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Living inside a bioshelter?  RSS feed

 
Guarren cito
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Location: Zone 4A
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Hi Darrell and everyone,

I've had an epiphany. In all the books I've read(Edible Forest Gardens, gaia's garden, etc.) there is much emphasis on the permaculture zones and activities that take place in them. Zone 0 is in the house, zone 1 is right outside, etc. The potential permaculture design in Zone 0 (indoors) seems to be understated.

Well, after a cold winter up in New Hampshire I came across a term called "bioshelter" which is a greenhouse ecosystem using permaculture design. I realized it would be wonderful to live in a bioshelter surrounded by plants in the winter.

Most bioshelters are utilitarian rectangles with the plants growing in key hole beds by the southern windows. I saw picture number one and it blew my mind. I decided a dome shape would be more efficient.

Imagine living in a small dome that has tropical plants growing all year inside! The building inside would be on the north wall.

Living up north the winters are long and, let's face it, we go many months without living near plants! Inside this dome you can have semi dwarf trees, a large trellis with grapes, a pond, literally ANY plant you want to have. Because it is a living space it would not get below 55 degrees which is sub tropical!

What do you guys think? Is it practical? Have you seen this before?

What are the biggest challenges? I want to make this a reality!
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Guarren cito
Posts: 79
Location: Zone 4A
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I've attached:

Design Factors

People Sectors (Rooms and spaces)
Zone-0-Design-Factors.jpg
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Zone-0-People-Sectors.jpg
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Guarren cito
Posts: 79
Location: Zone 4A
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More thoughts:
Bioshelter-thoughts-1.jpg
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Bioshelter-thoughts-2.jpg
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Bioshelter-thoughts-3.jpg
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R Scott
Posts: 3349
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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I had a similar dream. There were two problems I never worked out:

humidity control for clothes and house stuff. Musty clothes would not be good.

And cost. Big dome greenhouses are not cheap. I never did figure that one out.
 
Guarren cito
Posts: 79
Location: Zone 4A
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Hey Scott,

I've come up with potential solutions to those two things:

Humidity - Poorly designed underground houses have high humidity which causes all sorts of problems and makes it so your family is literally sick all of the time. That sounds horrible!!! The ideal humidity level is between 30-60%.

The problem is the solution! I looked into geothermal heating. Check it out if youre not familiar. It basically uses water pipes underground to heat and cool your house via a forced air system. Geothermal heating is excellent at controlling humidity because they (silently) run almost all the time (80% cost reduction) and therefore are always dehumidifying the air to a set level. AC units only dehumidify when they are actively cooling the house.

OK - Does anyone know the ideal humidity level for greenhouses? I understand that tropical plants require high humidity and high heat... but can you still grow an avocado tree if the heat is within the ideal 30-60%? We may have to compromise and not grow certain species. For example, Mediterranean climate plants would do well.

Cost - I'm looking into this... It's important to remember that this would be your house, not the greenhouse in addition. Dome Guys International has a pricing page for their modular domes. A 30' dome is $20,000. http://www.domeguys.com/domes/dome-sales-size-pricing/

As for efficiency: I did some rough calculations and if the majority of the dome was not glass, but rather 2x10 joists filled with spray foam the insulation would be OK. The souther side would have a tall, wide window for passive solar gain like the attached picture.
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Ideal Home Humidity
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30' Dome Price
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http://www.domeguys.com/portfolio/9/private/?back=portfolio
 
nustada adatsun
Posts: 39
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I like the idea of living in a "greenhouse". I looked into the same thing.

Where I live, all newly constructed living structures require R-30 roofs. That is a challenge in a couple of ways. In a solar house, geodesic or south glasses facing polygon, it is hard to define where the roof ends and walls begin, so the answer is everything must be r-30. I have yet to find a way to achieve R-30 with greenhouse panels without making the walls 15 inches thick and thus opaque.

I think what will need to be done is to build to walls with modest r-value, and then manage a vacuume in between. But it would be (nearly) impossible to maintain a vacuum over such a large area.
 
