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I am considering building a monolithic dome and I though some people here may be interested. Basicly, it is a 3" thick concrete dome with rebar stablization, build on a huge inflatable form. Mine is going to use an OSB form, but the idea still stands. Monolithic domes are not the most eco friendly, mine will require about 100 yds of concrete and several thousand feet of rebar, however if all goes well it should still be standing in 1000 years. I am planning on earth-sheltering the whole thing, and they lend themselfs quite nicely to rocket stove heating. Mine is going to be built by first "framing" it out of rebar, welding all the joints, and then layering mesh around the rebar ferro-cement style. Then I will wire OSB boards around the inside and apply the concrete from the outside with a shovel and a trowel. Power will be via a wind mill on the roof (normally a terrible idea unless you want your house shaken to peices, but should eb OK with a cement dome) and waste water, if I ever even install drains, will be processed via mycofiltration or mulch pit. The roof will be a "living" roof, in that it will be covered with cholla, mormon tea, and sage brush, but I dont think it will be getting any irrigation or purposefull planting. The purpose of the building will be a place for a shop and storage, but the floor plan will be completely empty, so I am sure it will serve many purposes durring its life.



 
Craig Conway
Posts: 79
Location: Maine, USA
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Rock on, those domes are nearly indestructible

Here is a news report about a lady who's neighborhood burned but her dome home was unscathed :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=prdpHYelN9o

Here is an introduction to monolithic domes :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2yJfcnIFYqg

They are super cool
 
R Hasting
Posts: 183
Location: Mineola, Texas
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This is my first choice of home to build. I have built (actually, paid someone else to build) two stick homes so far, and I currently live in a house that is inefficient, drafty, noisy, hot in the summer, cold in the winter and subject to the tree next door falling on it.

A Monolithic Dome is Fireproof, tornado proof, earthquake proof, bullet proof, and hurricane proof.
They will use about 1/3 the energy for climate control.
They will last for centuries.
Will never need a new roof. It doesn't really have one.

Downside is that it is about the cost of a similar sized custom home to build, mostly because it is a custom home.

You pay a little more upfront over a stick house, but they are the best long term housing available at any price, IMHO.

I like this one myself http://www.monolithic.com/stories/feature-home-stout-residence-arizona
and this one. http://www.monolithic.com/stories/feature-home-doah
 
                                                                    
Posts: 114
Location: Nashville, Tennessee, USA
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I have been studying this for over a year and it is also my first choice for building technology.

I know the urethane spray foam insulation sounds very evil but it really is amazing stuff.  A freezer can be made with a 4" layer.

What are you planning to do for insulation?

How are you planning on having natural lighting.

So glad to see your post.


 
R Hasting
Posts: 183
Location: Mineola, Texas
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Campy in Nashville, Tennessee, USA wrote:
I know the urethane spray foam insulation sounds very evil but it really is amazing stuff.  A freezer can be made with a 4" layer.


It is more environmental than a stick built home that uses more energy to heat and cool and has to be rebuilt every fifty years.


What are you planning to do for insulation?


I am planning to over build it with 4" of foam instead of 3 I also plan on using an extra inch of concrete for more mass inside the insulation envelope. I will be insulating along the outside of the foundation.
I plan on using "Earth tubes" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ground-coupled_heat_exchanger for temperature control. Will probably use a rocket mass heater as well.


How are you planning on having natural lighting.


Considering using 6" glass block (or fiber optics) built into the outside walls every few feet for natural light, in addition to the windows.
 
Shawn Bell
Posts: 156
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I like this dome story...

http://www.monolithic.com/stories/monolithic-dome-home-survives-missouri-tornado

“When that thunder sound started, I told them that there was a funnel near by,” Romain said. "But everyone just kept saying that it was only thunder — until my granddaughter, who was watching out my bedroom window, yelled, ’There’s a funnel in the yard. It’s here.’

“Apparently, it (the tornado) then slid up on top of my dome and hovered above it for what seemed a very long time,” Romain continued. “We had lost our electricity, so we all just sat around in my dark living room, speculating, and then it went away.”

Would love to build one...
 
Abe Connally
Posts: 1502
Location: Chihuahua Desert
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earthbag domes have all the advantages that monolithic domes have, but come at 1/10 the cost and a lots less environmental cost.

If you make it out of ferrocement (rebar+mesh), you can cut that concrete in 1/2, and still maintain strength.

If you're doing it yourself, I'd go for earthbag.  I've done a lot of concrete work, both with domes and arches, etc, and it is really not for the beginner.  A lot can go wrong in a dome pour.

Will never need a new roof. It doesn't really have one.

Actually, the whole house is the roof, and yes, concrete can crack over time, especially if foundation settles/expands.
 
Craig Conway
Posts: 79
Location: Maine, USA
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It's funny I was just thinking that today, Earthbag homes are like junior Monolithic Domes LOL

I am on a $10K budget so it's either Earthbag or mobile home LOL (or barn home or bus home)

Have fun!
Craig
 
                                                                    
Posts: 114
Location: Nashville, Tennessee, USA
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Cost is a big issue with the monolithic dome.
To save money one could use a welded rebar frame as suggested above.
Over this one could put lath and spray on cement.

This tool looks interesting.

http://www.mortarsprayer.com/

One could build two such domes, on inside the other,  with about a one foot gap in between.
This gap could be filled with insulation like Cedar sawdust.
The domes could be joined together but this would cause a thermal bridge and defeat the purpose of the insulation.


This was interesting from a cost savings point of view:
 
Abe Connally
Posts: 1502
Location: Chihuahua Desert
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2 ferrocement domes cost double what 1 FC dome costs...

but seriously, why do you need an interior concrete dome?  It doesn't add structurally to the outside dome, so just get rid of it.  It is a very expensive interior facade.
 
                                                                    
Posts: 114
Location: Nashville, Tennessee, USA
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We need a place to contain a lot of  insulation.
 
