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wofati, pit houses and building for the area, building site and climate

 
Len Ovens
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Bill Kearns wrote:

Yup, much drier at my place.
This earth sheltered (pit) house was built by my friend Kyle somewhat north of Colville, WA a couple of years ago.



I read all of the links and looked for more. on the same site as the project links I found this:
overview of the pithouse project

It was written after the author had moved out after spending one winter living in the above pit house. He had some important things to say. One of the most important things in my mind is:
I now wish I had used a more traditional style.

What happened is that he took design elements from pit houses around the world and even some non-pithouse elements. It turns out that almost all the elements he took from out of area buildings didn't work right. The traditional building style for the area was the tradition, not because they had "always done it that way", but because it works for that climate/area (based also on the available materials found there).

Here is where the wofati comes in. Those who are following the building of the first one and the experimentation as they modify it or build others and wish to build their own.... need to understand that this exact style may not work in other parts of the country. The basic concepts may be great, but the tweaks Paul does where he is may have to be different where someone else is.

So I decided to do some research on my area and found some interesting things. I live on Vancouver Island in BC Canada. The peoples who were here before stick built took over covered both the east side of the island (where I live) as well as a good part of the mainland. Same culture and language. Yet on both sides of the water long houses were used in the summer, but on the mainland they used pit houses in the winter and on the Island used the long house year round. I wonder why the difference? Too much seismic activity? Too wet? The nearest pit houses on the mainland are still in areas as wet or wetter than here. I will obviously need to do a lot more research yet.
 
Dale Hodgins
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Pit houses were much smaller and were used by smaller groups. They also tended to be in areas that got colder in winter and warmer in summer. The fortress like nature would make a great defense against grisly bears and human enemies.

Well drained gravel beds make the best sites. The majority of island natives lived in the Cowichan and Comox valleys, where rich soil and higher water tables favored above ground housing.

The greater reliance on fish and shellfish on the island, led to large concentrations of populations adjacent to the best estuary environs which tend to be flat and poorly drained. The large communal long house made sense here. Individual families on the mainland were able to keep warm while also being less visible to marauding Haida who often took them as slaves.
 
Len Ovens
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Dale Hodgins wrote:Pit houses were much smaller and were used by smaller groups. They also tended to be in areas that got colder in winter and warmer in summer. The fortress like nature would make a great defense against grisly bears and human enemies.

Well drained gravel beds make the best sites. The majority of island natives lived in the Cowichan and Comox valleys, where rich soil and higher water tables favored above ground housing.

The greater reliance on fish and shellfish on the island, led to large concentrations of populations adjacent to the best estuary environs which tend to be flat and poorly drained. The large communal long house made sense here. Individual families on the mainland were able to keep warm while also being less visible to marauding Haida who often took them as slaves.


Also, the temperature difference just from delta to hope is significant. I am reading up on the katz site about 3 miles this side (west) of hope on the bank of the Fraser river. Only 100 feet above sea level. The pit houses there are larger and have fires in them, just a few miles downstream at Delta, the pithouses are not only constructed different, but unfired and much smaller. Apparently people only slept in them in the winter except the older and infirmed who spent most of the cold months inside. Cooking was done outside.

It is interesting that they are built so close to the water. The water table could not have been much lower than floor level. The buildings in Delta even today spend a lot of energy pumping seepage out.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/cards
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