Guarren cito
Posts: 79
Location: Zone 4A
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Do you know if the average has to be R30 or if every square foot has to be R30? I averaged the R value of 15 inches of spray foam and Low Emissions glass and it worked out to be about that. I dont remember exactly. It's probably different in every state.

The vacuum could be accomplished by the glass being Low E treated and double/triple paned. I hope it can work well enough!

I want to include a trellised living area/kitchen in the middle to protect us from the sun with grape vines, etc. Also shade from semi tropical dwarf fruit trees, etc.
 
R Scott
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Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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My idea was an underground "house" of a courtyard design, with the courtyard having the trees and "living roofs" on top of the bedrooms as the zone 1 gardens. It was a mix of Ohler and earthship and growing spaces domes.

My son may still build it because he LOVES the idea. Plus an AP greenhouse is a farm building exempt from building permits....
 
nustada adatsun
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Guarren cito wrote:Do you know if the average has to be R30 or if every square foot has to be R30? I averaged the R value of 15 inches of spray foam and Low Emissions glass and it worked out to be about that. I dont remember exactly. It's probably different in every state.

The vacuum could be accomplished by the glass being Low E treated and double/triple paned. I hope it can work well enough!

I want to include a trellised living area/kitchen in the middle to protect us from the sun with grape vines, etc. Also shade from semi tropical dwarf fruit trees, etc.


It seems that vacuum insulated windows loose their vacuum only after a few years, in a geodesic dome you would have to find someone to make all the "odd' shapes which may be too expensive.

But a passive greenhouse would be able to use normal panes. Passive greenhouse

Sorry if I didn't state this clearly. When saying what I wanted to say, this forum wouldn't let me post saying it was spam. I guess "big" words are prohibited.
 
Guarren cito
Posts: 79
Location: Zone 4A
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R Scott wrote:My idea was an underground "house" of a courtyard design, with the courtyard having the trees and "living roofs" on top of the bedrooms as the zone 1 gardens. It was a mix of Ohler and earthship and growing spaces domes.

My son may still build it because he LOVES the idea. Plus an AP greenhouse is a farm building exempt from building permits....


Would the courtyard be sheltered from the outside? That sounds awesome! Would it be similar to the first couple pictures I posted? That's semi underground.

Very interesting to know an AP greenhouse is exempt!

Nustada, Maybe you can Personal Message it to me and I'll post it for you? I haven't heard of that happening before. You can also PM the topic moderator.
 
Guarren cito
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Location: Zone 4A
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Glad to see you were able to post!

I want to avoid a rectangular shape because it wouldnt be as comfortable to live in. I want to really feel like I'm outside during the winter months.

I am hoping there is a manufacturer out there that specializes in geodesic glass panels that are well insulated.

Interesting tip about the vacuum losing pressure.

I think geothermal heating would be a good match for this kind of living because there is so much space to heat. The volume to surface area is low, which is a good thing, but there is still a lot of volume inside!
 
R Scott
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Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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VERY similar to the first two pictures, but with a geodesic dome on top.

We also came up with a square design made from insulated shipping containers with a hoop house on top for a low-buck version, but not nearly as cool.

Greenhouses are exempt HERE as a farm building. YMMV
 
nustada adatsun
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R Scott wrote:VERY similar to the first two pictures, but with a geodesic dome on top.

We also came up with a square design made from insulated shipping containers with a hoop house on top for a low-buck version, but not nearly as cool.

Greenhouses are exempt HERE as a farm building. YMMV


True, but where I live they would kick me out if it wasn't up to code. They won't let me live in a classic greenhouse.


I have also been looking at nanogel glass. But I can't find any costs to make an estimate. That probably puts it into the category "if you have to ask, you cant afford it".

http://www.advancedglazings.com/product-overview/solera-lumira-aerogel-r18/
 
R Scott
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pretty much. http://www.solar-components.com/Nanogel_Skylight.htm
 
Guarren cito
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Location: Zone 4A
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"Those forest gardens that function best are lived in most." -Dave Jacke Edible Forest Gardens

Our permaculture zones start at zone 1 "right outside your doorstep"... I want to live IN a permaculture zone.

