I just dropped the price of
the permaculture playing cards
for a wee bit.

 

 

uses include:
- infecting brains with permaculture
- convincing folks that you are not crazy
- gift giving obligations
- stocking stuffer
- gambling distraction
- an hour or two of reading
- find the needle
- find the 26 hidden names

clickity-click-click

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Reasons to change or not change Natural Building Systems  RSS feed

 
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> [post size... for joints]

That makes sense, especially in regards to vertical loads.

> proven traditions

This is what is looks like to me. I know there are long traditions of effective architecture - many, from all over the world. What I meant is that here, in the U.S. where it's all Walmart and tracts, we are not connected with those traditions except by "book learning" and occasionally hopeful seminars and workshops. _You_ probably can size up a situation and apply appropriate traditional methods of one sort or another. In practice you're one of... maybe ten? 50? people in the U.S. who are deeply and broadly enough versed to design and implement buildings __using materials available in this modern life__ with proper and effective traditional methods. Others, and there are many people out there who hope and wish to follow your example, have little or no practical building experience and are "cook booking" it. I include myself amoung those. There are a few professional builders who take an interest but although the competent ones may have a leg up on planning and project management they have no "instinct" no background of practical application they can bring to bear to apply traditional methods using tools and materials commonly available today.

I think what we are talking about, trying for, is a mutation, and evolution where we try to apply older wisdom in the context of what we actually have available. This sounds like a hybrid system to me and hybrids are inherently risky because by definition you are trying to marry disparate systems (which worked fine in their own context and environment). Someday when the new "tradition" has evolved and solidified a bit plans and judgement calls can be made w/some confidence but there will be many unexpected developments on the way there. That's what I meant by "w/out benefit of proven traditions". We don't have the materials or skills to realize old building methods in toto and when we mix/match w/what we have at hand... I don't consider that to be building from proven traditiion. It's a wonderful and sometimes heroic push into the future and merits conservative attitudes and choices whenever possible. IMHO.

Rufus
 
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Hello Rufus,
I wasn't sure how to respond, and maybe I shouldn't?

So apologies in advance, as I felt a need to share perhaps a counter perspective to some of your points. I don't do this to dissuade you from your views, or try and change your perspective, as much as give the other readers an alternative view.

I don't believe it is too late to follow traditional wisdom on all manner of thing from buildings to life skills. I agree that there has been an abundance of..."Walmart and tracts," yet I would not by any means say it is "all," that. I agree that many traditions of all types have been eroded, but that doesn't mean one should cave in to the erosion. I believe that is part of what permaculture is about. I gave a perfect example (there are many more) of a traditional vernacular in the "Chickee." I do appreciate that not everybody has the same skill sets as those like me may have. I would also agree that we might even be considered rare. I can not agree that is a reason not to try and learn...or...as my Grandmother would put it..."remember," the old ways.

We could try a "mutation," yet that is not the only choice at all. I spend my time teaching and writing just so "mutation" and "experimentation" doesn't have to be the only choices, as do countless others like me. It is fine and wonderful to invent and be creative...it is not a good practice to "reinvent" something that already exists. Not all of the traditional methods are gone, and shouldn't be ignored. I agree too, that amalgamations (hybrids) can be risky especially in architecture, yet that is not the only choice at all. There are plenty of "cookbooks" out there to read, as there are people still left with these skill sets to ask questions of and learn from, or I wouldn't be here writing this post if that was the case. So I would stress again...mutation and hybrids are not the only choice at all.

So that leaves me still not understanding "w/out benefit of proven traditions." These traditions may be less common, but they are far from extinct or even hard to find if one simply looks and asks questions. I wouldn't spend the time I do with folks if that was the case. We actually...very much...do have the materials and the skills to realize old building methods, nor is mix/matching the only choice, though it can be as individuals expand their horizons of understanding these traditional methods.

With that stated, I am still here for our OP Kieran, et al, if they have questions or care to learn...
 
Rufus Laggren
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J

Thank you for your continuing patience and belief in our heritage(s).

To me the hybrid, mutant, amalgamation is necessary to all life. It's evolution. The way of things, always. Using utility poles as posts probably (almost surely, I think) makes most permies cringe - so many chemicals to make them, products of heavy industries, corporate byproduct, etc. But. They are what is available to harvest for use across this country while the posts our (many times removed) ancestors had in their backyards no longer exists in our lives. And utility pole can make a damn fine post! Provided that care and thought is given to their other properties; iow, ensure that they don't poison the homeowner. They and other adaptations (urbanite?) are what might allow normal people to actually construct traditional building.

Tradition has to evolve. The traditions you have studied evolved from earlier ones.

Just got yelled at for dinner. I think you get the drift. I believe traditions are most valid. They need to be applied _in our lives_.


Rufus
 
Rufus Laggren
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> w/out ...proven traditions

1) Most people will need to substitute materials -

2) Most people will not be able to implement the _full_ traditional system. Systems need all their expected parts to act as expected.

We need to develop "traditions" based on past knowledge but using the materials and meeting the constraints of our present environment. For example (it may not be a good one because I don't know if "urbanite" is actually commonly available) what type of rock or stone does urbanite emulate? Can it simply be sorted by size and thus meet traditional requirements? _Can_ it be sorted by size? Does it compact predictably and suitably?

That's all. I'm not saying traditional systems can't be depended on to do the job. I'm saying most people won't be able to effectively realize traditional systems in the original form and because of that the characteristics of _their_ system, whatever it may be, do not have the support of the many years of testing and success the original has. The line of inheritance needs to be developed and tested so that it becomes a reliable next generation of a tradition. Presently it looks to me like we are in the testing phase more than anything else.


Rufus
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Hello Rufus, et al,

Rufus Laggren wrote:...To me the hybrid, mutant, amalgamation is necessary to all life. It's evolution. The way of things, always...Tradition has to evolve. The traditions you have studied evolved from earlier ones.


I have had this perspective offered many times over the decades for justification why some traditional means, method, or material "need/should be changed or updated," which seem to always come from folks trying desperately to justify not learning something they don't currently understand, or a deep desire to experiment. The later is understandable, while former is unacceptable. The "evolution comparative" is a perspective, yet weak in foundational logic. Here is some quick observation I (et al) have replied with in the past.

1. If something works...don't try to fix it...Or...yes, some traditions did evolve from earlier one, but like a shark many have not changed for thousands of years...Why?...because they work and they work really well...

2. Evolution only applies when there is a niche to be filled, crossing this "evolution" logic to architecture, the response would be: Yes, things do change like in nature, yet when a certain species functions well within many parameters (as does many traditional modalities of architecture) they cease to evolve, or do so extremely slowly. E.g. scorpions, sharks, cockroach, dragon fly, tuatara, most turtles, ferns, mosses, this list just keeps going.... So in short...No, traditional methods really don't need to "change or evolve," but effort does have to be made to learn them completely and thoroughly if they are to have any hope is successfully "readapting them." Changing anything without complete cognition is usually a formula for chaos...

3. If, and when, a "change" or "mutation" is executed it should only be performed by a student that has mastered the original formats completely. Or, as it was taught to me:

"...one can only change a "thing" when one understand that "thing" completely..."

Rufus Laggren wrote:Using utility poles as posts probably (almost surely, I think) makes most permies cringe - so many chemicals to make them, products of heavy industries, corporate byproduct, etc... But.


For me, Rufus, and this being a permaculture forum, there really is no but.

I can't dissuade folks from using these things, as they often just do anyway. I can suggest that there is more reasons not to have/use these toxic things on your property or near you than there are positives reasons to employ them. Besides there are "modern" and "traditional" methods of wood preservation that are far superior.

Rufus Laggren wrote:> w/out ...proven traditions

1) Most people will need to substitute materials -

2) Most people will not be able to implement the _full_ traditional system. Systems need all their expected parts to act as expected.


I am not sure, again this logic works. First, I am not comfortable with such a "black and white" perspective as "most people" as my life experience is completely the opposite of both one and two above. "Most People" or individuals can "choose" to not follow traditional wisdom, that can certainly be true, but that is a choice, not a necessity in most cases.

Rufus Laggren wrote:We need to develop "traditions" based on past knowledge but using the materials and meeting the constraints of our present environment.


I refer back to number 3 above..."...one can only change a "thing" when one understand that "thing" completely..."

