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Relocating to the Okanogan Highlands - some general questions

 
Posts: 10
Location: soon to be ferry county, washington
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Hello all,

Long time reader first time poster...lol. Well as the topic states I am relocating to the Okanogan Highlands soon, specifically somewhere between Republic and Danville, the specific location is still up in the air. I was hoping that some individuals in the area could tell me whether they feel the winters are to long and hard for cob construction to work, with or without utilizing some straw bale as well. Secondly and I know this could vary by the feet but generally how does the soil lend itself to cob and or general clay manufactured items IE a Rocket Mass Stove. I have seen numerous people here on permies calling this area home and am looking forward to moving up in July. Relocating from the far west Texas desert back to Washington as I grew up there and work presented an opportunity to make it happen.
 
Herman Miller
Posts: 10
Location: soon to be ferry county, washington
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Chirp Chirp
 
steward
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Howdy Herman, welcome to permies!
I am going to cross post your post to the cob forum and see if we can get a response there!
 
Herman Miller
Posts: 10
Location: soon to be ferry county, washington
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Thank you for your assistance
 
Herman Miller
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Chirp Chirp Cheep
 
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Location: Asheville NC
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Ive got a response. It may not be what you want to hear but then again it sounds like you're still open to suggestions. Ive never been to the Okanogan country unfortunately, but perhaps someday soon.. I do know that its a cold climate overall. Building energy code zone 6 to be precise and thats getting pretty cold in the winter with high energy requirements.

Never mind soil qualities, lets talk comfort and energy costs. The 2012 IECC (international energy code) calls for Mass walls (Cob) to be a minimum of R15 in your climate. If your cob is R.25 per inch thats a 5 foot thick wall to meet the poorest performance allowed by law. My bold prediction of the day is that the code minimum typical construction R value minimums will easily outperform the Mass wall R value minimum. In other words, I predict a 2x6 with R5 insulative sheathing will outperform your five foot thick cob wall. In other other words, if your only choices are cob and strawbale, choose strawbale if you want to keep your home comfortable and heat it with a reasonable amount of fuel.

All that depends on staying relatively balanced in the efficiency of your building envelope.

 
Herman Miller
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Location: soon to be ferry county, washington
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Thank you for your informative answer. It helps me modify a rough sketch in my head and I do know straw bale is much easier to get permitted.... and of course cob can always be an additive to the overall structure.
 
Posts: 14
Location: Tonasket, WA
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Welcome! I am new here too (living in the Tacoma area right now). Last month we bought 40 acres out of Tonasket in the Aeneas Valley. We wanted to build with straw bale but are having trouble locating the materials needed. The property DOES have an over abundance of ROCKS. This is possibly going to be our building material.... now we need the proper mortar, lol, no one said this would be easy.

We were lucky in that a well had been drilled and has great tasting water!
 
Herman Miller
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I have finally made it up here and am really enjoying the "hot" weather. Hiking the trails, swimming in the lakes. All is great though with the price of developed property I am afraid I will be purchasing a more "traditional" home then I'd like unfortunately there doesn't seem to be much inbetween the hardcore live in the wild and the refined home that sucks everything from the grid.
 
gardener
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I would second the opinion that this is not a great climate for cob. Summer maybe, if it's a seasonal shelter; but probably not year-round.

I've seen some comfy straw bale in this climate, and I've seen a couple of cob or other full-masonry buildings that do not seem to be getting much year-round use.

I have also run into major problems finding enough clay locally to make cob. Sand and gravel is plentiful at lower elevations (if somewhat illegal to harvest, they are regulating the mom-and-pop gravel pits more heavily now than formerly). But most of the upper soil fines are glacial or volcanic-ash silt, sometimes very thick on the surface, and there is not a lot of readily-accessible clay. This changes from one side of the valley to another, and I don't know if the same will be true near Republic, but it's pretty common. I would not harvest clay from a pond unless you are very confident of its depth, or think you can live without the pond - the underpinnings of a lot of the area are super well-drained, and once you let go of your water you may not get it back.

