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Is using Aircrete Considered to be "natural building"?  RSS feed

 
Dustin Mattison
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I plan to build an aircrete dome house like those shown at http://www.domegaia.com/gallery.html

AirCrete is a lightweight non-toxic masonry material that is easy and inexpensive to make yourself. It is waterproof and insulative!


In the past I built an earthbag hut 3.5 meters in diameter. It took me 4 years and still isn't done. I work on the weekends. After discovering Aircrete I changed my values a little bit. While using concrete isn't as ecological as using dirt and clay, it will save me a lot of time. Instead of spending my time mixing plaster for covering bags, I can quickly build a dome and then do a nice job at using earth plaster on the inside and floor. This would be a compromise.

I live in an earthquake area in China, but my location usually just has some mild tremors. Even if there is an earthquake that damages the aircrete dome, I think it will be pretty safe since it is lightweight material and also won't cost much to fix.

What do you think? If I build a dome with Aircrete is it considered "natural building"?

Dustin
Sichuan Province, China
 
Devin Lavign
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I would not call aircrete natural building since concrete and the soap are processed and manufactured materials. But then I also have mild issue with earth bag construction being called natural building since the bags and barbed wire aren't all that natural either. I see earthbag as utilizing both modern and natural techinques in a mix of the best of both.

I think aircreete and earthbag construction is cool stuff, but I would not include either in natural building.
 
Christopher Steen
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1. I'm not too interested in how rigid someone else's semantics are when they are evaluating and judging the appropriateness of a method. Building science and quality construction is too great and complex a subject to belittle it with poor language. (Not that it matters, but it is possible to create a natural aircrete..)
2. Aircrete is not waterproof. The magnesium stuff, the Portland stuff, unless you mix with premium foam and heavy admixture contents, then you are getting somewhere water resistant. But acrylic/latex admixtures won't aireate enough, too much silicate flashes very quick... And that tropical dome on YouTube is painted with latex. Sounds like a timebomb for mold ...
3. Structural aircrete isn't that insulative. Insulative aircrete isn't that structural.
4. I'd say that quality aircrete should be considered much more advanced of a skillset than other common masonries. But it can be practiced and learned.
5. Get a quality foam surfactant. http://www.alliedfoamtech.com/Appconc.htm
I have not come across another that competes
6. Get/make a better machine than the green dragon.
7. I like combining EB, RE, FC with aircrete, so don't think I'm hating. Just being realistic with my experiences.
8. Roofing over the top may be more appropriate for an Earthen plaster, since they are molecularly at odds, exasperated by moisture and temperature changes. Climate ultimately decides appropriate practice.

I like combining domes, EB, RE, RC, FC, brick, painted steel, wood, etc with aircrete, so don't think I'm hating. Just being honest with my experiences.

You gonna form and pour? Make molds and cast block? It's all a compromise
 
Travis Johnson
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I feel the same way as Christopher.

Myself, I have a gravel pit, a cement mixer, and lumber to make forms, so while many might blast me for it, the truth is 90% of anything I make with concrete comes from my own farm, and that has a lot of reward and should be respected. The more a person can do themselves, honestly the more they should, and the more respect I have for them.

We made a type of concrete that you may or may not be interested in that is a lot like Aircrete, and that is Sawdustcrete. It has similar properties and was developed by the University of Maine years and years ago. My Grandfather used it on the farm here when he took a 1800 something barn, and turned it into a 5 floor broiler house housing 50,000 birds. He felt that the floors needed to be of concrete for scraping, BUT that concrete would be too heavy on the structure. Honestly I think he was incorrect as concrete, spread in 1-1/2 inch thick layers is only 13 pounds per cubic foot...nothing! Anyway, he found out about Sawdustcrete which is just cement mixed with sawdust to get insulating, lightweight, and strong compressive strength cement-like properties.

I read about Aircrete and it seemed difficult to produce on-farm, but I am not an expert and may be wrong. I wonder if Sawdustcrete might work better or equally for Permicultural Living. I know cement is not considered "green", but I would think Sawdustcrete would be more so then Aircrete, but again I am wondering, not making a definitive answer.
 
Devin Lavign
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Considering the other responses I wish to clarify my comment. I in no way am judging using aircrete or other building methods that might be considered "not natural"

While I think it is important to make the distinction between natural building methods and not natural for accuracy, I also don't see an issue in using what ever works and is best for an application desired. As I mentioned with earthbags, I have a mild issue with folks calling it natural as to me it is really a hybrid method. That isn't a judgement of it's quality or effectiveness. Just a wish of more accuracy in labeling.

While I want to do as much natural building for my home as I can, I accept I will likely have to make compromises on that, as well as some things it is just a lot more preferable to use manufactured stuff that is not considered "natural" since there have been some great advances in technology that can make these things much better options than a natural one. I actually came across aircrete awhile back and immediately thought the stuff was wonderful. Even called my mom to tell her about it and say if I end up doing concrete work I will be considering aircrete first before more tradition concrete.

So while I might not consider aircrete natural, I still think it is amazing and useful.
 
Christopher Steen
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Devin,
I agree with both of your posts here. I just wanted to address a couple of the OP's points as are often erroneously touted due to that YouTube video, while not getting hung up on the label question.
 
Devin Lavign
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Christopher Steen wrote:Devin,
I agree with both of your posts here. I just wanted to address a couple of the OP's points as are often erroneously touted due to that YouTube video, while not getting hung up on the label question.


Fair enough. Your post just made me realize that for some the term "natural" automatically means better or good and to say something isn't natural is putting it down as not good. I just figured I would clarify that for me at least natural or not, it doesn't matter as long as it is applicable for the application and a quality choice. I worry less about the term natural and more about what I am trying to do and figure out what I can do to fit that. I love timber frame construction for example, but it is not due to it possibly being considered natural (due to being hewn logs and pegs) but because it can actually be stronger and more permanent of a building technique than many modern methods.
 
R Scott
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I think aircrete is a great way to stretch an energy intensive non natural building material as far as possible. 

Compared to foam (blue, pink, or spray) I think it is probably a little less embodied energy and way less toxic. 

It also has interesting applications for retrofitting insulation in or around existing buildings.
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