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Bram van Overbeeke

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since May 30, 2011
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Recent posts by Bram van Overbeeke

Hi there Kostas,

my name is Bram and since October I live in Greece with my partner, we live near Marathonas. I am very interested in your efforts and am very happy to read your progress. I am already gathering carob seeds to plant when we go for hikes. I haven't read all the thread but I just wanted to post the following because it might just help you out a bit. It might have been posted before but still, in case it hasn't. There is this thing that people use in planting trees called 'bone sauce'. You basically boil the juice out of a bunch of bones and put it on your trees. The smell is horrible and some animals like rabbits and deer won't touch the trees. I would assume that goats wouldn't touch it either. Here is a video describing the whole process.

2 months ago
The 3rd year of Mike's passing is  coming up. Can anyone give an update on what happened to his legacy?
3 months ago
Bump. Did this get build? It seems like a very cosy design and would love to see pictures
2 years ago
You say you treat the waste water on site, can I ask if you could post more details on that? I'm currently in the process of doing the same. Though it won't filter waste water, it will just bring the local water quallity up and provide airation. In holland this is called a helofyte-filter. A helofyte being a waterloving plant like a reed or a rush. Basically what we'll do is run the water through a sand filter in an IBC, then a shell bed and then two beds of rushes. The sand will obviously take care of turbidity, the shell will lower the PH so that heavy metals fall out. The rushes then readjust the PH to 7/7.5, extract the leftover heavy metals, a lot of nitrogen and breath out some of the last things like waterbound hormones, hydrocarbons and 'x-icides' which will/should break down easily under UV exposure. Then lastly the water flows through a bed of sweetwater mussels which will fix the phosphate into the mud.

How's your system set up?
3 years ago
Hey there Darren,

nearly a year ago you did a course in Crete, Greece. I really wanted to join but sadly couldn't make it due to financial constraints. I'd just spend the summer there and it looks like me and my other half will be moving there in the future. One of the most amazing and excitingly challenging places to be!
Anyway, I looked and looked but couldn't find an update on the course and if the design got implemented or not? How was the course? What do you think of Crete? I think it has much potential, I went to visit one of the botanical gardens there, it had many tropical fruit growing. More than I could imagine would grow in a Mediterranean climate. Did the design that came out get put in place and if not so, could I participate in implementing it still? I'd really love to do 'reconstructive earth surgery', like I've heard it mentioned. Coming from Holland originally, I know how to think about water and its importance Regardless if its in short supply or over supply, it seems to be the key element in any design.
Ah, and one last question: will you be coming back to Greece at any point? Or europe for that matter?

Cheers for your input,
3 years ago
Hey there!

Amazing to see you on these forums! Since I heard of your work I've been following it. Hope to do a course with you one day.

3 years ago
Hi there Michael,

great progress! And great news for me too I'm planning to develop some land in Greece, and the soil type seems pretty similar to what you have there. I was worried I'd need to use EPDM or sumusch, but this progress is amazing! And in one year! Is it still going strong? Did they dig much with their snouts? Or was it only wallowing?

Cheers for the great work!

ps. more pictures would be very welcome! Especially if you sowed that groundcover you were talking about.
3 years ago
I can see how this could be a sollution to some people and a headache to others. In my small 2 person household in a tiny 30 sq meter apartment there is no space for a fishtank and 40 plates... But I can imagine that this would be an amazing sollution to the 'how to get 20 people to live under one roof without stabbing eachother' dilemma! I have lived only in groups for over 20 years and to be honest, the fights either start on dishes or toilets.
I agree with what you say, you cannot teach a 40 year old new tricks, so the more sensible thing is to design a different system to handle the frustration. I wouldn't look at this so much as a labor saving systems as much as a sanity saving system A person that wants a plate or several plates simply walks to the tank, where the plates are stored, takes the oldest plates out and rinses them under a tap to make them ready for the dinner table. It is the opposite in relationship to dishwashing... You work when you need to with minimal effort, not when you're obliged to with maximum effort (handwashing is a chore). Also the time of work is placed in a time when work is already required of person. Setting the table, cooking, cutting veggies, etc. As opposed to when person wants to sit back and relax with friends and family, making the chore one of increased drag...

It makes a lot of sense, and I could imagine this working like a charm for an intentional community or 20 person household.

One comment, you say you want to also add foodscraps of sometimes large groups of people (hundreds?). If foodscraps are not eaten in ponds, they compost anaerobically, taking up oxygen in the process. This is a normal part of pond/water life and not a concern except when you want to have living fish... A bubbler is needed at such times. I can imagine that it would normally stay off, but if you expect that the foodscraps will not all be eaten by the fish, yout turn on the bubbler.
3 years ago
Hi there!