R Hasting
Posts: 183
Location: Mineola, Texas
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What you would typically want is the insulation on the outside of the concrete so that the concrete can act as a thermal mass, reducing your need for climate control.
If you place a concrete dome on top of that, it is an expensive coating of paint.
There is a chain of thought at monolithic to do exactly that and place a 2 inch concrete cap over the dome's airform. It is called chainshell, since they build it with chain link fencing.

An Earth Berm house, although easier and cheaper to build, does not have the same level of energy efficiency, IMHO, and you can do more with concrete than you can with sand bags.

That said, I like cheap, cheap is good. But my next house I want best over cheap. I also have to deal with Spouse Approval Factor, or SAF for short. I can just imagine the conversation, "A dirt house? Are you nuts? Chickens are one thing, but a dirt house? I will not be the only person in my family line to live in dirt since the stone age!"

You get my drift.. Concrete is hard enough, no pun intended.
 
Abe Connally
Posts: 1502
Location: Chihuahua Desert
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well, it's your $, but there is no outward difference between earthbag and concrete.  You cover the earthbag in stucco. But, if you want to pay 10X the money for the same thing, that's ok!

An Earth Berm house, although easier and cheaper to build, does not have the same level of energy efficiency, IMHO, and you can do more with concrete than you can with sand bags.

There is absolutely no comparison in the level of energy efficiency in earth bermed or buried homes and exposed homes.  Bermed homes have the advantage of a lot of thermal mass on the outside of their insulation, requiring less insulation and better thermal performance, hence less energy required.  This has been well documented.

Any surface that is exposed to winds/elements will not perform as well thermally as one that is buried. That's a fact.

And as far as doing more with concrete than earth bags, I'm not sure what you mean by that.  Folks have made all shapes/sizes/configurations from both.  That is left to your imagination, not the material.

"A dirt house? Are you nuts? Chickens are one thing, but a dirt house? I will not be the only person in my family line to live in dirt since the stone age!"
Explain that it costs less money, performs better, is easier on the environment, and that the vast majority of buildings worldwide are earthen homes.  You won't see the dirt when you live in it, just like you don't see polyurethane or fiberglass in traditional homes.

I have used both extensively.  I know which one is easier and cheaper.  I know how they both perform.  I live in a house that has sections that are not buried, sections that are buried, sections made from concrete, sections from earthbags.  I know how it performs, that is why I made that recommendation.

"A dirt house? Are you nuts? Chickens are one thing, but a dirt house? I will not be the only person in my family line to live in dirt since the stone age!"

If that's true, go for earthen building. It wins hands down.

Again, it is your $, but I have never understood the need to pay 10X more for inferior product....

 
Saybian Morgan
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Posts: 582
Location: Lower Mainland British Columbia Canada Zone 8a/ Manchester Jamaica
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The earthbag issue keep's itching as a monolithic dome devotee, do you guy's have any comparative argument for the ecoshell? the insulationless version of a MD. They are way cheaper and resusable, that's really where my One two punch comes in for the naysayers. But I guess I'm kinda looking for an argument against them to defend so I know there's no looking back in regret when i build.
 
Abe Connally
Posts: 1502
Location: Chihuahua Desert
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wow, expensive.  $10,000 for less than 300 square feet. Yikes.

Earthen domes are far cheaper, at $10 or less a square foot...
 
                                                                    
Posts: 114
Location: Nashville, Tennessee, USA
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By welding the rebar one can forgo the balloon.

The means of insulation takes some thinking.


A proposed method:
1) Weld rebar in the shape of a hemisphere
2) Place lath on inside of hemisphere.
3) Spray masonry on inside with this tool. www.mortarsprayer.com
4) Spray Urethane insulation on outside.  Using a DIY kit.  It would be nice to have a less expensive option here, maybe papercrete?
5) Put lath on outside of Hemisphere.  Some use chain link fence here.
6) Put skin out outside of masonry.

 
Abe Connally
Posts: 1502
Location: Chihuahua Desert
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Campy in Nashville, Tennessee, USA wrote:
A proposed method:
1) Weld rebar in the shape of a hemisphere
2) Place lath on inside of hemisphere.
3) Spray masonry on inside with this tool. www.mortarsprayer.com
4) Spray Urethane insulation on outside.  Using a DIY kit.  It would be nice to have a less expensive option here, maybe papercrete?
5) Put lath on outside of Hemisphere.  Some use chain link fence here.
6) Put skin out outside of masonry.


so, basically, you get 2 concrete domes for double the price!

You don't need to weld the rebar, you can just tied it.  It works fine like that.
 
                                                                    
Posts: 114
Location: Nashville, Tennessee, USA
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Cement is needed on the inside as a thermal battery to stabilize the internal climate.  Perhaps other options would work well too like plaster?

Cement is needed on the outside to waterproof and to enable water catchment.
We would not want a material that could leach chemicals into water that surrounds the dwelling.  This water could also be used for drinking in an off grid applications.

Yes, tying the re-bar may be strong enough to do the job.  It would certainly be easier.
 
Abe Connally
Posts: 1502
Location: Chihuahua Desert
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tying the rebar works, I've seen it done many times.

Cement is needed on the outside to waterproof and to enable water catchment.
We would not want a material that could leach chemicals into water that surrounds the dwelling.  This water could also be used for drinking in an off grid applications.

You realize that concrete leaches things into water, right?  And most folks would want to paint it, so that would negate the concrete.  There are lots of materials tat do well for rain catchment.

You could have a concrete floor and internal walls for thermal mass, you don't need a thermal mass ceiling, it just adds cost.

So, instead, make the thin shell concrete dome, spray foam insulation inside, then plaster it.  But man, that is getting expensive....

Earthbag domes are similar, but only require stucco on the outside, thermal mass is in the bags.  Plaster the inside, and you have a house for less than $10/sf. 

How much does that double dome cost?  $50/sf+
 
                        
Posts: 278
Location: Iowa, border of regions 5 and 6
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In your earthbag dome, what do you use for the floor?  In a  monolithic dome, the floor is concrete and is tied, via rebar, into the shell to form a completely concrete dome.
 