Rufus Laggren wrote: I'm saying most people won't be able to effectively realize traditional systems in the original form and because of that the characteristics of _their_ system, whatever it may be, do not have the support of the many years of testing and success the original has. The line of inheritance needs to be developed and tested so that it becomes a reliable next generation of a tradition. Presently it looks to me like we are in the testing phase more than anything else.


I politely can not agree with that understanding even a little bit, nor has my experiences in life and teaching ever reflected it at all...but both our views at this point are probably academic and only distract from the original post...Apologies to all for that...
 
Rufus Laggren
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Jay

Glad you requested a change of thread. That was past due, and I s/b more thoughtful about hijacking threads. Sorry, K. Mea culpa..

To try to be clear. I have no quibble, not in the slightest, w/traditional wisdom. My whole point is that it's better to make it available - ie. sort of feasible w/out turning upside down and tossing their existing life and responsibilities - to more people who have some genuine interest but live a real life. In a heretical watered down form which they (we) have some chance of realizing and which incorporates as much of the principles and wisdom of tradition as possible. Life comes w/partners to try to maintain, children to feed and educate, mortgages, parents to support and often very small bank accounts. It is not proper to sacrifice these commitments to buy land, import minerals from France, timbers from the Great North etc. etc. Ideal architecture does _not_ come first. It's not even possible for most young people who are still free of these commitments - their resources in time and money just aren't there. Larry Elisons of this world can do the right thing exactly the way it was done 1000 years ago no problem. 3-5 million$ in land, design, material and skills are pocket change. Even the paltry incomes of Wall Street executives can plausible reach for such purity. For most people it's different, even if they are total believers. K has demonstrated initiative and vision by finding a place where he _can_ do some things in a better way, one that he believes in. AND HE's Actually Started Doing It in a manner which seems to have some chance of success. K is a rare bird but even with such smarts and luck he faces severe constraints and budget realities. For most of us the principles and concepts provide guide lines but we have to find a way to do IT w/what's available.

I guess the question might be: What is IT?


>> Rufus Laggren wrote: I'm saying most people won't be able to effectively realize traditional systems in the original form and because of that the characteristics of _their_ system, whatever it may be, do not have the support of the many years of testing and success the original has. The line of inheritance needs to be developed and tested so that it becomes a reliable next generation of a tradition. Presently it looks to me like we are in the testing phase more than anything else.

>I politely can not agree with that understanding even a little bit, nor has my experiences in life and teaching ever reflected it at all...but both our views at this point are probably academic and only distract from the original post...Apologies to all for that...

It sounds like you're one incredibly lucky fellow. And a am truly glad for you. We need people with solid beliefs and who embody Old Ways. (W/out crashing & burning! <g>

But consider, if you will, an example of what I'm speaking of. Exactly what it is that Paul Wheaton is doing w/the wofati's. What is going on there if not exactly what I described previous: Trying to apply principles using presently available resources. A fine example of the difficulties, potential, way-to-do-it and commitment if ever there was one. It looks to me like Paul is definitely moving sustainable housing forward. In his own way (of course, <g> but w/out the slightest doubt we need the examples and information from work like that. The wofati's are not "pure" but they _are_ prinicpled to the greatest extent Paul can manage.


>I am not sure, again this logic works. First, I am not comfortable with such a "black and white" perspective as "most people" as my life experience is completely the opposite of both one and two above. "Most People" or individuals can "choose" to not follow traditional wisdom, that can certainly be true, but that is a choice, not a necessity in most cases.

Pursuing an ideal to the point of not being able to pay the bills and meet ones responsibilities and even possibly become a lawbreaker and legally liable to sometimes serious penalties (in urban areas particularly) seems to qualify as some kind of necessity to me. The ideal traditional ways require can be nearly impossible in today's environment. Particular traditional materials are often not available (affordable); the methods often will not pass code or zoning requirements (or not w/out serous additional cost in time as well as $$); when part of the traditional build "passes", other parts may not.

The point is the Traditional Building is not like falling off a log. It is in fact extremely challenging in every way. One of these ways is the absence of the expected (needed) materials and expertise. The common man does not have any real building skills and detailed, applicable, specific information on traditional methods is not commonly available. (The internet is wonderful but most people don't have the experience to sift out truth from the noise. And "most" don't read Japanese.) Reliable skilled help doesn't exist in practice. Before you disagree, consider trying to find a competent painter - the most basic trade, common as dirt, needed everywhere all the time, snap your fingers and 20 are on your door step. But 10 of those will actually damage you (on the job), another 5 will just do a lousy work, 3 probably are OK but you want to find the 2 that potentially will do the job you want. But at least there _are_ two. Now try that with dry stack masonry; probably timber framing is some better off but again, today's version isn't anything like the ideal you favor.

It's _hard_ and people have lives. Even young enthusiasts are subject to LIFE. So in aid of promoting the kernel of traditional wisdom I think we need to apply that wisdom in ways w/in reach of normal people. It's a work in progress and part of it may be figuring out just _what_ is the "wisdom" part of tradition which is applicable today.


> ."...one can only change a "thing" when one understand that "thing" completely..."

Of course, at least ideally. That's why I'm bothering you to encourage Jay Whitecloud to illuminate old ways in new ways. <g> I know that we don't all think the same ways and that ones wisdom can require certain forms to remain true. But still. I think you've done a lot of this "updating" in your work.

About utility poles. I don't know for sure how they can be used best. Something like that does need careful investigation and maybe a design where they don't become part of a living space - like a tool shed? Creosote merits care but my experience has been that in matters of interpreting detailed technical information "common knowledge" is rarely correct. Creosote can poison you, w/out question. But water can drown you. And don't give me that look - that is a true analogy. The only difference is that we learn about water's dangers early as children while chemical dangers require information we get much later. But both are a part of our world that we use for our purposes and both require proper respect so we don't get hurt. If you doubt water, consider the number of drowning each year just from beaches and break waters, much less from boats... Life has hazards. But back to creosote. I will see what I can find about chemical leakage or outgassing from 15 and 30 yr old treated bulks. I'd always favor a nice newly cut pine or such but there really aren't that many around most places.


Regards

Rufus


 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Hi Rufus,

I understood this dialogue was important to you and ending the conversation would be unjust, so I thought it best to ask our kind Stewards to split this off.

I can tell that you reflect a great deal of respect towards traditional/natural building systems, or you would not be here and still engaged in this dialogue. I "think" there also may be a certain degree of needing to "talk through" the current perspective before being able to move to an alternate one...Which is the way I am also and the main reason I keep responding. If I am in error, we can disengage, and move on with out different perspectives in-tacked.

As the first paragraph is rather complex I will try to just wade into it and make my points. I get a perspective in the first opening sentences that there is a view that "natural and/or traditional" systems are some how hard to attain by phrases like "sort of feasible" and "real life." I can't stress enough to folks that natural and/or traditional moralities are not difficult at all to learn or achieve...its a matter of choice, not :"feasibility" As for "real life" the systems I suggest have been the way of "real life" for much longer than the rather stagnant lives humans are living today. Family and social responsibility (nor bank accounts) have really no bearing on this conversation, nor reasons not to fully engage in a more "natural life style" be it in the food we eat, the social circles we move in or the architecture we facilitate for ourselves and those around us. I could write page after page of folks every day making this paradigm switch in the way they "chose" to live without "sacrifice" of commitment of any type. I read deeper into the paragraph and it reflects frustration about "time and money," and I am sorry to say, these are...excuses why a commitment to change...won't...be made, as the reasons are empty and not..."real life." I grew up with very little as did many more in my family both Native and otherwise. I, like many more I know, made a...choice...to follow a more holistic life and gather the skill sets to do so. Now I give back, as much as I can, like my teachers did for me. If one...chooses not to go down the path...that is their choice...it is that however..."a choice," as money, social responsibilities and countless other excuses have nothing to do with such matters.

No one here, nor I are suggesting "ideal," but to ignore what is around us and available is a matter of what "comes first." I was a young person, at one time, and I sought out those teachers that could give me the skill sets I needed for self sufficiency...again a choice that was made...which was opposite of what others made. It rather reminds me of the story of the "grasshopper and the ant." It is a choice vector not a "time and money just aren't there," issue. We can be a "grasshopper" and gorge ourselves on convenience of a throw away society...or...be like the "ant" and labor towards a better way...it doesn't have to be "ideal," only as good as we can possibly make it at any given time..

