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building codes in new brunswick canada

 
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Hello,

My wife and I are exploring our options for building our first home and we are very much intrigued by the earth bag building process. I am looking to talk with anyone who has built such a house in New Brunswick Canada about their experience regarding building codes and some of the building process. We are building in the Hammond River (Quispamsis) area and are wondering about the process for having this type of structure approved. Any help on this would be greatly appreciated!

Jeff
 
Posts: 236
Location: Seattle, WA
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It all depends... A quick google search tells me that Quispamsis has adopted the National Building Code of Canada. The pretty much means that any non-standard building is not going to get approved by your building permit without some additional work on your part. Basically, you will need to find an architect or structural engineer that will "stamp" your building plans. This essentially tells the building department that they guarantee that the building, according to the plans, will not fall down and create some sort of hazard. I would recommend searching for a local green architects or builders association and try calling around to some of the members and see if any of them have experience in designing earthbag buildings. You can also call your local building department and ask if they have any architects or engineers that they recommend for people wanting to build alternative homes.

From my quick search, it looks like there are a number of builders in Canada that do Rammed earth buildings, which lead me to believe that there is a good way to get those types of buildings approved. Also, you can always do a Post and Beam home and then use earthbag as an infill. The structure is approved due to the tried and true post and beam method and then they don't care what type of material you build your walls out of.

Good Luck!
 
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Hello Jeff,

Although I don't have knowledge to provide much help with your topic I wanted to reply in this thread to ask that you post your experience as it develops. My wife and I will be moving to Nova Scotia in the summer and I to am interested in earth bag building. I would love to hear how the process goes, share ideas or, if possible, help out.

The best advice I can give is that the local permit Office can either be your best friend or your worst enemy. Engage them from the start. If you have researched the topic and show both the knowledge and the drive/ability to finish the project they will (most likely) enjoy guiding you on your build. If you walk in with only vague ideas or, if they think you don't have the resources or ability to finish something, they will stop you there as no one wants the half completed walls of dreams littering the landscape. If they have concerns or simply say "no" then it is easier to compromise/plead with them than it would be if someone surprised you with a stop work or demolition order. The worst thing you can do to bureaucrats is to make them feel useless, dumb or that you are attempting to mislead or sidestep them. They may be useless and dumb but there is power behind that title...

Either way: good luck!
Cheers,
Gregory
 
Jeff Calder
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Hey guys, I appreciate the answers. After looking into the options we decided to switch our build from earth bag to rammed earth. We decided it would make more sense for js in several ways, and it seems to be a much more accepted style code wise. Thanks again for your thoughts gentlemen, and take care!

Jeff
 
pollinator
Posts: 8535
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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I live in Canada's most mild climate. Still, I would not consider earth bag construction, due to it's poor thermal performance.

 Straw bale construction and cordwood have been done successfully in eastern Canada. They are both suited to the climate and available resources.
 
Gregory Martin
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Well Jeff, still keep us posted. And if you need a hand.....

Dale, my wife and I plan on moving to Canada's mildest climate within the year,hopefully near Annapolis Royal. I agree that the thermal conductivity of earth bags had me concerned at the start. I actually began my deliberations thinking of a modified slipform stone masonry building but changed my mind when I stumbled across a sprayfoam video. They were insulating older buildings and had developed a nondestructive method where the foam was sprayed to the outside of the building and stucco was then applied shortly after. I believe this would stop the thermal conductivity disadvantage that earth bag has in cold climates while enhancing the thermal mass advantage it has.

Before anyone goes off on me please know that I understand sprayfoam is (somewhat) expensive... A small 15' diameter circle 1.5 stories high I estimate would cost 3k ish to do this to. I also realize it is not the most Eco minded material but I believe that, in balance, the structure would have a smaller carbon footprint than a conventional build, especially over its lifetime.

I would really like to hear what people think of this idea but would appreciate keeping it to advantages and disadvantages. If you simply want to focus on the evils of foam and tell me that it is a stupid idea than I invite you to look at the code of conduct for the forums which simply states: "Be nice"

Cheers,
Gregory
 
Jeff Calder
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Hi Gregory,

Thanks very much for the offer... We will definitely be looking for some folks interested in some "hands on learning" this summer. Annapolis Royal is a beautiful spot, we have camped there several times in my younger days. Where are you moving from? Thanks again Gregory!

Jeff
 
Gregory Martin
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Just let me know Jeff...

My wife and i had a garden center in a small town in southern Alberta. We have made it as far as Quebec so far and plan the final move to NS sometime early summer. Looking forward to it!

Gregory
 
Posts: 99
Location: Ontario
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Dale Hodgins wrote:I live in Canada's most mild climate. Still, I would not consider earth bag construction, due to it's poor thermal performance.

Straw bale construction and cordwood have been done successfully in eastern Canada. They are both suited to the climate and available resources.



