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Photo Source: New Society Publishers
Publisher: New Society Publishers

Summary

From foundation to finish, a wealth of information is available on sustainable construction methods-entire volumes have been published on individual green and natural building techniques. But with so many different ideas to choose from, there is no single resource that allows an owner or builder to quickly and objectively compare the merits of each system for their particular project.

Making Better Buildings cuts through the hype and provides the unvarnished facts about the upsides and downsides of the most widely discussed materials and technologies. Drawing on the real-world experiences of designer/builders, this comparative guide systematically and comprehensively examines each approach in terms of:

  • Cost, sourcing, labor intensity, and ease of construction
  • Energy efficiency, embodied energy, and environmental impacts
  • Availability/accessibility
  • Viable applications and future potential.

  • Each chapter is rounded out by a chart which summarizes the material in a quick and accessible manner.

    Whether you are an owner preparing to build a green or natural home, or a conventional contractor determined to integrate sustainable alternatives into your existing construction practices, this up-to-the minute resource will help you make the best decisions for your project, while meeting your energy, efficiency, budgetary, and site-specific needs.

    Where to get it?

    Amazon US
    Amazon CA
    Amazon UK
    Amazon AU
    Powell's
    New Society Publishers

    Related Videos







    Related Threads

    Straw Bale thread at Permies
    Cob home basics thread at Permies

    Related Websites

    Chris Magwood's website
    COMMENTS:
     
    Posts: 14
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    So is this book good for remodeling as well as new construction?
     
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    Welcome again to Permies.com Chris...

    Nice to have another natural building enthusiast here, especially one with your level of expertise.

    I have been fantasizing about building a tiny retreat from straw and plaster for a couple of years now in Massachusetts. Just a little place tucked in the woods where I can enjoy some solace, a bit like Thoreau's cabin at Walden pond only octagonal. I would like to be able to sneak out (hike in the summers and snowshoe in the winters) to my place and stay there with a mini bio mass heater to keep me toasty warm when there is a blanket of snow outside and nice in cool the rest of the year. How does this form of construction work with regards to staying cool in the heat of the summers?

    It seams like a very durable form of construction. I have visited one intentional community that has a little place like the one I referred to, but for some reason they use it as a show and tell structure rather than have someone stay in it. I haven't checked into the local codes yet. Any idea how acceptable this sort of construct is in our area?

    Dreaming in New England,

    Christopher
     
    Posts: 108
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    I'm in hampshire county wv and my neighbor was able to build 2 straw bale cottages. The building codes here are quite strict, even grey water isn't allowed- I think if you have the frame as the load bearing part of the structure and it is a conventional frame you would have good luck with the permitting? I'm not a builder, but I'm always excited to hear of another place where natural building is accepted-let me know if you get permitted to build your hideaway!
    Good luck!
     
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    Hi Eva,
    Codes can be extremely variable from location to location. However, straw bale building has made a huge leap recently in the US with the acceptance of a straw bale appendix into the 2015 International Residential Code (IRC). This appendix gives code officials an easy way to accept straw bale projects, both "load bearing" and framed versions. There's a good article on the new code appendix and its implications at The Last Straw Journal, http://thelaststraw.org/a-strawbale-residential-building-code-for-the-united-states/.

    Hi Christopher,
    Thanks for the welcome to Permies! An amazing community that I'm just being introduced to...
    In general, any kind of insulation works equally well in both directions... if it's keeping you warm in the winter, it will keep you cool in summer. However, applying basic passive solar design will help to ensure that the insulation can do its work. Be sure that south facing and west facing windows have adequate shading for the summertime, otherwise the solar heat gain through the windows will raise the interior temperature even if the wall and ceiling insulation are adequate.
    It's always a good idea to build in cross-ventilation, with a low intake (could be a window or screen door) on the side that faces the predominant summer breeze, and a high exhaust (usually a window) on the leeward side. This will really help move air through the building, especially at night.
    If you're building really small, we have used straw between a double stud wall, with both walls sheathed in wooden lath and the straw packed very firmly into the frame cavities. This was a great way to shave the wall width down to 12" instead of 16".