I will admit that I was completely lost with the "Larry Ellison" comparative?? It would seem again that there is an attempt to equate "traditional and natural" with being wealthy? It is the farthest from the truth. At nineteen I built a timber frame cottage to live in because I spent all the money we had ($11,000) to but the 17 acres of forest and field to live on and did not want to be accountable to some bank. I had very little and forwent college to get this small homestead running. It was a choice...and the progress and growth came for work, asking for help and learning everything I could along the way. There was "no money" and I did not ignore my responsibilities to care for my Grandmother and other responsibilities while doing so. "What's available" is the land we stand on and what we are willing to learn to live in harmony with it while causing the least amount of damage possible at a given point and time.

What Paul is doing with the wofati's (bless him for it) is a living "experiment" in different modalities of natural building. I have never said one can't experiment...if...they have the resources to do so. Paul and others like him (me included) do "testing" of "this and that" all the time. As for" Previous"...it absolutely is just that..previous. One could even call it ancient in not only concept but probably 90% of the design elements as well. The difference between a wofati and a "Mandan lodge house" is barely negligible in both concept, materials, and design. Yes, there are elements of modernity in the wofati, yet that is part of a "experiment," but it is not outside the traditional concepts of such architecture. I actually consider the "wofati concept" on of the purest and most ancient "revisited" natural building methods currently being looked at within natural building circles. Very little has been altered other than perhaps speed of building with modern equipment and...some...incorporation of "repurposed materials" that are relatively safe and nontoxic being taken out of the waste stream.

Near the end I will admit completely loosing the point of reasoning?? I have never had to "break laws" or not pay bills, to live a more natural and holistic life...other than perhaps hunting gators as a kid when there wasn't a season on them. Again, Rufus...it does not matter where one lives...it is a choice. I know of some of the best "indigenous life skill" participants and teachers live in the heart of New York City. I have taught homeless there in the 80's with them. If you want a more natural life, then choose it...if not that is fine, but the reasoning shared for not doing so is simply inaccurate.

I am a natural and/or traditional builder...I have been since 14 years old. I have never had a single issue with working within or "around" most "code" issues, or I..."chose"...as do my clients to build where they are not as ridiculous. Even ridiculously strict states like Massachusetts have more and more timber frames with straw bale and/or cobb go up every year. So for the sake of making our conversation productive, fruitful, and informative... please be accurate with understanding what is actually possible and what isn't. It IS NOT "impossible in today's environment" to build naturally/traditionally in most areas in the US and Canada, and in many areas one can still find locations to even go 100% natural and off grid. It is a choice...nothing more...of what values, priorities, and interest one has...or...chooses to pursue.

The point is the Traditional Building is not like falling off a log. It is in fact extremely challenging in every way.


I admit a wee bit of frustration at this point...apologies. How is it that, as a teacher, with many very successful students of many different traditional skill sets, is going to be "informed" by someone with admitted lower skill levels...about...how difficult these are to learn. I won't speak for everyone, and perhaps you have found them challenging, but I can promise you, they aren't for the most part, and many folks actually learn really quick and it does actually involve falling off logs sometimes... I am up a 1:00 am in the wee hours of the morning...ignoring other things I should do (like sleep) just to address the silliness of such notions. I am not suggesting that my acquired level of skill sets, and willingness to share them is common...but I can assure you I am not as rare as tigers have become. I am more like a mountain lion, not often seen but out there if you look close enough. The timber framing guild grows each year as does the interest on a global scale. I couldn't (still can't hardly at all) read Japanese, but I can teach myself how to use technology to its fullest extent, thereby learning the basics of several languages. I don't look for painters, never have, I got help to learn to do it myself...just like many other are now today. I can't agree with the degree of futility that is reflected. Yes there are challenges in competence, availability and knowledge...It is far from hopeless.

I guess in closing I will go to Paul's shared concept of a scale or range of abilities. No, not everyone is at a level ten, but that doesn't mean you don't try to get there and ignore the guidance of others closer to the 10 level that are willing to help...
 
pollinator
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Hi Rufus,

I can definitely relate to what I think you are trying to say, but I agree more with Jay. Yes it is difficult to get authentic information about traditional building systems and their implementation, but like most things; when you are ready to learn and grow, when you have truly invested yourself in a traditional technique and done your part in the learning process, then teachers will come to you.

I moved to LA and got a job roofing almost 30 years ago. Most of the time since then was spent building modern homes with modern methods, but once I started to think differently, a teacher emerged. He is not a builder, but a healer and a master of clay. I didn't need to learn about building techniques, I needed to really connect with the materials. He taught me to take clay from the Earth, to refine and respect it and then to properly utilize her many fine properties. It turned out that the main thing I needed was a head spin. A different way of thinking about homes.

Now I am the teacher even though I am still learning more every day about the materials, means and methods of long forgotten ancestors, but I know how to learn and I have the proper respect for the materials and those ingenious ancestors that built so many homes in harmony with their inhabitants and their environment.

To anyone reading this:
Learn everything you can about one material. This will take years or a lifetime, as each material connects to others and to understand one you must understand the interactions it has with all other materials and the inhabitants.

When Don Felipe began to teach me to plaster, he did not put a trowel in my hand, he put a pipe and feathers in my hand and taught me how to approach the great mystery of the Earth with respect. That respect is really all there is.
 
Rufus Laggren
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Jay, Bill

I'm ck'g in and will get bk. Appreciate your points of view. Long day and hd'g for the sack. Been researching heavy wood preservatives in poles. Mixed bag.


Later.

Rufus
 
Rufus Laggren
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Jay

I pretty much agree and have no quarrel w/all you say. At least re. building and choices. I never did mean to make excuses for anybody's decisions or imply that natural decisions were impossible. I _do_ try to say that following an ideal natural building path (which seems to be what you teach, encourage and promote - please correct as needed) does have real actual requirements, consequences and costs that come home in very contemporary practical ways. I believe it can be most honest and helpful in the long run to recognize, sometimes explicitly, that investment in a more or less pure natural building plan _will_ entail real consequences in ways most people inexperienced in building will simply find out the hard way unless somebody explains and reviews them. I perceive a certain, usually large, absence of talk or thought about what _else_ "natural" building implies.

This bothers me because I strongly believe in _informed_ decisions, particularly when information is out there.

QUALIFIERS to the above statement.

1) I admit, complete knowledge is not possible OR desirable. Eg. if people knew what marriage _really_ meant (and just how would that ever be possible?), we might not have a population problem. But certain due diligence and fiduciary responsibility is "right practice".

2) I'm not sure how and in what way you understand "most people". You were generous enough to relate a bit about your early years. Although I suspect you had severe struggles and close calls as anybody can expect (at least if they're lucky and trying their best), in some ways you were blessed beyond the comprehension of 99% of people in the U.S. Perhaps the understanding gap goes both ways in that you don't automatically notice what sacrifices in core values and base identity the choices you believe in will actually impose on John "U.S. Consumer" Doe. I'm not implying there's any reason to change your attitude, evangelism, anything really, except for one thing: Allow as a possibility that choosing "your" way can entail serious consequences and problems for John Doe. And this could well be a good thing, but still - it's something that the prospective enthusiast should hear. Just saying it's their choice (although absolutely true) doesn't cover the ground.

3) #'1 and #2 above apply equally to major conventional construction. But there John Doe has a _much_ larger widespread support network and information resource. Also, any problems and disasters would be viewed far more charitably by his peer group than if he crashed and burned while engaged in some "weird ass California hippy shit". You say the traditional community is strong and supportive? Sure, but it's not John's native peer group where he gets most of his real support. IOW, choosing to invest fully and heavily in "weird ass CA hippy shit" can be socially risky for John. There is nothing required to fix this - it's just the way it is. But in fairness, I think that the potential difficulties (at least as great as any other type of construction) should not be minimized when discussing tradtitional building.

I guess that may be my main thrust. It's better to make clear the costs, risk, requirements of _any_ type of construction when talking with "newbs" AND that there are costs (various kinds) associated purely with traditional bluilding. To be clear: There _is_ _nothing_ wrong w/traditional building. The problems are in relation to the contemporary construction environment.

