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Dale Hodgins
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Dale's Marvellous Inventions and Adaptations.

I'm constantly working out new building techniques and making changes to what others are up to. Rather than scattering them all over this and other sites, I'd like to consolidate them here. I will eventually link this thread to others where I've presented my own inventions and adaptations in green building techniques. For complex ideas that require testing, I may still start a separate thread but I will link them all back to this one. Other times , I'll simply present an idea here for others to run with.--- My method of claiming an idea is simple. I develop the basic concept and then Google everything remotely related to see if it's already being done. If an exhaustive search fails to produce anything close, then I claim it as my own.
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Charcoal in Green Building - slip coated insulation, cob insulation, infrared resistant plaster, plaster pigment ...

I'm trying to find uses for charcoal or bio char as an insulating material. Charcoal is one of the lightest natural solid materials and it has excellent thermal and hygroscopic properties. Based on this, I've got several ideas brewing. The idea first struck a couple hours ago, so I'm quite excited about the possibilities.

1. Granular charcoal insulation for attics. Charcoal is one of the most insulative materials on Earth. It would need to have a clay slip coating for fire protection as is done with straw clay. Fine and coarse materials would be mixed for maximum effect. I would expect convective currents to be more of a problem than with blown cellulose. This problem can be alleviated with a thin cap of blown cellulose. I've done this with other granular insulation (chunk fibreglass, redwood bark, vermiculite, wood chips). A thin cap fills voids and causes an improvement in performance greater than would be expected based on the R value of the cellulose. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

2. Granular charcoal mixed with cob for lightness and insulating. By putting a greater proportion on the outer few inches, we could have insulation but still retain the benefit of the thermal mass of a pure cob inner wall. The hygroscopic nature(water absorbing) of charcoal should help moisture migrate through the wall. Charcoal conducts far less heat than does pumice and it has the infrared property to boot. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I SAVED THE MOST PROMISING ONE UNTIL LAST
3. Ground charcoal/clay paste to give cob walls an infrared and conductive barrier.
(High end foam insulations use an admixture of carbon black in order to impart better infrared properties.) (Asbestos worked well for this but caused health issues.)I imagine using the charcoal paste product in the scratch coat of interior plaster. Regular plaster would be used in the finish coat since we don't want a black interior. Trailers and other light buildings often have a shiny paper product under the panelling to reflect infrared. A layer of charcoal should work even better than this.
A black exterior might be desirable in certain situations. A cob bench in the greenhouse might look and perform well with a shiny black finish.

With some work, I may become the "Henry Ford" of charcoal insulating, and as Henry would say, "You can have your charcoal plaster in any colour you want --- as long as it's black."

This concludes the first of many ideas I'm working on. Let's explore these and try to stay on topic.

Thank you: Dale Hodgins



27 Aug Moderator Edit by ken peavey to adjust long dash line, it was messing up browsers.
 
Dale Hodgins
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I just learned how to copy the URL to link pages. A Monster is Born. Before inventing any more wheels, I'm going to link to a number of topics related to my inventions and experimentation. If you pop over to one of those threads, please comment there. This thread could become quite confused with such a mix of content. Many new ideas will be presented here first so they should be discussed here. You could leave a brief message here concerning any of the links. Thank you.

"A NEW BUILDING SYSTEM IS BORN " documents my plan to use sawmill waste coated in clay slip to produce monolithic walls similar to but superior to cob in that it is well suited to withstand earthquake and a cold climate. Similar to straw clay but using an abundant and free resource. Here's the link --- http://www.permies.com/t/13095/green-building/BUILDING-SYSTEM-BORN-system-ll -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
These next two proposals are closely related. Both involve gabion systems. I was building the model for the pebble wall on a debris strewn beach when I thought of the disasters in Haiti and the tsunami that struck the Indian ocean a few years back. Both areas were left with lots of rubble which could be used to fill the nets for temporary shelter.


"Dry Stone Pebble Wall. Stone Siding for Wooden Buildings - Requires no mortar or masonry skills." It's a one sided gabion system which holds rock in place without mortar. Here's the link --- http://www.permies.com/t/12592/green-building/Dry-Stone-Pebble-Wall-Stone


"Thousands of Homes Built from Earth Bags Made from Re-claimed Fishing Nets --- Disaster Relief" Another gabion system to create immediate shelter. Check out the photos posted by Abe Connally. Similar to that. Here's the link --- http://www.permies.com/t/12636/earth-bag/Thousands-Homes-Built-Earth-Bags
[i]

27 Aug Moderator Edit by ken peavey to adjust long dash line, it was messing up browsers.
 
Abe Connally
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Location: Chihuahua Desert
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Here's some more info and photos on our Rapidobe system:
http://www.velacreations.com/shelter/building-components/walls/item/166.html

Click on any of the photos to see a slideshow of the project.

