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Okay what is the QUICKEST natural building method?  RSS feed

 
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Location: Colville, WA Zone 5b
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And yeah I know it depends... but I'm really having a hard time with this.

The situation is this - my husband and I are going to move to our property next spring. We have a small trailer to live in while we build, and weather-wise we could probably be okay in the trailer from April until September.

So, that gives us a 5 month window to build. We're planning on building the 33-foot 1 bedroom w/ loft earthbag roundhouse by Owen Geiger. However, we don't know what the employment situation will be. There's a good chance he'll be able to continue working for his current employer from one of their outlying offices, except his commute will be very long - about 2 1/2 hours total per day. Not much more than he does now, and we'd be ON THE LAND, right? Income wise it would be a good thing.

But I guess I'm unconvinced that we could build the home within our timeframe if that's the case. I know most people talk about building within 6 months and I don't know if that's them working at it full time or weekends only? I am going to be realistic and say that after such long weekdays, he'll only have energy for maybe 1 weekend workday and 1 day off.

I was thinking that maybe since a lot of the labor is in the filling of bags, etc. if we did it via strawbale it might go up quicker? But then wouldn't we need more support?

The other option is that he quits his job, gets a part-time gas station type job which would (yep, seriously) be enough to pay our bills and then build. It would be enough because a hugely significant portion of our income here is tied up in... being here (in the city). We can live on about 25% of our current expenses if we have a place we can build out of pocket. But then... no insurance, no extras, seriously skimping... plus he LOVES his job and his employer. He really does not want to go that route.

For what it's worth also, is that my husband is not really a naturally handyman type. He does things well once taught, but he's not the type that can just build stuff on his own... which is why earthbag was so appealing to us because the work is stuff he could do. Strawbale doesn't seem that much different, but I guess I'm concerned about the framing that you'd need to do (or in other words, hire someone else to do).
 
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If your land has a wooded area, Iwould say a large Holzer/Oehler style structure could be built in a day for about $2k. Typically these are for animals, but put up some drywall or log cabin style interior, and you'd never know the difference. That would give you a place to stay until you build your permanent home.
 
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Lots of quick, cheap, less DIY methods--depending on how much winter you need protection from.

If I were doing it again:

Pole barn (contracted out) for a big roof. I would add tin sides to protect from prevailing wind and then build a straw bale house under the roof. Owen had a blog entry about it earlier this year.

If I liked the straw house (which was simply stacked and tarped to begin with because it didn't have to hold up a roof), I would stucco it and be done. If I didn't, I would work on something else the next year--probably earth sheltered something.

Weekends only really limits the work--BTDT. If you do the pole barn and simple shelter under it, you can spend more time on firewood--that needs to be done ASAP so it seasons a little by fall.

FACE IT--YOU will be running the homestead, so figure out what you are willing to do and put up with. Laundry? Water? Building? Figure out the division of labor now.
 
Bethany Dutch
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Neal McSpadden wrote:If your land has a wooded area, Iwould say a large Holzer/Oehler style structure could be built in a day for about $2k. Typically these are for animals, but put up some drywall or log cabin style interior, and you'd never know the difference. That would give you a place to stay until you build your permanent home.


How interesting... I've never seen that style before! I'll have to do some research. Part of our plan is to build in phases and build the first "module" so we can add on as cash and time allow. Is that feasible with this type of building?
 
Bethany Dutch
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R Scott wrote:Lots of quick, cheap, less DIY methods--depending on how much winter you need protection from.

If I were doing it again:

Pole barn (contracted out) for a big roof. I would add tin sides to protect from prevailing wind and then build a straw bale house under the roof. Owen had a blog entry about it earlier this year.

If I liked the straw house (which was simply stacked and tarped to begin with because it didn't have to hold up a roof), I would stucco it and be done. If I didn't, I would work on something else the next year--probably earth sheltered something.

Weekends only really limits the work--BTDT. If you do the pole barn and simple shelter under it, you can spend more time on firewood--that needs to be done ASAP so it seasons a little by fall.

FACE IT--YOU will be running the homestead, so figure out what you are willing to do and put up with. Laundry? Water? Building? Figure out the division of labor now.


That's actually what my dad was saying, he was talking about a timber frame with strawbale sides (He's a builder, but not experienced in natural building).