Abe Connally
Posts: 1502
Location: Chihuahua Desert
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you could do the same for earthbag, or use earthen floors, wood floors, brick floors, or whatever you want.
 
                      
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I live here in TX just north of the MD home. I've been in several and have been very impressed with their ability to withstand almost anything. Also, they are very energy efficient. My first visit to Italy TX (home of MD), I went into their 24' visitor dome. The dome utilized two 5000 BTU AC units to cool the dome. Even though it was over 100 outside and the dome had no shade, the unit was a very comfortable 75 degrees. It used a small 1500 BTU electric wall unit for heat.

I would have one in a heart beat. As for cost, they cost about the same as any custom stick built home with the level of finishes. They cost a ton less to heat and cool and are nearly maintenance free. Only thing is they're round and not square. So aesthetic can be an issue.

Just my 2 cents ......
 
Abe Connally
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my point is that there are numerous building methods and materials that will give you that kind of performance for a fraction of the cost.  Same price as a stick built home?  Is that the $65/sf national average or more?
 
                      
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velacreations wrote:
my point is that there are numerous building methods and materials that will give you that kind of performance for a fraction of the cost.  Same price as a stick built home?  Is that the $65/sf national average or more?


While it may not be the $65 per sq ft however, sometimes you get what you pay for. What about the Earth Ship folks. If you have the time and the resources to fill a bunch of tires with packed earth then cover the insides and outsides with a parging, then bury the thing. Well it's cheap. Also, the guy that built his underground house for $50 (can't beat that). Of course it took him years of foraging in dumps and such to get the building materials. Also, your earth bag homes while they work well in third world countries, because of labor costs being so low, the average guy building a house doesn't want to spend 10 years filling tires, bags, etc, to frame their homes.

What I'm getting at is not many have the time or patients to watch for every business closing or garage sail for materials to build their houses. For a more turn key system, you would be hard to beat the MD folks.
 
R Hasting
Posts: 183
Location: Mineola, Texas
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velacreations wrote:
my point is that there are numerous building methods and materials that will give you that kind of performance for a fraction of the cost.  Same price as a stick built home?  Is that the $65/sf national average or more?

Well, as a comparison, my current home is listed for $96/sf @ 4008 SF

So price doesn't intimidate me much.
And if you knew my wife, well, lets just say, the "iscussion" over bagged dirt won't go well.

You could bury an eco dome into a hillside and have a MUCH cheaper home, no need for insulation, but you might have problems with water leaking through...
 
Abe Connally
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Location: Chihuahua Desert
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Also, your earth bag homes while they work well in third world countries, because of labor costs being so low, the average guy building a house doesn't want to spend 10 years filling tires, bags, etc, to frame their homes.


For earthbags, most new people average 10 sf of wall per hour per person.  So, a 3 man crew can put up about 210 sf of wall a day.  You're not talking about years to make a house, more like a few weeks.  A 1,000 square foot rectangle would take you about 6 days at that rate.  Another 2-3 days for plaster and stucco.

It'll run you $10/sf.  So, a few weeks to save $50+/sf, isn't a bad deal in my book.

From what I have read, those ecodomes cost around $10,000 for 300 square feet without the insulation, etc.  Add the cost of burying, water proofing, finishing, etc, and you are easily up to $50+/sf.

It is inaccurate to claim that it takes years or tons of salvaging to build cheap.  I've built 2 off-grid ecohomes using a wide variety of materials, and neither home took more than a year or more than $15/sf.
 
                      
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velacreations wrote:
For earthbags, most new people average 10 sf of wall per hour per person.  So, a 3 man crew can put up about 210 sf of wall a day.  You're not talking about years to make a house, more like a few weeks.  A 1,000 square foot rectangle would take you about 6 days at that rate.  Another 2-3 days for plaster and stucco.

It'll run you $10/sf.  So, a few weeks to save $50+/sf, isn't a bad deal in my book.

From what I have read, those ecodomes cost around $10,000 for 300 square feet without the insulation, etc.  Add the cost of burying, water proofing, finishing, etc, and you are easily up to $50+/sf.

It is inaccurate to claim that it takes years or tons of salvaging to build cheap.  I've built 2 off-grid ecohomes using a wide variety of materials, and neither home took more than a year or more than $15/sf.


Where is the earth or what ever goes into the bags come from? Around here to have a large amount of clean file of any kind cost a pretty penny for the product as well as the delivery. They the material has to be process in order to get it ready for use. So more time is invested even if the person is building their own home. I would have to witness a person filling the bags and placing them at the rate you quoted. I find it hard to believe. Now you need the other stuff that goes into your home (windows, doors, cabinets, sheet rock, electric, plumbing, etc). These prices are included for the MD. If you just want the shell then it's quite competitive with anything on the market. It's a lot easier to compare apples to apples when you look at what you get. This is not to say that earth bags don't work. Again, I've watched the You Tube videos of this process. From my point of view it's very labor intensive. IF the home builder wanted to do all the work on building their 1000 sq ft dome the prices would be very comparable to your earth bag construction.

So lets compare completed homes. Earth bag vs MD:

Earth Bag - The foundation for the home has already been constructed per given requirement to withstand the weight of the earth bags and built to code (if applicable).Bags of earth are stacked in such a way to form the exterior walls of the home.  Electricity is run as well as plumbing. The walls must be parged inside and out for stability as well as esthetics. Insides are finished out based on the resources of the home builder. Efficiency of the home for maintaining livability are linked to the thermal mass unless the builder utilizes additional insulation as an additional cost to the home owner.