And an Instructable:
http://www.instructables.com/id/Rapidobe-a-cheap-way-to-build-walls-retaining-w/
 
Dale Hodgins
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Abe Connally wrote:Here's some more info and photos on our Rapidobe system:


Abe, be sure to put those links onto this thread where it will be in context. "Thousands of Homes Built from Earth Bags Made from Re-claimed Fishing Nets --- Disaster Relief" Here's the link --- http://www.permies.com/t/12636/earth-bag/Thousands-Homes-Built-Earth-Bags

 
Dale Hodgins
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I have several more minor inventions. Some of these are ideas that I've presented but I haven't done the work of making models, conducting tests etc...

The first one entitled "Green Building - Materials Testing and Longevity Study Facility - Facades,Roofing,Plasters, Flooring" relates to many of the others, since durability and functionality tests are required for much of my stuff. Here's the link--- http://www.permies.com/t/13262/green-building/Green-Building-Materials-Testing-Longevity

This has not yet been built but is still part of my grand plan --- "Green roof becomes perfect spot for aquaponics grow bed" Here's the link---
http://www.permies.com/t/10857/green-building/Green-roof-perfect-spot-aquaponics
This is one of many that involve rocket stoves and other alternative energy. I may make a seperate page once I'm further along with these matters "RMH J tube and riser casting--- mail order" http://www.permies.com/t/10792/stoves/RMH-tube-riser-casting-mail
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The next three are hardly inventions. They are all related to sourcing free supplies for your green building.

"Heating with oil for free" Here's the link--- http://www.permies.com/t/9819/energy/Heating-oil-free

"Free metal fasteners for your post and beam building" Here's the link--- http://www.permies.com/t/9818/green-building/Free-metal-fasteners-post-beam

"Free gypsum for hydronic heating" Here's the link--- http://www.permies.com/t/9769/green-building/Free-gypsum-hydronic-heating
[i]
27 Aug Moderator Edit by ken peavey to adjust long dash line, it was messing up browsers.
 
Abe Connally
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Location: Chihuahua Desert
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sorry, Dale, I thought I was posting on that thread. oops!
 
Dale Hodgins
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Wood/Clay Test blocks --- The following is an edited version of two replies that I posted in a long dormant thread. The poster was from Sweden and wanted to insulate cob. There was no reply so no point linking to it. I tried this before learning that a light slip is all that is needed to hold wood chip clay together. My mix was strong, but at the expense of thermal efficienct.

Dale here, regarding wood chip clay. I made some blocks using a fairly damp standard cob mix and an equal volume of wood chips. The resulting blocks dried rock hard. Wood is a much better insulator than pure cob and these blocks readily held nails. This nail ability would make this a great material to use as infill on a post-and beam structure. Here in Canada, tree trimmings from residential properties are commonly run through chippers by tree service companies. The resulting chips are a waste product which is given away. I've used these chips under my children's play sets and to build paths at a muddy job site. The leaves and needles can be sorted from the mix through sifting and by tossing with a hay fork from one pile to the other in a brisk wind. Another source of wood chips is scrap from demolition sites which is sometimes run through a large hammer mill. Be sure to not accept material which has lead paint, asbestos or other contaminants.

Your country has huge amounts of boreal forest which have been replanted. Much of this forest requires thinning and by contacting those in charge of this operation you may find a very cheap source of wood. Small diameter poles can be joined with X bracing to create any width of wall truss you desire. A floor mounted jig can be set up so that you produce uniform wall trusses from this material. This sort of structure will go up much faster than one of pure cob. The wood chips wick moisture to the surface so you get a faster drying time. If you decide to do anything like this I would gladly send you photos of exactly what I mean. Good luck and happy building.




On my test blocks, the ones which I'd left without Earth plaster dried much faster than those which where covered in a smooth cob mixture. The greater surface area and exposed wood chips were exposed to the sun and wind so the moisture was wicked away.

If you build with this double post and beam wall truss system, you will be able to get your walls and roof up quickly in one season. Then you will have the option of postponing cobbing if the season has gotten away from you. The next spring you can concentrate on infilling the walls.

A front-end loader on a farm tractor would be an ideal machine to use for both mixing and lifting this material to scaffolding. Plywood could be screwed against the faces of your wall trusses and the material could be shovelled into the wall in a similar manner to Rammed Earth. Because your infill material is not the primary structural component of your building it would not have to be hugely compressed. Simply stomp it into place so that it all sticks together. Any accidental air spaces will simply add to your insulation value. Feel free to contact me if you decide to go ahead with a similar system to this. You may find that you're able to charge people for removal of useful wood debris.