I do agree with that I will be doing most of the work on the homestead... I'm pretty willing to live primitive but I am not so sure about my husband It will cost at least $15k for sewer/grid power so we're going to forego those in either case, so we already know we'll be doing composting toilet with greywater system & a combination solar & wind turbine power (along with gas appliances taken from the trailer). I'll have to go read that blog entry fromOwen - he's got so much stuff on there I hardly even know where to start.

As far as firewood goes, our time would be much better spent working on the house, we can buy a winter's worth of firewood for pretty cheap.
 
gardener
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One other method which is fast is to use forms and pour a thinner mix of cob, similar to a concrete slab house in construction.

I agree with the pole building for fast and sturdy construction.
 
Neal McSpadden
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Bethany Dutch wrote:
Neal McSpadden wrote:If your land has a wooded area, Iwould say a large Holzer/Oehler style structure could be built in a day for about $2k. Typically these are for animals, but put up some drywall or log cabin style interior, and you'd never know the difference. That would give you a place to stay until you build your permanent home.


How interesting... I've never seen that style before! I'll have to do some research. Part of our plan is to build in phases and build the first "module" so we can add on as cash and time allow. Is that feasible with this type of building?


Adding on would probably be difficult since it requires a lot of digging.

If you want to be really cutting edge, you could build the first WOFATI
 
pollinator
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i agree with you and these smart people about the pole building, putting up a roof quick, and also adding on modular segments as you go.

build something simple to begin with, just a roof on rough cut whole tree poles. then work it out as you go from there.
of course it depends if you have access to some trees, this would work better if your house is on wooded land that needed some clearing and the trees were right there. and well it all depends on your location, climate ect, the site itself.

earth bags, as you said originally seem also like a good idea. and is quicker than other methods.

you dont have to plaster and fix them in permanently, stack a bunch of those....the stacks can be dissassembled and reassembled as you needed them elsewhere.
like sand bag walls are.... you could also combine the earth bags in some areas with some other form of earthen building. like with cob, or the best imo- making bricks and forms and then laying them out and mortar between them. this is also quicker than most of the other methods.
 
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we built this 33ft by 4ft wall pretty fast:
http://www.velacreations.com/shelter/building-components/walls/item/166-rapidobe-walls.html
 
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Log cabin...quickest, easiest and the bulk of your materials are going to be right on your land. When we moved to our homestead we put up a small cabin in 3 wks and lived in it for the next 4-5 years while building a bigger, better cabin.
 
Abe Connally
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Jay Green wrote:Log cabin...quickest, easiest and the bulk of your materials are going to be right on your land. When we moved to our homestead we put up a small cabin in 3 wks and lived in it for the next 4-5 years while building a bigger, better cabin.

this is true, as long as you have trees. Most of us don't have trees to spare!
 
Bethany Dutch
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Abe Connally wrote:
Jay Green wrote:Log cabin...quickest, easiest and the bulk of your materials are going to be right on your land. When we moved to our homestead we put up a small cabin in 3 wks and lived in it for the next 4-5 years while building a bigger, better cabin.

this is true, as long as you have trees. Most of us don't have trees to spare!


True! While we do have trees, we would rather stick to our plan of building in phases and adding on, rather than building a small cabin and being there a few years. Cost and labor will be about the same for our first phase as it would be to build a starter cabin, so we figure we might as well just start with phase 1.

What I really SHOULD do is pay to host Paul or Mike for a workshop and get'er done that way

having said that, we're going to the land in September so we'll make sure to cut (or girdle) a bunch of logs and poles and let them dry out for construction. I'm envisioning a Wofati/strawbale hybrid.
 
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Location: Austin Texas
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Well, that all depends on how natural you want to be. If you can get a shipping container out to your land you could set it down and bury it with earth. live inside. Steel is infinitely recyclable. Want to expand? get another container, un-bury a spot next to the first, place your container and bury them both! Rent a tractor if you want to be done faster. Develop the house as you go! Before you know it you will have the house of your dreams!
 
R Scott
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Bethany Dutch wrote:

True! While we do have trees, we would rather stick to our plan of building in phases and adding on, rather than building a small cabin and being there a few years. Cost and labor will be about the same for our first phase as it would be to build a starter cabin, so we figure we might as well just start with phase 1.



Don't forget--your first house doesn't have to STAY a house!!

What you build first can become a barn, toolshed, coop, garage, summer kitchen, root cellar, whatever, after you build the "real" house.