> Larry Elison

An example of somebody that can "do the right thing" because it costs him essentially nothing. As juxtaposed to John Doe who may suffer serious problems because he didn't understand or plan for the likely costs and consequences of "doing the right thing" and he's under budget constraint. Eg. at the very least he can't go down the HD and get another post when a joint goes FUBAR.

Traditional building will get along faster the more successes out there. A lack of failure is part of that and depends on some kind of understanding of problems endemic to the construction type. Presently successful traditional builds, or at least the ones I have seen/heard of live in the arena of high end projects or a few special communities like the Amish (and I think they may be using many contemporary techniques).

Bill

One of my side thought here about traditional building is the question just what _does_ make traditional building of particular value. Is it the chance to be reverent about the past? Is it the holiness of using some particular material(s) and none other? Is it giving the finger to corporations? More DIY friendly? Sourcing everything locally (what's local?)? Healthier? Better appearance? What exactly is it that we are pursuing, championing, realizing when we advocate and attempt traditional building? Cheaper? Longer lasting? I guess everybody in this community would just say "Yes" to all that, but I think that sometimes it helps to look at the question because when practical budget choices come to be made those priorities s/inform our decisions.

There is also the Q what _is_ traditional building? Does it require material from w/in 20 mi of the site? Or is it anything that derives from appropriate use of local resources? What is appropriate? Is it a compendium of materials/methods saved somewhere to be pulled out when we're starting a job and have a list of local materials we want to use?

You mentioned "following one material". Great truth. I absolutely believe it. All paths lead to enlightenment.

Jay. I think you may have a thought and teaching life that doesn't lend itself to "discussion" in the logical dissection way. That's probably part of our slight discord here. I'm a logic machine and to some extent a pattern finder. Not so say I notice everything or don't mess up regularly.

> utility poles

(Just cuz I said I'd look into it.) I'm still looking. The science data seems consistently to show a toxic zone of about 10" around the poles. Beyond 10" chemical levels are below the EPA max allowances for residential property (children playing on it). By 24" to 48" the levels become indistinguishable from background noise. This is true vertically as well, although one of the newer "brews" extends 48" below the bottom of the pole. The chemicals creosote, ACQ and one other that escapes me at the moment are broken down by soil microbes, which is the main reason for the limited toxic area; also the leach rate is very low. However, there is not huge amounts of data (though what there is seems consistent) and I have found nothing on outgassing or the long term affects on waterways in which bridge pilings are lodged. Because of the very low leach rate it's difficult to find measurable chemicals in water unless it's stagnant. Creosote _will_ irritate skin on touch so treated material s/not be part of anything that gets touched much. Eg. no hot tubs, play ground equipment, etc. Most current re-use involves fence posts. Guys who resaw the poles report that treated wood is very hard on saw blades, dulls them immediately; no explanation as to why. The incident where milk was contaminated apparently was mis-reported as caused by cows licking treated lumber when what actually happened was the animals were fed feed adulterated w/sawdust from treated material; iow, the immediate proximity of treated wood to the animals (their barn or stalls) was not the cause of the problem. The incident bears more checking.


Rufus
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Hello Ruffus...

I may be into some points that you had perhaps aimed at Bill...forgive me...

I will go through and be as swift and brief as I can, while still addressing the comments/questions.

I have found, in my experience with those new to the building arts and there design systems, that learning traditional and/or natural methods is no less difficult (or expensive) than those the contemporary contractor would teach. Often...in many ways...easier, more enduring, and less fiscally costly...depending on the desired path (system) the "new builder" wishes to go follow...

Using the "John (or Jane) Doe" analogy... that was invoked, I would share that what I teach and write about isn't any form of "evangelizing" in the slightest. In a way, much of what is "ask about" or "suggested" is a form of "first world" hubris. "Most people" in the world today, still build with vernacular systems, and not with modern materials...That isn't speculation, it is just simply a fact. Now cities may indeed "house" more people, or coming close to being so, yet this does not reflect a "better system" just one that happens to be more profitable and economically viable for the current political and capitalistic systems that dominate cities in general. Most people...again...have through the ages built with "natural materials" way more so than "heavily industrialized materials." As such we understand more and have a longer history with...these natural materials and the ways to build with them.

I can't agree...even a little bit....if we are taking either a historical view, or a modern day "global view"... that the Mr/Ms Doe have a "larger widespread support network and information resource," than does the modern contractor. That simple is not the case. Again...it may be a choice, if you want to go the modern route, but not the way it has to be.

I am pretty sure neither I, nor Bill ever suggested..."weird ass California hippy shit," nor have I ever engaged in such a practices. If anything I warn folks away from many of these "new age" concepts in natural building and sticking with they better understood (and proven) vernacular systems. So we are clear...I do not condone or support "Hippy shit," architecture of any kind...never have...never will. As for support, it is all in what you chose to follow and get behind...I leave that up to anyone reading this...they make a choice...

Again, to speak of "cost" or any other facite, and do so intelligently, one needs to really understand both systems...modern and vernacular. I can not really engage in that level of conversation with someone that is neither a professional modern day contractor nor a traditional/natural builder...which I and Bill are or have been. I can say that the cost of both can be the same, or less depending on the system selected. Most often, natural building systems are at minimum equal for DIYers and usually less.

Lets not bring the "Larry" types into this anymore...they are neither germane nor appropriate. Natura building is not expensive unless a builder wants to make it that way...I don't think I can put it any simpler than that. If you don't agree...that is fine.

I am sure there are many ways one could define "traditional building" from either "natural modalities" to "historical vernacular systems of designing and building architecture. Both understandings have merit. The text book understanding (or the most current and common one) is"

Vernacular architecture (a.k.a traditional building) is a category of architecture based on localized needs and construction materials, and reflecting local traditions. It tends to evolve over time to reflect the environmental, cultural, technological, and historical context in which it exists


Ones that worked well lasted...those that didn't work well failed and did not last. I (et al) suggest that many of the contemporary methods today...will not last and will fail, as or crumbling infrastructure suggests is already taking place...Modern "first world cultures" live in a throw away society...and its building methods and architecture reflect this...

If budget is the focus alone...I am fine with that...traditional methods are almost always less expensive...for the average DIYer...

As for material acquisition...it depends on the selected method. The closer the materials can be acquired to a building location the less expensive $$ it usually is, but that isn't a mandate, nor is anyone suggesting we live without "modern comforts" though it is fine if someone does want to leave them out.

As for logic...I am a bit lost there. I think, at least to most of the readers, I am more than presenting a sound and logical explanation for why traditional/natural building systems are generally superior to modern building methods. They many no longer be as common here in the U.S. as they once where, nor are they as profitable for contractors and big business, but that does not make them "illogical."

I won't debate Utility Poles, they are toxic, there is not debate about that, the industry that makes/made them is toxic. They have been made illegal in many locations, and the methods of treatment are getting less and less tolerated. Use them or not, the are not part of Permaculture building practices, and will not be condoned as appropriate no more so than GMO, pesticides or herbicides...So for the sake of keeping this discussion going...no more about "utility poles" please...

Regards,

j
 
Rufus Laggren
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Jay

Thank you for your detailed explaining. I believe we approach things from rather different perspectives (as I alluded above, we "grew up" in different places) and so it could be easy to speak at cross purposes; but I am learning from this exchange and am sure there is common ground to be found. I will do my best to express clear ideas and avoid misunderstanding.

Please know that when I point out problems, costs, whatever, I'm _not_ saying "bad, don't go there" (well not usually, anyway). I mean "heads up here's what we're dealing with - let's handle it so we don't trip up, and proceed w/the plan". I've been accused of negative thinking and I'm afraid I usually don't see it that way. However, I know there are times when raising problems may not be the best course or well received. I guess still prefer to fail toward the side of saying too much. Unfortunately, perhaps. The following is long because I try to be clear. I apologize for any stray paths taken - it's hard to edit those things w/out waiting a few days to get a fresh view and that's not in the schedule.

> [traditional building... no more difficult to learn]

Yes, sounds right. At least when a "student" starts w/the belief that it's worth learning. Part of the challenge for tradiditional building lies in spreading that belief. BUT: That's not really what I was thinking.