I propose we call our houses zone 0. For me this is a pretty sterile permaculture zone, seed starting and two dwarf fruit trees is all I have going right now. But I can't wait to live in a bioshelter and include all the factors, sectors and thoughts listed above!
 
Shawn Reitstein
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I think the idea great! - I've been considering why more people are not living in 'greenhouses"? - As the air becomes more polluted why not live in terrariums wherein the freshest air would be available and the heat, moisture and CO2 of breathing would contribute to the ideal environment for the plants.

I fully intend to be building and encouraging such a lifestyle.
 
William Bronson
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Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
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forest garden trees urban
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I think heating a live in greenhouse would not be too much of a problem, between solar gain and say a RMH.
As for insulating the dome, how about a dome inside a dome?
On the cheap end of things and to bypass some irksome regulations, if one can live in a trailer legally, could one live in a trailer inside of a " barn" or "warehouse" that just happens to have a lot of windows...
 
Brian Knight
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Why are people so obsessed with integrating greenhouses and human houses? Its a bad idea. Meaningful greenhouse production keeps humidity 60% and above. Houses should be below 60%. Keep things simple. Keep greenhouses separate from homes.
 
Timothy Brogan
Posts: 47
Location: Oregon Coast
books solar tiny house
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I have a similar ambition as to living in a bioshelter. As for regulations against living in it I plan to park a motor home in a connected adjacent shelter and leave it at that. Currently I have my motor home parked on a rural farm and have a greenhouse within a few feet of it. It's large enough to grow plenty of plants and I have a couple of small fish ponds inside and other features and still have enough room to hang out in comfortably. Basically it's already an extra living space. I just want to build a larger version with a sealed shelter for the motor home. I'm thinking a 50 ft. biodome with an attached "garage" for the motor home. The living space inside the dome can be dismissed as an "office".

I don't see why one couldn't build a small living space to spec or a tinyhouse and call the bioshelter a sun room.
 
Guarren cito
Posts: 79
Location: Zone 4A
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Brian Knight wrote:Why are people so obsessed with integrating greenhouses and human houses?


First off because here in New Hampshire it is so cold it hurts for months every year (highs of 20-30 degrees). The sun sets at about 4 PM everyday which means I often drive home from work in the dark. Don't get me wrong I LOVE New Hampshire and I really do love the winter for it's beauty and silence/camping/xc skiing/etc. But if I'm able to come home to a little place where I'm surrounded by living plants I'll do that!

Secondly, look around your house and think about how many different forces there are that could support a permaculture system. The fact that we keep it at 55 degrees is only the beginning of the benefits. Zone 0 can be managed easier than zone 1, just as zone 1 is easier than zone 2.

Finally, I want to be included in my permaculture system as much as possible. I want to pick the veggies I eat for dinner next to the counter where I'm going to prepare it. I want my herb spiral IN my kitchen. I want the beauty of flowers and grapes surrounding me where I spend the majority of my time!

Brian Knight wrote:Its a bad idea. Meaningful greenhouse production keeps humidity 60% and above. Houses should be below 60%. Keep things simple. Keep greenhouses separate from homes.


I've attached a couple charts that I hope are easier to read than the last one. 60% is the max humidity for houses.

I have found numerous websites that say the ideal greenhouse humidity level is between 50-60%. I have also found that certain plants do better in less humid environments. For example Mediterranean plants like grapes. It turns out plants don't like things like bacteria, viruses, dust mites, or mold either! If you plant jungle plants they may not do as well with lower humidity levels.

OK... so how do you control the humidity level? Geothermal heat pumps are famous for being excellent at controlling the level of humidity in your house at a very low cost. Geothermal thermostats include the humidity level you want. Just push in "59%" and you're done. Geothermal heat pumps circulate air constantly which means that it is constantly controlling the humidity level. Compare that to an AC unit that only controls humidity when it is cooling the house.