Phase 1 for the pioneers was the barn.
 
pollinator
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There are some very quick natural building methods, but they may not be "permanent."

What is your local climate like? What natural materials do you have available on site, locally, regionally? What are the materials and methods used in local vernacular architecture?

What do you mean by using the term "natural?"

Are you adamantly opposed to using conventional materials and methods?

What code issues will you be dealing with, if any? Many rural counties are now requiring that properties be significantly developed, including water, sewer and power, and that structures meet standard code, before granting habitation permission -- even for a weekend cabin or camping.

I also agree with the pole barn approach, if you are allowed to do so. Even if you only use it to park a trailer underneath, it is a good place to start.

Another point to consider is building with fire in mind. My sister-in-law's cabin was turned to ash last month in a wildfire. She had just renewed her insurance after having been dropped prior to the fire season. She had cleared all trees, brush and grass from around the structure a couple of days before, but with 50 mph winds filled with hot cinders, the log structure didn't stand a chance. A small metal barn survived without damage.
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a tipi could be the ideal choice. comfortable and mobile. with a rocket stove and bales outide you'll be snug in winter.
 
pollinator
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Bethany, you say you have a trailer but weatherwise it won't be viable after september? How cold is the climate there? Just asking because insulating earthbag takes some thought, but if you are onto Owen's site you know that already.

I just want to say that if your husband is a bit 'iffy' about the whole thing, and is working full time and doing a super long commute...well, don't bite off more than you can chew. Everything takes so much longer than you think it will on paper, especially if you are learning as you go. You don't want to burn him or yourself out, it's got to be fun and beautiful and satisfying and then he'll want more....too many projects runs the risk of cranky and stressed out and not very happy with the situation.

For what it's worth, I wouldn't even think of doing a house build in summer one. Take some time to enjoy the place. Get to know it in different seasons, and start planning and day dreaming what you will build and what locations make the most sense. Build a good stout storage shed for tools and supplies and feed.

There are semi-portable, sell-able housing options that can keep you cozy for year one. Teepee is hard core but pretty. A yurt would go up pretty quick and you could sell it later or use for guests. Or (heresy) you could knock together a quick stick-frame building on skids and put in some recycled windows and a tin roof....it will be way faster to build and will always be a useful building for something on a homestead. Most natural building is Not fast, and a lot of it requires a lot of heavy labour and many hands...if I was working alone i'd stick frame something..or pole frame as has been suggested, i'd just make it small.

Look at what you can do with recycled materials and a small footprint

tiny texas houses

and more ideas in the tiny house blog

I know you want to get started on the real house and add on, just wanted to warn against spreading yourself too thin because it might be way more work than you think...take your time and have fun!
 
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Nathan Wrzesinski wrote:If you can get a shipping container out to your land you could set it down and bury it with earth.


Do a yahoo web search on "buried shipping container collapse" to get a detailed explanation as to why burying a shipping container (without proper bracing) is a bad idea.
 
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I really love the concept of the earth bag building technique. The only problems is that we (my wife and I) don't have the time to fill 1000 bags of soil and we never did this kind of construction before.
We know that the price is going to be the same as a conventional building because we need to hire a crew to build the frame of the house. I also looked at Monolithic Doom and due to the fact that they could do the
compleet construction of the house it is very interesting.

Now is there a possibility to hire a crew to construct a home made of earth bags? and are they international (brazil)
Also there is a company in japan where you can get a dome house pre-made for around $30k.

Any comments?

Regards
jed
 
leila hamaya
pollinator
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one of the main cool things about earth bag construction is that it is forgiving to the beginner, easy enough to get the concept and run with it. plus you can use different stuff in the bags...so maybe you stock pile some good materials and especially for the bottom- sand, gravel, rocks, and even some cement (for soil cement) and make better mixes in the bags as you start...at the end you can fill in the bags with any soil.

