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Berming a Quonset for earthship use  RSS feed

 
Sean Renoylds
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Just thought I'd throw around an idea
Anybody have the thought of berming a steel Quonset structure?

It could easily be reinforced if needed for berming
It's already in a perfect "tube" shape for An earthship styled structure.

The other side not bermed could be cut , Inforced, and framed for angled windows.....this could save ALOT OF TIME AND MAN POWER.

Tell me I'm crazy and how it won't work, but I don't see how it couldn't with some basic retro fitting.

Interior is easily cobbed and laid out anyway you want!
 
Sean Renoylds
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For reference ?
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Roberto pokachinni
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Two issues?  Maybe?

Weight on the quonset and drainage. 

I'm not sure what the strength of a quonset is for bearing a load, like a back filled berm past the more vertical part of the curve.  They are strong.  Just not sure about that kind of strength.  It seems like a possibility, but I'd hate to hear of it failing on ya.

What you could do, is do a berm in six inch gradients, compacting it with an excavator like you are building a dam, which will be your Poleward earth-bank wall in place of tires.  Plant some concrete sono tube posts at the edge of it to the height of the berm, and put a beam across the posts.  Assemble your Quonset on that beam, and continue to back fill upwards on the Quonset until you just get past vertical.  Cob up your earth bank wall and sono tubes, and plaster it with a membrane.

Figuring out a way to seal the berm edge of the Quonset  with some kind of waterproof membrane so that when water runs off the quonset, it goes past the berm, so that the berm dries out and continues to stay dry... is probably going to be the hardest part of the job.  That might be tricky. 

Maybe you could have the quonset set into concrete with a waterproof membrane and a drainage trough?   Not sure. 
 
Sean Renoylds
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Good ideas

There's def a possibility of it working tho.  I know the steel Quonsets are very strong and you could probably work with. Company regarding the idea.

It's something to explore possibly as I know the pounding tire thing is getting Kind of hold, since now you can can just use earth tubes.  Reference YouTube "jake vs the earthship". He's doing a great job with his!
 
john suri
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I did look into this as well as cargo containers before building my house.  I decided against because these structures were engineered for a specific purpose and not to be cut into but for me most importantly was the fact that metal structures are great thermal Bridges -therefore if energy efficiency is a concern you need to do s really good job insulating around the entire structure to conserve energy. 
 
Jeff Watt
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I just got finished building a workshop with this style building. Mines a modified Quonset hut and more like a gambrel roof shape then a full arch. The full arch are strongest. But there are specifications available from the manufacturer which state roof loads as well as side loads because they expect snow to slide down and pile on the sides pressing in. Generally speaking the wider the building the lower the rating. You can get these from 20 feet to 100 feet wide.  When I was ordering my building the salesmen told me the side load is actually the rating they are more concerned with as the buildings shed snow quite well so it usually does not pile up very much on the roof however it piles deeply up the walls. I found this to be quite true this winter. A call to the manufacturer should let you know the answer to whether it can stand up to the load. I'm not sure I'd tell them you intended purpose though as I am sure they will have hesitations about that. For one thing the metal coating isn't rated for direct burial. Another concern is cutting into the far side for windows and doors. Each cut reduces overall strength.

As a side note this thing did not just throw together I found that it took longer then I believe it would have to build a conventional stick built building of similar size and there were also lots of small things to figure out with this type of construction that I didn't think about beforehand such as how do I run and hang my electrical outlets sheet metal walls...
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Mark Clipsham
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Field formed SIP using 2# structure foam. Arched forms need to be loaded evenly to work as an arch (do your research on how much you can do without problems  - check gauge of steel/load rating) - don't forget about freeze thaw issues - freezing water is an incredibly powerful force  - they used it to mine stone back in the day. Surface mount conduit as in a commercial structure. Be careful - research twice, berm once. Condensation will be an issue if you do not use foam or completely sealed batts.
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T Phillips
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Location: Colorado Springs, CO zone 5A / Canon City, CO zone 5B
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This is not bermed, but it is a quonset, so I thought I'd throw it in here: http://dreamgreenhomes.com/plans/carriagehouse.htm

The covering is 5" of papercrete. You could also use bags of perlite (much lighter than the scoria Kelly used) with a stucco or papercrete exterior with reasonable results.