MD - The foundation for the home has already been constructed per given requirement to withstand the weight of the shell of the dome and built to code (if applicable). The foundation is constructed in such a way to be integrated into the dome to make it a monolithic structure. The air form is attached to the foundation and inflated. Once inflated the builder/home owner can work out of the weather to build the dome. The domes is covered with 3" of foam insulation. A rebar cage is created and secured to the foam insulation. Electricity and plumbing is installed (ruff ins) as per any home. Three inches of 5000 psi concrete is applied to the walls. Note the rebar has been erected to make the wall and foundation become a monolithic pour. After a short cure time has been reached the inflation system is shut down and the dome exterior is complete. The interior then is furnished the same as any other home. This dome will withstand most of what mother nature can throw at it.

I would put a correctly constructed MD against any correctly constructed earth bag home. So how do we determine value. Lets see how the shell of each home compares? The earth bag home has earth and parged walls. They offer a fair amount of efficiency for heating and cooling because of thermal mass. However, compare to the MD for thermal mass as well as strength there isn't even a comparison. The 5000 psi concrete has been shown to be nearly indestructible and well able to with stand hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes as well as being very energy efficient. Then add the highest rated insulation in the mix. These are the facts. MD's are very tight and well built.

So in the end would you rather have a home built with earth bags or an MD? Earth bag construction may be a small bit cheaper to build. However, against a MD for a little more you get a magnitude better build structure. So in the end no matter how cheap a product is if we can't afford it then the product is useless to the person.

BTW when I first started looking into building a retirement home, I looked at a lot of these methods. If I truly wanted something real cheap I could get some used shipping containers and utilize then for the outside structure. Earth bags was an option as the soil on my property was conducive to this type of construction (no need for fill dirt to be purchased or delivered). Only the bags had to be filled and formed. Same way with the Earth Ship design. I could get an unlimited amount of discarded tires for cheap. The labor to fill the tires and create the outside structure was very inexpensive. Then there was the steel building solutions.

So there is a plethora of building systems available. It's going to be up to the home builder to determine which system gives them the most bang for their buck. I've tried to provide information concerning the MD and what I know of the earth bag system so as to allow someone to decide, based on comparing apples to apples, which system best meets the needs of the home builder.

Just my 2 cents ....
 
Abe Connally
Posts: 1502
Location: Chihuahua Desert
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Where is the earth or what ever goes into the bags come from?

Usually right from the building site.  Or you can order road base, as it is very cheap.  I can get a dump-truck load of road base delivered to my building site for $25.

I would have to witness a person filling the bags and placing them at the rate you quoted. I find it hard to believe.

You can find that information online quite readily from people who have built using these systems. Retirees, women, children, and many other people have built with earthbags worldwide.

Now you need the other stuff that goes into your home (windows, doors, cabinets, sheet rock, electric, plumbing, etc)

That was included in the $10-$15/sf price for earthbags as well.

From my point of view it's very labor intensive.

Building a house is labor intensive, the question is how much labor is required.  Spraying cement morter is also labor intensive, but requires significant more skill and equipment than tamping earthbags.

The foundation for the home has already been constructed per given requirement to withstand the weight of the earth bags and built to code (if applicable)

This can be as simple as a rubble trench foundation.

The walls must be parged inside and out for stability as well as esthetics.
Not for stability, just for aesthetics and UV protection.  You can use a wide variety of stucco materials for this, including earth-based stuccos, saving significant amount of money.

Efficiency of the home for maintaining livability are linked to the thermal mass unless the builder utilizes additional insulation as an additional cost to the home owner.
Bags can be filled with scoria, rice hulls or a number of waste productions that provide excellent insulation.

The earth bag home has earth and parged walls. They offer a fair amount of efficiency for heating and cooling because of thermal mass. However, compare to the MD for thermal mass as well as strength there isn't even a comparison.

You're right, no comparison.  Earthbags have 10X the thermal mass as MD.


The 5000 psi concrete has been shown to be nearly indestructible and well able to with stand hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes as well as being very energy efficient. Then add the highest rated insulation in the mix. These are the facts. MD's are very tight and well built.

Earthbag homes have survived hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and bullets.  They are extremely durable and strong.  That's why the military and flood control systems worldwide use sandbags for barriers.  Cheap, efficient, and strong.

I've seen 5000psi concrete crack over time, allow water infiltration.  If an earthbag's stucco cracks, you still have 15" of earth to protect the interior of the home.

Earth bag construction may be a small bit cheaper to build.
$50/sf cheaper to build.

There is no question which is cheaper to build, earthbags win by a landslide.  As for durability, both are durable, as long as you do crack patrol on the concrete shell of the MD over time.  Earthbags will survived any natural disaster than a MD can survive, at a fraction of the cost.

Think about it like this, what is cheaper, bags full of dirt or 3" of polyurethane (toxic) plus 3" of concrete and steel? The vast majority of the world's structures are made from earth, it is the ultimately sustainable building material.
 
                      
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Usually right from the building site.  Or you can order road base, as it is very cheap.  I can get a dump-truck load of road base delivered to my building site for $25.

Not so for this area. Costs for this would be very expensive.

You can find that information online quite readily from people who have built using these systems. Retirees, women, children, and many other people have built with earthbags worldwide.

This may be true in some regions around the world. However, in the states I find it hard to get some folks to come over just to help move let alone fill thousands of bags with dirt.

That was included in the $10-$15/sf price for earthbags as well.

So you're telling me for $15 a sq ft I get all the windows, doors, cabinets, interior walls, sheet rock, plumbing, fixtures etc. I'm sorry I have to cry BS on that one. Unless someone has donated them for free or you're in a 3rd world country where the cost of such items are really cheap.

Spraying cement morter is also labor intensive, but requires significant more skill and equipment than tamping earthbags.

While this is true, however this is usually quoted in the price for the MD. If the home owner want to save some money they can opt to perform this. MD provides, for a small fee, the training necessary to perform the shot concrete.

The foundation for the home has already been constructed per given requirement to withstand the weight of the earth bags and built to code (if applicable)
This can be as simple as a rubble trench foundation.

This will depend on the area of the country in which the home is being built. A base of gravel can be used in some instances (if not prohibited by code) here as well. I could utilize a gravel based footing for an MD in East Texas.