TEDIOUS and time consuming...but much faster and less complicated than the others.

i also think that working with forms and "bricks" - which theres several variations of.....is a good beginner way, is faster, is something that can be done by those with little or no experience. one step at a time, of course, and true...even those fastest ways are still slow. and excellent to have help.

the earth bags are basically a kind of form building, a flexible form...but you can make actual forms of any size of various materials and then piece them all together....or combine that with other kinds of forms.

i've done some work like that and its not that its that hard, it just takes a LONG LONG time. i've also done some straw bale building, and i preferred the "brick" making method ...making forms and then plastering them in, better.

but you could all be on to something to say...maybe get a yurt or something simple first... i think that the idea of building a roof first (or even two while you are at it, a big one and small one) and then figuring out from there how to fill in the walls sounds like a pretty basic way to go...rather than getting too complicated from the beginning and getting ahead of yourself.

cause it really does take a long time. you think it will take a long time and it takes ten times longer !!!

have a party!!! or well...if you think you can get some free labor...buying a bunch of beer and getting together a big spread of food...maybe some people to play music....making some flyers and calling in all your cousins and friends to invite them to a "work party"...this is something i have seen done to good effect. get all your materials together before hand...so when you have a group of work party people there...you can get them busy helping you. better yet...ask them all to bring some of the things you need...like if someone can bring some sand, gravel, scrap pieces of wood...some extra tools...if you request that everyone bring something to your "party" you could get a nice stash of materials to put into action once you had at least a few people to work on it.
 
jed slater
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Again not all have a large family to call upon! most folks are looking for a solution where the basic construction is done by professionals and not by themselves.
I am not looking for a turn-key solution but more like a 50% "kit" solution. I see this as a 3 stage project.
1. Foundation including all the electric and plumbing work.
2. Building the frame of the house
3. interior fittings.

Part 1 & 3 is not hard to do or to hire someone to assist, but no 2 is really difficult because there is no one around who have the knowledge to help building this kind of
structure.

Regards
Jed
 
leila hamaya
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yeah...we are in different places in life....looking for different sorts of things.

considering what you are saying, as opposed to the OP, i think you might be better off to look into hiring people, and possibly some KIT houses. they do make some nice smaller kit houses for pretty cheap. or a kind of yurt.

to me, that would be way way outside of the possibilities. i'm generally looking for ways to build for completely free, using salvaged and found materials.
plumbing sure is nice =) and a luxury to me...believe it or not.

but the earth bags can be built for very very cheap, nearly free, if you have the time or friends....and the basic design and ideas...make it so that you dont need to have a lot of previous skills...once you get the basic idea its pretty hard to mess it up. unlike some of the other building methods...which have more chances for error.



 
leila hamaya
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you dont have to build much of a "frame" to begin with...i think perhaps thats what youre confused about
or thats what i am hearing you say, you wouldnt know how to frame them, if i am understanding correctly...

well we have been talking here about building a pole building and then using earth bags (or something similar) to make walls...but thats not really the way its usually done. the bags are the framework...generally...and you keep on making them spiral up and up...you can add a roof...or just keep going with the bags to be your roof. in a small structure like that...theres no post framework...unless you want to add a support or two here and there....which you would just put right onto the bags so it would stick out of the wall...before they are plastered...like to make a loft...

i will look up a post...i was reading a good one on this site a few days ago...and theres certainly a lot of info online...


here this was a good read, theres some good examples here of people building earth bag houses:
http://www.permies.com/t/3277/earth-bag/dirt-bag-structures

if you used posts it would be something of a hybrid actually...but yeah..the earth bag idea can be used in just a small part (like the foundation with something else on top) or as the whole structure.
 
jed slater
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I found this guy, and I do believe that he is able to supervise or can be hired to construct the building or some of it. I really like the design and the Idea of earth bag buildings.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/arquitectura_en_equilibrio/sets/72157626061872258/?page=2

Also there is a company easydome Ltd. they sell pre made houses, even for export. The problem earth bag constructions has, is that it is really hard labor demanding, and most people including me, don't have the
time nor the skills to build a home from ground up. That is why this construction method is only used by a very few in the western part of the world.

Now if a "normal" home cost $30k - $100k to purchase, then you properly have to pay the same amount of money to hire in a crew to build a earthbag house similar to a "normal" house.

Do you have any knowledge of a company or group of skilled builders who are doing this??

Thanks for your reply and link

Regards
Jed
 
Fred Walter
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Location: Near Beaver Valley, Ontario, Canada
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Something to consider, is the embodied energy versus lifespan of the building materials that you are going to use.

Also, if you are in a hurry to get a built structure then you need to think about the higher labour costs of 'natural' building methods versus lower labour costs (but higher material costs) of less 'natural' building methods.