Rather: Most people, who weren't themselves going to immerse and study traditional building but who might want to consider it as a possible option to contract or design for, would have a hard time finding representatives of that skillset sufficient to provide multiple opinions and options from _different_ reasonably competent people in the genre. Not that one couldn't find _somebody_ who could claim expertise one way or another. But a person considering and planning a serious project cannot rely (well, should not) on a single or very limited source for critical information and resources. One of the primary ways we search out and evaluate options is by getting multiple bids, designs, what have you, from different builders or craftsmen. That's much more difficult when we're searching for some type of traditional build and it makes traditional building more problematic unless one is already a true believer. And even when one is committed to having their structure built traditionally, relatively few contractors reduces options in every way. In this way traditional building today is not as accessible as "contemporary building" and this lack of options carries a cost in the level of risk, the options available and the final costs.

I'm not dissing Traditional Building. Saying that presently it doesn't have the same depth of offerings (numbers of trained builders, quantity/availability of supplies, knowledgeable inspection authorities, infrastructure, etc) as contemporary building, and that this has consequences, is not a knock. It's a sign post on the road saying "don't jump to conclusions" "think and plan carefully" "allow more time to find your craftsmen" "approach the AHJ carefully and have your arguments and documents in good order".

Jay, I will continue another installment on another point tomorrow. I'm working long days this spring and staying up late doesn't work so well as it used to. My words probably don't make it as deathless prose but I would like to figure out if there really is a disagreement and what it is. So far I haven't really found one but tomorrow's another day.

> poles... no more

No problem.




Rufus



 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Hey Rufus,

I will cover your current thoughts now, then when you expand your other thoughts I will do like wise...

I mean "heads up here's what we're dealing with - let's handle it so we don't trip up, and proceed w/the plan". I've been accused of negative thinking and I'm afraid I usually don't see it that way. However, I know there are times when raising problems may not be the best course or well received.


Whatever system of building (or doing anything for that matter) is selected, there should always be a "heads up" and "what we're dealing with." I could not agree more on that point. That is just common sense and good practice no matter what we are doing...building a house, planting a garden, or taking a trip. I don't see that as a.... more or less... factor based on natural building vs contemporary. Both should be thoroughly vetted and understood to the very best of ones abilities...and both can be if one...chooses...to do it.

Yes, sounds right. At least when a "student" starts w/the belief that it's worth learning. Part of the challenge for traditional building lies in spreading that belief. BUT: That's not really what I was thinking.


Hmmmm...."belief?"

Again, I don't think I can accept a building system as a "belief," per se. It is more a tangible system than a metaphysical "belief." Its kind'a been that way for several thousand years in so many different forms. You can "choose" a system of natural or select contemporary means, methods and materials, it is more "choice" than "belief." Now if we are speaking of which is more commonly..."understood"...today? I agree that contemporary systems are better marketed, sold and understood (or least most think they understand it) within the construction fields as they exist today.

Not that one couldn't find _somebody_ who could claim expertise one way or another. But a person considering and planning a serious project cannot rely (well, should not) on a single or very limited source for critical information and resources.


Yes...there are more "modern contractors" than "natural-traditional building" facilitators in the North American market. That is changing every year, as the "green movement" seems to expand.

One of the primary ways we search out and evaluate options is by getting multiple bids, designs, what have you, from different builders or craftsmen.


Agreed, and "we" are less common than mainstream builders, but not so rare as to make getting good information and bids unattainable. If that was the case there wouldn't be such an expanding market in this field, and I would be rich as well as turning down work...

That's much more difficult when we're searching for some type of traditional build and it makes traditional building more problematic unless one is already a true believer. And even when one is committed to having their structure built traditionally, relatively few contractors reduces options in every way.


Again, it is not about a belief...it is a system that either holds up under PE requirements and pressures or it does not. Both contemporary and traditional/natural systems must endure the same tectonic, and environmental degradation loads. So simply put...it doesn't matter if I am building straw bale, log, timber frame hybrid, cobb, rammed earth, or a multitude of combinations there of...or...just 2x stock and mineral wool...they all have to be subjected to the same levels of scrutiny by me and the PE I work with.

As I have said several times over the decades to "Code Officers" about what we build...it may not meet code standards as they are "interrupted"...it usually exceeds them, or is so far outside the parameters of code that they aren't applicable. Depending on the area and municipality, like Virginia in the D.C. area...I can follow "code" and its very minimalistic standards...or...I can get my PE to sign off on my designs and go around...code. Both works. So folks can "fight with code" or make excuses why they can't build naturally, or they can find a way to work within the system as it is while working to change it where it needs to be changed.

Personally if it where true that there was, "relatively few contractors" in natural building, I would be swimming with offers to do work...I am not. There are plenty of us out there if one cares to look for us, or at least many "mainstream" contractors that are willing to do both, or a combination there of. The "green movement" for better and worse is saturated with "green builders" in both modern interpretations (that is the stuff many of us rail against) as well as, cobb, straw bale, timber frame, and other builders. Yes, many are not as good as they should be...but that can be said for most contractors also. Few are as good as they should or could be...This "rarity" of "good contractors" in either realm doesn't change being a "good consumer" and doing "good research."

In this way traditional building today is not as accessible as "contemporary building" and this lack of options carries a cost in the level of risk, the options available and the final costs.


I am a builder...risk is risk...options are plentiful if you look for them and don't through roadblocks up in front of yourself...tangible or mental. Many areas of this country have more homes over 150 years of age than they do modern. So I wouldn't say "traditional" is hard to find, and any decent library in a college with an architectural degree has more information on the subject of buildings and construction methods (old and new) than most could read in one lifetime...I know I am still trying...
 
Rufus Laggren
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Jay

I reread (most of) this thread.

I feel I need to re-emphasize - I don't have a negative opinion of traditional construction methods, at all. Much good, some particular problems (IMHO; and they are perfectly solvable when one chooses) in today's world. Doable and a clear choice for some people.

I'd like for more people to feel they had a real, practical, option to make that choice. This would be more likely if traditional building were approached as a set of concepts which could adapt to local existing conditions rather than a set of particular methods and specific materials. Adaptations can allow the concepts to become more widespread. But would it still be "traditional building"? That would depend on whether one identifies traditional building with the specific structures and materials or with the concepts that inform those examples and make them successful. Here we get to the philosophy stuff - what is traditional building? And where maybe we have differing views.


It's quittin' time. My eyes are on the way out. It's been a good day - the last of 35 cabinet doors got prepped and I may have decided to NEVER become a cabinet maker. <g> As a side note, my posts have nothing to do with my choosing (or not) to build or practice traditionally. I do that whenever I can.

Rufus
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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I feel with each posting there is a..."I like the idea of natural - traditional....but..."

That is fine, yet most of the "buts" are much more grounded in "opinion" and "I think" than actual tangibles within the world of architecture


I'd like for more people to feel they had a real, practical, option to make that choice.


There is. One can choose to build from a box store or related modernity...or...they can choose to go a natural route. It isn't like I am suggesting some "rare concept," or system of building. Hech this year alone there will probably be a huge up swing in just straw bale and cobb alone...including building code language addressing some of the minimums.

I am trying to dialogue with you, while still giving the other readers a much clear sense of natural building being common and not as "hard to facilitate" or "learn" as much of your shared language tend to reflect.

This would be more likely if traditional building were approached as a set of concepts which could adapt to local existing conditions rather than a set of particular methods and specific materials. Adaptations can allow the concepts to become more widespread. But would it still be "traditional building"? That would depend on whether one identifies traditional building with the specific structures and materials or with the concepts that inform those examples and make them successful. Here we get to the philosophy stuff - what is traditional building? And where maybe we have differing views.


First, a view tends to be more based on an opinion than "hard data." I happen to have a long enough history within architecture of both modernity and vernacular that I am not "philosophizing" or just sharing an "I think" view," but rather tangible data about these building modalities. So, again, feel as you choose, that is fine, yet I must define certain parameters of the conversation for the others that are reading this and themselves trying to consider whether they have clear choice between modernity or natural...I am saying quite plainly that they most certainly do...

There is little need to "adapt" anything. Humans have been building all over this planet for the last 10000 years and more than half of that time is better document in means, methods, and materials than many modern contractors understand or care to learn themselves. Take any biome type there is, and we can probably find a good half dozen examples of vernacular structures that are applicable to it. Not guessing, no testing and not real need to adapt anything. Follow the design and build...it doesn't get much simpler than that for many of them...or at least as simple as architecture can be...

