Dustin Nemos

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since Jul 08, 2012
Galt's Retreat, Voluntaryist Ecovillage
Seeking Independence through Homesteading
Seeking Community through Ecovillage
Central TN
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Recent posts by Dustin Nemos

Trying to find a low cost natural way to build, I've read good stuff about Cob and am working on a book now, but I've also ran into local homesteaders who swear its a bad idea and have firsthand experience. I know they might have done it badly but on the offchance they did not i want to discuss and hopefully learn from others who have done cob preferably even in my area.

One person said "t will dry slowly and re-absorb moisture any time the cob is at or below the dew point. Indoor relative humidity above 60% for any length of time is sufficient to support mold growth, so the cob need not be "wet". Surface moisture percentage will remain at around 15% in cob or wood here without HVAC (these are my empirical figures, but you can plot them out on a psychrometric chart to see what that means for the moisture exchange happening in your home at given temps (http://web.uconn.edu/.../NewFiles/psychrometric_inset.html) . In our experience, the cob sported mold before the timbers. Since borate treatment, mold has abated on those surfaces and taken up residence in books, furniture, clothing, cardboard, stone, mold resistant drywall (ha!), etc. There's a MUCH more dynamic process conspiring to rot your home and sicken your air quality than thinking about it in terms of one component not drying summarizes. It's a cyclical thing requiring constant vigilance. That's why modern HVAC systems are king. They are on constantly. What power source do you have in mind for these buildings?

When you say cob, what wall technique specifically? If you mean solid, I see a host of issues, not least of which is the sheer labor of excavating, sifting, testing, and moving that many tons of labor intensive material, let alone the many hours of skilled labor to apply and finish with a good air barrier while achieving properly engineered bearing.

So much literature on these techniques comes from the desert southwest and the Rockies. We're from Colorado, and please, take my word for it, most current info is wrong for this climate. In addition, much literature is simply wishful thinking (check out air quality, temperature control and real-world durability of Michael Reynolds' Earthships. We've lived there. It isn't pretty. Marketing looked great, though. He now claims he's adopted contemporary techniques for reasons of code compliance and lending standards. It's because he got sued by seriously dissatisfied occupants.

People have been using light framing with insulative fill in climates like ours here for centuries, however. Tall, voluminous houses are a time honored technique for hot humid zones, a design largely impossible with what you might be referring to as cob. Timber will create greater moisture latency than masonry or clay. Thermal mass achieved with higher density inorganics like the latter will give some thermal latency, but a late July heatwave will pretty much neutralize the effect or worse for the remaining two months. Likewise, winters here are significant (and damp) enough to necessitate planning latent stability there, too. In our climate, vapor pressure switches direction back and forth several times a year, hence another reason southwestern, high mountain, or even midwestern designs struggle in TN. Likewise, tropical solutions don't fare well here, either. Light framing with omni-directional vapor permeability seems to be a good route here. Alternatively, closed cell non-permeable, and/or non convective solid fill is good, too (spray foam, polyiso, adhesive treated pressure blown cellulose, etc.). Fiberglass? Not so much. Vapor barriers over fill? Nope! Thermal mass centered well inside the building envelope works pretty well here, as opposed to building it into walls, or even floors.

We built a 200sqft cabin to start, with five kids, for $1900 plus $1300 in PV gear and batteries. Water catchment from that structure met our domestic needs completely. We made a few mistakes in that structure that wouldn't have cost more to get right the first time, we just needed more info. All in all, a pretty comfortable little place, though. We occupied it for 2 1/2 years while we built the $10k 720sqft mansion we live in now. The cabin is our attached solarium, so 920sqft, really. With a good plan, no phase has to go to waste, even if it's not what you want in the end. Take comfort there! It doesn't have to be perfect now, but the plan should be well understood and each phase should teach you to adapt to new info. I hate to say it, but if you commit to understanding just what I've said in these comments, you'll be leaps ahead of the people writing books and blogs about owner-built houses."

The other said he had to repair it often and it wasn't performing well or as expected.

I'm curious and want to get more experienced advice on this topic! Don't have much funding and need to get multiple structures built for a full intentional community with 5+ families.

1 year ago
I love the idea of a co op biz that employs land mates. We recently launched an intentional community in rural Tennessee on 11 acres and would love to chat with you more about it.
I've recently bought land with a few other Voluntaryist friends in central to and our goal is to homestead this land as a small village of neighbors. We have a spring fed creek on 11 acres. We are open to others with similar values joining us here. So far it's mostly raw land with one cabin started.
1 year ago
Drinking water but currently no place to swim. Locked up tight from predators with s Pyrenees nearby to protect her and others. It may be the moisture thing
1 year ago
2nd in two days. Found them outside of nest but not far away. Not sure what's killing them
1 year ago
Bump. I am moving ahead with leaving the existing "floor" on top and trying to match it on the other side, looking for options in terms of putting a roof on top that will leave space open for moving about, i.e. - no ceiling joists or not the usual kind as they would be in the way of walking on the "floor".   What do I do?
See our IC.org Community Post here - http://www.ic.org/advert/voluntaryist/

"Our community is young, with only a few families having bought into a piece of land in central Tennessee (abundant natural resources, no state income tax, low cost of living, and no building codes in this county make for ease and simplicity in low cost eco housing, plentiful jobs and low unemployment rate in nearby areas – predominantly conservative culture)

We share the values of Voluntaryism (www.Voluntaryism.com) and seek to bring other like-minded (and like-valued) people into our community as we begin the long, arduous, and fun experience of building an ecovillage from the ground up. We are hoping to bring in serious people who will stick around for the long haul and be our lifelong friends neighbors and enhance our community with their skills, their voices, and their hearts. We hope to bring a healthier culture and community to our members as well as Organic NON gmo food options. (Independence from the system is a goal)

While we get to know new members through a workstay or rental program, our goal is to sort out any bad apples and bring in the best people (after all – we will be neighbors the rest of our lives quite possibly!) We are particularly hoping to attract people with a skillset in organic agriculture (especially the business side of it!) and seek to create income-producing businesses here on the land in the form of co-ops to employ members.

This is a wonderful place to live, and wonderful people involved – we hope to meet the next member of our small family soon! If you feel like you might be a fit with us, please don’t hesitate to drop us a line.

*Statement of Purpose: Voluntaryists are advocRender Notates of non-political, non-violent strategies to achieve a free society.  We reject electoral politics, in theory and in practice, as incompatible with libertarian principles. Governments must cloak their actions in an aura of moral legitimacy in order to sustain their power, and political methods invariably strengthen that legitimacy. Voluntaryists seek instead to delegitimize the State through education, and we advocate withdrawal of the cooperation and tacit consent on which State power ultimately depends.*"

Finally got a chance to update this post.
Could come help us build up our fledgling newly begun community in Tennessee ! Extra hands are welcome
1 year ago