• Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

Hobbit House - integrating rooted tree trunks in construction?

 
Boris Forkel
Posts: 19
Location: Heidelberg, South Germany
1
chicken forest garden hugelkultur
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Dear permies,
after beeing a quiet reader for some time, i finally managed to register for the best permaculture forum in the world.
I'll try to keep it short: i own a small (~1700m²) property at a hillside just above the City of Heidelberg, Germany. It used to be a meadow with scattered fruit trees and some winegrapes.
Now the fruit trees are old and not providing any yield any more, so i decided to cut them and turn em into Hügelkultur beds. I wanna turn the whole property into a Hügel-Pond landscape, also providing habitat for endangered species such as Europan tree frog.
I also want to build a small Hobbit House/partly earth integrated building. Since i have all these trees, i thought i could possibly integrate some trunks into the structure as grouding element.
I made a little sketch and hope that people will understand it.
Do You guys think this is a good idea, or will the trunks/roots rot very fast? With my design, the soil where the trees are rooted should get very dry and stay that way.
Looking forward to Your comments. Please tell me relentessly if my design ist bullshit.

Thanks a lot,
Boris
DSCI1127.JPG
[Thumbnail for DSCI1127.JPG]
 
Chelle Lewis
Posts: 424
Location: Hartbeespoort, South Africa
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
This site will really interest you .... http://boingboing.net/2011/09/30/diy-hobbit-houses-in-wales.html
 
Chelle Lewis
Posts: 424
Location: Hartbeespoort, South Africa
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Here is Simon Dale's personal site describing everything .... http://www.beingsomewhere.net/
 
Boris Forkel
Posts: 19
Location: Heidelberg, South Germany
1
chicken forest garden hugelkultur
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Dear Chelle,
thank you for the links, i know Simon Dale and admire him for his beautiful buildings. I've studied his technique a lot, what he did will pretty much inspire my project also on the technical level. But this didn't really answer my question, if i'ts possible to integrate fresh cut tree trunks as kind of foundation.
I kind of leaning towards the conclusion,that this is no good idea... They will provide some very stable structure in the beginning, but they will rot some day eventually. My question is actually, how long they will last, if integrated in the building structure this way. But i'm afraid, there can be only assumtions. If they last for 50 years, thats fine with me, but only 10-15 Years would't be worth the effort.
Any more comments on this?


 
Jay C. White Cloud
Posts: 2413
46
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Boris,

First...welcome...

I am still "learning" the cultures of "enternet forum" communication myself...and have learned more from the "Stewards" of Permies.com about this than any other place on the "web." As such, it is sometime difficult for me to ascertain between someone "sharing" a concept...and...when they actually want advice and feedback on what they plan to do...So please don't take anything I say as a "distraction" or "negative" about your concept...

I may also offer, that many of my other posting may be of interest to you, as many describe methods of building that may be of application for this project...

I also want to build a small Hobbit House/partly earth integrated building. Since i have all these trees, i thought i could possibly integrate some trunks into the structure as grounding element.


Yes, trees from the building site can and should be employed for the construction of a house.

Most "Hobbit Houses" are in general more "fancy and fallacy" than practicality or enduring in nature. Even the "referenced structure" is more "romantic" than practical or enduring...Dale's structure is beginning to be challenged in several areas (as related to me from visitors)...and I would not recommend following these design formats...accept...in the general concept of traditional building...Many are excellent, but without prior knowledge of methods, and a good understanding of traditional building principles and/or experience...executing them in a "good way" can often lead to a structure with only a transient lifespan at best...

I made a little sketch and hope that people will understand it...Do You guys think this is a good idea, or will the trunks/roots rot very fast?


Yes...the trees with rapidly decay in this application, but if only needing a structure to last a short time, then it wouldn't matter...
 
Boris Forkel
Posts: 19
Location: Heidelberg, South Germany
1
chicken forest garden hugelkultur
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Jay,
thank you for the fast reply! Concerning your difficulties, i posted this cause i want and accept (also negative) feedback And you sir have a very sentient and polite way of providing that. I kind of had that thought myself, that these Hobbit Houses are often more stilish and beautiful than functional and enduring. No wonder, since this style of building is derived more from movies which show a human fantasy of natural living, rather than real examples from human history or present. But still, they're so beautiful and romantic... I totally get why so many people want them.
I also have a Tepee on my property, but in my experience this style of housing is not very well suited for cold and humid continental climate (and steep slopes).
I noticed that you're quite an expert in the art of native building techniques. I started reading more of your postings. Is there any particular thread or posting which you think could be helpful to me?
I want about 25m², built from materials on site (red sandstone and wood, clay/cob, & i have access to copious amounts of raw sheep whool). I don't like all the plastic foil in the Hobbit-house/wofati-style building, but right know can't think of any better way... Still it's pretty little industrial product used compared to modern standard building styles.
I hope you don't mind me asking, but does your name point in some way to native american ancestry?
Thanks & all the best,
Boris
 
Jay C. White Cloud
Posts: 2413
46
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Boris,

Deep thanks for being so gracious with considering my feedback...It is most welcomed...

