Author Topic: Building with Awareness DVD  (Read 8143 times)

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Offline John Raabe

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Building with Awareness DVD
« on: April 23, 2005, 09:12:39 AM »
If you live in the desert Southwest and want to build a small house with local natural materials that will have a low impact on the environment you couldn't wish for a better informational product. Also, the owner/builder is a filmmaker and the production values and transition scenes of the New Mexico clouds and sunsets are very high quality. This is no funky production!



This handsome little owner built house (800sf) is very well documented and explained. Including the few mistakes the owner made and what he would do differently if doing it again.

The house covers a wealth of alternative materials and techniques, including:
• Post and beam wall framing
• Straw bale infill walls (done with workshop labor)
• Roof truss framing
• Metal roofing installation
• Rubble trench footings (less concrete)
• Mud plaster and cement stucco work for both exterior and interior. (Best Info. I've ever seen on this!)
• Slab on grade floor
• PV solar electric installation
• Rainwater collection

Many of the techniques are appropriate only in the climate this house was built in (mud walls and high internal thermal mass walls for example). The author does not help sensitize the viewer to make climate appropriate choices. Building this house in a damp rainy climate with little winter sun would be a disaster. Fortunately, it would also be very difficult to find the high quality subcontractors to do what is easy and appropriate for the 5,000 foot elevation of New Mexico.

There is also a little more presentation of ego and proselytizing for (the owner's) aesthetics than I would like to see. The film gives you the impression that this is the type of house everyone should build if they are cultured and sensitive to the earth.

A little too much Jehovah's Witnesses were mixed in with the mud me thinks.  :)

Still, an owner builder that is as involved and proud of their work as this one is deserves some boasting room.

Certainly, this is one of the best documented small house projects ever done. There is a lot to be learned that can be applied to many other types of houses.

I give it a thumbs up! Well worth the price of admission. http://buildingwithawareness.com/Movies2.html
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Offline Shelley

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Re: Building with Awareness DVD
« Reply #1 on: April 23, 2005, 10:03:41 AM »
Even tho I posted the original link, I had not purchased the video.  Then, when you all started talking about it, I bought it too.

We both watched it last night.  Picked up on a few things that maybe are too subtle if you don't live here.   And, a few things that they made look a lot easier than it is.  And, a few ugly things that were a little cheesey.  Looked good in the end tho.

And, I'd love to buy recycled beams.  Trouble is, we have one architectural salvage yard in a metropolitan area that is fast approaching a million.

I'm kinda jazzed about earth plasters.  American Clay (here)  offers inexpensive workshops.  Two different ones...for the pro and for the DIY.  One of them will be taught by the woman in the video, Keely Meagan.  Still think their stuff is expensive,  think you can make your own a lot cheaper.  Think I'll go to their workshop.  Then, I discovered another plaster workshop place in Kingston NM which is not far from our new town.  The Steens are within a 1/2 day's drive from the new place too.

I researched that Stefan Bell guy a little.  Listed as a contractor and lives in Velarde...on the Rio Grande between Sante Fe and Taos.

If any of you are interested in plaster, be it clay or gypsum, the video is worth it for just that part.

I was actually thinking about doing bale infill for the next house.  Video made me discard that idea ;)
It's a dry heat.  Right.


Offline John Raabe

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Re: Building with Awareness DVD
« Reply #2 on: April 23, 2005, 10:25:08 AM »
Shelly:

I really enjoyed the climate shots of the area. Someday I'll get down to that area and spend some time. I'm sure it is not as pristine as when I was there in the 80's.

Mud and white clay plasters could easily be used to soften and add character to a drywall house. The drywall could be put up quick and sloppy with rounded forms at corners and windows if desired. Then the mud would have a solid base and could be much easier to apply and thinner I expect than what was needed on the straw.

Here is a product I just found in the latest Fine Homebuilding.

http://www.americanclay.com/

American Clay has a special "WallTooth" primer that is put on the drywall substrait prior to the colored clay.


« Last Edit: April 27, 2005, 11:42:50 AM by jraabe »
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Offline Shelley

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Re: Building with Awareness DVD
« Reply #3 on: April 23, 2005, 01:18:21 PM »
I'm gonna quiz them a lot about putting it on DW, rather than plaster board.  DW's not made for that much water.  That's why God invented plaster board.

