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Random Thoughts on Hurricane Patricia and Alternative Housing  RSS feed

 
Ross Raven
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Random Thoughts on Hurricane Patricia and Alternative Homes.

We are getting hit with the remnants of Patricia here in Nova Scotia as we speak. Its not bad but still packing some impressive gusts. Im staying in today and writing...in my hoodie because its chilly and I hate putting on a fire during any big blow. If the house comes crashing down, Ild like to salvage as much as I can and that's not going to happen if the house turns into a wind fuelled fiery inferno. That's sort of what this post is about. Im humbled that this hurricane that started in the southern pacific still has the power to make me nervous even though it has crossed an entire continent and is still going. I often get philosophical during these big storms. It comes from worrying that the roof is going to stay on, that my solar panels might be ripped out of the ground and go airborne, That my rickety old barn might fall onto the house or crush my animals, that my greenhouse isn't about to turn into a shattered glass mess. Thus this post. Lets all talk about Alternative housing as adaption to the new normal, Climate Chaos with its Super Storms of the week. Heck! Lets throw alternative gardening into that mix since if this blow had happened a few months back, I wouldn't have had much of a harvest. If my surviving the winter depends on how much food I gathered, Superstorms and starvation go hand in hand. But lets not skimp on the storm proof housing. Exposure kills faster than starvation. Permies like their Hobbit Homes and Preppers like their Underground Bunkers...Though few people actually own one. I have a shipping container that is my fall back home. It will survive most storms. Wind, Fire, Snowpocalypse and Deluge. A tornado would still send it to Oz but whatcha gonna do.
I have no Green colored glasses on. Climate Chaos is real, cant be stopped at this point and will only get worse and worse. Our Big Oil, Financial and Media Evil Overlords will most likely win the game because they can throw so much money and mercenaries at any pesky opposition from the unwashed masses. And I just don't see those unwashed masses abandoning their happy motoring and Iphones any time soon.

Soooo.....The name of the game is adaption at this point. Keeping three days of food and water in a bug out bag seems to be acceptable now days and a nice placebo.
Talking about Superstorm resilient housing and gardens...Not so much...But hey, someone's got to start the conversation...and begin implementing it. Climate Chaos isn't going away and only ramping up.

So, On this stormy day, I call apon the gods of Permaculture and Prepping for your thoughts and grand plans. These are the parameters to work in. High winds. Flooding. Drought and Forest Fires. Even More Wind and Flooding. All that heated ocean and land water water has to go somewhere. And lets not forget Deep Freezes, Snow dumps and throw in unpredictable frosts. How could I possibly have forgotten Life threatening Heatwaves. Nothing tooooo difficult for our bright minds to take on. LOL
Denial and happy thoughts just aren't enough. Its adapt or die time
 
Ross Raven
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Here. Let me get this party started. Its not much, a work in progress, and it would need earth part way up to sort of suction it to the ground. Before anyone asks, you cannot bury one of these or it will crush inwards....but dirt filled tires may give enough support to bank against the sides. You would have to coat that part in roofing tar. Incase I didn't mention it, this is my backup home incase I lose the main house. In the mean time, its just dry storage...plus its rodent proof. If I was rich, I would want 4 more to arainge like a mini casltle with earth banked around it. The center would be wind protected garden space. It would protect the solar panels as well. Pluss a couple school busses as storm proof greenhouses

BTW. The price of shipping containers is dropping because of the commodities crash and less stuff is being shipped so companies are retiring the cans early. FYI. Ild rather have the shipping container and not need it than need it and not have one. It will never be a loss because its valuable farm infrastructure. Dry storage.
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Ross Raven
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I have found the deafening silence...interesting. Especially on such an "Interesting" subject.

I got a chuckle reading The Archdruid Report yesterday. It seems to apply.

" Ever since The Archdruid Report began publication, just short of a decade ago, I’ve been fielding emails and letters, by turns spluttering, coaxing, and patronizing, urging me to stop talking about peak oil, the limits to growth, and the ongoing decline and approaching fall of industrial society, and start talking instead about climate change, overpopulation, capitalism, or what have you. No few of these have come from people who call themselves environmentalists, and tolerably often they reference this or that environmental issue in trying to make their case.

The interesting thing about this ongoing stream of commentary is that I’ve actually discussed climate change, overpopulation, and capitalism at some length in these essays. When I point this out, I tend to get either a great deal of hemming and hawing, or the kind of sudden silence that lets you hear the surf from miles away. Clearly what I have to say about climate change, overpopulation, and capitalism isn’t what these readers are looking for, and just as clearly they’re not comfortable talking about the reasons why what I have to say isn’t what they’re looking for.