I built my pump house using metal SIPs (walls and roof, rated R24), on a reinforced concrete slab on grade. It should last many hundreds of years with little to no maintenance, and it went up fast, and I put it up by myself. (Aside from 15 minutes of a neighbours time to get the first corner up.) Mind you, metal SIPs are not cheap, but when you take into account labour costs... they cost less the labour costs of putting metal siding on a similarily sized building. (I know this because I had a similarily sized garden shed built for my wife, using normal ballon stick frame construction, and that building ended up costing me almost 3 times as much as my pump house, with 2/3rds of the cost being labour.)

My preference is metal SIPs versus wood because (if they are like the SIPs that I used) then you can immediately start using the building, and finish it off later (drywall/etc) at your convenience. Wood SIPs need to be protected (siding/roofing) right away.
 
Andrew Parker
pollinator
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Jed,

The cost of the basic structure is often less than 30% of the overall cost of the home, not including the property and improvements. When you are doing cost comparisons, make sure you are comparing apples to apples (or more precisely, granny smiths to granny smiths).

Unless you are swimming in money, if you are going to pay someone else to build your home for you, I would recommend that you stick to conventional design and construction. Every step you take away from convention will increase the opportunity for a botched job and increased costs. Keep in mind that there are plenty of ham-fisted morons out there that are perfectly capable of botching a simple conventional job, let alone something that would force them to think.

Dream homes are difficult to sell because they are someone else's dream. Dream homes built by unconventional methods are nearly impossible to sell. A good rule of thumb would be: your likelihood of selling your home at a good price, when it comes time to move, will be directly related to the ease with which you were able to secure a construction loan, obtain the necessary permits and get fully insured.

If you need, but cannot secure, a conventional construction loan, just stop. Don't max out your credit cards. It isn't worth it.

If you are determined to press on, stay small, stay simple, think cheap. Assume you will never recoup your costs.

If you can do the construction yourself and the materials you choose are readily available for free or very cheap, nearly all of the "natural" building methods appropriate for your site would give you satisfactory shelter at very low cost.


Good Luck!


"It takes green to live green."
 
leila hamaya
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jed slater wrote:I found this guy, and I do believe that he is able to supervise or can be hired to construct the building or some of it. I really like the design and the Idea of earth bag buildings.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/arquitectura_en_equilibrio/sets/72157626061872258/?page=2

Also there is a company easydome Ltd. they sell pre made houses, even for export. The problem earth bag constructions has, is that it is really hard labor demanding, and most people including me, don't have the
time nor the skills to build a home from ground up. That is why this construction method is only used by a very few in the western part of the world.

Now if a "normal" home cost $30k - $100k to purchase, then you properly have to pay the same amount of money to hire in a crew to build a earthbag house similar to a "normal" house.

Do you have any knowledge of a company or group of skilled builders who are doing this??

Thanks for your reply and link

Regards
Jed


i dont read spanish, but cute house pics =)

i do know some people who are skilled in this...but i dont know anyone who is doing this as a business, i'm sure there are some here and there.
if you are intimidated by building this way, well maybe its not for you, so perhaps i shouldnt say this...but just to repeat, i think you could do it!

i think this is a particular easy way to build (earth bags that is, other natural methods will require more skill) ....or a related way of building with forms, basically making bricks(either straw based bricks, clay bricks, or more concrete like bricks) of whatever size you want and then using some mortar/mud mix to mortar between them and on top of them. with the earth bag method, the bags are the forms, and instead of mortar between them you use barbed wire. if you follow the design of making them slowly bend inward at the top as you get higher up, it all supports itself, the design makes it so you dont need posts.

the people i know who are doing this are more like on the wave i am on- looking to build very small extremely cheap structures from salvaged materials that they get for free and earthen materials they can dig up and gather. another words - for free, or as close as one can get to it.

i've seen, and worked on, some small houses that were built for around five hundred dollars or so !!! so when you say...its almost as expensive as conventional construction...well i am just perplexed how that could be. i read some materials and references...that say similar things...about being in the thousands and thousands of dollar ranges...and i really wonder how someone could spend that much money. i mean...theres fancy doors, and some parts that you want to buy...but i cant really wrap my head around how they could make it cost so much. to me its always been a way to build for free or extremely cheap, mostly gathering free earthen materials (sand, gravel, clay, urbanite) by digging, and getting the bags recycled and therefore free.

but true...if you dont want to do the labor yourself, and cant get helpers for low wage/free than i guess that becomes the most expensive part. i think a lot of this building is being done more amish barn raising style, communities of people working together and helping each other build these kinds of houses. now that its catching on more...there may be some people who are more on a professional status.

but yeah...i have also looked into some small kit houses, theres some cool ones for sure. if i were going to go more that route- i would get a yurt....
 