The walls must be parged inside and out for stability as well as esthetics.
Not for stability, just for aesthetics and UV protection.  You can use a wide variety of stucco materials for this, including earth-based stuccos, saving significant amount of money.

The you tube videos I saw stated that to insure stability of the structure a parging system was required at least on the outside. Not required for the MD. Saving a ton of labor as well as the cost for the parging (even if it's made from dirt "COB".

Efficiency of the home for maintaining livability are linked to the thermal mass unless the builder utilizes additional insulation as an additional cost to the home owner.
Bags can be filled with scoria, rice hulls or a number of waste productions that provide excellent insulation.

At what cost to the homeowner? Ground up newspaper is a good insulator (cellulose). Again this isn't needed for the MD. A green foam can be used for the foam at around the same cost for the MD.

The earth bag home has earth and parged walls. They offer a fair amount of efficiency for heating and cooling because of thermal mass. However, compare to the MD for thermal mass as well as strength there isn't even a comparison.
You're right, no comparison.  Earthbags have 10X the thermal mass as MD.

I guess you're missing the point of the foam and shot-crete. The foam blocks narly 95% of the heat transfer and all of the air infiltration. The 3" of 5000 psi crete plus the concrete floors provided any additional thermal mass that may be needed. Just because I can build a house with 5 foot think walls doesn't make the thermal mass any more efficient. So even if the earth bag system has more mass doesn't make it anymore energy efficient.

Earthbag homes have survived hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and bullets.  They are extremely durable and strong.  That's why the military and flood control systems worldwide use sandbags for barriers.  Cheap, efficient, and strong.

I've seen 5000psi concrete crack over time, allow water infiltration.  If an earthbag's stucco cracks, you still have 15" of earth to protect the interior of the home.

The military also use gabion baskets for the same thing. Just because the army corp of engineers uses sand and sand bags for floods and such as it's readily available. If there were going to utilize anything more permanent they wouldn't use sand bags.

As for 5000 psi concrete cracking, all concrete cracks however, I've seen the 5000psi concrete withstand water (can you say ferocement). That's not to say that if the concrete wasn't mixed properly or the structure not have the proper rebar then it would not work. That isn't so for the MD's.

Earth bag construction may be a small bit cheaper to build.

Thais not necessarily true. I've been quoted 30 sq ft for the shell. That would mean that someone is paying your home owner $20 a sq ft to build. Again these figures are going to be dependent on the region of the country and whether one has some resources that allows one or the other system to be constructed cheaper (cousin in the concrete business, etc)

There is no question which is cheaper to build, earthbags win by a landslide.  As for durability, both are durable, as long as you do crack patrol on the concrete shell of the MD over time.  Earthbags will survived any natural disaster than a MD can survive, at a fraction of the cost.

This is untrue. If I have a free workforce and free building materials and live in an area where I don't have any building restrictions then the cost of erecting an earth bag system may be cheaper. However, that's a lot of if's. As for survival, I want to see one earth bag house last out a direct hit from a hurricane or tornado. While there are several cases of this happening for the MD's with little or no damage (other than minor exterior damage). So if your home is destroyed, which I have no doubt in the case of a bad hurricane, then how is it more cost effective or better? Provide proof that these structures have survived any of the a fore mentioned natural disasters. I can provide URLS of MD that have.

Think about it like this, what is cheaper, bags full of dirt or 3" of polyurethane (toxic) plus 3" of concrete and steel? The vast majority of the world's structures are made from earth, it is the ultimately sustainable building material.


Dirt is cheap, on that we can agree. Just because something is cheap doesn't mean that it's worth the effort to use it to build a house. As, I've stated shipping containers, used mobile homes, pallets, metal buildings, etc are cheaper. Hover, I wouldn't want to risk my family's life on them in bad weather conditions.

As for the toxicity of foam, I've already stated that there are natural based foams out there that aren't toxic at nearly the same price. So that is a moot point. The judges are still out on the concrete vs energy efficiency thing. I'll take my 3" of 5000 psi concrete and steel to your sand bags any day of the week. Lets look at some examples of a rifle being shot at a sample of a wall built utilizing MD methodology. No damage can you say that for the sand bags (maybe if the bags are wide enough and parged out of something other than mud).

So I would say that in the end the MD's a better bang for the buck in most applications. Unless all the if's stated above apply. If these are so prevalent then why don't you see them in places like Alaska or along the gulf coast? Again I can provide URLS of MD's in Alaska, along the eastern and gulf coast. Many of which have survived earth quakes, fires, and other natural disasters. Also, I can provide a URL of a gentleman in Alaska that has an MD that when the propane tanks ran empty (during the winter months) he didn't notice for several days as the temps where warm.

Like the three pigs, I'll let you build your sand bag house and I'll have my MD built for me (in my neck of the woods). My home will be built in less time and be more secure and probably cost nearly the same. We'll see when the hail and tornadoes come calling who's house is less damaged. Unless you plan on burying your house (which increases the costs of your home significantly). BTW an MD can be buried up to so many feet without any added cost to the original design (no increase in materials or structure). Can you say that for the sand bag house?

I rest my case.


 
Abe Connally
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At what cost to the homeowner? Ground up newspaper is a good insulator (cellulose). Again this isn't needed for the MD. A green foam can be used for the foam at around the same cost for the MD.
Those insulation materials are ready available for free, as they are waste materials.

The you tube videos I saw stated that to insure stability of the structure a parging system was required at least on the outside. Not required for the MD. Saving a ton of labor as well as the cost for the parging (even if it's made from dirt "COB".

How does a 1/4" layer of non-reinforced earthern plaster contribute anything to the stability of a structure?  It does not. Parging the outside is just for UV and/or water protection.  Parging takes a few days and is easy, it is not a major labor contributor. The 15" of tamped earth is the structure, not the stucco.

The judges are still out on the concrete vs energy efficiency thing.

No, they're not.  Concrete is very energy intensive to make and use, that is simply a fact.

