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PAHS Umbrella house in missoula?

 
Jay Hart
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Hi my name is Jay Hart. I'm 21 years old and live on as island just off the coast of Charleston SC. I've been interested in permaculture for a while-- just found the stuff on the internet and started buying books and trying stuff out around the property, even went wwoofing for a bit . Anyways, I've been reading all the stuff on the forums here about WOTFATI and ATI so I went and read an article by John Hait (http://www.norishouse.com/PAHS/UmbrellaHouse.html) and in it he mentions that a second generation umbrella house was constructed in Missoula Montana by a guy named Tom Beaudette. I havent got my hands on his book yet, so maybe there is more on it in there but I know a lot of you guys, most notably Mr. Wheaton himself live up that ways and i was just wondering if anyone had been out to see it and if so if they had any pictures or videos that they could direct me too. It looks pretty amazing in the picture he had in the article but I couldn't find much else outside of what is mentioned in the article and I am VERY interested to see what it looks like and how it works if at all possible.

Thanks a lot for reading. Peace be with you.
 
Len Ovens
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Location: Vancouver Island
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Jay Hart wrote:Hi my name is Jay Hart. I'm 21 years old and live on as island just off the coast of Charleston SC. I've been interested in permaculture for a while-- just found the stuff on the internet and started buying books and trying stuff out around the property, even went wwoofing for a bit . Anyways, I've been reading all the stuff on the forums here about WOTFATI and ATI so I went and read an article by John Hait (http://www.norishouse.com/PAHS/UmbrellaHouse.html) and in it he mentions that a second generation umbrella house was constructed in Missoula Montana by a guy named Tom Beaudette. I havent got my hands on his book yet, so maybe there is more on it in there but I know a lot of you guys, most notably Mr. Wheaton himself live up that ways and i was just wondering if anyone had been out to see it and if so if they had any pictures or videos that they could direct me too. It looks pretty amazing in the picture he had in the article but I couldn't find much else outside of what is mentioned in the article and I am VERY interested to see what it looks like and how it works if at all possible.

Thanks a lot for reading. Peace be with you.


Ya, I have seen that too. It has been there for years. I too have been less than happy with the info on how well it works. The PAHS site, where that page comes from originally, describes the concept well enough, but seems most interested in selling the book or consultancy. There are a few more pictures of various projects, but no home owners describing how life in one of these homes goes. It is the same for the earthship homes. There are blogs about building earthship homes, but most often they do not even get to the moving in part, let alone life a year or five down the road. The only video I have seen of a finished earthship was of a top end one and it was a sales video (they are trying to sell it) so it is hard to know if the smiles are real or not The only PAHS house I have seen that seems to have worked well and is still lived in by the original builder, was above ground and simply built of cinder block. It had minimal indoor plants (read less moisture/mold problems) and very good ventilation. The owner also consults, but gives enough info for you not to need his services. see here (and note: lots of people don't like his attitude towards other building methods) Also, Walter's house At Sugar Mountain is even simpler, but works well. In fact he uses high mass temperature control techniques for keeping his butcher shop chilled as well. Cob buildings have done very well too. The underground homes that the wofati is based on have done well, but really, in my opinion, they are above ground bermed homes. Much attention is given to drainage. (am I seeing a pattern here?)

My advice? If you can't talk to the owner or visit the home... preferably in your own area/climate, consider it experimental. That is be willing to have it not work. For example, I live on Vancouver Island and have been studying the first nations traditional home styles as they were more reliant on having their house work with the climate, rather than imposing a tech solution on the climate. What I found is that even though the people on the Island are closely related to those on the mainland, the housing was different. Pit houses were used from about 100 miles away from the ocean (think PAHS or other high mass home), but at the shore (Delta area) they are only used for storage and when really cold with no fire. Not in the summer at all. Here on the Island, the Long House (above ground) is used year round. Comments from those who have used pit houses (both first nations and those who have tried the style in modern times) has been damp and smoky. "Glad to move out for the summer" was the common comment.

As an aside... dampness: I think that the open fire had a lot to do with dampness in these dwellings. Aside from the residual water in the wood, the burning creates a lot more water too. Also, remember that they had no windows, wofati uses windows and stove pipe to over come these difficulties.

There are a number of other high mass building techniques as well, earth bag comes to mind for example.

My conclusion, is that most earth berm, underground homes seem to be built in relatively dry climates, above ground seems to be better for wet climates. High mass does seem to preform well in either place. (Cob has been used in the UK forever with good results, rain and all)

Good ventilation is important in all cases. Siting is important too as it determines drainage possibilities.

Anyway, earthship seems to be the worst of all worlds, lots of work and expensive to boot. Cinder block/concrete while cheap to build even with permit and maybe not so labour intensive, is not so earth friendly. Cob or wofati are cheap to build (or can be) ok labour wise, can be all natural materials, and in fact could be build small and cheap enough to build one of each just to experiment. If you can wait I would like to get comments about some of the first wofati before I try it. My sense is that they will work well though.
 
Abe Coley
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Location: Missoula, MT
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I live in Missoula and I know where that house is. The owners are very, very old. I asked the guy if me and Paul could come look at it, and that we'd trade him pie and farm fresh eggs for a tour, but he said his wife doesn't want strangers coming in the house. Apparently they've got a lot of requests over the years.
 
Len Ovens
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Abe Coley wrote:I live in Missoula and I know where that house is. The owners are very, very old. I asked the guy if me and Paul could come look at it, and that we'd trade him pie and farm fresh eggs for a tour, but he said his wife doesn't want strangers coming in the house. Apparently they've got a lot of requests over the years.


Actually what would be a lot more useful would be a phone interview. A tour would tell the touree not much by comparison. The fact that the house is still in use already says quite a lot. The term "over the years" says a lot already. I would suggest the only way to find out the important things would be from someone in their social circle. For example if the lady of the house hates the place, her friends would know more about that than the man of the house.

Questions I would have:

Is there an NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) in place?

Supplemental heating?
- what kind
- which months of the year is it used
- if it is a heat pump, is cooling used?
- Fuel amount used (cords, kwh, liters of gas, whatever)
- Do the residents use clothing to make up for temperature variation?(this would not be a bad thing BTW)


Air quality?
- is the original air pipe still in use?
- how often does it get cleaned out?
- how hard is it to do?
- does it do the job, or is there some supplemental system (fans, etc.)?
- if it is not in use...
- why?
- what replaced it.

How does it feel to live in? Layout, natural lighting? etc.
This would be very subjective. It is also tightly wound up in the particular design and does not reflect PAHS houses in general. It would depend on the the personality of those living there. Some people, like close spaces while others like wide open spaces. Some people do not look for natural light. This is why it is of interest to find out how each person living there feels about it. I think the comments we may find from people living in the WOFATI homes may help in this respect (a few years down the road yet).

I keep thinking of more things to add
From the social circle, some things that might be apparent are do they have people over very often? Of those who have visited, comments about smell or dampness or dryness would be of interest. Comments like we looked into it but the cost was too high, or "I couldn't live there", are also of interest.
 
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