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structure construction for off grid home

 
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hello all,

Ive been pondering my home for many years now. its evolved from one form(earthship) to a berm house made with new conventional building and repurposed material . my ideas were borrowed from the earthship concept. I decided against an earthship for several reasons but mostly the time spent on ramming all those tires. time is money, and as I get older I appreciate how important time is. especially as a man who is bordering on fifty and wants to build his home by himself.

Im a huge fan of passive solar heating and the use of a berm to regulate and stabilize a buildings temp. I like the design of the earthship but will more than likely forgo using the ram packed tires and use CMU new or free. I can build a block wall much quicker then pounding the numerous number of tires needed. earthships use a packed tire foundation with no footing. a block wall however, requires a footing. in my region of ontario canada typically requires a footing to be below the frost line which is 4 feet deep.

this is where I need peoples building smarts and experience. since I will be building with CMU using the earthship design would a footing on grade and the berm alleviate ground movement from frost? perhaps using ridged foam as a berm replacement around areas that do not have a berm to cover it(eg doorways garage doors etc.)

I see earthships able to negate ground movement. then again they are a couple hundred pounds per tire and probably have more flexibility than concrete footing and block. I do have a good understanding of conventional building construction but lack in the non traditional department.



as always, I appreciate all forum members insight into my build.

respectfully,

G

 
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Yes, a berm will protect a footing at original grade level. It effectively raises grade and the frost line by the height of the berm (a bit less if the berm is steeply sloped close to the wall).

You still need to remove topsoil or sod down to solid dense subsoil, so the footing will not settle too much or unevenly. If you are going to use concrete and cmu, you might look into the scandinavian concept of frost-protected shallow foundations. This as illustrated in the link will be effective for exposed walls. For bermed walls, I have used a variation with a slightly thickened slab edge and rebar continuous in the slab and bending up into the cavities of the cmu, which are then filled with concrete to make a monolithic reinforced concrete structure. This has effectively held up fully backfilled basement walls for 30+ years in my direct experience with no sign of deterioration. I would use a 6" slab thickened to 8 to 10" at the edges for safety.
 
pollinator
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What are 'CMU new or free' ?
 
Glenn Herbert
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CMU = concrete masonry unit.
 
pollinator
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What do you think of something like what's below

 
S Bengi
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Here is floorplan view:


http://www.naturalbuildingblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Solar-Pit-House-PDF.pdf


 
scott thompson
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Glenn Herbert wrote:Yes, a berm will protect a footing at original grade level. It effectively raises grade and the frost line by the height of the berm (a bit less if the berm is steeply sloped close to the wall).

You still need to remove topsoil or sod down to solid dense subsoil, so the footing will not settle too much or unevenly. If you are going to use concrete and cmu, you might look into the scandinavian concept of frost-protected shallow foundations. This as illustrated in the link will be effective for exposed walls. For bermed walls, I have used a variation with a slightly thickened slab edge and rebar continuous in the slab and bending up into the cavities of the cmu, which are then filled with concrete to make a monolithic reinforced concrete structure. This has effectively held up fully backfilled basement walls for 30+ years in my direct experience with no sign of deterioration. I would use a 6" slab thickened to 8 to 10" at the edges for safety.



thank you very much for the reply.

I thought I was in the right direction with my idea.  I will check out the link you provided.

as far as the berm though. I understand that it will protect the footing by insulating the area and preventing a temp change. this would be effective for the back wall since it would have a 8ft berm. its the front of the house that will have a smaller berm which will provide some temp stability but not to the same extent as the 8ft berm in the back.

it makes sense to me to insulate the front berm and entrance ways with some eps for an added layer of protection against heaving. Im not dure if this is overkill.

filling the cavities with cement. we are on the same page as far as rebar and cement. however, I was considering breaking the monolithic pour into 2 pours. more than likely laying block till about 4 feet high and filling the cavities. then laying the remaining four feet and poring concrete again. trying to vibe 8 feet block  and concrete seems like it would be very difficult. I realize that poring concrete 2 different times will result in a week spot, but IM am hoping that if I do not completely fill that last course , use a bonding agent and of course rebar I may be able to negate this.

Im not a structural engineer but thats my current thought process.

thanks for insight. most appreciated.
 
scott thompson
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S Bengi wrote:Here is floorplan view:



http://www.naturalbuildingblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Solar-Pit-House-PDF.pdf




nice design.

I plan to attach a green house and garage to my structure that can be accessed by doorway to each area. while I do like the idea of food production in my home I wanted to be able to grow more than just a couple of planters so that I could rely more on my own production.  

I will probably go with a vertical glass from instead of the slanted front. the slanted never really appealed to me. steel roof over living roof so I can capture rain water. it will be a combination of a couple different construction methods. cmu and timber frame. timber frame just because Ive always love the look plus I want to be able to build from resources off my lot as much as possible.

thanks for sharing your designs. I appreciate your insight.
 
pollinator
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scott thompson wrote:

S Bengi wrote:Here is floorplan view:



http://www.naturalbuildingblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Solar-Pit-House-PDF.pdf




nice design.

I plan to attach a green house and garage to my structure that can be accessed by doorway to each area. while I do like the idea of food production in my home I wanted to be able to grow more than just a couple of planters so that I could rely more on my own production.  

