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PSP Questions

 
Posts: 4
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We are ready to build and would love to do a PSP underground home. Some concerns and questions for those who have built before...
The water table is 16 feet. Do you think that would cause issues? Especially with septic?
We need to build quickly. Any tips on what sort of crew we could find to help? Standard builders won't even entertain our build.
Could we bypass the living roof to save time and timber? We are considering a metal roof with insulation. Veering to far from the plan?
Flooring??? I've read quite a few threads on here about flooring but no one divulges what they end up actually doing. We are in Missouri. Too much rain for an earthen floor. Across the state I saw that the Dancing Rabbit has an earthen floor but put plastic down underneath so I might drive over and see that. What about floating a wood floor instead of carpet?
 
Posts: 730
Location: Bendigo , Australia
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PSP =?
 
gardener
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Location: Upstate NY, zone 5
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It's Mike Oehler's acronym for his system of Post, Shoring, and Polyethylene to create underground houses.

https://permies.com/wiki/48625/Mike-Oehler-Cost-Underground-House
 
Posts: 64
Location: Richwood, West Virginia
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Looks sketchy to me (Pun!):

 
gardener
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Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
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 The metal roof with insulation seems wise to me.
Being able to gather water from your roof is great,  and being able to access it for repairs is good too.
Building on grade and berming earth around your house could avoid issues of ground water.
Buying/leasing/hiring a bobcat/earthmover could minimize labor.
Carpet over cardboard over poly could do as a floor.
Anything might do, as long as you keep it dry.
Got a source for posts?
Consider ChipDrop,a woodchip delivery app.
They offer loads that are mostly large logs.
Around here,  some places will deliver sawmill offcuts for use as firewood.
With one side flat, they could be used as shoring.

As for your hurry,  consider buying a 5th wheel to live in as you work on your place.
 
Burl Smith
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Location: Richwood, West Virginia
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Amy Rising wrote:
We need to build quickly. Any tips on what sort of crew we could find to help? Standard builders won't even entertain our build.



I envied my neighbor in Southern Missouri who lived in an earth-bermed house. Dry Stacking concrete blocks followed by the poly' and berm may be a more acceptable procedure for your prospective builders.
 
John C Daley
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Location: Bendigo , Australia
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OK, thanks for the expansion of the acrynom.
I guess one thing to be aware of is the need to be able to have the underground drains actually drain to a point lower than the floor of the house.
I have seen that situation forgotten about.
 
Amy Rising
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I know it's not ideal, but I may have access to 50 32' telephone poles that are being replaced.
Would the chemicals make it not worth it?
Would the used factor cause concern for structural integrity?

Thank you all for your insights. Earth bermed may be our best bet with the high water table. But from my reading, the insulation factor is reduced significantly when it's not sunk in the ground, right?
 
John C Daley
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What are you trying to produce?
Natural material home
Something with a low cost
Temporary construction
Size
What sort of soil do you have
Have you the skills


 
Amy Rising
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Good questions...
I would like to use repurposed or natural material. Natural where I can, but I love reused and repurposed too.

Low cost is a must. My budget is roughly 60,000. We're a family of 6.

I have few skills. So maybe I shouldn't? But I feel so damn inspired by Oehlers concept and other builders so why shouldn't I? Talk me out of it if you really think I'm crazy. We have considered a pole barn house so I can just do that and build more traditionally.

The soil is well drained, rocky in places. It's old pasture land.  About 300ft from a river and all the wells dug within 2 miles hit water at 16ft. There's a spring fed creek down one side of the property. It's hilly as you'd expect coming up on a river.

Maybe I'm entering my midlife crisis. Lol.
 
John C Daley
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I would never try and talk anybody out of trying.
I can say I have been involved with many self builders, most dont understand how hard and draining it can be.