So I would go with straw-bale, or maybe light-clay straw infill.
I've seen good quality light-clay straw in other glacial regions (like Ontario province in the Great Lakes region), where very silty clay was still useful for fire-proofing and holding together a nice straw insulation matrix for timber framing. Then plaster the outside of it with a chopped-straw or dung-type plaster, with either clay or lime being imported as the binder for the plaster.

There is also some interesting work being done with earth-sheltered buildings, using smaller amounts of good-quality insulation and thermal mass, reclaimed timbers, with living roof and passive-solar elements too. Our well-drained silty soils are excellent for light-weight living roof and fast-draining earth-bermed shelters, much easier to do that sort of thing here than in the wetter, heavy-clay soils of the coastal Pacific Northwest. And the traditional winter dwelling from what I can find was a "pit-house," a timber structure half-sunk into the ground then covered with insulating reed mats and about 2 feet of earth. Sounds pretty darn fire-proof as well as winter-proof, and they were reportedly decorated and decked out with bunks and cupboards to quite an elegant standard of hospitality. I have not had the privilege of visiting a full-size one, but they had a little demo project in Oroville's Depot Museum a few summers back.

If you are not already on the Okanogan Permaculture Study Group mailing list, PM me or Barbara Greene, and we can introduce you to some more experienced local builders with a deep-green bent.

Yours,
Erica W
 
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Erica Wisner wrote:There is also some interesting work being done with earth-sheltered buildings, using smaller amounts of good-quality insulation and thermal mass, reclaimed timbers, with living roof and passive-solar elements too. Our well-drained silty soils are excellent for light-weight living roof and fast-draining earth-bermed shelters, much easier to do that sort of thing here than in the wetter, heavy-clay soils of the coastal Pacific Northwest. And the traditional winter dwelling from what I can find was a "pit-house," a timber structure half-sunk into the ground then covered with insulating reed mats and about 2 feet of earth. Sounds pretty darn fire-proof as well as winter-proof, and they were reportedly decorated and decked out with bunks and cupboards to quite an elegant standard of hospitality. I have not had the privilege of visiting a full-size one, but they had a little demo project in Oroville's Depot Museum a few summers back.



My long term plans are to build an underground/earth bermed home. Though tackling one thing at a time and trying to find the right piece of land first before planning what to build on it. Since the site will dictate a lot of what can and can't be done.
 
Erica Wisner
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Are you aware of the earth-sheltered micro-development being built by Bob and Jane Thompson, just north of Tonasket as you go out - on the left before you pass the high school softball fields, if you were going toward Sitzmark ski area  /Havillah?  Or better, watch for the curved roof on your right coming back into town that way, just past the school zone, where the speed slows to 25.

If you are potentially interested in being closer to town, and sharing resources such as a commercial kitchen, small greenhouse, small guest suite, and meeting room, instead of building it all yourself from scratch, this would be well worth taking a look at.

Even if you'd prefer to be further out, they have over 30 years' experience building earth-sheltered structures, and have worked out a lot of the preventable problems to the point where they are now doing gorgeous structures, to code, that can coast into winter without turning the heat on as late as November.  Nor need AC in summer.  Well worth a look - they sometimes share open house or tour invitations through the Okanogan Permaculture Study Group email list,
https://permies.com/t/53453/Okanogan-Permaculture-Study-Group

Yours,
Erica W
 
Erica Wisner
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Posts: 1270
Location: Okanogan Highlands, Washington
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also, this long series of posts may be relevant for you:

"So you want to buy land in the Okanogan..."

https://permies.com/t/53659/Buy-Land-Okanogan

Okanogan County also has a useful page of tips about things to be aware of before buying a little slice of Heaven up here (or at least, a rocky scarp that has the night sky for its nearest neighbor...).
There's a link to the County's website from one of the posts in the "so you want to buy land in the Okanogan" thread.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://stoves2.com
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