I am glad you brought up the "tepee" as a "metaphoric comparison." Like the "hobbit house"...Tepee living is often overly "romanticized." Now many are "reinventing them" to try and...."make them work." Nevertheless, when we take a "vernacular style" and bastardize it or try to "reinvent it" all to often in simply ends in failure of "misrepresentation" of..."what actually was." I love tepees and other "native architecture." I have actually lived in and was "raised" around and in many of these from Pueblo to Tepee, and in "traditional context" and design, with fabrication and implementation by "knowledgeable builders" they can be both charming and functional...

This brings us full circle back to the "Hobbit House" concept. Much of the design and principles are based on actual vernacular systems...If one was (or is) totally familiar with these different related systems, then facilitating a "Hobbit House" becomes not only probable in practicality, but achievable...It still wouldn't make it...necessarily...the best choice for a given biome type or building site. Boiled down, I could build something almost identical to a "Hobbit House." that would both be functional and natural in condition. However, it would be expensive in bot fiscal as well as, physical asset...If a client so desired still such a structure as an "artistic" and "personal expression" then I would support their desires...I too find them charming but have grown frugal in my old age and with that comes practicality about "site assets" and approach. Given the correct "building site" and material/tool resources (I am trying to stay positive about this concept) it is possible to build a "hobbit house,"...if...this is really an important need of expression and desire...

As for "recommended reading"...I would say just wonder through my "started threads" and then develop questions and concepts to your own goal sets as you find them germane to your intended needs and wants. I would be glad to expand on any point you find of further interest and once you have "site locations" that you think you may wish to build...We can discuss more you "tool assets," concept goals, fiscal/physical abilities to achieve them. With the correct skill sets (or patients to learn them) the range of "designs" broadens greatly...

I want about 25m², built from materials on site (red sandstone and wood, clay/cob, & i have access to copious amounts of raw sheep wool).


That is a pretty big structure and will eat a great deal of "site resources" to achieve such a size with most vernacular modalities...Sheeps wool has been...again...overly romanticized...as an insulative materials and I have only one (very expensive) source for the material that is currently being manufactured in Europe...Wool by itself is not a good material to subject to interstitial zones of buildings...as it will only attract issues...

Earth, stone and wood are all viable building materials for a traditional (aka natural) building...It will take much work and/or money to achieve such, especially in that size range...In most design parameters...

I don't like all the plastic foil in the Hobbit-house/wofati-style building, but right know can't think of any better way... Still it's pretty little industrial product used compared to modern standard building styles.


The plastic is the primary issue with most "hobbit houses" as it is a mater of...if...the will fail...but...when they will. As such, these plastics serve such a vital roll in the success of the building working that when the start to become compromised there is little hope of repairing them or remodeling...

In what I would call the "traditional formats" of what would look like a "hobbit house" you are relying on "advanced skills" (e.g. timber framing, stone masonry, and cobb work) to make the structure "weather proof" (aka draft proof) but still "permeable" (aka breathable.) Plastics...here also...fail!!....as they are neither breathable or actually healthy materials to really depend on in most applications...I have seen many "well done" earth based structures (aka fossorial architecture) that rely on these plastics, and I am afraid none will last more than perhaps 1.5 generations before complete failure occurs. As maintenance and repair is often very invasive procedures to perform...In many applications and designs...this short life span before repare/alteration isn't an issue and the structure provides the builder with the goals they desire...Like some of the Wofati designs I have seen and are profiled here on Permies. These are wonderful "living and learning" experiments. I would not consider them viable or proven systems for permanent structures...compared to more vernacular systems.

I hope you don't mind me asking, but does your name point in some way to native american ancestry?


Yes...on my mother's side I am Comanche/Kiowa/African American and Scott and on my father's side Roma and far Eastern European from the Carpathian Mountain region...

I was raised in my mothers Native traditions of living and also exposed to strong traditional Taoist and Shinto beliefs at an early age culturally...Which explains my affinity to Asia...

