roof over it as quickly as possible and/or drap polyethlene so that water can not run down the post and be captured, saturating and rotting the wood. I hope to do a book on the ridge house and will explain all this there.
We are finishing up the first 1800 sq ft section of the Ridge House this year and starting on the second. Those who would like to apply for an internship phone me at 800 328-8790. Will also consider forming a community -- This technological civilization is looking shakier every day; circle the wagons. As I think Paul will attest, I have 45 wonderful acres, four livable houses (two more under construction) and 42 years experience homesteading. Especially interested in carpentry skills and ladies who love to cook -- we are known for decent housing and great meals (building crews work on their stomachs). But we will consider everybody. -- Mike Oehler
Ouch, permies.com has done it to me again. Here I am going to "intentional communities" to tell folks that I am considering opening my 45 acres to other homesteaders, circling the wagons so to speak, to get ready for the inevitable collapse of technological civilization, (or the revolt of ma nature which might be what causes the inevitable collapse) and here I am tripped up by, of all things, a well meaning idealist wearing a business suit who is planning to build a technological city in the country to turn the country into a city. To save the planet. (sigh)
Seth, I'm not even going to try to explain to you the wisdom I learned from a Canadian Indian in a teepee at the Bear Tribe years ago when he asked "Do you guys want to know why all of those hippy communes failed?" Or why the perhaps wisest man of the 20th Century, Gandhi, tried so hard to keep the people in their rural villages spinning and weaving by hand. I won't attempt at all to convince you to go underground with your structures -- I know you haven't read my books or seen my videos and think there would be no natural light, air, sunshine and views. I know you are not planning an earth-sheltered solar greenhouse or you would have planned all of your other structures earth sheltered too. I won't go into the reasons why almost everyone who experimented with domes in the '60s and '70s regretted it afterwards including, incidentally, Lloyd Kahn, the man who wrote the book. Instead I will congratulate you on your obvious energies and fundraising abilities. And i will lament that you are not putting them to constructive use.
I think there is a confusion of terms here. I was (am) assuming Chuck was refer g to the most common type of house roof, one that comes up from the sides to a peak in the middle, and it is sounding to me like he plans to pack earth up around three sides which in my mind would make it a First Thought House. I went to the dictionary, though, and see that a "gable roof" is something somewhat complicated, so much so that I do not plan to go into it here. Let's make this clear, however: I endorse the use of gables in shed roof houses. I have one in the Ridge House.
Folks, I am running out of time and energy and my interests are no longer focused on building. I am running out of money and have put the completion of the Ridge house on Hold. My current focus of attention is on creating meaningful video for the web, something I have been working on for more than ten years and have all my inheritance and retirement funds tied up in (that and the Ridge House) some $90,000. I agreed to come on this forum and donate four video sets to (1) help out those who have questions about U housing and (2) to get the word out about my web series Major Miracles Superhero, a satire on American life in the form of a parody on the comic book superheros (can be viewed at www.Hipnet.TV) I was hoping that Paul mentioning it would encourage viewership but it has not seemed to do so. There has been no spike in viewers and only two people in this forum have mentioned it. So I must concentrate my energy and time elsewhere, and that is to my coming tour of college campuses on the Coast handing out cards (while in full costume) telling people about Major Miracles. We'll see if it works. I remain excited about this medium. The program is going a lot deeper into problems we face than is apparent in the first handfull of episodes on the web now. As an example: Authorities and Americans in general have totally ignored the one sure solution to organized "terrorism": forgiveness. Those "enemies" have real grievances which bombs and troops only inflame. Only one newspaper, one in England, to my knowledge has advanced this solution and it was hooted down as "simplification". The Major is going to tackle this and many other problems and hopefully do it with humor.
So.....I'll try to answer a few more posts today but then must prepare for the trip. Among the many problems I am facing is that my lead actress in Major Miracles has moved to Montana and is getting married. After taping 60 episodes with her I must find someone new. Not so easy. But that's my problem, not yours. Love and hugs to you all. -- Mike O
The Ridge House is actually three stories high now with the addition of the "Crows Nest". If Major Miracles takes off I'll do a book on the house, or at least some youtube viders. Come to think of it Major Miracles Superhero on Hipnet.TV, Episode 44 thkes you on a tour of the Ridge House in its nearly completed form. Episode 43 visits the $500 U house and on 45 I give a brief whirl on design with scale models. We will be running three to five new episodes per week. Any folks who would like to see me do more underground work can help by viewing Major Miracles, giving it 5 star ratings, subscribing, and urging all you friends to do the same (and urging them to tell thieir friends.) If we get enough viewers youtube will take us into their partner program ande sell ads and split the coin with us. I had to quit work on the Ridge House some months ago because I am nearing broke again. -- Mike Oehler
You dont need the DVD's to build, tecknomagus -- the book will do you there -- but you absolutely, positively must have them to design. If you want a light, airy, sunshine and view filled home, that is. If you want a dark, dank vault no you won't need them.
I char my posts where they go into the ground then wrap them in five garbage bags and tape them up well. However when I did that on the ridge house I ran out of money and the sunken posts stood roofless out in the weather for six or seven hyears. Have serious rot there now where they are in the bags. From now on I;ll make surt that the posts are covered with tarps or polyethlene till i can get a roof on. Now I'm going to sink parallel short posts and bolt them to the damaged ones.
Hmmm... Interesting question. You'd have to keep it dry to get insulating effects and I can only guess at what sort of critters might want to burrow into that stuff right next to your warm house. If you try it as always put a sheet of poly between it and the house side. Let us know how it works out.