Bethany Dutch
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some great discussion! Thanks everyone.

Just to clarify - we've had the property for 6 years, and my parents have lived there for a couple years so we're pretty familiar with it. We already have water up at the site, most of the clearing was done a year ago, and lucky for us there are ZERO building codes.

When I say "natural" building method, I'm talking about our permanent home. We have a very specific idea of what we want, but weren't really sure if we should go strawbale, superadobe, earthship, etc.

If it's looking like it wouldn't be feasible to build the first portion of our "forever" home that first summer, we will build a small stickbuilt cabin. However, we'd much rather invest in building something that will ultimately become part of our home, since funds are limited. AND, if we do go with living in the trailer for the summer but turns out we won't be done in time, we can always rent a place in town for the winter... I'd just obviously rather not do that. Tired of paying landlords

One benefit I have is that my dad who lives on the next parcel is a professional (conventional) builder, so I know things will get done correctly regarding the little things like electrical, plumbing, etc.

What we've decided to do is a roundhouse with a poured slab, peeled log/timber framing, reciprocal roof and strawbale walls, but incorporating wofati planning by having a log-lined greenhouse/sunspace around the back of the home which will be bermed ultimately but not until we actually finish the entire home which might be a couple years.

We plan on adding on as we have the funds, so the parts that will be added on to will be just traditionally framed so they will be easy to knock out. Then, once we've got all the units built (multiple connected roundhouses as per Owen Geiger) we'll berm it and be done. Seems like strawbale would be quicker than earthbag just in that no one needs to fill and tamp the strawbales, they are already done.

It's kinda hard to describe... still working on the plan That will give us the permanent home we want (we already have most of the design set), it will use timber from the property that we'll prepare this fall and local straw from neighboring farms. Also, it will allow us to take advantage of the skillset of my Dad who can do a lot of the work with me during the week. We also have friends in the area who will help build, and truth be told I've considered that it might be worthwhile to hire a professional and host a workshop and git-r-dun I think that would be a pretty good way to combine hiring to have certain parts done vs. having the hobbit house we want.
 
Kari Gunnlaugsson
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Nice sounding hobbit house. I hope you'll let us know which way you decide to go with it. I'd like to do something similar someday and I also find myself going in circles....earthbag, strawbale, earthbag, no, strawbale...

Some things are hard to reconcile.

I love the earth-berming, but strawbales aren't going to be happy earth-bermed (unless there's a secret way..)

I love the bermed earth-bag, but it's too cold here to not insulate and there's no reasonable source of lava rock.

I think geiger sometimes draws hybrids, with strawbale above grade and earthbags bermed.

Watch some U-tube videos of earthbag building.. it really drove home to me that it was not something i was going to be able to do working on my own, especially higher up the wall, without taking years to get it done. There's an instructional one of a whole village somewhere in africa building some grain silo's that really shows how much work it is and how effective a group can be.

I like the idea of planning for additions in advance, but you never know...you might find that living small suites you just fine and never have to go to the bother of a whole cluster of roundhouses.
 
Bethany Dutch
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Kari Gunnlaugsson wrote:
Nice sounding hobbit house. I hope you'll let us know which way you decide to go with it. I'd like to do something similar someday and I also find myself going in circles....earthbag, strawbale, earthbag, no, strawbale...

Some things are hard to reconcile.

I love the earth-berming, but strawbales aren't going to be happy earth-bermed (unless there's a secret way..)

I love the bermed earth-bag, but it's too cold here to not insulate and there's no reasonable source of lava rock.

I think geiger sometimes draws hybrids, with strawbale above grade and earthbags bermed.

Watch some U-tube videos of earthbag building.. it really drove home to me that it was not something i was going to be able to do working on my own, especially higher up the wall, without taking years to get it done. There's an instructional one of a whole village somewhere in africa building some grain silo's that really shows how much work it is and how effective a group can be.

I like the idea of planning for additions in advance, but you never know...you might find that living small suites you just fine and never have to go to the bother of a whole cluster of roundhouses.