I don't know if what you say is true. The insulation value of earth bags can be increased with Perlite, essentially creating air pockets inside the earthcrete mixture. I know people who live in yurts in southern Ontario year round, and have no issues. After all, an earth bag house is a giant thermal mass, which would provide radiant heat in conjunction with some type of radiant heater like a rocket mass heater or masonry heater. Think about it this way, you say earth bag domes are not insulated enough for Canada, yet Inuit have been living since forever in domes made from snow, or sod.

Earth bags in general are meant to be small and have a low impact on the environment. The easiest way to live in an earth bag house is to make an arrangement with someone you know that has land. Build the house on their property. Most building codes in Canada say you can have a outbuilding on your property of up to 107 sq ft. as long as it is not the primary structure on the property, and it does not have any utilities inside it. That being said, as long as no one complains, you would have no issue living in there. You would have to use the utilities in the primary building, and would not be able to hook up running water or plumbing for a toilet. Although collecting and storing rainwater, and buying water in recyclable jugs can sustain your water needs. You could rig up a makeshift shower and buy an on demand water heater, make sure you use biodegradable soap though.

As long as no neighbors complain you can technically build your outbuilding to whatever size you want to. I would make my main structure 107 sq ft. and build more domes surrounding it. This way you can demolish the other domes if neighbours get annoyed. If your neighbours are environmentally conscious like you, then you should not have anything to worry about.

Hereto I plan to buy a cheap primary building and land with good soil and some kind of water access (stream or pond) and build an earth bag home. I would use the primary building as a Bathhouse. I will hopefully not spend a lot on this property by buying a fixer upper.

The benefit to this is:

1. A mortgage may not be Required.

2. Home insurance not required.

3. Cheap property taxes.

4. Grow my own food, for the most part.

5. Cheap heating and cooling costs.


Hope this helps.





 
gardener
Posts: 2967
Location: Upstate NY, zone 5
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"an earth bag house is a giant thermal mass, which would provide radiant heat in conjunction with some type of radiant heater like a rocket mass heater or masonry heater."

An earthbag house is a giant thermal mass which if exposed to outside air will stabilize halfway between interior and exterior temperatures. It will constantly suck heat out of your space and make cold radiant surfaces to compete with warm surfaces of a mass heater. If it has a good insulation layer on the outside, it will be a good tempering mass and help make your space comfortable.

People who lived in sod dwellings likely had much more tolerance for cold than we do, and had effective means for dealing with it like tiny spaces with a bunch of people.

I understand yurts for cold weather would have layers of felt or other insulating materials, not one layer of canvas.
 
Steve Harvey
Posts: 99
Location: Ontario
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Steve Harvey:
"An earth bag house is a giant thermal mass, which would provide radiant heat in conjunction with some type of radiant heater like a rocket mass heater or masonry heater."


Glenn Herbert:
An earthbag house is a giant thermal mass which if exposed to outside air will stabilize halfway between interior and exterior temperatures. It will constantly suck heat out of your space and make cold radiant surfaces to compete with warm surfaces of a mass heater. If it has a good insulation layer on the outside, it will be a good tempering mass and help make your space comfortable.

People who lived in sod dwellings likely had much more tolerance for cold than we do, and had effective means for dealing with it like tiny spaces with a bunch of people.

I understand yurts for cold weather would have layers of felt or other insulating materials, not one layer of canvas.



If you want comfort and luxury, but want that earth ship look, there is always monolithic dome construction. They are very insulated and strong, and can be covered in earth. The discernible con of building this way is that the materials are not all natural, and may contain leaching chemicals and voc's.

check out this company regarding monolithic domes.
http://greatlakesdomecompany.com/

 
Posts: 479
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I am in favor of learning from history all we can. However, we need to realize that people generally went with what they saw as the best alternative.

Nowadays, we sometimes have better alternatives. Native americans and homesteaders often lived in homes the size of my bathroom, until a better alternative came along. We have overlooked or forgotten some really useful things, but lets not idealize the past. living in an eskimo sod house for the winter would be way better than being outside, but it would be cold, stinky and crowded.

My uncle once told me about growing up during the depression. "We didn't have much. Seemed like all we got to eat was milk gravy and bread. We lived in tar paper shacks and worked hard to get that. But were we happy? Hell No! That's why we got out of that situation as fast as we could."

Just think everything through. We've made some really stupid mistakes as a society, but there were reasons for them. Count the cost and the benefit.

Thoreau thought we were crazy to spend thirty years paying off a house, when the local natives built one in a month or so. It wasn't quite as good, maybe, and in ten years they would have to take another month and build another one, but how much life was spent on the two alternatives.
Earth bags sound like a whole lot of work to me. Pizza and beer might get a lot of work done, but the fifth party might have fewer people show up.
 
Mick Fisch
Posts: 479
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I apologize for raining on the parade. I must have been feeling extra weak/old. Earthbags are definitely a lot of work, but if you eat the elephant a bite at a time, not trying to take it down all in one setting, there's no reason even an old guy couldn't eventually build an earthbag house. Any kind of construction is a lot of work. I admire your energy.
 
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