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what natural building methods make sense for Piedmont North Carolina?  RSS feed

 
Eric Brown
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I own a roughly 40 acre farm in the North Carolina Piedmont, and I have a nice, old (1930's) house, but I'm looking ahead to building another house for my wife and myself so that one of my children -- my oldest is 11 now -- can take over the farm, and I'm also interested in getting some building practice and building some additional farm buildings to use in the meantime. So my question is what natural building methods make sense for my location? When I eventually build a house, I'd like to minimize purchased and particularly industrial inputs, although I'm probably going to want electricity and running water.

I have 20 acres of woods, mostly about 20 years old, very few pines but plenty of yellow-poplars (Liriodendron tulipifera) and red oaks... I have a friend that has sawed lumber for me a couple times before on his sawmill. The are certainly rocks on the farm, but I'm skeptical of being able to scavenge the kind of quantities I'd need for a house foundation or anything like that. I've planted several species of bamboo, almost all in the Phyllostachys genus, in the last few years, and there's some bamboo in the neighborhood that I could harvest. I have an old pull-type combine, and I grow a very small acreage of grain, so I potentially have straw of my own I could use, in addition to what I could buy from neighbors. Those are the local, natural building resources that come to mind, besides the fairly clayey soil.

Winter heating is certainly a consideration, but I'd be more concerned about heat and humidity than I would be heating efficiency, in part because I don't have and don't plan to ever use air conditioning, and because my forest management practices provide more firewood than I'm likely going to burn anyway.

What natural building methods would you recommend in circumstances like mine? What traditional building methods have been used in similar climates? The only traditional "homemade" type houses I know of in the Southeast are log cabins, but I don't know if they're really very well suited to my region. I guess parts of China, Korea, and Japan have the most similar climate to the Southeast, but I don't really know anything about traditional Asian building methods.

Thanks in advance for any ideas/thoughts/recommendations...
 
Diana Parsons
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Howdy! I'm in Pittsboro, NC. We have a house built out of compressed earth block (CEB). The blocks were made with soil from Chatham county NC. The material has been very energy efficient and performed very well in the summer with minimal air conditioning (we did use a dehumidifier from time to time - I don't think it can be avoided in NC). We have radiant floor heat and don't have to use the heat pump. Stove could be another option for you. The people who supplied the blocks were Dig Southeast (www.digsoutheast.com). Earth friendly material. Structures can be made small or big. We have a more traditional home in appearance, as well as running water and power. CEB might be an option to consider.
 
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