You and other readers may wish to read this related post thread as well. General Discussion: "Natural-Traditional"vs"Heavenly Industrialize" in Means, Methods and Materials Between this one and that one, I hope in the future, folks can just come to these two posts and get an understanding of worth to their specific questions and goals.

 
Bill Bradbury
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Hi Rufus,

I think I now understand more clearly where the disconnect between where Jay and I are coming from and what is commonly thought of as natural or traditional building. I hired on another apprentice a few weeks ago; he wanted to tell us all about his straw bale home. I asked him about the rest of the build, since the straw bales are only the insulating layer and therefore do not define the home or building modality. I disagreed with him that he had built a natural home with the use of many deplorable materials and methods that are rooted in modern practices only(TGI's and CMU's on OPC pad and foundation, etc.). It turned out that there were only a couple of natural materials used, which is a vast improvement over mainstream monoconstructures, but not a natural build.

IMNSHO, you don't have to use all natural materials in order to gain natural build status; rather achieve a state of mind that utilizes every available resource in it's lowest embodied energy form, to achieve a structure that will house the current generation and leave a lasting legacy for future generations to live in and be inspired by. My hope is that I will be like August Schow, the Norwegian immigrant that became the premier builder in our area in the 20's and whose homes are of the utmost quality, aesthetic and otherwise. I have never met August, but we have had long conversations in the pattern language of building and so he has been a magnificent teacher and inspiration. If you look at my current project, you will see that I am trying to return the home to the magnificence of it's original state. By doing so, I become a living part of this tradition and eventually I hope that some future home restorer will do the same, enmeshing me in these eternal cycles.

With todays open information pathways, we can appropriate from more traditional societies, but we also have many of these traditions already firmly entrenched in our own society that need only be recognized and honored for the practical sweetness that they embody.



 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Just perfect Bill...!!

I build, it is in the 21 century that I do it, so chronologically it is modern, yet the means, methods, and materials (or most of them) are of traditional orgin. That is why I so often write "traditional/natural" as I am more focused on the "pragmatic" proven systems of architecture that work than them...just...being natural. Natural is important to me, and having very low embodied energy (a.k.a. tiny carbon footprint as possible) as Bill has stressed time and again, but not over good pragmatic function of the over all architecture. It just so happens that the best of these architectural forms seem to always be "vernacular structures" for a given region or biome type...Not some "reinvented," "new age," "I think", or "what if" concept...be them of modernity or modern natural builds like "earth bags" "geo domes" and "earthships" all of which have a lot of proving to do before I would get behind them in a big way...So "just natural" isn't what I am saying either....
 
Rufus Laggren
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Jay

A note about language and thought, since we use the one trying to share the other. A "but" is the natural unavoidable part of thinking and weighing choices. It's the other choice or an additional point to be looked at. It's absence reduces the dialogue somewhat.

> real choice...
There is. One can choose to build from a box store or related modernity...or...they can choose to go a natural route.


That comes across as pretty either/or to me and that's part of my problem here. However,
.So "just natural" isn't what I am saying either...

sounds reasonable.

Let's try this: I (John Doe) just got 2 acres in a subdivided farm, zone 5, and start thinking about a house to keep wife and kids happy. Since I like the idea of "green" and looking like a good guy if it doesn't cost too much I decide to see what "green" housing looks like. Ideas come up from all sides - super insulated, low VOC materials, "tight" construction, local sourcing, passive solar, etc. Then I see something about timber frame, hale bale, etc. Sounds like a barn to me and even if I'm a little intrigued, I'm dead meat if my wife decides there's a draft in her bedroom if I do this weird thing. I check it out and find the local code guy thinks I'm trying to be a hippie and lets me know anything like that needs an engineer. Oops, PE = $$+. But my 20 yr/old nephew in Oregon heard about my property and says timber frame rocks and he's on his way to help. So on condition that nephew stays the hell in Oregon I agree to talk to some more people about timer frame. But my wife knows barns have wind blowing through them and so far I heard the walls need to "breath" and tight sealing doesn't work w/this type construction - sounds bad. AND I don't have five years to study everything cuz we can't carry two mortgages forever. So where do I find reliable compelling information about his type construction? How is the "drafty" issue addressed? What is this going to cost to heat? Can I run A/C ducting so I stay married? We need a basement, how does that fit in? There's no way I'm not getting full concrete w/perimeter drains in this locale. How much maintenance does this structure require each year? Does _anybody_ locally do it? What about low VOC. Can I source pine flooring? Wool in the walls - Bugs! I'm divorced already!

Jay, you don't need to sell to "regular people" like John. But if you do - and I gather you think trad/nat (I'm working the letters down <g> building is "best" all around - if that is going to be true for "John" he needs a little help w/the above scenario. Finding that help is hard. Finding that help w/specific trustworthy facts about his specific questions is harder. "Plain talk" is needed. Eg. plain talk about why plaster is a better value than sheetrock, how you don't _have_ to use wool to insulate the walls but you might not want to use foam because of moisture issues...

That's a large part of why I say Trad/Nat building is not as easy as "contemporary". The skills needed and difficulty are not really an issue. It's the whole package that's an issue, at least for a customer in ordinary circumstances on a budget.

Bill

It turned out that there were only a couple of natural materials used, which is a vast improvement over mainstream monoconstructures, but not a natural build.
...
IMNSHO, you don't have to use all natural materials in order to gain natural build status; rather achieve a state of mind that utilizes every available resource in it's lowest embodied energy form, to achieve a structure that will house the current generation and leave a lasting legacy for future generations to live in and be inspired by.


You articulate my point: "State of mind." We need a way to conceive of trad/nat (nasty - must be a better word, T/N?) building that doesn't take it off the board if one can't find/use all the original materials. I see a problem where we don't allow or know how to use those parts of T/N building that can be possible for us. Partly because we don't speak up front about the concepts behind the T/N practices and partly because we don't identify modern equivalents to original materials. W/out those concepts available to us we can't see options on how to put a building together when a wholly T/N build isn't going to be possible.

Combining disparate technologies _is_ an area with no promises; I've warned about the practice over many years, here and elsewhere. However, I believe in some cases it's worth trying and should be. Those w/large knowledge and experience are the ones w/a plausible chance of getting this close to right. That's why I'm picking on Jay. <g>

> lasting legacy

Bingo. That sounds like a HUGE part of what we are searching for. And not necessarily in a building that stands there for 400 years. But sustainable architectural practice that will still be supporting it's people in a good environment in 400 years.


Rufus
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Hello Rufus,

Well...I will try and cover the highlights without being too redundant, and hope Bill does come back to this, yet understand he may not, as we have been around this circle a few times...

Being a teacher by nature, and typing pretty damned fast I can afford (and feel the need) to revisit a topic as often as another person feels engaged enough to still be thinking about it. You are, and I know a few others are following along as we digest this topic from a perspective of..."I don't know mind"....as they say in Zen....

I read...then re-read your:
2 acres in a subdivided farm, zone 5, and start thinking about a house to keep wife and kids happy...
to try and make sure I got my head all the way around it and didn't miss anything. The scenario made sense and tracked well for the most part...until I got to the more subjective views and conclusions...

Sounds like a barn to me and even if I'm a little intrigued, I'm dead meat if my wife decides there's a draft in her bedroom if I do this weird thing.


"Sounds like," and "what is" are two different things entirely...kind of like projecting the "hippy shit" concept when there isn't one. The perspective that the Doe family has maybe a real one...but it is just that...an "uninformed perspective." It isn't an actual or tangible characteristic...

So on condition that nephew stays the hell in Oregon I agree to talk to some more people about timber frame. But my wife knows barns have wind blowing through them and so far I heard the walls need to "breath" and tight sealing doesn't work w/this type construction - sounds bad.


Again..."wife knows..." Hmmm...unless your wife has built barns and understand the many forms of barns and other timber frames, the "wife" is speculating and projecting a bias. That is fine and I have had to deal with it many times (if I care to) but that isn't a reason or a reality of why not to do something...

The "Nephew" seems to have a positive outlook and would be someone to engage in assisting the process and understanding the different methods more thoroughly...These are the folks to try and engage...not the "nay sayers" and other that what to shoot an method down without ever really understanding it.