 
Dale Hodgins
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I've started another thread related to the charcoal as insulation idea from the beginning if this page. It involves containing pumice or granular and powdered charcoal within a modified gabion wall. The thread is called "Pumice or Charcoal Gabion System - Insulates Cob and Concrete Walls - Stucco Over Wire." http://www.permies.com/t/19421/cob/Pumice-Charcoal-Gabion-System-Insulates

The system is based on my thread entitled "Dry Stone Pebble Wall. Stone Siding for Wooden Buildings - Requires no mortar or masonry skills." http://www.permies.com/t/12592/green-building/Dry-Stone-Pebble-Wall-Stone
 
Dale Hodgins
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I've done some more internet surfing regarding the thermal properties of charcoal and come up with many more questions than answers. It turns out that much of the positive reports come out of China and were written in order to sell charcoal infused fabrics. The charcoal was derived from bamboo.

Quite a bit of cross checking has convinced me that the radiant barrier thing is quite verifiable. But outside of advertising materials, I can find nothing on the conductive nature of granular charcoal alone.

Various tables show that various forms of carbon are all over the map thermally and electrically. Diamond is an electrical insulator, while graphite is a good conductor. Diamonds are the most thermally conductive substance and therefore the worst possible insulating material. So that ends my plan to put 8 inches of diamonds into the attic. Other carbon materials have different rates of transfer at different temperatures.

Carbon has more forms and it forms more compounds than any other element, so the quantity of information and misinformation is daunting. The internet is full of scientific and purely speculative “information” on the subject. When a Google search mentions charcoal and insulation together, this thread pops up on the first page right alongside information from peer reviewed scientific journals based on laboratory testing. When I type in “granular charcoal insulation” The first three listings are this thread and others on this site where I have linked to here. During this last surfing session, my own input has popped up about 20 times. I've got to start marketing some bogus product. With the top three search positions, I could make a fortune !!!

So, since according to a Google search, I am one of the world's leading experts in the field, it is incumbent upon me to conduct an experiment. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

THE EXPERIMENT – I don't have anything resembling a proper laboratory but I can get my hands on some charcoal, a shoe box and some firebricks. I will grind the charcoal finely and then place a bed of it into the box, followed by a firebrick which has been heated in the oven. The brick will be covered with the powdered charcoal so that top and bottom have an equal covering. Other identical bricks will be heated on the same shelf of the same oven and placed into identical boxes and covered with various insulating materials such as cellulose fibre insulation, sawdust and fibreglass. The temperature will be monitored at various intervals.

This sort of test won't give an accurate R value, but it will make a good comparison between the various materials tested. If the charcoal meets or exceeds the insulating capacity of blown cellulose, then the whole idea is brilliant and I'm a genius. I'll hire myself out to NASA. Should charcoal insulation perform more poorly than sawdust, I guess I'll blame it on flawed testing. I've seen TV before so I know how that works.


This is going to take a little while to get the supplies together. I'll post photos and numerical results.
 
Dale Hodgins
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I CONDUCTED A TEST --- I got together some materials for a rudimentary test of the charcoal in clay radiant heat barrier.. Two equal quantities of clay were mixed up. One completely raw chunk was formed into a quarter inch thick disk about the size of a hockey puck.
The other glob of clay was mixed with a pile of powdered charcoal about 20% as large as the glob of clay. It was also formed into a disk near identical to the other one.

Both disks were allowed to dry for a week. After 2 days they were pretty much dry. Once dry, the one containing charcoal was only slightly darker than the other one.

Today I did a test. Each disk was propped on edge and a light bulb was focused on each of them for five minutes. The bulb was exactly 6 inches from the disk on each test. The bulb was positioned across from and not below the disks so that any convective current rising from the hot bulb would not strike the disk. We're testing for radiant heat resistance only.

RESULTS --- The disk made of raw clay got quite a bit hotter than the one containing charcoal. Although it was a crude test, the result is promising. It appears that some heat was reflected away from the disk containing charcoal. Therefore, I will build two equally sized “igloos” from the two mixes and run the hot brick test.

Once finished with the disks, I coated both with vegetable oil since I didn't have a drying oil like linseed. It readily absorbed and seriously darkened both disks. The one with charcoal went almost black. After 6 hours, both took on a lighter colour and much of the contrast between them faded. If the right oil were used it might be possible to retain this wet look.

WATER TEST --- I ran water over both disks and was surprised to find that vegetable oil doesn't seem to offer any rain protection. Both disks took on water and with a light rub of my finger it was easy to erode the surface into a muddy mess. Drying oils like linseed leave a surface residue and shine which makes it more difficult for water to soak through. . I won't make the mistake of using any untested oil finish on a real building. I'll probably go for a time tested lime wash.

SNAP TEST --- Nothing fancy. I snapped both disks with a twist of the wrist. The one containing charcoal broke a little easier but both were surprisingly strong.