Regards,

j
 
Chelle Lewis
Posts: 424
Location: Hartbeespoort, South Africa
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I am interested in building a modification of the traditional Celtic style roundhouse down by my riverfront. Romantic, yes, and proven practical.

I would only use seasoned wood for the reasons you described, but am interested in integrating living trees as the tree-house master in the States does for his tree-houses, but of course laying the floor at a much lower level because I want to integrate with the sharp incline of the hillside too. I will dig into this as needed. I may in time use extended platforms as bridges through the trees to enjoy the view of the river up close in places with spacious platforms within the trees.

Mine is a different scenario because I have to protect the house from the seasonal river flooding so using a tree-house type platform in front is important as it overlaps with the 50 year flood zone.

I have plenty of rocks on the property and am always using these as the basis of my building projects so will do that for the walls of the house beyond the platform. I will use slit shaped windows for light all around one section. Strong and raid proof. (Monkeys, baboons and other two-legged opportunists.) The front will not complete the circle but be cut across straight to meet up with the attached platform along the flood-line. I plan to roof with thatch - effective and long-lasting when correctly done. The house will be warmed with a rocket mass heater.

http://naturalhomes.org/celtic-roundhouse.htm Here is an interesting site but mine will not be cut so low... more a typical South African bungalow shape with higher walls before meeting with the thatch.
 
Scott Strough
Posts: 299
Location: Oklahoma
21
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
If you want a living structure, try something more like this:



 
Jay C. White Cloud
Posts: 2413
46
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Scott,

Wonderful video that has been shared here on Permies a few times...thanks again for another view of it...I just love it!

I have been in that region and would note that I have (as have acquaintances) planted "strangler fig" or "Banyon" to support small "tree house" type structures. In regions like Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and most of the Caribbean, Central and South America this is a very possible augmentation to the building of a natural homes "outbuildings," and related architecture. There are some now that are over 800 mm in diameter that have been planted in my (et al) short life.

>>>

Hello Chelle,

Thanks for sharing the links you did before, as the are creatively beautiful, though a bit challenged in fiscal design as Boris and I have discussed...

I am interested in building a modification of the traditional Celtic style roundhouse down by my riverfront. Romantic, yes, and proven practical.


I would encourage you to start a post thread outlining your planned project, so folks could follow along on your progress and what you may learn about this most wonderful vernacular system of "Celtic Roundhouses." I agree, in many aspects they can be practical, yet again I would encourage anyone to look past "the romantic" and really learn the system well before attempting it out of context application (or in modern application and need) from its original design formats...Like the tepee...unless they are actually "lived in" by an occupant, it is hard to fully appreciate the style of living they offer. I would also suggest, being in Africa, that following a version indigenous to this region would be perhaps more applicable...Africa has a rich timber framing and earth building culture that technically (anthropologically) is the oldest in the world...I will try to expand and address certain points about these per your "plan approach," as it is now...

I would only use seasoned wood for the reasons you described, but am interested in integrating living trees as the tree-house master in the States does for his tree-houses, but of course laying the floor at a much lower level because I want to integrate with the sharp incline of the hillside too.


I would offer that "seasoned wood" is not how these or other timber framed structures are built nor is it "time practical" to even attempt in most applications as some of these timber can take over 100 years to fully "season" and some even longer..."Green woodworking" methods are very much part of this system and how it is performed when done within the parameters of "good practice."

On the aspect of treehouses...I have designed and built numerous tree base structures from challenge courses with huge 6m by 5m platforms 12 m into the canopy of trees and more over the decades and performed a considerable amount of "assessment work" for clients (as an Arborist) before they attempted their own DIY tree house... I would encourage "living trees" in a structures design but only after fully understanding the challenges to this practice and its both transient and fraught issues it can have on "permanent architecture." It is not something I recommend for DIY project and "permanent structures" in most applications but wonderful for garden gazebos and perhaps small guest houses or separate "bathhouses."

I do believe "Banyan Trees" are found in your region...aren't they?? I know you have a number of applicable Ficus species that would serve well your concepts for "platforms" and perhaps other structures...

I have plenty of rocks on the property and am always using these as the basis of my building projects so will do that for the walls of the house beyond the platform. I will use slit shaped windows for light all around one section. Strong and raid proof. (Monkeys, baboons and other two-legged opportunists.) The front will not complete the circle but be cut across straight to meet up with the attached platform along the flood-line. I plan to roof with thatch - effective and long-lasting when correctly done. The house will be warmed with a rocket mass heater.