My apologies for letting this horse die and then kicking it

It was indeed my idea to create the stuctural walls out of gabion meshing, then finish the roof off using superadobe domes or vaults. Because the cheapest and most widely available material that could become a gabion is a rebar wiremesh, the layouts I am playing with in my mind are using straight lines. I know rebar could in theory do curves, but my knowledge of structural integretity is too small to actually go into it and do domes/curved walls with confidence. I was thinking along the lines of a Hogan, an Oehler structure or a wofati shaped building. Keeping the wall sections to the standard size of wiremesh (what is it, 2 by 3 meters?) seems logical to me. If my research proves me right, you can do hectagonal and octagonal (sp?) domes using superadobe. Or transition from octagonal into a circle into a dome.

I have a few questions to answer and also to ask. First by Andrew Parker:

Getting back to gabions and liners, here are some questions:

What is the expected life of a geotextile liner?

Anything that is made out of polyethyleen or epdm can be expected to last indefinetely as long as it is not exposed to UV radiation. On the outside of the gabion this would be a minor problem as it would end up covered in dirt. On the inside it might create trouble for any kind of render to stick, it is a matter of what fabric is used and what kind of render you're trying to apply. My experience with lime plaster tells me that it could be alright to render a rough fabric, but anything close to earthbag/superadobe might need a basecoat of something else first (cob?). But to be honest, my experience comes from rendering cob and straw, not superadobe like fabrics.

Would the gabion and liner stand up to the soil being compacted?

As long as you're not trying to compact it with one of those compactors used in paving sidewalks I think you'd be fine. The video posted below is of someone making a compressed earth wall using one of those machines and they were using a system normally used to pour concrete to prevent the sides of the wall from buckling. So I assume that just using rebar mesh would allow too much play for more than regular compaction.

Could you use foamed loam in a lined gabion arch or dome?

To be honest, I have no idea about this exactly. The main reason for me to think without the use of foam insulation is that I expect to be too warm in Greece. Insulation might seem like something one would want in a colder climate, but with summer temps going up to 50C and winter temps staying around 5C I expect that we will need no insulation (Athens dipped 1 or 2 times below freezing this whole winter). The 17C underground temperatures that Oehler talks about seem like a perfectly adequate temperature for living year round.

What would be the best way to seal the surface of a stone filled gabion? I recognize that some would want to preserve the aesthetic of the stone face, but without grout or mortar, it makes a great hideout for vermin. I suppose you could do a kind of slipform stone masonry, using the gabion as a sacrificial form, or put a veneer over the gabion.

My first impulse is to go with Oehler's and Wheaton's design. Which is simply to leave the structural material to be exposed. I actually look forward to seeing the combination of rusty metal and raw stone. If one would choose to go for a smaller sized stone though, a fabric might be needed to contain it in the larger rebar mesh structure. If that's the case, a lime plaster seems in order. Grass or another kind of locally abundant material could be added as a layer between the geotextile and the rebar to provide a good hold for the plaster? I've also considered the use of carpet... carpet is one of those impossible to repurpose/recycle waste materials that might be around in copious amounts. If added between the rebar and the geotextile, it might make a nice baselayer for a plaster. It might also be a good candidate for protecting the polyethyleen from being punctured.

Another option I have considered, provided there is adequate natural light in the house, is to grow Ivy (Hedra Helix) on the walls. Or any other kind of shadeloving evergreen that is. The nice thing would be that you end up living in a completely leafy nest. The nasty thing is that a plant covering your walls and roof might make quite a mess inside. Airquallity inside the house should be amazing!

About the vermin. I expect to live with vermin, it is simply a fact of life in my opinion... keeping apropriate colleagues (pets) around and making sure there is no food exposed, should reduce their nuisance level to a minimum. Walls of any kind are a niche that is utilized as living quarters, I don't presume layers and layers of mortar will stop anyone from living there.... But that's my two cents. Also, I'm not bothered too much by mice or birds or bats, I think of it as a blessing to have other creatures joining me in 'my' house. Right now there's a Robin nesting in my strawbale walls

My own questions come down to these:
Tom Taber, in your post you speak about a geogrid being placed between layers... what do you mean with that? And on a related note... what is a deadman brace?

Also, considering superadobe and its related forms might make the strucure deviate too much from the original wofati design. What about just using gabions for the walls and then finishing the roof off with regular woodland materials?
OR, if you were to have access to copious amounts of other materials, some other kind of roofing material. I've been thinking of shipping containers. I know that in large parts of the world shipping containers are simply left and sold off for scrap metal prices (sometimes even given away, though that might be changing). I could imagine stripping the corrogated metal sides from the containers and using them as a roofing material. And perhaps the beams that are left over as horizontal roof supports? Like I said, my knowledge of engineering is limited, but I can imagine that it is a very easily recycled building material and if properly supported it should last generations. It would not need to be watertight, just able to support the weight of some soil (I believe 18 inches is what I've heard mention).

Your thoughts?
3 years ago