What interests me is that in the case of climate change, at least, there are aspects of that phenomenon that get the same response. If you ever want to reduce a room full of affluent liberal climate change activists to uncomfortable silence, for example, mention that the southern half of the state of Florida is going to turn into uninhabitable salt marsh in the next few decades no matter what anybody does. You can get the same response if you mention that the collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is so far advanced at this point that no human action can stop the drowning of every coastal city on the planet—and don’t you dare mention the extensive and growing body of research that shows that the collapse of major ice sheets doesn’t happen at a rate of a few inches of sea level rise per century, but includes sudden “marine transgressions” of many feet at a time instead."


I guess its just not part of the inner story line that people tell themselves about the future they wish to create for themselves.

The interesting thing about this particular storm...if interesting is the word, we got lucky. It lost its power quick. Our Storm rating system only goes up to Category 5. It was pointed out that this storm would be considered a Category 7. Two whole new categories would have to be created. This is the whole new world our children will be growing up in...so its a worthwhile discussion about building Permaculture systems to adapt to these sort of changes.

Oh, Here is an upgrade I did to the container. Im not sure it would survive that level of storm though
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Ross Raven
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I'll make one last attempt at this before I drop the subject. Here are some of my morning thoughts.

HIGH hugul mounds strategically place to act as wind breaks, both in the garden to protect vegies but also to break wind hitting the house. The same concept can work using raised beds. Big solid wind breaks. These or solid fences. or rock mounds. Divide your garden into several fenced mini gardens, divided by these wind breaks. Stay away from waterflow areas. It sounds weird but water features resembling a moat can act as a fire break. A combination moat for water saving and wind wall, microclimate planting bed from the dug out dirt. Clear any trees far away from your house. Don't live in the trees. Back to wind breaks, using recycled fridges and freezers as both raised bed (Hugul in the bottom) and wind wall. Aerodynamic houses that don't catch wind.

The next, nobody wants to hear. Strategic relocation. If you live by the ocean...move. If you live on a flood plain, Move! If you live near a waterflow, Move. If you live in New York, move. If you live in southern Florida, Move. If you live in California, Move. Etc. It will take years to re establish so best to do it years in advance. I may get slack for that comment. Its the hardest thing to hear because we are deeply invested in where we live...but this is the most obvious answer. You don't want to find yourself in the position of the Syrian Refugees. There will be climate change refugees. If an area is Unsustainable...Its not a greeny catchphrase...It means IT STOPS.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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hau, Ross, yes it is an interesting subject and I can understand most people not wanting to talk much about it. It is sorta like talking about being robbed or held at gun point I think, not many people are up to running those things through their minds.

I like the idea of earth berm walls and even earth covered housing. This style can survive 250 mph winds, holds the interior temperature stable and by using thick (3/8 to 1/2 inch) lexan for window glazing you can have your day light and be protected from flying objects too.
Lexan is what the canopy of my F-4 was made of, it is what all fighter jet canopies are made of, very durable stuff. By the way, most people know lexan as bullet proof glass.

While I like the idea of used cargo containers, in my area if you didn't use a thick waterproof membrane over the whole thing it would be leaking in just a couple of years.
Bury that cargo container that has been wrapped in the thick waterproof membrane and you have a bomb shelter type living space.

 
Neil Layton
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I enjoyed this thread. The thing is, I think you've covered most of the bases, whether windbreaks or firebreaks or moats. I love the idea of earth-sheltered housing, and it's heading for the top of my list of preferences simply because it is more climate-change resistant than the alternatives. I want to try to work out how you'd create optimum windbreak patterns across a site to slow the wind down whatever direction it happens to be coming from, and how this would relate to water management and fire protection.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Since it is straight line winds that do the most damage (if a tornado touches down near you, there is only time to hide. I say this because my town has taken hits three years apart) that is what I would try to be prepared for first.
Asnikiye Heca is on a ridge and we get straight line winds coming up the hill mostly, sometimes they come from the west but mostly from the south so we build with this in mind.
If I were on the plains, in a "permanent" structure, I would have a minimum of three layers deep of tree lines (conifer types) for wind breaks.
A single line of trees is normal, but if you have layers of trees in the way of the wind, they will break up the wind far more efficiently than a single line of trees.
If you built swaled, high berms, between these lines of trees, you would disrupt the wind even more because of the uneven terrain you created.
Fires create their own winds, by having structures that break up wind into lots of eddy patterns, you can stop the march of a fire or at least slow it down.
Swales combined with high berms are water collectors, rain falls on the berm, runs down and fills the swale before soaking into the soil for long term storage.
If you wanted to use these for water collection, just bury tanks so they lay under the swale and can filter and collect it for future use.

Add to these measures an earth sheltered home structure and you are as protected as possible with out living completely underground (old missile silos are perhaps the perfect survival structure, they were designed to withstand all weather disasters).
 