Flooding areas are a real challenge for many forms of architecture, so I presume the desire for the "Celtic Round house" is for "higher ground?" I love the idea of a thatch roof and there are numerous reed and grasses in your region that have been used for millenia for such applications to good effect. Perhaps more labor intensive and not as long lasting as a metal or stone roof...but much more "grow your own roof," in ability and format. I look forward to this projects own post thread and seeing blueprints and CAD models of it (if any)...When do you plan on building this project? It sounds very interesting and in a wonderful location...

Regards,

j
 
Chelle Lewis
Posts: 424
Location: Hartbeespoort, South Africa
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Scott, thank you for that video. Wow. I had never seen it before and we do have the strangler fig here in South Africa apparently. I will definitely follow through on this and see where it can take me.

Hi Jay C. Thanks for the input. Banyan trees seem to be a form of Strangler fig that needs a warmer climate than we have here up on the Highveld. This river project has to follow after my Chicken Mandala system I have started. Time and resources dictate. But I can share when I start it.

Hi Boris, With regard to the discussion of using rooted tree trunks in construction I have considered the fast growing hardwood tree Paulownia. Planting deliberately in terms of how needed to integrate into the planned building. I am not sure if you can grow this tree where you are. Certain varieties are said to mature between 7 and 10 years. I managed to access some seeds off the internet. Winter here still though so this is for the coming spring.

I notice that some natural builders use rubber instead of plastic to waterproof.
 
Alder Burns
pollinator
Posts: 1331
Location: northern California
42
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
In the Southeast of the US, it was once common to build cabins and houses on stumps. Stone or brick piers would be used where a stump was not conveniently located. Some of these buildings are still standing after a century or more. The key is to be in or find a location with rot-resistant trees (cedar, cypress, and black locust come to mind). The stumps must be large, since it is the heartwood that endures the longest.
 
Jay C. White Cloud
Posts: 2413
46
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Chelle,

As reflected in your opening to Scott...you do have several species of Ficus that live in South Africa, and of what I know/understand of the "Highveld," especially near a river, I do believe they would grow nicely and not be out of context at all. Yet perhaps there is another species that could be employed that is more indigenous to that specific biome type and climate? I can say that Paulownia is not one I would recommend. It is a very "soft-fragile" species of "hardwood" that the Japanese prize for saw handles, musical instruments, and other "light weight" wood applications. It is know to be susceptible to insect attack, especially outside its native range being much loved by termite species...It is very much like "Balsa wood" in its softness and carving characteristics as well as other applications where a lightweight wood type is needed.

As for employing "stumpage" in some locations, this is a practice, but even among rot resistant species it is very prone to ground moisture issues and termites, so I would not recommend it generally accept as only a means of last resort, or for "transient" and less significant architectural forms in my experience...

...This river project has to follow after my Chicken Mandala system I have started. Time and resources dictate. But I can share when I start it....


The only thing I could find of note on the "chicken Mandala system" was here yet could not see this as having a strong bearing on "architecture format" other than following those of being a "natural building," and/or following one those of the indigenous vernaculars applicable to the region...I do look forward to more information as it is planned for your project...

 
Chelle Lewis
Posts: 424
Location: Hartbeespoort, South Africa
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Jay.

Off topic but I wanted to give the courtesy of a quick reply. I hadn't seen that link to a chicken mandala before. I see it is in South Africa too which interests me. They definitely don't have antelope, jackal, porcupine, monkey, baboon or leopard to contend with where they are situated to be able to build like that and harvest. If I built like that I would lose everything very quickly. I am in the bush and not peri-urban. My basic sleeping unit for the chickens is built with rock ... still building ... and each part of the mandala permanently situated and to be used in rotation for kitchen and livestock provision and then followed up with chicken forage and clean-up... using chicken tunnels to get the chooks where I want them that particular day. I have hawks and eagles always on the lookout from above too so each side and top of the system will have to be effectively caged for that too. I have watched an eagle tear into much stronger fencing than theirs to get at the chickens. Pretty safe where they are living it seems. Definite advantages .... but then I love wild bush so much .... and there is something intrinsically irreplaceable in choosing to live here.

About the Paulownia. I wasn't aware that it was so unsuitable. People seem to be really excited about its potential. I have obtained seeds and want to try. Perhaps not suitable for use as stumps though.

We do have several ficus here in SA but could not find the one you suggested. It seems to need a warmer climate than where I am situated.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/cards
  • Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic