Sarah Yao wrote:I cross-posted this to get different opinions.
Jack Edmondson wrote:edit: Since this ended up in the earthship section the below is not really applicable. Rice Hulls would not be suitable for a bermed structure, I believe.
Have you explored the idea of rice hulls as a fill material for your bags rather than soil/gravel? A full bag of hulls will be a small fraction of the weight of anything else. Once you get to the upper courses, whether you fill and lift or fill in place, you will appreciate the difference, especially working primarily by one's self.
If you don't go with a lighter fill, please spend the money to invest in some sturdy scaffolding (<$1000) to give yourself a solid safe work platform to work on the upper courses. One does not want to be buried alive or have one's child have to be a first responder to a broken back or neck. Falling off a wall can be bad juju. The money is worth it.
Jack Edmondson wrote:If you are below grade or have berm-ed earth against the bags, it would not be safe. There is not enough mass to counter the weight of berm-ed earth. Hulls work well in above grade applications where there is need for insulation. But they are low mass so do not stand well against lateral loads.
Rice Hulls in woven poly bags can be built (above grade) from ground level up to any height earthbags would be done. They are not mixed with anything. Just packed tight and tamped/squared. There are rice dryers in states east of the Mississippi. The material is inexpensive. You will likely pay more to truck it than to purchase the material. Search for rice dryers/processors close to your area. Cargill has operations in Memphis. There are several in western AR.
Hulls do not need to be amended with anything. They can be embedded in clay to make adobe blocks. However, bag fill is the most practical application.
Terry Ruth wrote:https://law.resource.org/pub/us/code/safety.html
Looks like VA/WV are in 2009 IRC which they could be adopting new codes this time of year, like we are 2012 starting June. VA is also enforcing an energy code IECC 2009 making it more difficult, WV is not. You are not going to find earth construction codes in 2009 IRC or what is called a "prescriptive path" that leaves you having to satisfy the permit by hiring a Professional Structures Engineer (analytical path) that will give your local inspectors drawings to inspect to, not code. You also want to make sure your land is zoned for single or muti-family use, not agricultural or commercial or something else with your zoning department, set backs, easements, roads, etc.
Earth berm takes alot of knowledge to design right and is not the only "energy efficient, high wind resistant, etc, " designing....strawbales only weigh around 35 lbs, along with plaster that is easy.....they are in 2015 IRC appendix R if you can get your building and safety dept to let you use it, or back to the PE. New Mexico has alot of earth construction codes they use that are independent of IRC you might be able to talk them into as a prescriptive path. I know Rammed Earth, CEB, and adobe are in it, not sure about berms.
A PE plus permits can get expensive, so perhaps a method that is less costly and more recognized may be better for you. That way if you do need help you can easily find the trades that understand the laws of the land.
Or get to an area that requires no permits and build what you want, but you may want to still check zoning. FEMA has flood plane maps you may want to check out. I was just helping a guy with earth berms who walls wont stop sweating because he put to many vapor barriers in. All builds have pros and cons you just have to know what they are.
NM code: http://220.127.116.11/nmregister/xii21/14.11.11NMAC.htm
Terry Ruth wrote:Don't know of any good books since I'm not interested in EB since I build mainly in code areas. Natural Building Companion I read for strawbales, excellent! Breathable Walls in the book section, excellent too.
Here is a map if you have to comply to energy code, it is code minimum and you can lower r-value for mass like earth IF you can get the AHJ to agree, mass is highly misunderstood and under defined too: https://energycode.pnl.gov/EnergyCodeReqs/ Just pick on the map your state and county.
Good luck to you. We are doing a metal roof now I recommend you get some help there
Jack Edmondson wrote:Sarah,
I don't know much about straw bale; but I do know you can not substitute hay. Hay is 'greener' than straw. It has more organic matter and moisture. The hay will break down over time and lose volume and eventually return to soil. Straw is much more stable over a longer period. Also hay is 'wetter' than straw and will cause moisture/mold issues inside your walls. Straw has a very very low moisture content.
If you build with straw you will likely have to truck it in from a grower that specializes in high compression bales; or have someone custom bale the straw. The bales have to be around 900 to 1000 psi to make good building material. I have read the 'normal' baling pressure of straw bales is in the 400 psi range. Again, this is just from reading a few years back.
This could not be more true! Improperly designed SB structures have serious potential issues, like any improperly designed structure, but a properly designed SB structure can last for 100's of years. here is a thread giving great examples of the durability of SB architecture.
Jennifer Meyer wrote: a primary concern with straw bale construction is humidity.
There are examples of well built SB homes in humid states like WA. It can be done no problem.
Jennifer Meyer wrote: I'm just south of you in NC, where I wouldn't even consider straw bale because of the high humidity. What the termites don't get, the mold will. You might want to treat your bales with a retardant or consider earth bag construction if you have a humid climate where you are.