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Green building in the far north?  RSS feed

 
Niklas Fred
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Hi everybody

I'm from Finland. I've been dreaming for years about building a home of natural materials for me and my family. I just have a hard time making up my mind on which material/ method to settle on. Also, I'm hesitant about how these different methods fit my cold and damp climate? I have a somewhat of a bad back, too, so something like an earthship is way too physical for me to be realistic.

I live in southern Finland, where the winter lows (which have been getting warmer and warmer) are about -20 F, although I remember winters as cold as -35 F,even as I'm only 37-years old. The climate is also quite damp, and especially the autumns can be long and wet, so clay buildings have a hard time drying properly in time, after the short summer of maybe 10 weeks. That said, I live on a small property which has about down to a depth of 14 yards a really thick, bluish clay (it's an ancient river bottom), so clay would be a natural choice.

The local wisdom is, that you should dig your foundations to a depth of 4 feet, to get safely past the frost line. This, off course, is expensive. So the foundations are one of my concerns, as well.

Sorry if I'm not writing in a logical order, but I guess my basic question boils down to this: I dream of building a natural home, as cheaply as possible (a house built completely of second-hand materials would be the optimal goal), but I would love to get advice on how to adjust the techniques to my climate.

Thanks in advance!


 
Eivind Bjoerkavaag
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Do you also got sand so that you can do cob?

Since you're finnish I bet you've got a load of forest on your property in addition to clay. In that case you could do cobwood or you could go Oehler on that shit. If you haven't already, get his books about underground house and underground greenhouse, because they rock. The Paul Wheaton's wofati is 80% Oehler style. The DVD's are also really useful, it cleared right up some fog I had.
 
Niklas Fred
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Thanks for your reply!

I haven't read about that underground- stuff before, I'll dig in to it.
 
Allan Laal
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Location: Estonia
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hello/moi from Estonia (the southern neighbours of Finland).

The local eco building expert here said that a clay (cob or cordwood) wall with the same U-value as a 40cm thick (+plasters) strawbale wall would be 120cm thick!

its also damn cold in Estonia and I recommend straw bale or reed bale
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Hello Niklas, et al,

You do not have to dig a foundation into the ground...

This is more an "architectural habit" and/or social building normative culture than a "design mandate." Most architecture in the world either "sites" on its building site and then the next most common type is "post in ground," or a combination of the two forms. The concept of "frost heave" is also a misnomer very often. The soils types have as much (probably more) to do with "heaving" than the "freezing process." Bentonite clays, for example, expand with way more force than freezing water can and this effect can take place in summer or winter. Ice does expand, yet it must have something to expand with...ergo...no accumulated water....no "frost heave."

So what ever system you employ...have good drainage designed into the system, and know/understand you soil types.

Regards,

j
 
Niklas Fred
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Thanks again for your replies.

Are there any books/ resources that would deal with foundations, or alternatives to them?
 
Topher Belknap
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Location: Midcoast Maine (zone 5b)
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My advice is to do an energy model *before* deciding on a construction style. Once you have determined the level of insulation you will need to achieve your goals, you will have narrowed down the possible methods.

Look into 'frost protected slab-on-grade foundations'. Check out Passivhaus.
 
Allan Laal
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Location: Estonia
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Jay C. White Cloud wrote:Hello Niklas, et al,

You do not have to dig a foundation into the ground...

This is more an "architectural habit" and/or social building normative culture than a "design mandate." Most architecture in the world either "sites" on its building site and then the next most common type is "post in ground," or a combination of the two forms. The concept of "frost heave" is also a misnomer very often. The soils types have as much (probably more) to do with "heaving" than the "freezing process." Bentonite clays, for example, expand with way more force than freezing water can and this effect can take place in summer or winter. Ice does expand, yet it must have something to expand with...ergo...no accumulated water....no "frost heave."

So what ever system you employ...have good drainage designed into the system, and know/understand you soil types.

Regards,

j



no offence to Jay, but please do not follow this advice!
in Scandinavia the ground freezes 100-180cm every winter and building a house on a foundation lower than that will result in a cracked wall because the ground will shift each year, especially on clay soils. Please come and see the straw bale clay blastered house built on low post foundations in Lilleoru eco-village in Estonia
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Alan Laal wrote:no offence to Jay, but please do not follow this advice!


Hey Allan,

Not offended at all...everyone can have an opinion here, as long as they share it nicely (you have...thanks for that...) and are willing to listen to others views. It is up to the "reader" and those seeking advice to whose opinions they find most germane, valid, and applicable to their needs.

I will state, for the record and academic side of this conversation, that you could follow my advice most assuredly (and to suggest otherwise is a little confrontational) as I have been involved in building, and designing "natural architecture" since about 1968 and also historical restoration of vernacular architecture since about 1976. This includes consulting on architecture in Alaska, Russia, Latvia, and Hokkaido Japan.

I reread my post, and there is nothing in it that is not empirically true or lack historical facts. I would also point out that most vernacular architecture built on "freezing ground" or permafrost is facilitated "on top," in some form of "rafting modality," and not into the frozen ground...if that was your main point...we are in complete agreement as trying to build "below grade" in these condition (though very doable) is often not the easiest, nor the most ergonomic logistically or tangibly.

Regards,

j
 
Allan Laal
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Location: Estonia
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Jay C. White Cloud wrote: I would also point out that most vernacular architecture built on "freezing ground" or permafrost is facilitated "on top," in some form of "rafting modality," and not into the frozen ground...if that was your main point...we are in complete agreement as trying to build "below grade" in these condition (though very doable) is often not the easiest, nor the most ergonomic logistically or tangibly.




if you mean a monolithic slab or other monolithic structure that does not deflect when the ground beneath it deflects, then I agree: you can dismiss a deep foundation. The usual concrete slabs poured around here are 7-10cm thick and would deflect heavily if it would not be supported on a deep foundation below the frost line - so I imagine a non-deflecting monolithic concrete slab would be much thicker.

As a matter of fact there is also a small proof-of-concept straw bale house in the same Lilleoru eco village built on a steel plate, which has no foundations and has not experienced any breakage in the clay plaster (yet).

just for info: The bedrock is quite shallow in most of Southern Finland (granite) and Northern Estonia (lime, sometimes bad quality)

disclaimer: I am just a hobbyist interested in all things (structural) engineering
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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So, once again Allan, for the benefit of the other readers...there is no reason not to follow my advice.

If you have bedrock...build off of it, in 99.9% of the cases there is nothing manmade that will surpass it in strength and structural stability.

If you have frost, the soil type is the most critical element...NOT THE FREEZING...as such, any well built foundation should have proper drainage. If the drainage is proper and sufficient (gravel trench for example) then there is not water to freeze...ergo not frost heave.

If you have permafrost, you typically see a "rafting" foundation or penetration of the permafrost with a "post and lintel design of some form.

For natural builds...typically (not always) a gravel trench - gravel pad system tectonically stabilized gravel or post and lentil design of of bed rock with be you most stable and least costly in the overall facilitation.

Regards,

j
 
klaus mantila
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I am building a jalasmökki as it is somewhat free of building codes and permits. Of course it is small, but space is over rated, and it is more expensive to maintain bigger house. I built my lil cabin using as much secondhand resources as possible.

I am starting offgrid ecovillage/homestead on my 14900m2 private island.(karvonsaari in saittajärvi)

Check my youtube channel klausssi123 if interested
kuumotussaari.jpg
[Thumbnail for kuumotussaari.jpg]
 
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