I don't advise gable roofs, especially low pitched. Anyway it sounds like a version of the disastrous First Thought House. My advice is to get my video set. It's less than half the cost of a kitchen sink at Home Depot and will do a world of good for you.
Thanks for thr invite, Lauren. I may take you up on that though I am looking for a companion to take on the trip who can drive, pass out cards, do media interviews, etc. Also I'm pretty exhausted at night and may not be much of a conversationalist (a martini helps there). I'm bound and determined to be on the road not later than Monday the 26th as there's a seven person crew coming in from Germany for a couple of days to shoot in late May.Also, I'm not sure how to get ahold of you.
Couldn't say, Kathleen. I'd call the county extention agent and find out who in the county manages soil. Use to be called Soil Conservation Service. They are soil engineers. They might be able to advise you. I have designs for U houses for the Oregon Coast. See DVD 2 in my Underground Housing Workshop and Survival Shelter Seminar.
Sounds like you have the Asian (Korean, I think) termites who came ashore ten or so years ago, Serenity. They were said to chew through just about anything. They were devouring New Orleans before Katrina. I wouldn't try to fight them. Rob's earthbag suggestion sounds much more feasible and, yes, I think it should have an application underground. I was working by phone with Khalili's daughter on a project to use them underground on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota till I learned that the soil there was oozy clay and the frost line four feet deep, the worst combination I could immagine. That clay freezes and expands greatly exerting horrendous pressure. I withdrew from the project and tried to warn them but never heard back. But, yeah, definately worth a shot. Start small, see how it goes, then add on.
The waterproofing techniques are amply answe4red in both my books and videos. I answered the rainwater catchment here on one of the threads lin the past 24 hours: the best I've come up with so far is rolling out polyethlene on the earthen roof during rains.
I don't think you have read my books or seen the videos, Jami. I run the moisture off the roof onto or into solid earth on the downhill side. We considered at one time catching it down there in a sand filled basin of polyethlene but don't think we have enough rain for that here in N. Idaho.
A hilltop is actually a great place for an underground house: It drains beautifully. It also affords spectacular views. And in my case it is the only place I can get abundant sun. Fire is a big consideration, yes, but when I get my pond in I will have abundant water to wet down the surrounding forest.
Many thoughts, Velacreations. They all center around the sad fact that earthen roofs are not catchment roofs. On the Ridge house we are adding a balcony with a metal roof to catch water and the wing that goes off to the east will also have a metal roof, too. We are building a pond up there and the well water is contaminated so catchment is the way to go. We have also considered rolling out polyethylene on top of the earthen roof during rains and catching it that way.
Sure, Burra. Build above ground and berm around the structure and put soil on the roof. Insulate the outside of the earth berm, cover the insulation with a sheet of polyethylene, cover the poly with another foot or so of earth and plant with vegetation to keep it all in place. That earth berm will now be a heat sink and will gratifyingly moderate the homes temperature while giving protection from high winds, fire, radiation, etc. Offset rooms, sun scoops, and several of the other 13 approved methods of design found on tape two of my DVD set work as well on a bermed home as a true underground one, though where soil conditions permit you are always better off to go below. I hope you win one of the DVD sets. Sounds like you have a head on your shoulders and can make good use of it. Design is simply the paramount and least understood part of building an underground or earth integrated structure.
This all sounds to me like a heck of a lot of work and expense for little gain, Ray. Here in N. Idaho the earth stays at 52 degrees year around eight feet below the surface. When it is zero degrees outside most houses most of my house has a 52 degree advantage. That's 52 degrees I don't have to heat. When it is 100 degrees outside most peoples houses it is 52 degrees outside of most of mine. That's a 48 degree advantage in cooling. My ideal is to keep life simple.
Thanks for the nice words, Lauren. We did a lot of work on it in '09 and though not finished it could be lived in now. But I am working like a fiend on my Hipnet.TV production "Major Miracles Superhero" and am soon to go out on the road hitting colleges in WA, OR, CA, AZ, NM, CO, WY, UT, MT, passing out cards to invite people to log onto Major Miracles . I would love to see it go viral. You can help by viewing it and, if you like it, turning all your friends on to it. Also, you could give it a five star rating. I've got all my retirement money tied up in that and the Ridge house. If I make money with Miracles i plan to do a web show on homesteading next.
A pattern Language is the finest book I know of on architecture, though as I recall there is little in it about underground houses. I've probably read it through four or five times. Christopher Alexander is only one of its six or so authors. I had the pleasure of taking one of the others, Sarah somebody, I think, a mostly oriental lady, to lunch on Telegraph avenue, Berkeley, thirty years ago to a restaurant that served nothing but wonderful, huge salads. To both Sarah's and the restaurant's credit they said nothing about my bare feet (shoes are the work of Satin!!).
Whew, I promised Paul I'd do four posts a day for five days and it has taken me a couple of hours just to read this post or link or what ever it is. The guy who started this discussion mentioned my good friend Rob Roy's attitude about using insulation on underground housing. That is, or was the attitude of the great number of underground architects for many years. I had a long running disagreement with them. Though it is true that the earth is a poor insulator that very fact is of benefit to the underground dweller. In the winter the earth around the house warms and when the fire is low at night or when you are away from home for an extended period -- weeks, say -- the earth will transfer heat into home keeping the pipes and food from freezing. It won't to that if the walls and floors are insulated. Nor will the earth keep the home nearly as cool in the summer if there is insulation. The other architects and I seem to have come to a sort of compromise: We insulate the roof, definitely the roof, and down to the frost line which in my country (North Idaho) is three feet; Rob's (n. New York) four feet. Rob and Jackie, incidentally, don't live in an underground house. Only their north wall is earthen bermed.