AND I don't have five years to study everything cuz we can't carry two mortgages forever.


Most of the methods I am thinking of should never take any longer than a "modern method" and some even a shorter amount of time, unless just throwing up some temp 2x and or buying a trailer house. With that said, time isn't as much an issue on many t/n builds as money...Time can actually be a beneficial thing to take, as many build without a mortgage or at least a large portion gets built before they need additional fiscal assistance.

So where do I find reliable compelling information about his type construction?


By doing the due diligence of just a little resonable study and asking just a modicome of simple questions of those that do the work, one can learn a great deal. If get to much resistance from a spouse of a client, I send them to the Timber Framers Guild, or some other dot orgs for a given t/n system of building, and as they read a few books, more will be understood...If they care not to make such an effort...then there isn't anything I can do, nor need to...I am too busy helping the folks that already have....

How is the "drafty" issue addressed?
What is this going to cost to heat?
Can I run A/C ducting so I stay married?
We need a basement, how does that fit in?
There's no way I'm not getting full concrete w/perimeter drains in this locale.
How much maintenance does this structure require each year?
Does _anybody_ locally do it?
What about low VOC.
Can I source pine flooring?
Wool in the walls - Bugs!
I'm divorced already!


If a build is drafty...something isn't built correctly...

It will cost no less to heat or cool than a modern build...

If someone needs to have a/c and the related...then put it in...That is simply a personal choice...Many natural building methods are naturally cool in the summer and naturally warm in the winter...It all depends on the quality of the build...

You..."WANT"...a basement...no one..."needs"...to have one...

Concrete and other building related choices are just that....choices. Each building site will offer its own challenges. Without specifics, its not worth discussing...

Every building requires maintenance...t/n usually has less over its life span than modern and the materials are can usually be "self made," and if bought are more pleasurable and health to work with...

If you are doing it yourself, it doesn't matter if someone local does it. If you are hiring someone to do the work, then only research will tell you if you can find them. I don't know of anywhere in the North America that a timber frame can't be gotten at a reasonable cost compared to equal quality of other modern buildings...and that is just timber framing. Where there are trees within 100 mile radius, you can have timber frames...if there aren't any, then there are other t/n forms that may be more applicable...Give me a specific location and I can offer a more specific answer....

As for flooring, wool insulation, and whether this all leads to a divorce...that is more specifics assistance than I could address at this time...


Jay, you don't need to sell to "regular people" like John. But if you do - and I gather you think trad/nat (I'm working the letters down <g> building is "best" all around - if that is going to be true for "John" he needs a little help w/the above scenario. Finding that help is hard.


I will just have to challenge that finding help is really always that hard...Usually it is only hard when we don't try to find it and ask for it. I will own that could just be my personal perspective in life...as I have never found it difficult to find either information or help...when I really needed it...

Finding that help w/specific trustworthy facts about his specific questions is harder. "Plain talk" is needed.


Now that sometimes may be true, yet often I find it to be more "laziness" in a student's personality than an actual absence of good information availability, or the students drive to get at the good information and vet whatever they find...

The skills needed and difficulty are not really an issue. It's the whole package that's an issue, at least for a customer in ordinary circumstances on a budget.


This is a subjective view and perspective...if it is held on to with great effort, as it would seem you care to, than it is without a doubt going to be the way it is...Again, this conversation is more about "choices" than anything else...
 
Rufus Laggren
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Hi Jay

> type fast [etc]

Well, still, I appreciate your continuing response. Maybe you were a labor negotiator in a past life? <g>

> choices... research... laziness

All you say, who can argue with that? Not me, really. The people who float (or thrash) to the top of your choices and info search will mostly have already "found the faith" - meaning, in part, that decisions, compromises, commitments and maybe new partners required to proceed in the most natural and traditional way have already been arranged. Else why did they pursue that info through uncharted paths and give up their basement rec-rooms? And perhaps in truth those are the people on which to concentrate ones limited time.


Regards

Rufus
 
Bill Bradbury
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Hi Rufus,

Check out this thread http://www.permies.com/t/44808/timber/Natural-Building-Asian-Timber-Framing and let's talk about the timeless way!
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Hi Rufus, et al.

It looks like this is finally wrapping up, unless other readers care to ask or add something. I will end with a few closing comments and remarks to put certain thing to rest, at least from my perspective as a 35 plus year veteran of the traditional and/or natural building trades...

".... will mostly have already "found the faith"...."


We can close this conversation with that left on the table...

I support anyone using any language the care to for themselves...that is fine, however, "faith," as I have already stated now several times...and explained....has nothing to do with this conversation. Faith is metaphysical construct of the mind, with no tangible orgin in the physical world...

I don't joint, carve, and create as an artisan with "metaphysical constructs," but rather earth, stone, timber, and textile...These are real, and if folks care to learn about them and employ them in their architecture, they can...it is a choice...not a faith...

If there are other questions/concerns about the different methods of natural building and how employ them on their next build there are a number of us here to help...

Regards,

j
 
Rufus Laggren
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Looks like we once again disagree or speak across issues.

..it is a choice...not a faith...


Faith precedes many choices, maybe most, maybe all, especially the ones that matter. Part of it includes a willingness to allow the possibility of positive change. That requires faith. Life, the next breath, embodies faith.

But, sufficient unto the day. Jay, thank you for all your time and thoughts.


Rufus
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Hmmmm....perhaps a degree of speaking across issues, of that I am not sure?

I personally don't use faith to often in making my choices...Perhaps never?...I tend to keep my faith within the context of the very important spiritual side of my life...and perhaps some aspects of the metaphysical and intangible around me that I tend contemplate...or those aspects of life that lack measurable context...

So not a disagreement at all, but more to the point of two very different people having different means for moving through life.

I would actually have to strongly agree with you...There is indeed many who do employ "faith" and "beliefs" to make the majority of their choices and decisions in life; while others tend to use research, observation, examination and logic to render these same choices...Two very real ways of being...I couldn't disagree with that if I tried...it is all around us...some use belief (faith) to make there choices, while others tend to use reason...
 
Rufus Laggren
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Jay

I think we use the word "faith" very differently. Huge topic, intricate and subtle concept - books have been written.

I'm not talking stuff like "stop thinking and just do what I (who has it direct from Above) say"; calling that faith is like saying Twinkies is real food. "Blind faith" relates to the real thing like Sunday School stories for 4 yr/'olds relate to the actual story as written (over many years in many languages); even the 4yr/olds aren't much impressed w/that thin pabulum. Faith isn't blind - an open/shut case of libel if ever.

> spiritual life...

Didn't the Hopis say explicitly that each and every part of life is spiritual when we see w/open eyes?

I'm shutting down the Chicago digs and closing out many loose ends here and so I may not be on top of it vv. the forums for a while; probably not until I stop moving and hopefully end up in SF again in July. I'll be about but the attention span will suffer.

Bill, I have been reading "Timeless Way..." Alexander was certainly inspired and I think he's right: The book needs to be read as a whole. His development would do credit to a Zen master. I will see what I pull out of it.

Best luck, Both, w/your seminar/workshop this summer.


Regards

Rufus
 
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I just read this thread and it really spoke to me because I've been having some discussions with Jay about T/N building after I posted about a passive solar conventionally "green" (i.e., airtight, superinsulated) home we are planning to build this summer.

Rufus really spoke to what is in my head, and how I'm feeling right now. While he and Jay went back and forth about semantics, I believe that for most people in American/Canadian society it is not so simple as whether the stuff actually works or is proven.

Perhaps some of you are familiar with Maslow's hierarchy of needs model, which essentially states that there are basic human needs - shelter, food, security - that must be met before people can devote their minds to "higher" needs such as personal growth and development. In other words, take a single mother living on the edge of poverty, fearful of an abusive ex-partner, and at risk of losing her home if she misses work a couple of days to care for her sick child because she won't be able to pay the rent. This woman has no "room in her mind" to contemplate higher needs such as a change in lifestyle (for example), such as becoming vegetarian (which involves doing the research, learning new recipes, learning new shopping habits, monitoring nutritional intake...at least until it becomes more established and automatic) because her mind and life are fully taken up by meeting her more basic needs.