Lets look at some examples of a rifle being shot at a sample of a wall built utilizing MD methodology. No damage can you say that for the sand bags (maybe if the bags are wide enough and parged out of something other than mud).

Yes, I can: http://earthbagbuilding.wordpress.com/2008/11/01/bullet-resistance-of-sandbags/ ; Sand bags are great for bullets, that is why the military uses them.

I've been quoted 30 sq ft for the shell

Earthbag is under $10/sf for the shell.

MDs are no more secure than earthbags for any natural disaster. 

Unless you plan on burying your house (which increases the costs of your home significantly)

Not really, that's your fill material for the bags.  Insulation requirements are reduced considerably with buried homes.

BTW an MD can be buried up to so many feet without any added cost to the original design (no increase in materials or structure). Can you say that for the sand bag house?

Yes, they have been completely buried and bermed by many people.  The advantages for burying an earthbag house is that you don't need to parge the outside, saving a bit of $ and time.

It is very simple.  Inflatable forms and blowers, polyurethane, concrete mixers and pumps, rebar armature and 5000 psi concrete, mortar sprayers, and expert concrete laborers that comprise the MD system are never as cheap as the simple system of tamped earthbags built by low-skilled (cheap) labor and dirt from the building site.  That is why they are a popular choice amongst owner-builders. 

Earthen structures are the oldest structures on the planet, and continue to survive natural disasters every year.  Earthen materials are not only cheap, they are sustainable and energy efficient. They continue to house the majority of the world and the most popular building material on the planet.  Concrete cannot make those claims.

 
                      
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Earthbag is under $10/sf for the shell.

Maybe you can get the bags for that. Again I've done the research on-line for this system while it's inexpensive it's not $10 per sq ft for the shell. You can't get the material for the fill inexpensively unless you're in a certain location. In a city environment the home builder is going to need to get the file and have it delivered. Again, without the assistance of many laborers the house is going to take a good while unless it's a 100 sq ft.

MDs are no more secure than earthbags for any natural disaster.

Here's the site. Do the research:
http://www.monolithic.com/topics/benefits-survivability

the MD system are never as cheap as the simple system of tamped earthbags built by low-skilled (cheap) labor and dirt from the building site.

Again this is going to depend on a lot of factors. In the end after both homes are complete the MD will beat any other structure for energy efficiency and survivability.

Earthen structures are the oldest structures on the planet, and continue to survive natural disasters every year.  Earthen materials are not only cheap, they are sustainable and energy efficient. They continue to house the majority of the world and the most popular building material on the planet.  Concrete cannot make those claims.


Domes have been built for centuries also. And they even have lasted through world wars and bombings. The only reason there are not more earthbags is because of the lack of any viable alternatives. There are in roads being made by the MD folks to create safe houses all over the world. Hey thousands of years ago folks use to build their structure out of stone. Concrete is more of a resent development and wasn't around thousands of years ago. Doesn't make it less better of a building material especially for structures. How many roads, high rises, bridges, etc are in the world that are constructed out of concrete. If earth bags were better then these they would have been built using the earthbag system. Can earth bags be put under water for bridge support systems? I can go on and on. That doesn't mean that your systems doesn't have a place. It's not the end all be all for building construction.
 
Saybian Morgan
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It's sounds like the essence of all this argument is really about appropriate technology as each vehemently fight for there settled on design technique.

There's one aspect that I think it's drawing allot of righteousness based blood and that's because one is a company and is consider natural.

But if were really looking at it from an appropriate technology standpoint, The monolithic enterprise has appropriate technologies for the entire globe.
Frugality isn't the highest achievement man has to offer, If your actually a designer and your coming into a 3rd world human disaster zone. You know somewhere where a designer might actually be working predominantly over marginally. One technique teaches a people how to fish, another gives them a fish. I find earthbag's in the category of earth based dam building. It can't be reproduced without skilled experience, you can't just go ripping earth everywhere you go, and as you traverse societies you work with constant's not variable if your technology is truly appropriatable to "people".

The Over and Underveloped world have all a constant so long as your living in any place with a sidewalk source of concrete. It's use is already familiar territory to people your trying to give the tools of their own growth to.  I like the simplicity of an earth bag home, but I question is scalability as a technology in a toolkit if your a permaculture designer.  I love the look, I'm not even worried about my home surviving Armageddon conditions obviously humanity isn't either. Would I like to build something that can last 1000 years, is that appropriate? I don't want my house to always be a cottage, can I scale the technique to a 500 foot diameter dome without digging to the center of the earth? What if my job as a designer is to built a community shelter or even communal housing.

When it comes to housing most of us don't expect to be blown, burnt, slid, or washed away, many people live in places where you should expect it and basicaly build fire kindling or mudslide rafts.  

I don't "have" to adhere to any 1 method with monolithic domes, thermal mass is actually an inappropriate technology once you go below latitude 30. Can an earthbag be made with no thermal mass? a dome can be hand troweled and is mostly when applied to third world countries where labor is cheap. The ecoshell can be erected in less than a week, and can be reused to build another home in 3 days if it's hot. I could build 70 uninsulated monolithic domes in a month, that's housing for people who have been displaced.

I hope this isn't an argument about who's hippy housing is the cleverest, cuzz permaculture mean's more than adopting what suit's you and ignoring what bumps your idealism.

I personally cannot afford a monolithic dome, I certainly will build every structure including my home on my farm with monolithic ecoshells.  That's right even the ducks will survive a car driving into their home. From 10 feet wide, to 10,000 with intelligent management as a designer I have a tool that will last beyond my lifetime.
 
Abe Connally
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Maybe you can get the bags for that. Again I've done the research on-line for this system while it's inexpensive it's not $10 per sq ft for the shell. You can't get the material for the fill inexpensively unless you're in a certain location.

The majority of the planet has soil that will work for earthbags.  There are numerous examples of people who have built shells for under $10/sf.  The bags can be had for $.06 each online or locally.