I contemplated your idea for years. That's how we ended up with Kelly's plans, but life interfered and we've never built it. My concerns if bermed were: keeping moisture away from the metal shell, the ability of the shell to bear the forces present in berming (I do not think the shell is adequate without significant reinforcement. but I am not an engineer), and keeping the insulation in place while berming.

Good luck, and let us know if you go forward with the project.
 
Mark Clipsham
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It's not the moisture so much as what's in the fill - what comes in contact with the metal - anything far off from neutral will cause problems eventually, especially base/alkaline soils. Culvert pipes are in contact with the soil for many, many decades. While I technically don't need it i put a rubberized asphaltic coating on my bins below grade and if the soil has sizable rocks I might add 1" of rigid insulation - belt and suspenders means no problems for at least a hundred years. I use the insulation (R-7/in) as structure. Arches/Quonset huts are very strong if loaded evenly - you'll know it wasn't when it fails. Take a lot of time to figure this out - it is resolvable - haste makes waste and probably corpses in this case. You can come up with a lot of "greener" solutions (they are not green if the project fails) but in the end the structure foam is the ideal material in the big, long-term picture (gosh knows I've looked at alternatives) - high R value - adds structure, completely resistant to moisture, insects rodents etc. It is very conducive to decommissioning (or repurposing) - the foam burns clean in a blast furnace. Do it that way and it is something you will never have to worry about again - or your offspring for that matter.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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It's not the moisture so much as what's in the fill - what comes in contact with the metal
  I'm not sure if this is referring to my thoughts on drainage.  The PH of the aggregate or soils does indeed have an impact on the oxidization and subsequent deterioration of metal.  That is a good point, and needs to be considered.

To perhaps clarify my point made earlier
Unless the structure is covered with foam as in the link posted by T Phillips, or something that makes the structure more of a uniform straight edge (which allows putting out a sealing membrane to be much easier), then you end up with half of the roof's water coming directly down against the back edge of the building, or you have to seal this crenelated edge  (HOW??) to send that water away from the area.  A wet berm is no friend to the berm house builder.  Dry and light, so that the soil is providing both insulation and thermal mass, is what the berm should best be, or it greatly loses much of it's potential.  On top of this, wet dirt is much heavier, thus compounding the other issues. 
 
Doug Kalmer
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Steel quonset structures or ‘culvert homes’ are usually not rated for underground residential use. From what I’ve heard, most quonset hut manufacturers will not sell to anyone who intends to bury the structure. Covering a building with earth adds enormous weight on the structure and manufacturers don’t want any liability issues in case of collapse. This is unfortunate because quonset structures are well suited for underground homes, rootcellars and storm shelters. For one, they’re quick and easy to build. The main step involved is bolting the arched sections together with cordless drills.
If you’re interested in building something like this, I suggest finding the strongest quonset you can find and then consult with an engineer on the loads it can carry. There’s a good chance additional reinforcement will be recommended. Offhand, I can think of four general ways of reinforcing quonset structures for underground use.
http://www.naturalbuildingblog.com/earth-sheltered-reinforced-quonset-buildings/
 
Hans Quistorff
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It seems to me if you are building in the traditional earth ship configuration you could use a quonset for each room. put in the water tanks then an earth bag wall to fill the back arch and the wood and glass doors and windows for the front of the arch with the greenhouse front on the row of quonsets. Then the metal water collecting roof over the fill. The fill between and over the quonset would act as a heat sink for temperature sing.  In a cold climate the fill between the quonsets cold be warmed by venting the greenhouse through earth tubes in the fill. The underside of the metal roof could be insulated to protect the heat sink.
I believe the comments about the commitment to keep at the fastening the parts together. Going hose to house I see several of them 1/4 or 1/2 finished and the res of the parts sitting there for years.
If one is using tiers time and labor can be saved by cutting around one sidewall, putting a piece of plastic in the tire turn the cut side wall over and drop it in to hod it in place and it is easy to fill and tamp. probably easier than filling bags. The exposed cut lip in the triangle between tires would also hold the cob covering in place.
 
Sean Renoylds
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After a lot of research I'm agreeing about structural integrity once you cut into it.

It would be great to design one for folks who want to berm.

Basically a shell with the fronr already window framed and built for back berming, that would save an incredible amount of time.

But I'm still leaning towards what jake is doing with the earth tubes.  Basically an earthship with earth tubes, no tires.  And it looks fantastic!!

 
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The $50 and Up Underground House Book by Mike Oehler - digital download
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