I see you will get snow there.
Considerations;
Skills in hand
Skills to learn
Size of home
Number of bedrooms needed.
water supply, grey water and sewerage disposal methods to be used

Insulation methods.
Heating methods

ONce you have given these ideas some thought, it will help.
If you come back with those decisions, others may be able to help with more ideas on how to achieve the needed outcome.
go fit it

 
John C Daley
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Location: Bendigo , Australia
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Fromm Google
the average cost of building a home in St. Louis, Missouri is $78.24 per square foot as of 2010.
Now this may not apply to you but its a guide.
$60,000 would cover 1/2 a normal priced 1500 sq.foot home.

So its doable I think.
Do you have a ute to carry things, you call them a pick up/
can you store goods out of the weather?
Are you near a population area that would have recycled materials available?
What has been built nearby that may work for you
 
Posts: 155
Location: Jacksonville, FL
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solar tiny house woodworking
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Amy Rising wrote:
We need to build quickly.


Amy Rising wrote:
Low cost is a must.


I believe the saying goes something along the lines of, "Good, fast, cheap - pick two." If you demand fast and cheap then it would be amazingly difficult to also get something good unless you can do it yourself. All of the other aspects mentioned can be worked through to get what you want, but there isn't any way I know of to create more time between now and a fixed point in the future. The wofati's (wofaties? wofatii?) at the lab were built by people given specific instruction and still had many issues because Paul was too busy to just sit there and micromanage everyone. The effort and money was invested and there were still very many issues that took a good bit of time to sort out.

I worked doing conventional house framing for a number of years, as well as part of many phases of conventional construction and have noticed a lot of things along the way. I have never seen a set of plans that didn't have at least one small discrepancy from one page to the next that needed to be deciphered on site. It takes awareness and skill to catch and rectify small issues early on before they become big problems. Even with the best plans and 3D models, there are always things people wish they knew beforehand and now have to live with because it is too late.

One thing that throws off virtually everyone unfamiliar is how fast early construction phases go compared to the total construction length. Excavation can usually be done in days at most. Framing can usually take weeks to months at most. Even with framing, getting the bulk of a small house together may only take a few days, then sheeting, engineering reinforcement, and adding in dead wood for sheetrock can end up taking weeks. The uninitiated might think the framing is 'done' after the crane comes to set roof trusses, but there is plenty of work left. Seeing the hole dug and the skeleton go up quickly makes people think it will be done 'soon', and a year later there are still multiple tradesmen showing up for work every day.

Houses take a long time to make completely livable. The houses on either side of me, one built new and one a remodel, have taken two years each to complete when the owners thought they would be done in months. That is with people skilled in each field, all of the tools they could ask for, and in a port city that is (in square area) the largest in the country, where materials are easily sourced. If time is genuinely that limited, and you and your family absolutely must survive the winter in whatever gets built, then you may want to give serious consideration towards how confident you are of making any structure livable in the allotted time frame.

Do you have a backup plan? Is there a place you can take your family if you can't meet the deadline? If not, would temporary housing work until you can build what you want? Tiny houses or a pole barn that could get you through the winter and be useful in the future might be a better option than putting all of your eggs in one basket. It's one thing to go for broke and suffer the consequences alone, but if you have to live with other people then there is a huge mental tax when everyone has to struggle through a situation.

Don't let all of this discourage you, I'm very cheap and cautious. If you can find a close friend or family member you can trust that has enough skill to manage a project like this then you may be able to pull it off. If you go in without anyone knowing a clear plan of what they are doing then the end result will be way off base from the initial vision.
 
Amy Rising
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We have discussed all of your excellent points and are very grateful for the input.

Our goals with the build in order of importance are...
1. Live debt free
2. Energy efficiency
3. Self built as much as possible
4. Build with what's available, natural, repurposed or reused

We are not builders. We don't have a lot of skills. But we can learn. As such, we plan to work in phases beginning with a small bath house that will allow us to live at the land or at least be there all day with kids in tow.

With phase 1 we are looking at maybe 300 sq ft. We are considering the Geiger circular earthbag building that is on instructables. This would be our bathroom.