Where do you get the 5,000 psi concrete in a city?  Is it cheaper than dirt?

Again, without the assistance of many laborers the house is going to take a good while unless it's a 100 sq ft.

3 people can put up 200 sf feet of wall a day. 1,000 sf ft house can go up in a week.

In the end after both homes are complete the MD will beat any other structure for energy efficiency and survivability.

Only if you ignore the immense amount of energy in the materials and processing to make the MD.  What is the EROI for an MD?

It can't be reproduced without skilled experience

Actually, it can, and is being reproduced by low-skill people all the time.  Concrete domes should not be undertaken by unskilled and/or experienced people. 

thermal mass is actually an inappropriate technology once you go below latitude 30

I'm at latitude 27, and thermal mass is extremely appropriate here.  High thermal mass of the traditional structures provides for a comfortable climate year round.  Most adobe houses in my area are several hundred years old, and I rarely see them much above or below 75 degrees F.

I could build 70 uninsulated monolithic domes in a month, that's housing for people who have been displaced.
Only if you had very deep pockets, an enormous amount of ready to use concrete, all the tools required, plus experience and skilled laborers.

To me, the argument is not about what system is more cleaver, it is about what system is cheaper, more sustainable, and efficient.

The bottom line is that concrete is not a sustainable, energy efficient solution to most owner-builder construction projects. It can have its place, but there are better options available. Earthbags provide a sustainable, durable solution at a fraction of the cost. There is no reason they can't last as long as any MD in the same conditions.
 
Ken Peavey
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This post serves to alert me when responses are added.
 
Brice Moss
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I think that this discussion would benifit from a review of the article below as some of the posters seem to have vastly different expectations out of their homes

http://www.oasisdesign.net/faq/green4000ft2home.htm
 
Saybian Morgan
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Great article/letter to client Brice.
  The larger scale project's has more to do with function that living space. My mother want's to cut down a forest so she can glimpse the ocean while having tea.

I've lived in 3000 sq ft apartments, where there was enough wasted space to give the dog her own balcony. It wasn't until my first heating bill in the winter when I realized a 500 dollars a month to keep these floor to ceiling windows warm is a crime against everything. I also realized when i lost my job and hence shut off the heat at christmas to save for rent, that heating waterbottle's for everyone including the dog was as rediculous as wearing 2 pair's of snow pants to bed. We would die here if we didn't move. I guess we got into the situation after living in basement's and bedrooms most of my daughters life, we just wanted a touch of what everyone seem to have which seemed human enough at the time. We finally moved to where we live now a 1600 sq ft  bungalow we rented in the forest. I use to be able to see from my window from my home in canada all the way to america, now I just see a towering expression of infinite complexity in a giant hemlock tree.  We had a major lifestyle shift, blame it on sepp holzer's farming with nature, really blame it on that video! I never knew what cozy meant, I only viewed life as crammed up next to each other. Now were looking at building our own home so 3 year's since that video permaculture has swept our lives as a career which is also a lifestyle.  I've lived as a minimalist back when I was a bachelor and it has such a beautiful existence not have balls and chain's attached to every movement in life, two suitcases and I could walk out of anything.

But time's have changed I have a family and I'm blessed to not have a wife with princess dream's of how life should be, but now it's time to design a home and we found the best economy in a 700 sqft ecoshell monolithic dome. So we started measuring our current condition's and look at could we really live the "cottage life" We knew the life, we had done living in my sisters bedroom with a newborn baby so how hard could it be.  

Well let's look at lifestyle, since every ecological designer isn't just dealing with another city slicker who want's a touch of moral high ground over other's by blowing money to put a green vaneer over the same behavior that got them the name city slicker.  This year I noticed a drastic shift in our lifestyle, I guess one way of putting it is I became a filthy Man's man. At no point should my hands not be bleeding from some ignorant thing I did without gloves, from digging to mental bending.
Another thing I noticed is I've steadily been adding 100 sqft a month to the rental property every month this year so far.

Why is that? why are we racing head long back into what you describe as the wrong lifestyle choices that put one's home out of any ecological eligibility other than veneer. It seems according to your letter, I'm on the borderline of not being a valid client for you. I certainly don't have 500 grand, I'd be lucky if I could show you 50k in cash on hand.

Well I tried living the cozy dream, I tried living the hippy ideal, I watched all the video's on the sludge build house, mud built, fudd built, tin can built house whatever I could get to meet this eco utopia everybody's been pounding and only hairy armpit people seem to be living in.  "no offense" to pit's I just noticed a shaggy trend in all the video's i watched to the point I forced my hairless body to grow a beard over 2 years.

Well you see I live in a death trap, because my lifestyle is a permaculture lifestyle and I aim in life to not be a pastime permaculturalist, so doing it yourself started to dominate my buying habit's over a year ago. I put the worm bin under the kitchen table, I put the compound saw under the kitchen table, I put the table saw in the living room, I put my photography gear in my bedroom, I put the oil distillery in my office, the duck food under the kitchen sink, the pasta making supplies on top of the fridge, the greenhouse in the pantry, the chainsaw in my closet, the axe's and drills by the shoe rack.  I could go on and on no matter where you put your hand in our home expect to get jabbed cuzz daddy's saw blades are now in the bathroom. What's that stink? the duckpen is on the front porch, the firewood is stored in the fireplace next to the turtle tank aquaponic's disaster that backfired. Don't open that window I'm trying to grow plant's on the edge, everybody stop sneezing I'm trying to dry plant's from the ceiling in the hallway.  

Have I started to make my point, I didn't come to this earth to sit around and doddle with the life i've been given.  Even after expanding every open door in the home into two more room's to give my wife some safety, i added another room onto that. 600 sq ft later I have just enough room so that when a 12 ft piece of wood goes across my table saw it can punch through the greenhouse wall into the rabbit pen.



