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Help Wanted – Earthship/Passive Solar Home Build in Montana  RSS feed

 
Michael Skowronski
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As of today, we are at the planning stages of designing our Earthship/Passive Solar Home in Montana, just 4 miles from the tiny town of Paradise.

PLANNING STAGE: We are not yet set on the design we will choose. We do not yet have financing for this project, we don’t see that is a problem, yet we are also looking to creative ways to reduce costs and finance this operation.

ASK OF YOU: Help us create a home that will require very little maintenance and provide as much free natural/solar energy as possible. Help us save on costs, time, money and avoid failures.

INCENTIVE/OFFER TO ONE or MORE PEOPLE: There will be SOME paid positions on this project. We also hope to have some volunteers on hand at key points in the build with the view that they will gain valuable experience while we gain by getting free or low cost labor…(we’ll feed and shelter volunteers during the work project). ALSO we are good people who honor true friendships…I like to think the benefits of such are priceless yet very real.
 
Michael Skowronski
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Preliminary Project Details

If you visit this webpage you can see a rough design of the Earthship we like…”The Pheonix” custom Earthship. Scroll down just a little to see the image. If you are not familiar with Earthships do explore their site and videos.

http://earthship.com/a-look-at-the-models-of-earthships

HOWEVER, at this point in the process, we are still open-minded about the end design. Please, constrain your comments and design ideas to passive solar/earth sheltered/low external energy inputs needed designs.

We would like this home to have 3 Bedrooms, 2 Bathrooms, a Great Room which we consider to be a combined kitchen/dining room/living room and garden area, and perhaps a den/office if affordable.

We also want an attached 1 long bed king cab truck + 1 minivan garage + workspace but this space is not expected to have the full passive solar warmed/cooled. A rocket mass heater will do for this space.

The greenhouse gardens of a typical Earthship is a MUST!

The rest of the design is open to the possibilities and design innovations.

Another site which has some great ideas and pictures:
http://www.touchtheearthranch.com/
 
Michael Skowronski
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Keeping the INITIAL COSTS DOWN

Consider a design that allows for building in two stages… a beginning stage that would be completed within a few months, just a shell that supports all the basics that are all plugged in AND ready wired/plumbed up for the interior space to be finished at a slower pace as it becomes affordable. Camping out inside of it is possible and comfortable. Based on preliminary investigations I expect such costs to be in the range of $40k-80k, this is within my immediate price range.

Here is what I have in mind, for example:
Basic necessities are in place. This means the protective and nurturing shell of the building is fully in place.

*** The building is complete to the point that it gives full protection from the external and natural elements. Both hot and cold like in Taos’ Earthships.

*** Finishing touches are NOT in place.

*** Camping inside of the building would be possible for extended periods of time in an environment that ranged between 50 to 80 Fahrenheit even on the extremes of 20 below zero to 100 degrees.

*** Most likely the cement or paved floor is in place, but perhaps not?

*** There is one extendable ventilation system in place to take away cooking gasses where the stove is expected to be.

*** There is a second ventilation system in place to take away toxic wood burning fumes. The path and materials used should support the ultimate goal of using those wood burning exhaust gasses to heat the mass of the building.

*** At least one water input has a tap on it built for regular and varied usage. All other water inputs should be plumbed to the point of expected usage, capped off, and ready to be implemented as time and resources become available. Well water is flowing.

*** At least one exit basin exists for grey and one for black water. The additional plumbing for all anticipated exit points should be in place.

*** All these should be put in place where an initial floor plan indicates kitchens and bathroom plumbing features should be.

*** Waste water should be plumbed to feed the indoor gardens as the Earthships do, and plumbed to be diverted into a typical type of septic system. The minimal typical septic should be provided from the start, but plumbed with a view to ultimately grow food in the grey water and further clarify the black water before release into the wild…like the Phoenix Earthship does.

*** Full and complete insulation from the extremes of heat and cold as the Taos Earthships are; wind, rain and snow protections are in place.

The building becomes a home…
*** 1 Bathroom is completed.

*** Kitchen is completed.

*** 1 bedroom is completed.

*** Etc. as time and money allow.
 
Michael Skowronski
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Thermal Mass – Pounding Tires, Pouring Tires, or Tire Bales

Pounding tires does NOT sound like a lot of fun to me. It is however cheap in terms of material and has a low environmental impact. If we can get enough volunteers or cheap labor to do it this way, then we will pound tires with rocks and dirt just like Mike Reynolds does.

However, I think using cement and rocks might prove to be a cheaper way to do this work and less labor intensive. The north and side walls of this Earthship could be built using support forms, cement, rocks and rebar…OR it could be built using tires filled with rocks and filled in with cement…the latter is the way I am more inclined to go unless someone can help me see that is somehow a bad idea.