In my experience, going "against the grain" or "outside the box" - i.e., doing things in a way that is significantly different from how the people around you do things or what they believe to be "common sense" - requires that bit of extra "room in one's head". And room in your life, for that matter. If your life is crazy busy and your schedule is packed, you likely don't have time to consider a deliberate move against the grain (e.g., selling your car and cycling everywhere, or challenging yourself to remove plastic from your life).

Now move on to the John Doe family that Rufus described. I'm facing a similar situation. My family desperately needs a new house and we have waited five years to build on our property while we've been living in a rapidly aging, tiny mobile home. The budget is tighter than we'd hoped but we can't wait any longer. We have strong feelings about what we "need" (which, as Jay pointed out, is really about what we "want"), but those wants have been honed over years of actively thinking about what we want most and what we can live without, and to start over again with re-assessing needs/wants takes time and "room in our minds" that we feel we've already spent. My husband doesn't want a "hobbit house" or "hippy palace" and he's unlikely to take my word over a professional builder's when it comes to, for example, the need for a vapour barrier. Especially when our life savings is at stake. To consider switching from a "conventional green" building (superinsulated, airtight, passive solar) to a T/N building requires us to essentially start at square one and re-learn everything we thought we knew about buildings (not because nobody else knows how to do it, but because if WE don't understand it enough to believe in it, we can't feel good about choosing that path nor can we be confident about the builder we choose).

I've made several "outside the box" choices before: when I became pregnant with my first child, I decided I needed to relearn everything I thought I knew about childrearing. I went way outside the box and ended up raising my kids the "traditional/natural" way, which was pretty much foreign to most people around me. That took time, energy, and "space in my mind" to get from "hey, this is interesting, I want to know more" to "we are going to do things completely different from what most people expect". Importantly, it took enough confidence to stand up against "professionals" who warned me that what I was doing was just plain WRONG.

I did the same thing with education: my children have been unschooled since birth. Very outside the box.

To do things like sleep with your baby or not send your kids to school requires that you have enough faith and confidence to proceed along a path that few around you have chosen. And you have to do enough research to be able to stand up to the "professionals" who will insist you have no clue what you are doing and predict dire consequences.

So...for me to go from "conventional green" to T/N would require me to do a whole bunch of research, gain enough confidence to fly in the face of "professional advice", find a like-minded community for support, and find local professionals who can help me achieve my new goals.

The difference between the kids and the house is this: if it turned out I wasn't happy with the way things were going with my kids, I could immediately switch things up. I could have sent them to school within a few days of deciding unschooling wasn't working. I could have run out and bought a crib or weaned my children early if I felt things weren't working out the way I wanted them to. But when it comes to building a house, mistakes are not only time-consuming, they could potentially bankrupt us. As a parent, I am solely responsible for executing the style of parenting or education I want, but I will not be involved in the construction of our house at all; I have zero skills in that area. So I'd be trusting someone else to execute my vision and that is really scary to me.

So while I am intrigued by T/N and I'm trying to learn some stuff from Jay so that I can bring some knowledge and good questions to the table when we meet with our builders, I have to say that I'm also feeling pretty intimidated and overwhelmed at the thought of starting over again and relearning what I thought I knew about green building.

Rufus is right about all the societal things that get in the way, the realities of living in a culture and a part of the world where such knowledge is rare and flies in the face of what we believe we know about things like vapour barriers and the insulative properties of natural materials. It doesn't even matter if we do it all wrong (like people making their babies sleep alone when they are designed to sleep next to another human) because when that is what "everybody does" we, as humans and social creatures, require a great deal of "mental energy" and "room in our minds" to go against the grain. We're wired to absorb and take for granted the cultural knowledge that surrounds us so that we aren't all re-inventing the wheel. This has many benefits, but it also means that when "common sense" makes no sense at all, it is difficult to get minds to change.

I applaud Jay for his tireless efforts to promote the message that T/N is a possibility and that anybody who truly wants to follow this path CAN do it, no room for excuses!. I applaud him for pointing out that so many of our needs are really just wants, that so many of our can'ts are really just won'ts. He is calling us all out on our bullshit and I respect that immensely. With that said, it may be possible to do T/N with no extra cost or time than a conventional build, but I believe that is only if one has already put the time and energy into educating themselves, forming the support network, and establishing confidence within oneself to proceed against the grain. That takes energy and space in the mind that many modern families simply don't have. I'm not sure I have much of it to spare myself these days, so I can totally relate to what Rufus wrote.

 
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Mariah, I'm pretty sure I don't have even have the capability to draw all those analogies to building homes you did, and I'm not totally sure I understand them....I've read bits and pieces of this thread. Lets see if I can post anything useful.

I will venture to say after looking at the "normal" way to design and build homes for years that it is easier to do since much of the trades are familiar with it since most homes are built that way. Makes sense. I will also venture to say that this pool of people for the most part do not understand the technology behind what they are building, especially when it comes to mating materials. Much of the design guides are handed to them by manufactures and they either do not read it or understand how to interpret it. You end up with a home that last 25 years at best with issues along the way.

The natural builder requires much more knowledge or it can result in the same...they are the manufacture, they perform the test, at the job site. If you are not well versed like Jay, you need to hire him or someone like him to consult you before you take on such a project. I have a mentor myself, and I am willing to pay for the right advice, and I understand this stuff for the most part.

Then there is the middle.....Natural building methods that take what your local trades already know but use better more healthy, more sustainable, materials and methods. AAC block, Durisol, Faswall, Mag board, natural paints....all make simple material substitutions to what the trades already know. AAC/Fas/Durisol is nothing more than stacking blocks or ICFs and pouring cement into them, one coat of plaster both sides. Mag board is a sub for sheathing and drywall that actually make it simpler and less costly by eliminating half the layers of the conventional wall....I recommend you hire George Swanson out of Austin, TX for this. I'm sure Jay has more but there are a few.

So if you go with the later you don't need alot of space in the mind, you pay for good advice now or later when your building falls apart or causes health issues, or, there is not as much risk if you were to take on one of the more die hard natural paths. Just getting to the point of knowing the difference can take alot of research...Some though like using a natural paint over acrylic latex is a no brainier. Start there baby steps, then more later, or teach your kids later...that is what I do, I am changing the way a mid-twenty's generation thinks...As a matter of fact I teach them again in the morning, we look at the mainstream building materials we use today in our business and methods, then I explain why the natural ones are better, then we develop a plan to incorporate them in our business and make our clients more educated to make informed decisions...A lot of this does not happen over night, changing the way we been thinking for generations. I guess in that respect it is like raising a child from doing wrong to doing better over time.

Anyway,

My .02

 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Hello All,

Because of some wonderful dialogue offline, some recent conversation and a current discussions on the post Bamboo Barrel Tile Roofs I had a bit of an epiphany about this very subject. The following observation have finally coalesced into something reasonably articulate....

This forum, and many of us on here, be it DIYer first timer-backyard experimenter, or experience natural builder, all seem to fall within a spectrum of understanding and/or application:

>>>

"Traditional Natural" (TN)

These architectural modalities are at minimum hundreds of years old and in most archetypes...thousands. Earth, stone, textile, or timber, these methods have an empirical understanding usually rooted in indigenous vernacular forms suited to specific regions or biome types. The actual methods of construction are either still known today by some "knowledge holders" or are documented and studied thoroughly enough to extrapolate over 95% of the original intent of the orgin creators. In these vernacular forms the means, methods and materials (MMM) are employed in a well understood context of application, as reflected by history for the elemental and structural proper use and implementation of a given design matrix.


"New Age Natural" (NAN)

These are the current "reinvented" or "experimental" concepts of what natural materials may be able to achieve, while they are usually augmented with elements of modernity. Most, if not all of these, are extrapolations or alternate applications for most if not all of the MMM found in TN building systems. With few exception, most can be found rooted in history of vernacular architecture and building systems. These contemporary methods are only in the "testing," or "I think it will work this way," stages of development, as are most reinterpretation, experiments, and reinventions of any pre-existing modality.

<<<

Another way of examining this is the difference between "permanent" and "transient" types of architectural opus in context to MMM. TN construction methods can be relied upon (within reason of proper application and maintenance) to last a very long time, while the NAN systems could be construed, or have clearly reflected being of a transient nature, and probably not best practice for dependable mainstream residency or reliability. As such, any time we take a TN method and reinterpret its orgin application/use we are facilitating a NAN method and risk the inherent pitfalls within.


Regards,

j
 
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