Question - has anyone had actual experience with a geothermal system? I would love to hear about it.
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House Humidity
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House Humidity
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Geothermal Heating Thermostat (Note:"56% RC Humidity")
 
Brian Knight
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Cool charts Guarren. I admittedly know little about ideal greenhouse conditions for different plants and was speaking in general terms. Perhaps a greenhouse expert can clarify but I dont think food crops (especially veggies) share the temps and humidity preferences that humans and our dwellings do. Perhaps youre right about the 50-60 range for many plants but it will take LOTS of energy to keep those levels in an enclosed space because the plants and soil will be putting off so much moisture that needs to be removed from the air to maintain those relatively low levels.

I have done two Geothermal systems. The preferred term for them is Ground-Source heat pumps GSHP. They work just like other heat pumps (or AC units) but use the ground as the heat exchanger as opposed to the air. Within the building, they do not circulate air or control humidity differently than typical heat pumps. They CAN be more energy efficient than typical air-source heat pumps but that depends on many variables. Many energy experts feel that they are not a cost-effective approach most of the time. They require big subsidies and tax incentives to be competitive with regular heat pumps. They make the most sense in big, inefficient homes with high energy loads.

Cooling work is broken into latent (humidity) and sensible loads. Homes with lots of plants will have much higher latent loads to deal with.
 
Guarren cito
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Thanks for the feedback, Brian. It sounds like you're pretty experienced with these kinds of systems and it might be too much humidity to keep up with. Another issue I see would be keeping insect levels down like spiders, etc. (Although an insect hotel would help.)

Again, thank you! I appreciate your input.
 
Rebecca Norman
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Location: Ladakh, Indian Himalayas at 10,500 feet, zone 5
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Hi, I live in a cold climate with attached greenhouses, and I am also very familiar with the New England climate, so I'll tell you what I've learned about living spaces.

Our system here in Ladakh is removable attached greenhouses. They solar heat our heavy earthen houses all winter, but in spring we roll them up out of the way and reattach them in fall. In March, April and May, I have to admit the houses get overheated sometimes and it's not comfortable. If you sit in an overheated space and then go outside you feel chillier than you did back in January when you'd go outside from a moderately heated space. And if your greenhouse is permanently attached, it will be a big problem in the sultry hot humid New England summer. A few openings will not make your space liveable -- I think you have to be able to largely remove the greenhouse in summer.

The greenhouses that are fully planted do create a lot more humidity than you would want in the living space, but since our houses are earthen (like adobe), and earthen walls moderate humidity much like they do for temperature, we don't have a problem with humidity except in the one structure where fully planted vegetable greenhouses have tiny eight-foot rooms attached. Even there it's okay, but not really great. In that greenhouse, there's so much condensation on the greenhouse on winter mornings that you can tease people by shaking the plastic to rain on them as they walk along under it. We are in a desert so the outside humidity is exTREMely low. In New Hampshire where the living space is likely made of frame construction or something that doesn't absorb and release much humidity, you will have a bigger problem with it. The Earthship books talk a lot about how earthen walls moderate humidity. If you have some kind of deep mulch over the soil in the planted parts it might somewhat reduce the humidity coming up from the soil, but the plants themselves also transpire humidity.

About oxygen and CO2, it's funny but apparently at night the plants are just large living organisms using oxygen, when they are not photosynthesizing.

About food production, great. In most of our greenhouses that are just for heating houses and don't have access from the hose, we only have a few ornamental things, or grapes, which don't survive outdoors here. In some of our greenhouses we grow a lot of leafy greens for the winter, and veggie starts in the spring for transplanting to the garden.

We all really appreciate the greenery inside the greenhouses in winter when there's none outside. In my experience two things are pretty essential for attached greenhouses in a climate with a cold winter and hot summer.

1) Being able to remove the glazing in summer is reallllllly important. A few openings that you can operate in spring and fall, and then total removal for summer: not just a few openings.

2) The living structure should have a lot of thermal mass to stabilize the temperature between day and night. If you're planning to have a large area dedicated to plants, humidity could be a problem.

New Alchemy in Falmouth Massachusetts had geodesic dome greenhouses as well as attached greenhouses and living spaces with fig trees and even banana trees back in the 1970s and 80s, but they have long closed.
 
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