I will probably go with a vertical glass from instead of the slanted front. the slanted never really appealed to me. steel roof over living roof so I can capture rain water. it will be a combination of a couple different construction methods. cmu and timber frame. timber frame just because Ive always love the look plus I want to be able to build from resources off my lot as much as possible.

thanks for sharing your designs. I appreciate your insight.



That sounds just like my design.  

Even the new earthships use vertical glass.  The marginal gain is not worth the additional maintenance, plus it voids the window warranty.
 
Glenn Herbert
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Filling 8" concrete block with concrete does not require vibrating to get decent results; a few small voids will have negligible effect, and there is no surface for appearance to matter. Rodding each core to make sure the concrete has filled it is sufficient. I run a pair of 2x4s along the top of the dry-laid block (usually surface-bonded first for stability ) with 1/4" threaded rod to tie them together and clamp them to the wall. This leaves a 3" deep x 8" wide channel on top of the wall that is easy to guide concrete into and convenient for horizontal rebar. Trying to pour half of a wall with concrete and then continue it up and pour the other half pretty much doubles the labor.

I have the rebar in the slab bend and extend up out of the slab 2-4 feet where the walls are going to go, lay up the block several courses, then wire on rebar for the full height of the wall (which makes laying the rest of the block more tedious, lifting many of them up to 8' high.) You can also just lay up the block and drop 8' lengths of rebar into the cores that have 2-4' stubs and trust that the continuity will be sufficient. It takes more rebar but is easier. I use #3 rebar for these structures because it is easy to bend and tweak to fit the block. I make up for the smaller than ordinary size by running more of them, thus distributing the reinforcing more evenly in the wall. I feel this is a net gain. If you are a professional with heavy duty bending tools, this may not be the best tradeoff.

A 4' berm would be enough to protect footings in ordinary cold climates, unless your standard frost depth is greater than that. I would want to insulate all of the walls anyway to avoid massive heat loss in winter and cold sweaty walls in summer, then backfilling as high as practical to minimize exposed walls.
 
scott thompson
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R Scott wrote:

scott thompson wrote:

S Bengi wrote:Here is floorplan view:



http://www.naturalbuildingblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Solar-Pit-House-PDF.pdf




nice design.

I plan to attach a green house and garage to my structure that can be accessed by doorway to each area. while I do like the idea of food production in my home I wanted to be able to grow more than just a couple of planters so that I could rely more on my own production.  

I will probably go with a vertical glass from instead of the slanted front. the slanted never really appealed to me. steel roof over living roof so I can capture rain water. it will be a combination of a couple different construction methods. cmu and timber frame. timber frame just because Ive always love the look plus I want to be able to build from resources off my lot as much as possible.

thanks for sharing your designs. I appreciate your insight.



That sounds just like my design.  

Even the new earthships use vertical glass.  The marginal gain is not worth the additional maintenance, plus it voids the window warranty.



yes. the vertical glass is new standard I do believe. its just more aesthetically pleasing. as well they had issues with snow build up and water issues with the slanted.

I was under the impression that 2 pane windows used in earthships were just panes with no frames. I didnt think they would have warranty since they had no frames.
 
scott thompson
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Glenn Herbert wrote:Filling 8" concrete block with concrete does not require vibrating to get decent results; a few small voids will have negligible effect, and there is no surface for appearance to matter. Rodding each core to make sure the concrete has filled it is sufficient. I run a pair of 2x4s along the top of the dry-laid block (usually surface-bonded first for stability ) with 1/4" threaded rod to tie them together and clamp them to the wall. This leaves a 3" deep x 8" wide channel on top of the wall that is easy to guide concrete into and convenient for horizontal rebar. Trying to pour half of a wall with concrete and then continue it up and pour the other half pretty much doubles the labor.

I have the rebar in the slab bend and extend up out of the slab 2-4 feet where the walls are going to go, lay up the block several courses, then wire on rebar for the full height of the wall (which makes laying the rest of the block more tedious, lifting many of them up to 8' high.) You can also just lay up the block and drop 8' lengths of rebar into the cores that have 2-4' stubs and trust that the continuity will be sufficient. It takes more rebar but is easier. I use #3 rebar for these structures because it is easy to bend and tweak to fit the block. I make up for the smaller than ordinary size by running more of them, thus distributing the reinforcing more evenly in the wall. I feel this is a net gain. If you are a professional with heavy duty bending tools, this may not be the best tradeoff.

A 4' berm would be enough to protect footings in ordinary cold climates, unless your standard frost depth is greater than that. I would want to insulate all of the walls anyway to avoid massive heat loss in winter and cold sweaty walls in summer, then backfilling as high as practical to minimize exposed walls.



thanks for the info.

I have seen in some vlogs that occasionally horizontal rebar would be used every couple of courses. a small notch is placed in the top of the block and seated just below the mortar line and tied into the verticals. this was for a non filled concrete block wall that did not have lateral compression of a berm. it was just a privacy wall.

 
Glenn Herbert
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Depending on the stress on the wall, I will run horizontal rebar at least halfway up the height, and sometimes every third course (2') to be certain to tie the wall together full length and spread the load.
 
John C Daley
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This may help you with the rainfall collection
rainfall collection
 
scott thompson
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for the cost of rebar I would say it would be a cheap insurance policy
 
scott thompson
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thanks for the link. I was planning on capturing water. it didnt make financial sense to drill a well when nature provides and I will be installing a steel rood.

I pay $100 a month for city water and sewer. half of that cost is as a delivery fee. I totally feel gouged every time I look at a utility bill.
 
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