Stanley Peters
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Google earth bag construction
 
Mike Turner
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Look to western Ireland and its outer islands for ideas on how to garden in extremely windy locations. They built dry stone walls to enclose their garden plots and each plot was fairly small in area. The vegetable gardens looked like a patchwork of small square to rectangular plots surrounded by stone walls.
 
Jay Grace
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Monolithic dome

This is a video of chuck peters house in Mentone, al
Ive been over there a couple times and it's uber nice.



I'd put this type of construction up against anything short of an underground bunker.
 
Jay Angler
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Hi All,

Bryant made an extremely valid point when he commented that "not many people are up to running those things through their minds". I'm reading a very interesting book called, Enlightenment 2.0 by Joseph Heath which is looking at how the human brain works from the evolutionary point of view. We simply have not evolved to work co-cooperatively on a global scale regarding long term issues like Global Warming, so it takes energy, discipline and effort to engage the reasoning side of our brains to do just that. It may take effort, but humans have surprised the "popular belief" big business gurus in the past, and permie sort of people are just the outside the box type thinkers who will lead the way.

However, one of the other areas Mr. Heath discusses is how difficult it can be to see what the "real threat" is. We aren't naturally good at probability - and with any global statement like that, we need to consider that some are far better than others at such things. Thus, Governments seem happy to spend our tax money on "The Terrorist Threat", which is no where near the top 10 list of what is likely to kill us but is frightening and in the news, than on preventative medicine for cancer or heart disease. (http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/282929.php - for USA, http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-625-014001/article/11896-eng.htm - for Canada. Since death has a one-per-customer guarantee, there is another measure, "causes of lost years of life," ie what is likely to kill you before your time which has heart disease as the number one threat in North America.)

The housing industry is being run by big business so it's up to the few strong, far seeing individuals who see how Global Warming will interact with our current building standards and push for changes and exemptions. There isn't one solution that fits all ecosystems - houses on stilts are more appropriate where flooding is the greatest threat, whereas I expect earth-bermed would keep you better protected from wildfire. I'm not sure humans have invented a house that is bullet-proof from every natural disaster, but the solutions raised in this thread are all better than the status quo. The basic permaculture principles outlined in every design book on the subject show how slowing water movement, directing wind, breaking up straight lines with berms and different heights of vegetation, will help protect the land from "storms of the decade" and probably "storms of the century", but there will be a certain level of luck involved in protecting our homes from "storms of the new reality". Having back-up infrastructure and redundancy will make us more resilient, so over-engineering your garden shed and fully insulating it so if something happens to your house you still have a place to shelter from the storm has a certain appeal to me! Having several sheds designed with different threats in mind might be quite appropriate on a larger piece of land where the threats are very different. (We have times of the year where forest fires are a major threat but we also live in a known earthquake zone. )

If your circumstances are such that living in a city in housing that won't totally alienate your neighbors is where you are at, there are still things you can do that will help. Simple roof lines oriented to resist the likeliest peak wind, rather than the currently popular chopped up, eddy-creating monstrosities I see in every recent building development I've entered, will help protect your home from wildfire, extreme wind and extreme snowfall. I've known since the 70's that in areas prone to drought and wildfire, cedar shakes are a "bad idea" regardless of them being environmentally sound in the permaculture way. I've heard mixed reviews about green roofs - I've read concerns that dry vegetation is a fire risk, but never whether the house underneath that roof actually burned! It seems to me that a bunch of dirt and rocks on my roof are less likely to burn my house down than some of the alternatives, and if anyone has more information on fire safety and green roofs, I'd love some links. Buying a house that isn't at the bottom of a denuded slope (mudslide risk) or on a flood plain or delta (duh!) might seem simple, but without knowing something about the geological long term history of a place, may not be as obvious as we enter extreme weather event territory as we think.

This is not a simple topic with easy solutions, but more a work in progress as we explore more human-friendly building practices and forms that aren't going to be seen in the popular press - at least not very often, and not yet "mainstream". Keep up the good work!
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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When I was a child, I played in a log cabin that was built about 100 years before I was born. A few years ago I repaired an even older mud house, which was built out of the silt that underlays this whole area. Both structures were little more than huts. The mud house has been continuously occupied since it was built. Both dwellings served my people well after they were driven out of the usa, and had to make due in the desert. The log cabin rotted when our city installed a pressurized irrigation system.

I figure that like then, my safety doesn't come from a dwelling, it comes from my tribe: The people that share a common philosophical view of the world with me, and who are committed to each other regardless of whatever adversity comes along.

Practically, I store my seeds at my place, and at friend's homes, and in the barn, and in the house, and I mail to other states. If something happens to one stash, other stashes are likely to survive. Even though I just finished harvesting my fields for the year, not everything got harvested... There are still sunroots and garlic that could be dug any time.
 
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