    Hi Dk,
    Yes, this book is definitely intended to be useful for remodelling as well as new construction. All of the materials examined in the book can be used in renovations, and many of them are particularly well suited to renovations. The book covers a wide range of eco-friendly insulation, wall finishing materials, siding, roofing, flooring and finishes, all of which are likely to be involved in a typical renovation.
     
    Dk Jacob
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    Thanks for answering so quickly.
     
    Christopher Kyprianos
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    Chris Magwood wrote:

    Hi Christopher,
    Thanks for the welcome to Permies! An amazing community that I'm just being introduced to...
    In general, any kind of insulation works equally well in both directions... if it's keeping you warm in the winter, it will keep you cool in summer. However, applying basic passive solar design will help to ensure that the insulation can do its work. Be sure that south facing and west facing windows have adequate shading for the summertime, otherwise the solar heat gain through the windows will raise the interior temperature even if the wall and ceiling insulation are adequate.
    It's always a good idea to build in cross-ventilation, with a low intake (could be a window or screen door) on the side that faces the predominant summer breeze, and a high exhaust (usually a window) on the leeward side. This will really help move air through the building, especially at night.
    If you're building really small, we have used straw between a double stud wall, with both walls sheathed in wooden lath and the straw packed very firmly into the frame cavities. This was a great way to shave the wall width down to 12" instead of 16".



    Chris, thank you for the quick response. I like the idea of the thinner walls and using lathing. I could make these right on the floor and then stand up each section. I love it. Do you think using a single 2'X10 would be to narrow?

    You have me thinking now. I will have to peek at our local codes to see if I make something as small as I want if they will make me pull a permit. I wasn't planning on having running water in the retreat, so maybe I'll be OK.

    Thanks again,

    Christopher
     
    Chris Magwood
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    Christopher,

    A single 2x10 wouldn't be too narrow for this wall system, but it would create a lot of thermal bridging, as each stud would touch the outside and inside of the wall system. Better would be two 2x4 walls spaced to the same size as a 2x10... less wood, no thermal bridging.
     
    Christopher Kyprianos
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    Chris Magwood wrote:Christopher,

    A single 2x10 wouldn't be too narrow for this wall system, but it would create a lot of thermal bridging, as each stud would touch the outside and inside of the wall system. Better would be two 2x4 walls spaced to the same size as a 2x10... less wood, no thermal bridging.



    Thank you Chris,

    I didn't realize that would occur. It would be less expensive to do that too, I would imagine.
     
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    Hi Christopher K.

    Consider a wall truss system, they are superior in many ways to stud framing, can be made to any thickness of wall (ours are a minimum of 250 mm and go up to a meter), provide a wire, plumb and mechanical chase without any effort. and give architectural depth to your design.

    Regards,

    j
     
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    Hi Cris,

    The book looks like a must read and is now on my list. One quick question, though, it appears from the table of contents and index that you review and compare many wall material options, but it doesn't appear that log walls are included. Could you comment on that? I'm looking at constructing our next home from log and using our own timber for that, and while you include wood lap siding, it is interesting that logs are missing - or did I miss that? Or would your preference be creating trusses from the timber rather than full logs? Seems that would have a much higher impact that just using the full logs.
     
    Chris Magwood
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    Hi Conrad,

    You are right, I didn't include log wall systems. The book definitely has a northern climate bias (where I do all my work), and it's just not possible to hit the kind of energy efficiency targets that I think it's important to reach with log wall systems. And in terms of impacts, a log home uses substantially much more wood than a similarly sized frame home or timber frame home. The energy expended to mill timbers is relatively small, and is more than offset by the reduced wood use.

    As with all things, I think log homes can certainly fit certain needs and criteria for owners, so I don't think they are a bad idea. But they just don't come close to meeting the kinds of performance standards achieved by all the other materials featured in the book.

    Perhaps if I do another edition, I'll run the figures for them for comparison's sake!
     
    Conrad Farmer
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    Thank you, Chris. The comparison figures would be interesting indeed.
     
    pollinator
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    Just picked up a copy yesterday, started reading last night. Enjoying this a lot so far! Exactly what I was looking for.
     
    My, my, aren't you a big fella. Here, have a tiny ad:
    Building a Better World in your Backyard by Paul Wheaton and Shawn Klassen-Koop
    https://permies.com/w/better-world
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