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Earthship vs. Hot, Humid Southeast  RSS feed

 
Keith Riddle
Posts: 7
Location: Chattanooga, TN
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Just starting my research into alternative construction and all that goes with it. I'm not exclusively considering earthships, but I'm posting under that forum since I lean that direction.

My question: Most everything I can find about earthships is based around the warm, dry southwest, so I wonder how the earthship principles translate to a hot, wet TN climate. Anyone care to share their thoughts and ideas and/or point me in the right direction? Thanks!
 
Dave Turpin
Posts: 112
Location: Groton, CT
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Have you read Comfort in any Climate by Michael Reynolds?

In essense, he breaks down climates into several types:

1) High desert
2) Hot and humid
3) Temperature and wet
4) Northern

The "packaged" Earthships sold by Earthship Biotecture are really only ideal for the high desert environment present in New Mexico. They don't worry too much about waterproofing and simply build the Earthships to store enough heat from the sun through the day to make it through the night. And that is a problem for almost everywhere else: It is rare to find a climate that, although sometimes cold, has a tremendous amount of sunlight even in the Winter.

Which means, either pay Earthship Biotecture to come up with a custom plan, or do it yourself.

Step one is to come up with the LIMITING FACTORS present in your environment.

1) Does the environment drop below freezing for long periods of time?
No. So SOLAR GAIN and HEAT STORAGE are not limiting factors.

2) How much rain do you get per year?
Anything more than 25" per year pretty much eliminates ROOF AREA (for water collection) as a limiting factor. You will have sufficient volume for your usage based on even a conservative house size. However, another limiting factor may be WATER CONTROL.

3) What is the longest period of time you go without rain?
Based on this quantity, and your actual needed water usage, you can determine CISTERN SIZE.

4) Does the environment stay above a comfortable temperature for long periods of time?
This may be so. If so, then COOLING is a limiting factor.

5) Does humidity stay above 70% during parts of the year?
If so HUMIDITY becomes a limiting factor.

6) And, although GREENHOUSE SIZE is implicitly a limiting factor that may be considered, in my opinion Earthships have never been shown to have sufficient growing room, and in all cases additional growing room for food (or buying) is necessary.

Not knowing much about the actual environment you live in, I imagine you have mild winters and hot, humid summers with a long growing season. Based on that, I would think that your Earthship would have the following features:

1) A large Earth contact patch without floor or wall insulation.

2) Above ground, not sunken, with vapor barriers on the outside of all tire walls, berms, and under the floor.

3) Vertical greenhouse windows with a large overhang to keep out Spring and Summer sun. No greenhouse vent windows.

4) Extensive use of deeply buried cooling tubes.

5) Sufficient gravity skylights to draft said cooling tubes.

6) Narrow, deep rooms (vice wide, shallow rooms use in cold climates)

7) Very well insulated roof with reflective barrier, and roofing surface capable of surviving the humidity (steel may be out)

Greenhouse of sufficient size to use your greywater, but most of your growing outside.

How does that sound?
 
Brian Knight
Posts: 554
Location: Asheville NC
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What are your favorite features of Earthships? Why do you lean that direction? I think Dave has some good advice but would adjust or change some of the featured list. More insulation, no greenhouse connection, heat pump instead of cooling tubes and bury half if you have walkout basement topography.
 
John Laarrimore
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I saw a video where they are building an earthship in FL. If they can do it there. TN should be easy. Look for it on youtube. They are drawing cooling air in thru the ground at below 7 ft. The air temp there is about 72 degrees. I had thought of running drawn in air thru a small water cooled radiator to extract moisture. (humidity)
 
Brian Knight
Posts: 554
Location: Asheville NC
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TN is actually a tougher climate to build in than FL when it comes to space conditioning. Most of FL doesnt require heating. Cooling tubes are discussed in several threads here and for the most part, have not proven themselves safe or effective in humid climates.
 
Marcus Sisk
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Hey there! I am a student of the Earthship Biotecture Academy in Taos, NM and I am building an Earthship just outside of Nashville, TN.

Check out my website www.biotecturetn.com and feel free to contact me with any questions about Earthships in TN or if you want to come check out the project.
 
Jonathan Combs
Posts: 24
Location: McKee, KY (zone 6a)
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Marcus, I was very excited to see your post with a link to your site. I'm located in Southeastern Kentucky, which should be pretty close in climate to your area. I'd love to get a look at your build sometime.
 
Connie Frew
Posts: 2
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Has anyone had any issues with getting a building permit or passing building inspections and getting your C.O. for a Thermal Mass house in GA?
 
Brian Knight
Posts: 554
Location: Asheville NC
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Welcome Connnie, you might want to repost your question in more detail in the Green Building thread for more appropriate location and better exposure, unless you mean an earthship. "Thermal Mass house" or a house with thermal mass isnt exclusive to earthships.
 
John Pollard
Posts: 136
Location: Ozarks
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Some of the earthships built in moister climates have had problems. Clay can be a limiting factor IMHO due to it's moisture holding capabilities but backfill materials can be brought in. Around here (Ozarks) the hills ooze moisture for days after a good rain. Building into a hillside here doesn't seem like a good idea to me though a lot of earthberms are.

Check out their latest model, the Simple Survival Model. http://earthship.com/simple-survival (watch the youtube vid) Notice it's all above grade. Notice on this model they separate and insulate 6 foot of earth around the ship keeping it as dry thermal mass. I would add poly sheeting over that. What I don't like is the roof but maybe it's just me. For rainwater harvesting, give me a slick metal roof, thank you. The other thing that bothers me is geothermal in a humid climate. Everything I've read says moisture/humidity will turn to mildew in the pipes in most locations. Maybe if they were straight runs and swabbed weekly with an oversized Q-tip......Start with one moistened in bleach water. Then on to a dry one.

One other thing. I'm not sure of the practicality of trying to use the greenhouse all year. I would think of retiring it from early June to late September. Seems like it would generate too much heat. Probably why they've built a glass wall between it and the living space. Maybe have an overhang on the front or straight front wall and/or face slightly SE instead of due S. They say it can be up to 25 degrees from due S.

I'm thinking it might be best to build a one room unit to see how things work out. Lot of work to go through just to find out it sucks.

 
tom slate
Posts: 3
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Details on a concrete earthship built over 10 years ago in southeastern Virginia:

http://green.3676.net/virginia-earthship
 
G Moffatt
Posts: 14
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I have been to Taos, heard MR speak, read many of the books, watched dozens of videos on youtube'. I also have more than 30 years experience in construction. The books are not a real do it yourself guide but many of the problems you will have are straightforward if you are sufficiently stubborn. The main thing you need to build a tirewall house is help. I figure I need to help about 50 people build 'earthships' before I have enough of a support network to make the attempt for myself. My home will be in W Texas but as it happens I am working in the SE through July or August. If I can help let me know.
 
Consider Paul's rocket stove mass heater.
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