Filed under: dome, natural building, recycled material building, tiny cabin, zome
I’m a huge fan of building with recycled materials (especially free/salvaged ones)- we’ll talk about this, and DO IT, April 26th-28th at our Relaxshacks.com Tiny House Building Workshop in Wilmington, NC– so a guest post from Jeffrey, a reader of my blog, and a natural builder, was certainly welcomed….
Here’s what Jeffrey has to say…..
The project began with an idea: by reducing the size of a house, we actually increase the space we live in. Having a smaller homeforces us outside and into nature.
My aim was to make a well built cabin cheaply; using material destined for thelandfill as much as possible. Ifeel that much of the western world has become a ‘throw-away’ society. No longer do we repair our belongings when they wear out or break, but instead we thrown them away and buy new ones. I think knowledge of the value of materials is being lost. Building in this way also forces me to use techniques and materials I am not familiar with, so increases my ability and knowledge.
I decided on the geodesic dome as the shape for my cabin. I stayed in a beautifully crafted 30-foot wide dome house a few years ago in Dunster, BC and it made a deep impression on me. The lack of empty corners meant that I felt enveloped by the space in a unique and comforting way. For more practical reasons, the dome structure could cleverly be produced from reclaimed materials, so it was the ideal design solution.
Aprovecho (http://www.aprovecho.net/), a sustainable education and research center in Oregon gave me permission to build my cabin on their land.
I decided to add a roof on top of the dome for a number of reasons: I worried about effectively waterproofing all of the dome’s angles; I wanted to provide some shading for the windows in the summer; and I wanted to earthen plaster the outside – so I’d need an overhang to protect the plaster from the long Oregon rainy season.
To insulate the dome I used a combination of materials. I reclaimed rigid foam from a pile of deconstruction waste. After I ran out of that I used a “slip chip” made from wood shavings coated with clay slip and packed into a form. I was also interested to try using sheep’s wool as insulation because it is a natural, inexpensive insulating technique and sheep are abundant in the area. At a farmer’s market, I learned about a local woman who let me swap a days work on her land for six bags of her sheep’s wool. I then washed the wool to clean it, carded it to fluff it up, then sprayed it with borax to prevent insect infestation.
To finish the outside of the dome I collected vine maple from the surrounding forest and bent green branches around the structure. This acted as lathe to hold the earthen and lime plaster I smeared on as a protective skin.
I improvised lathe for the inside using some pegboard (with the smooth side against the insulation) reclaimed from a workshop.Next I held aworkshop to teach earthen plastering both to educate some of the Aprovecho interns and to complete the big plastering job in one day.
To finish the inside, I paneled the pony walls with exterior siding salvaged from the same shed deconstruction as the decking. I spent a long time planing and sanding the siding to reveal the gorgeous wood grains. Then I finished them with linseed oil and bees wax.
Finally, I constructed the door from the remains of an old goat shed and finished it with a porthole made from the only dimensional lumber in the build: a lumber delivery sticker.
I ran out of time before I could put in windows, but the cabin is livable for three seasons even without them. I plan to return and enlist the help of a local glasscutter to make triangular windows.
The total build took about 2 months and I ended up spending about $200 on screws, nails, tarpaper and sand.
While working on the dome I began to think about “pod living”. Sleeping in a “pod” bedroom like my dome and having central cooking, bathroom and social areas. Possibly having many pods in a co-housing style housing arrangement. This would mean the occupant must go outside and interact with the world around them more often, encouraging a lifestyle that is more connected with nature.For example, going outside between waking and eating breakfast allows them to notice the small, everyday changes in the seasons and catch many more of the special moments in a day: The brisk dawn, migrating birds or a salmon sunset.
When talking about this idea, many people bring up the cold and rainy days. These are the days when you would normally never venture outside, and so you miss many of these moments.
You can get more info on this and other projects at http://www.jeffreythenaturalbuilder.com
For more on recycled-material or “Salvage” construction, check out my book “Humble Homes, Simple Shacks”…..
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