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Earthbag Construction for a business facility. Where?  RSS feed

 
                                  
Posts: 3
Location: Midwest
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Hi there,

I'm interested in learning more about what areas of the United States permits the use of alternative construction methods such as earthbag. Though I suppose it need not be entirely limited to earthbag specifically, open to areas that permit strawbale, cordwood, earthship, you-name-it. The closer to a city, the better. Since some aspects of our business rely on web-servers, which generate heat which costs (alot of) money to cool I suppose the cooler the area, the better, though not entirely an issue.

I'm simply interested in researching the possibility of an earth-built facility that'd house the operations of a small business/company. Got a couple sketchup designs, I believe my vision is very much doable. Now it's the time to see what areas of the United States would allow an earth-built facility for COMMERCIAL use.

Thanks!

EDIT: I was kind of rushing this post earlier, got more free time on my hands now. Let me try to make clear what i'm wanting to do.

I s'pose I should of first introduced myself to the community... Hello! I'm a young entrepreneur who is a nature boy at heart. I grew up in the country, ate from the garden, climbed trees and had scraped knees I've always been interested in architecture, and within the last 5 years have been REALLY interested in alternative construction methods. While I have yet to undertake any project on head first, my dream has always been to simply build a small sustainable and maintainable home on a few secluded acres. I believe I stumbled upon "The $50 and up underground house book" about 5 years ago, and have read it many times since then. That sparked my interest in alternative construction methods, and led me to read about strawbale, cob, earthbag, adobe, and much more. I spent a year living in the desert in the South West, and while there toured a lot of earth-based dwellings and just fell in love with the idea of building a wonderfuly sustainable and comfortable home at the fraction of the cost of conventional construction...

Fast forward the past few years:


I founded a small cloud-based web hosting company a little over a year ago and I work from home. The current operation includes a fleet of servers that we rent from a datacenter. This is very expensive, and at our current size it'd be more ideal to simply build the servers and own them 100%, collocate them in a facility where we're essentially paying to have our servers connected to electricity and for lack of a better term, ''the internet''. This is the plan by the end of the year, at least.

But i'm always thinking a few steps ahead

After that, the best possible option would be to own the facility that houses the servers. This would also allow us to provide the services we're currently paying for (renting servers), and allow us to provide the service we'll soon be participating in ('colocation'. Obviously this is appealing, owning the facility 100% opens many doors.

The idea is to build a small datacenter (still trying to think of an ideal size) capable of housing about 300-500 web servers. Unfortunately, the nature of my business does consume a lot of resources and for that i'd like to compensate as much as possible and address those issues the best way possible. I feel like I have conflicting interests, a love for and an yearning for returning to nature yet a passion and genuine interest for technology.

My thoughts are:

Build with cooling efficiency in mind. Servers produce a lot of heat. Normal practice is to have 'hot side, cold side' of server racks where cool air is pushed in through the front and hot air out the back. That hot air could be exhausted outside, if built in a cool area of the United States that hot air could be better used to heat offices. (Doable)

I'm working on some SketchUp designs in my free time, to kind of demonstrate a few thoughts I had.


Has anyone seen anything like this done before? What do you believe would be the most suitable material or form to accomplish this? I am thinking Earthbag due to the mass / thickness of the walls. The datacenter itself would be buriered as much as possible, likely with a couple offices/rooms above it.


Another thought: The dream 5 years ago was to build MYSELF a house out of similar methods, but now i'm wanting to build a corporate office/facility for my business. I wonder if i'd be allowed to build a 'living quarters' to the facility? I'll have to look into that (Or just pitch a hammock up in the office).

 
Jim Argeropoulos
Posts: 96
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I'm afraid I can't comment on your primary question.

Not really on the topic of "green building", but don't forget to factor in redundancy. This counts for electricity, communication resources (think loop back) and alternate site.
 
                      
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Dude, I spent most of my career in the Telecom business. They have server farms as well as big banks of Telco equipment that require efficient as well as good cooling. Many of the solutions used by them are not scalable to residential usage. I've seen some really nice chilled air systems.

You may want to split off the server area from the living area and go with some split systems for heating and cooling. You could look at reclaiming the heat generated for domestic hot water and heating for the living space. There are many building systems out there. You are going to have to do some due diligence to see whether they meet with your local building codes. Also, you'll have to determine if being Green is going to meet your requirements.

The last time I needed a new AC I did some research on the varied cooling and heating solutions available. The geothermal heat pumps were really cool. They were energy efficient and very green. However, the cost for the unit and the install way outweighed the benefits of the cost savings even when considering the future cost of energy. So while geothermal was a Green solution, adding more insulation, better windows, etc made more sense in many ways. Also, I purchase a very efficient HVAC for less than a third of the cost of the geothermal. So with all the upgrades I was able to make my home more energy efficient for less than half the cost of the geothermal unit alone.

Hope this helps.....

I would love to see more solar solutions for heating and cooling. Right now the cost is one of my concerns as well as the power providers not paying me for any excess power generated.
 
jeff bousquet
Posts: 7
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Greetings,

I am an experienced Earthbag builder and permaculture designer.  The building that you describe is completely doable as a commercial structure.  I personally have been involved with two code approved residential builds.  Earthbag building is on the "codes" radar and has shown to be a strong and sustainable building method.  There are some steps one needs to take when dealing with code officials. You will likely need an engineers stamp on the plans.  It is a good idea to be highly knowledgeable and be able to give the officials source material and test results to teach them.Some places are more lenient than others, but most officials are open to alternative construction methods.  I'd love to discuss your ideas further and perhaps I can help you take the next steps.

  I can be reached at earthjeffone at gmail.com and 3.5.2 219. 6853. 

~Jeff

 
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