 
Saybian Morgan
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Your a paid designer, I am just starting and short on time in all directions so I know when I'm done my flaw will be too busy to think. How can i operate as an average permaculture nutcase without 4000 sq ft? everything is zone 1 or it's pretty much toast, i have thousands of dollar's of tools sitting in the rain because I have no room to put them anywhere. Most people would kill for a $4k 1000 litre compost tea brewer, why does mine have snow on it because it couldn't stay in the living room any longer.  Yes i was born a pack rat, yes I did get over it, now I pack rat permaculture things and the rattyness is worse than ever.

If I couldn't leverage the fact I can carbon copy and erect monolithic domes 700 sqft at a time I couldn't get to 4000 sqft  with 50ks worth of money, I had to move to the tropic's just to make this work, but you get my point.  Not everyone that doesn't want to live in a hutch isn't a world destroying bastard who won't change there evil ways into something more sensible in the eyes of the few. 

And I'll tell you billionaire's only live on those yacht's because they can get off at any point by helicopter and fly to where they've crammed all there junk so that's a bit of an off point.  I wish I never watched that sepp holzer video year's back, I would probably live in your ideal home and offer the world nothing in return other than the fact I'm not stepping all over it with my human junkpile footprint.

What am I gunna do when i reach the point of being able to offer a pdc where i live, i'm gunna need another 4000sq ft in infrastructure just to support 1400 sq ft in people living in 50 sq ft allotments.

I havn't built yet so although my argument seem's polarized I really could use some solutionary advice, I'm choking in fear that I actually need that much space to not die mangled and impaled in my own equipment. N i'm pooping mud bricks I can't afford to move none the less afford anything to move into when every july to october the hurricanes try to blow away everything that doesnt' come with a tap root 50 ft deep.  My best design idea so far is the monolithic dome, and I don't have a labour force I expect to be building it myself all six of them with one of those tiny 200 dollar TIROLESSA Mortar and Stucco Sprayers. cuzz shockcrete is out of my mean's and hand troweling is out of my hands.
 
Brice Moss
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First, the article is not mine just a designer I  admire

As to you're space quandry. It sounds like you need to build a barn first and get all of the building stuff out of your living space. Barns make a good choice to practice building skills too because if it's not perfect it's not going to fall on you while you sleep.

In your situation I would be planning my site for a home and several outbuildings and starting with either earth domes or concrete vaults built with slip forms.

Their are huge diferences between a large house and a large barn in terms of impact First
 
Abe Connally
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In your situation I would be planning my site for a home and several outbuildings and starting with either earth domes or concrete vaults built with slip forms.

I second that suggestion.  Start with outbuildings, and try out some ideas before committing to a method of building.

I've done a lot of different building methods over the last decade, and none of what I use today is what I thought was best 10 years ago.  Things change as you actually create things.

 
Saybian Morgan
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I think that's one of the major reason's why I came to the ecoshell as the most economic. I'm not a builder your lucky if your picknic bench built by me doesn't roll your dinner off it. I live such an intergrated work lifestyle that if an outbuilding isn't an extention of the house kiss the object in it goodbye. I've zone 1'd everything because I noticed 50 ft away from zone one might as well be afghanistan for me, the amount of unfinished work between me and that building will never allow me to do something as basic as winterizing my very expensive engines. I'm pretty much catering to my known weakneses, if the drill can't be gotten in my underwear my wife will never get anything fixed.

Ok now this is brutal, but I had to whip something really crude up on top of someone else's poor manadala garden plans just to give the gist of why a monolithic dome in a country I dont know, in an environment that in my case right now is Karst, and a society in which ripping off the foreigner is the moto. Draw a circle, pour a slap, attach the clips, inflate the dome, braid the rebar, trowel the cement, let it dry, cover with synth thatch or kudzu can't decide, and get the hell off my property can't be beat.

Everyone and there mother claim's to be a builder, and all I see are disaster's with skyrocketing cost because someone stole your wood overnight, and so on. I don't have to include anyone but my wife if I so choose to make it so difficult. Basalt rebar doesn't rust so I don't have to use as much concrete as dome required even a few year's ago. I can't have this project take 6 months and be a back and forth. I can be moving on to the next structure with my airform as soon as the first layer of concrete dries. I don't have a mismatch of times when wood was plentifull and time's when zinc sheet's was all I have out building's and cantankerank projects one after the other. I'd design around contraint's which I love cuzz freedom is too willy nilly.  The people at MD after telling them who I was as a builder and what circumstance id be predominantly facing as a designer specifically told me find a way to work with our discount surplus airform that comes with free building plan's in an out. Forget architect's, let go of having to pay for drafting and redo's, hand these paper's in and your opperating under our president's most efficient design.  All I have to do is accept whever the bathroom was in the home, is where water will flow in any outbuilding. So where the stove goes, the welder will go, and on an on.

I moved from OMG, to you know what if I wanna be a bastard and spent a month in a tent with a generator, I can do the blasted thing myself. And with only 2-3 ingredient's to build shelter, nobody can cheat me as everyone in that bloody build domino houses on cliff edge society has this unsustainable material, and I will use it in the most sustainable way.  If I do this one thing right in my life, i'll never have to look back, I wont have to sell my land 50 year's from now cuzz some new mandate says my bamboo barn isn't up to code. 

If i had a background in which my mother or father helped me build even a sand castle maybe, I would be of the natural building inclination and teach ppl how to work with and for me.  But by virtue of the fact I can even grasp a task 99 percent of people would never consider doing themselves, I couldn't be greatfull enough monolithic domes exist. I'll never buy insurance!

So in 50 year's when el ninio mean's anywhere that lightning strike's theres an earthquake by lil old house i built ona hill will still remain the most intelligent decision of my life anywhere i build one.


Wow I'm so glad I stopped to whip up this crude concept instead of flipping my compost as my duty requires, In just trying to fire back a response my home planning concept just got 300% more done than the last year. Now I can erase all the random assembly and actually think out, water, access, structures, sun, shade, food, really get this harmonic humming.  Wait a second what the hell happened to my DUCKs! one of these building's has gotta go.
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