I'll post more once more scientific results are in. --- Dale






 
Dave Turpin
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Location: Groton, CT
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Idea for you:

For mass-production of charcoal insulation, build charcoal bricks:

1) Create charcoal using the drum method. Any biomass could be used and should be chemically the same.
2) Grind the charcoal into dust (hammer mill, grain mill, etc?)
3) Mix with binding agent. (Usually briquettes need binding starch, accellerant, sodium borate, calcium carbonate, and filler to make them commerciable. You are only concerned with insulation and longetivity, so I think you can nix everything except for charcoal dust and binder. For binder, use paper pulp (10%) or clay (20%))
4) Press with a brick press.
5) Sun dry.

Now you should have a semi-structural carbon brick that you can literally stack like brick. I wonder what the R-value of such a brick would be?
 
Dale Hodgins
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This sounds like an awful lot of work to get something that would be thermally very close to a block of wood. Crushing and compressing would lower the R value. Light airy materials insulate better than solid compressed materials. The world may have some use for these carbon bricks but I can't think of where I'd use them. A home made of them would set some sort of record for carbon sequestation.

So far as the radiant barrier, it is bound to show a diminishing return as thickness increases.


 
Andy Bram
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Dale
I've been planing an indoor aquaponic setup.
I want to build some kind of roundish structure in my yard to grow in aprox 17' diameter and insulated.
So I'm looking to build insulated walls with natural materials that can handle high humidity and led lights. My yard is all evergreen trees and gets very little sunlight if any.
I live in bc on the mainland in the south west corner and your ceader / clay idea sounds like it might work. Have you done any testing ? Do you think this would work ?
For the structure im considering a geodisic dome with a water proof outer skin or a circular wall with reciprocal roof.
 
Andy Bram
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Dale
I've been planing an indoor aquaponic setup.
I want to build some kind of roundish structure in my yard to grow in aprox 17' diameter and insulated.
So I'm looking to build insulated walls with natural materials that can handle high humidity and LED lights. My yard is all evergreen trees and gets very little sunlight if any.
I live in bc on the mainland in the south west corner and your ceader / clay idea sounds like it might work. Have you done any testing ? Do you think this would work ?
For the structure im considering a geodisic dome with a water proof outer skin or a circular wall with reciprocal roof.
 
Dale Hodgins
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Andy Bram wrote:Dale
I've been planing an indoor aquaponic setup.
I want to build some kind of roundish structure in my yard to grow in aprox 17' diameter and insulated.
So I'm looking to build insulated walls with natural materials that can handle high humidity and LED lights. My yard is all evergreen trees and gets very little sunlight if any.
I live in bc on the mainland in the south west corner and your ceader / clay idea sounds like it might work. Have you done any testing ? Do you think this would work ?
For the structure im considering a geodisic dome with a water proof outer skin or a circular wall with reciprocal roof.


Sorry for the delay Andy. Even with cedar, it would need to dry out. With a rubber liner, cob can be used for a tank. I had good results from test blocks but the surface was rough with bits of cedar sticking out. You'd want to have some very smooth cob against the liner.

Geodesic domes are nice to look at in magazines but impractical to build and maintain. I'm not sure that a a greenhouse type structure makes sense with your low light levels. If you do want lots of glass, patio door glass is cheap and durable and it's far easier to build with rectangles.
 
Dale Hodgins
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These are some of my inventions since the last post 5 months ago. Most are mental constructs at this point. There's a few more that need tweaking.

A couple more adaptations of existing inventions and some originals --- This one gathers water from the air --- Rubble Rock Fog Wall in a Swale --- http://www.permies.com/t/31304/desert/Rubble-Rock-Fog-Wall-Swale

A hot tub based on a used oil tank
--- http://www.permies.com/t/31352/rocket-stoves/Dale-Oil-Tank-Hot-Tub

A Trombe wall made of firewood
--- http://www.permies.com/t/30541/green-building/Dale-Firewood-Trombe-Wall

Dale's Super Simple Sizling Solar Shower Solution - Saythatfast
--- The cheapest way I can imagine producing solar hot water without a lot of fuss. http://www.permies.com/t/30830/solar/Dale-Super-Simple-Sizling-Solar

Dale's, Cob Igloo Home Heating System
--- Replaces forced air furnace --- uses same ducts --- RMH based whole house heating --- http://www.permies.com/t/31042/rocket-stoves/Dale-Cob-Igloo-Home-Heating

This one may have some commercial potential --- Dale's self flushing roof gutters. --- http://www.permies.com/t/29361/rainwater/Dale-flushing-roof-gutters

 
I am going to test your electrical conductivity with this tiny ad:
Mike Oehler's Low-Cost Underground House Workshop & Survival Shelter Seminar - 3 DVD+2 Books Deal
https://permies.com/wiki/48625/digital-market/digital-market/Mike-Oehler-Cost-Underground-House
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