One difference I see in this project compared to the typical Earthship is that I’ll want to build pipes into either the walls or floor or both to carry the hot gasses from a rocket mass heater. There are 6 – 8 weeks of the year with little or no sun shining on the build site due to cloud cover and a mountain to the south of the site that blocks the winter sun, and these weeks are during the coldest part of the year. So it seems like we will need supplemental heat.

I am also considering tire bale walls. However, the road to the property is gravel and not very wide. I am not sure if a truck big enough to deliver the bales can make it up the road. And then there is the unknown cost of shipping the bales there. But the bales do end up being both thermal mass and insulation which is a good thing.
 
Michael Skowronski
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Well Water vs. A Rainwater Cistern

We do not have a well on the property yet, however our neighbor was able to drill his well only 100 feet deep and get a 13 gallon per minute flow. If we are so lucky the well should cost us about $4k to drill.

We expect the well water to be better than rainwater catchment in a cistern due to the natural filtering done by the earth and the addition of minerals which make the water healthier and tastier to drink. Also rainwater contains other pollutants like barium and aluminum from Chemtrails as well as nuclear waste from problematic power plants that our lamestream media fail to tell us about (like Hanford and Fukishima).

So we are considering leaving the cistern out of the design of our Earthship, replacing it with a well. I’d like to understand any thoughts or concerns with this option from people who have experience with either a cistern or well.

Also will this save us costs, or cost us more?
 
Michael Skowronski
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The Property and Its Resources

The property has a lot of rocks on it, enough to build a house out of stone if necessary. I am however concerned about the strength of a stone wall once it is buried on one side (Earthships are semi buried) and the force of land movement and gravity on it. So any usage of stone walls needs some form of reinforcement which is why encasing them in tires and cement seem like a great way to go.

There are also a lot of trees on the property. None of them are huge, but there are certainly enough big trees that can be used for roof support beams and other things beams would be used for.

The property is 40 acres with a small year round creek running through it. The creek is at the lowest elevation of the property, on the right hand side of the road that passes through the northern portion of the property.

The build site is just left of the road at about 4000’ elevation. In the image below you can see the build site as a red rectangular box inside of the larger rectangle which is the approximate property boundary.

Here are some pictures of the site. In there is a clip from a google map that has red lines drawn to show the property. This is a view from the west looking eastward. Thus North is to the left and South is to the right. The actual build side is a solid red rectangle.
http://1drv.ms/22I6Bj3

We do plan on some form of food forest and permaculture gardening on the land…but plans for this are further down the road after we have our Earthship home built and an internal greenhouse producing food.
ViewOfPropertyFromWestToEast.jpg
[Thumbnail for ViewOfPropertyFromWestToEast.jpg]
 
Jerome Garcia
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Very interested. I have my attempt of earth bag home in New Mexico on Facebook under Our earthbag home and property. I had to lose my dream because special needs new born,funds, and my ex wife didn't want part in it anymore. I regret it everyday getting rid of my home. I'm very much looking to relocate from south Carolina which I can't stand, I recently lost a job and need somewhere my skills and knowledge is beneficial. Please feel free to contact me email s76jeromegarcia@yahoo.com
 
Michael Skowronski
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Thanks Jerome,

You will definitely want to find another job soon. The soonest we could possibly start physical work on this project would be spring of 2016. But any input on the unknowns I mentioned in my earlier posts would be greatly appreciated.
 