Yeah I'm not quite sure how we're going to do it, my theory is that the strawbale sides of the home themselves are not going to be bermed, they will be surrounded by a greenhouse/sunspace that will be bermed itself (or nothing). I haven't read anything yet about dealing with moisture issues from having an attached sunspace - I imagine a regular greenhouse would be doable but we'd like to have a little pond and some other nice things in there too, which might add more moisture to the air.

The more I think about it, the more I'm liking the idea of paying for a builder to come out and doing a workshop. We'd get the expert instruction, and the cost of hiring the builder and hosting the workshop would be offset by the cheap/free building materials and labor from workshop attendees. It's all just theory at this point, though.
 
jed slater
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Andrew

Yeah you are right, but what I am trying to say is that supervision is a very important issue regarding earth bag buildings. I don't mind do some of the work and we do have the opportunity to hire help
for the heavier part of the construction. The house has to be free of any mortgage so we have do build it from what we have saved. I could buy a normal mainstream house and pay for it upfront, and
then I didn't build it "green" nor did I build it safe (storm, hurricanes ect.) so back to square one and not getting any younger LOL

So my plan is for now!

1.get the land
2. build a small house we can move into quickly like the easydome kit http://www.easydomes.com/?mainmenu=1&menu=0&init=1
3. start constructing the "real" house but as a part of the one that is already done.

This way we can keep the cost down and still have our dream, building code around here are big zero

Regards
Jed

 
Andrew Parker
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Sounds like you both have some workable plans. Try to have someone you trust and respect, who has no emotional or philosophical attachment to the project, around to keep your feet firmly planted in reality, because things can get out of hand very quickly sometimes (that goes equally for any construction project, conventional or not). Having to use cash at hand is a good limiter.

Good luck and stay healthy.

P.S. Take care of your back. Keep it straight. Lift with your knees. Don't twist your back while carrying a load, especially while shovelling. If it looks heavy, wait for help.
 
Bethany Dutch
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Wellll I did some searching and I found a couple of experienced strawbale builders within an hour's drive, which is GREAT. I don't want to hire a builder, but we'll definitely need to do some consulting. That makes me feel a whole lot better!
 
leila hamaya
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i think your idea is a good one, and especially the idea of attached green house sun space =)

if you build that up high on a berm it would get even brighter, and probably help a lot with whatever moisture issues with all that sun and heat.
thats kinda what i got from what you wrote, steps and different levels.

imo- you should start with the berm, and even if you can rent or get a big digger machine.
start with the berm, and a really huge hole. a huge trench for drainage. it gets harder later to add that.

i know, its tempting to skip doing that first...or to not do it thoroughly enough, cause its the hardest part. !
even in my small projects...i've skipped a bit of the preparing work and then had to go back to square one.

by the time you start actually building, after all that preparing and digging, you are more than halfway there....
course i dont know your layout so maybe its ok to do the berm later...just more what i tell myself...as the preparing and digging...well you want to get the actual building and it takes a LONG time with seemingly little progress to do all the trenches and berms.

doing straw bale as more of fill in wall, within a post and beam structure is gonna be much easier.

the reason i say it isnt as easy or fast is because it takes longer to plaster the outer and inner edge of the bales, you have to put up a lot of mesh and more layers. well its hard to say whats faster, and theres a lot of different ways to do it.
maybe we were doing the longer way....yeah quite possibly we were doing it the really long way or something...

it was a long time ago and was the first project of building with earthen materials i worked on. we needed like....a LOT of layers on the bales...like years later i was still plastering the outside and inside walls trying to finish it finally. i lived in there for a year working on it all the time after the original builder gave up on the project. its also not suited to this climate at all, so yeah maybe we werent doing it the best way!

and using a bunch of metal stuff, long supporting rods or metal mesh.
theres different ways
(you can put straw bales in like "bricks" with mortar in between them and this works better and adds structural support)
but you have to use some thick layers, and add onto something, and the whole plastering process is much more labor intensive and difficult.
.....and also do a lot of work adding support to the weight of the house on the bales.

if you have the structure all supported with wood frame then the straw bale walls are more like free standing walls- they are holding them selves up and the roof and house are held up by the post and beams and rafters.....
that is easier...but it still requires much thicker plaster. and you have to keep on adding more and more for a very very long time, lots of thick slow layers....till you get to the end with slow thin layers of different plasters.