Then in phase two we would do the wofati style round house and connect to the bathroom doorway. Phase 2 will be a bit bigger at around 15' diameter and provide living quarters.

Some questions about insulation. If we bermed first with a foot of lava rock on the wofati building and then more plastic then earth, would that give better insulation for the structure? When reading about the winters in the wofati structures it sounds fairly cold. I'm wondering if the scoria would give better r value.

Thanks so much for all your help!
 
Daniel Schmidt
Posts: 155
Location: Jacksonville, FL
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I've given some thought about this today and hopefully can bring up some points that will be beneficial. I think there are a few things with your goals and Wofati style building that need some consideration. First about your goals:

1. Live debt free  

I love this! Minimizing debt and doing things for yourself to minimize unnecessary future spending is the gift that keeps on giving. Paying attention and practicing is a great way to reach that goal.

2. Energy efficiency

This is probably closer to my heart than anything else with permaculture. Not wasting personal energy is nice, and minimizing outside energy inputs goes hand in hand with reducing spending. There are a number of things from electricity to thermal mass and insulation that can be used to increase efficiency, or misunderstood and reduce efficiency.

3. Self built as much as possible  

Given the later line saying that you are not builders tells to me that you probably need some hands on time with building before building a house you expect to spend your life in, and you need something more straightforward to start with. The earthbag idea seems good for learning a few things while creating a structure that will serve you well in the future without outrageous upfront costs. A small scale model of the home you want to build might be another exercise that could enlighten you to some pros and cons before committing to the final build.

4. Build with what's available, natural, repurposed or reused

This is one of the main tenets of Wofati building. If anyone is interested in building a Wofati style structure, it seems paramount to me that you look closely at the Wofati definition and give each aspect serious consideration before trying to modify it, doubly so if your building skills are limited. Too many changes can end up defeating the original purpose of the design. The Wofati Page gives a detailed explanation which I will summarize:
"Woodland" I'll let others debate on whether it is possible or not to build in this style without being in or near a woodland and on or not on a slope. I'd imagine earthworks and creating a food forest could be beneficial, and having plenty of cheap or free lumber for the structure is critically tied in with another part of the definition.
"Oehler" is for Mike Oehler inspired underground house design.
"Freaky-cheap" This ties in with being in or near a woodland. If you can get all of your logs without paying for the logs themselves, just the cost of working them in to shape and moving them, then you can achieve Freaky-cheap materials. You may need to pay for top tier skilled labor to make this work, which might be a great place to spend your money if you aren't well versed with timber framing or underground structures. I would be looking for examples of actual timber framing and references before hiring someone.
"Annualized Thermal Inertia" I believe this is where the rubber meets the road, and flies in direct contrast to so-called 'common knowledge' and conventional building. Just adding insulation randomly to a thermal mass can have deleterious consequences to the point of negating most of the benefits of the mass. From what I can tell, no insulation and more mass is both cheaper and more effective than using insulation. The mass regulates the temperature inside, and as such must contact the interior space you are trying to regulate in order to work. Insulation inside, in the walls, or between the walls and the mass will break contact between the interior and the mass and defeat the thermal inertia.

In the case of the Wofati's at the Lab, they were made to face away from the sun to prove that the thermal inertia can work without passive solar gain. For anybody else that wants maximum efficiency, you probably want to take advantage of the passive solar heating by facing the opening South towards the sun. A large mass, plus a rocket mass heater, plus passive solar should yield a space that is more efficient to keep warm than nearly any other house design. If you go for a lighter roof without earth, you can likely still make use of the rest of the ideas. I personally would look into adding something to the ceiling inside to reflect radiant heat back to the floors and walls to keep it in. Rocket mass heaters, passive solar, and thermal mass give a great deal of radiant heat, and certain reflective materials can reflect over 97% of radiant heat back into the living space. I'm not certain about what kind of testing has been done in this space with all natural materials, but aluminum, mylar, and steel can all reflect radiant heat back quite well.

I'm about all out of steam for the night, so hopefully that gives some more food for thought.
 
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