Christopher Steen
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My advice: if you want to hit that ambitious schedule and save some years and vertebrae and statistically your marriage, then take a fraction of your volunteer food bills / labor costs and:
Get your laborers on site settled in, cued up and organizing rows of tire sizes, extra of each size. Keep a list as you haul them home.
Early Monday morning Rent a backhoe. Tow it with your mega cab. That is if you can't find a neighboring old rancher with one for cheap.
Scrape your pad. Mound conveniently.
Tuesday send someone to pick up rented tow behind diesel compressor and pneumatic tamper. The rest of crew Squares up and lay out a row while you Dig and drop septic. They start tamping while you dig your own well water line below frost and waste / leech lines while they figure out their routine and how to get the upper sidewalls packed correctly.
Wednesday: front end loader scoops buckets from that rock hard mountain of fill that just got piled up, drives it over to the tire wall, effortlessly filling tires no matter what height it stands at -- one runs the pneumatic tamper, the others check level and square, scoops up the loose dirt that fell to the base of the wall, tops off tires, haul tires to the wall, some sledging for good measure, rotate breaks, make beer runs, cook feasts. Seems efficient. Don't underestimate the importance of morale on backbreaking volunteers/laborers.
Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
Next Monday call the rental place and tell them you need one more day. Cover exposed inspected trenches, grade the berm, and return that yellow godsend before 5.
I want to see a YouTube video of this. Time lapse of 7 sunrises and Completed tire walls on your 6 "U" monster. Show the world that it doesn't take years or a 2 month nonstop Reynolds crew of 60 crazy beasts. I'd go to that. Somebody do this.
Since half your posts relates to initial costs and efficiency, and if you entertained this mechanized tire wall construction idea enough to get quotes, I think that it'd be awesome if you posted costs for a week rental vs an old neighboring rancher running his tractor or backhoe per day or a week vs a professional excavator's bid on scraping you a flat pad and cutting/mounding/building a driveway with and without septic/leech/sewage lines and water line below frost cut and backfilled. I don't know if you have septic codes or are doing a septic system.
Personally, pouring into tires sounds horrible. Vibrating and upper sidewall compaction? Why not pour a flat wall if you were gonna pour instead of lumpy tire wall? Or slipping stone walls. How's your soil? RE Tractor cob possible? A well built stone wall of comparable thickness to a tire wall is more monolithic with much higher compressive and shear strengths. I don't see how proper stone work is less retaining worthy than tires. Although slip forming stone is also slow, its beautiful and doesn't need plaster, so that is offset. Another thing to consider is that the back (north side) of the "U" can be rounded just like in the typed letter, more than a three tire turn. This is a stronger shape that'll lend itself to less beefy forms of wall construction in retaining those big earthship berms.
Or if you wanna haul/pound by hand, then how do you feel about hybrid with bale exterior walls and mass internal walls, no berm or thermal wrap?
If I were to tire bale exterior walls I'd quickly flatten it out before I plastered. I could see where a shooting the gaps and then a quick pass with SPF could be rationalized, but I'd probably just shoot on rosin paper and stucco netting inside. Otherwise it looks like a heck of lot of plaster work for a lumpy result. Tire bale is mechanized, so mechanized pounded tires ain't that far a stretch from this system. They seem cool, but in my area I have found them to be very expensive: per square foot of wall, locally tire bales are 30 times the cost (without delivery or a machine to stack them) than high quality strawbales delivered on site. That's initial cost.
Balance initial costs with the value of your time and stress. How long do you want to live with volunteers? How long do you want to camp out in a construction war zone?
Well vs rainwater harvesting is your call. I don't know your goals, wants, needs, environment, creek, fire danger, domestic situation, roof construction, or how your budget will turn out, etc. But $4K for a well is something that I would be excited about.
I favor EB, FC, SB, and somehow stumbled over into this subforum so interpret FWIW.
 
Michael Skowronski
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!!!Thanks!!! Christopher Steen for taking so much time to provide a detailed response. It will take me some time to digest it all and imagine how that will work, and I'll probably have some questions later.
 
Erin Phillips
Posts: 7
Location: Lander, Wyoming
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Michael, My wife and I are building an Earthship in Wyoming. We are on year three, and may have much insight. Feel free to reach out to us. Just click on our name and send us an email. We would be happy to help!

Kyle and Erin
 
Michael Skowronski
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I have costing from a company in Spokane, WA L&S Tire Company that will deliver 26 Tire Bales to the property at a cost of $700. To me this seems like a reasonable price and puts this option at the top of our list.

However, there is another option (DefenCell) that could be cheaper in terms of upfront costs and delivery. The labor required to form these into walls could end up costing more but I don't yet have those details...IF YOU KNOW/HAVE EXPERIENCE with this form of building PLEASE COMMENT...

AT THIS POINT these two option seem to be our best options. If you can help with any real world experience and advice that would be wonderful.
 
Michael Skowronski
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Architect Wanted

One of the first requirements we'll have for this project is an Architect.

At this point our plan is to post an add to of a couple of the various freelance sites that solicit help from all over the world including countries that Americans might have trouble competing with...sorry, but the realities of life are that we must get as much done as possible, as cheaply as possible, while still maintaining quality. I feel I know enough to detect quality vs. a BS design. But my skills in CAD are too limited to do this myself in the timeframe we need this done in.

For those who are more like me, talent without a college degree to back it (perhaps you even live in Amerika)...I am open...I am willing to consider any qualified person who can deliver project blueprints via AutoCad or Gogle's SketchUp at an affordable price...as long as a construction foreman can follow the plans I'll be happy.

HECK YOU COULD EVEN START TODAY...with no knowledge of CAD, but just using Google's Sketch Up and follow the various designs you can find on the internet...You would gain enough experience on this project to start a career...we are open to such a person because I have enough of an engineering background to raise red flags when I see them. So don't hesitate to apply if you think you are up to the challenge. Keeping costs low is a priority for us...quality is an equal or higher priority...so you had better have confidence in your ability to comprehend the engineering concepts by reading various websites, and consulting the required experts as needed.
 
Yes, my master! Here is the tiny ad you asked for:
Video of all the PDC and ATC (~177 hours) - HD instant view
https://permies.com/wiki/65386/paul-wheaton/digital-market/Video-PDC-ATC-hours-HD
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