if you have made forms of compressed earth bricks, or some kind of straw bricks/clay bricks/earthen bricks its all pretty flat. and solid, so you can just plaster a couple of thinner layers of plaster on each side. the matrix of the mortar is what holds up the walls and the roof, and is more structural sound...and that mortar in between your "bricks" makes it so that its way forgiving to a beginner, because that is more structurally strong by design.

so basically you dont need all that extra stuff and can plaster much quicker.
but of course, you have to make the bricks, and thats something thats time consuming, but all in all its way faster (imo) and easier.
hard to say whats fastest, when you add it all up, actually its all quite slow !
but i do think that the "brick " method or earth bags is actually a lot faster cause the plastering is way easier and you need less.

there a lot of different ways to do it though, so i bet there are some faster ways with straw bale.
ah sorry if i am getting carried away here, i mean i am not an "expert" or whatever...but i have worked with earth building for a while and been involved in several different kinds of building in this way. so thats my 4 cents =)
from my experiences....
 
leila hamaya
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Kari Gunnlaugsson wrote:
Nice sounding hobbit house. I hope you'll let us know which way you decide to go with it. I'd like to do something similar someday and I also find myself going in circles....earthbag, strawbale, earthbag, no, strawbale...

Some things are hard to reconcile.

I love the earth-berming, but strawbales aren't going to be happy earth-bermed (unless there's a secret way..)

I love the bermed earth-bag, but it's too cold here to not insulate and there's no reasonable source of lava rock.

I think geiger sometimes draws hybrids, with strawbale above grade and earthbags bermed.



i like this idea.
earth bags and bermed for the foundation and the bottom, then whatever else on top. =)

i think earth bags would go well in an underground, partially underground at least, structure.
thats something i have visioned....making the sides that are partially underground out of earth bags, then putting a big berm over them, and using a lot of rocks...then on top of that, and with the parts that are more sticking out and up being ...well i would go with clay straw bricks...but you could use whatever...even lots of glass and wood....

but using the earth bags for wherever it is totally in the earth....basically...
 
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keep in mind the amount of labor it requires to build something even temporary
if you want to spend most of your time farming or working the land how you see fit rather than adding on to your living quarters or rebuilding, it can be a good idea to do something more permanent that a pole barn or other short-term(relatively) buildings
 
Andrew Parker
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If made properly and of the right material, a pole barn can outlast most homes. I believe that the original suggestion of building a pole barn first was because it could be used as the load-bearing wall and roof of the home, or it could be left as a pole barn and everything would still be good. If the trailer were to fit comfortably inside the pole barn, you might be able to get through the Winter, especially with some inexpensive curtains, panels or straw bales around the outside, and Summers would be more comfortable (When I was in Texas, I saw many mobile homes covered by pole barns to keep the sun, rain and hail off them.).
 
Devon Olsen
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im sure pole barns exist for a reason, i believe the high winds around here cause them to be a TERRIBLE idea according to most professionals that i know in the construction field...
 
Andrew Parker
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Again, if made properly and of the right material, a pole barn can outlast most homes. If high winds or snow loads are a problem in a particular area then a pole barn ought to be designed and built accordingly, and good companies do just that. If you are building your own, do your homework and make sure it will stand up to what your local area may throw at it.

For high winds, the major considerations are that the poles be set properly in the ground, that the beams be attached properly to the posts and that the roof trusses (or rafters and joists) be properly attached to the beams. Use bracing, if applicable to your design and/or area. Hardware is available that meets the most stringent codes.

Purlins should be of sufficient size and spacing to allow roofing and siding(optional) to be installed according to manufacturer's specifications and to meet the code for your area.

Any construction method, when shoddily done, is a TERRIBLE idea.
 
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The quickest natural building method in my opinion would involve panelization. One could dry in a home in a day or two with a crew of 3 with this method. The "naturalness" of course depends on how the panels are constructed.

A high performance hybrid method could mean having a panel company build panels with simple stick framing techniques. Then the on-site crew would assemble them and add the external insulation (insulative sheathing or board stock) in the field. Cavity insulation is important and the most natural form is blown cellulose but cavity insulation performs poorly compared to insulative sheathing. The most natural insulative sheathing is Mineral Wool and there is now a new, expanded cork board stock insulation becoming available in North America.

http://www.greenbuildingadvisor.com/blogs/dept/energy-solutions/expanded-cork-greenest-insulation-material

Earth building may be a more DIY option but it cant touch traditional construction's speed, ease and dare I say performance.

 
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