Oh, I'm still doing adobe, just not bale.  Did you notice when he said that of all the materials he worked with he liked adobe best.

I guess I was swept away thinking of how fast 3' bales go up versus adobe.  But they spent forever getting it ready to plaster.  They showed a lot of detail, but glossed over the time involved.

I'm thinkin' they spent two years building judging by jackets worn and bare trees that I saw in various stages of building.  It's only 800 sf and Father and Son were there all the time.  Other two were part time I think.  

I'm way too old to pull wire thru those bales.  Can't imagine what an ele would charge....if you could find one.  Closest bale haven to my new town is 50 miles.
It's a dry heat.  Right.

Offline glenn kangiser

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Re: Building with Awareness DVD
« Reply #4 on: April 23, 2005, 01:40:40 PM »
Are you going to make your own bricks Shelley ???
Also are you going to do any cob?  Using bond beams ? Dealing with a building department?

Boy, I'm full of them today huh?  Was just thinking about what you might be dealing with.

John, since you seem to know, what exactly is the proper ratio of JW's to mud ???  I was kicked out years ago and am no longer privy to that information. ;D

It seems more people should want to learn the skills to build their own houses.  Unfortunately in our area the cheapest engineer that will design a straw bale infill house with a post and beam frame is about $4000 and they are a local engineer.  Out of towner's charge $10000 to $15000 or more.  Take a low cost building method and give it to the bureaucracy and they will find a way to make it cost a lot.

From another site:
• Percentage of Americans living below the poverty level who voted in the 2000 presidential election: 38

• Number of US counties in which a full-time minimum-wage earner can afford a one-bedroom apartment: 0

• Percentage of children born in New York City who are living in poverty: 52
(1999 figure)

(Sources: The Guardian, September 1, 2003; harpers.org)

When will reality kick in and housing methods be allowed to be affordable ???
« Last Edit: April 23, 2005, 02:52:20 PM by glenn-k »
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Offline John Raabe

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Re: Building with Awareness DVD
« Reply #5 on: April 23, 2005, 01:40:59 PM »
Yes, the drywall should probably be the blueboard that is used with hand trowel veneer plaster. It may also be that the clays and mud used in the video need to have the mesh as well if they are not chemically activated.

An experiment is probably in order unless you can find a local expert who has this worked out.

I know some local builders here who have done what I was suggesting but I don't think they were using clay and mud as the finish coats.
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Offline Amanda_931

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Re: Building with Awareness DVD
« Reply #6 on: April 23, 2005, 03:09:38 PM »
The straw bale people aren't doing a lot of things any more that that guy did with his, although that's more like the way the two buildings I've worked on were built.  Those two both had concrete for plaster.

Because water is more likely to condense on metal than wood, people are using bamboo poles instead of rebar reinforcement.  Probably after the first course.  Both directions.  And it can be our cane brake cane or the stuff that you buy in bales from nursery supply companies.

Did you notice how hard it was to plaster over the chicken wire attached to the straw?  That seems to be another thing that has gone by the board--at least unless you are using some sort of gun to shoot your plaster onto the wall, otherwise they tend to spray the bales with slip and then put their first coat of plaster on.

Loadbearing straw bales have used plastic strapping a lot to tie the walls together--from the bond beam on the bottom to the top plate/upper bond beam.  No reason it can't be done with the infill.

All bets may be off in serious seismic areas, though.

We had a small earthquake about 40 miles away the other day, in an area with quite different geology.  And if there were a big one in Memphis we might get some of the aftershocks.  But not considered a threat here.

I've seen pictures of a kind of hybrid load-bearing/infill house where the builders have put the roof with a nice wide overhang up first, stacked bales up to about where they want them, put on that top plate, tied them down level with strapping.  After that put the ceiling/second floor joists on.  Tying them into the posts for the roof overhang.  Probably best off using scissors or some other kind of cathedral ceiling trusses.  If you had a loadbearing wall in the middle it would probably have to be light clay or wattle and daub--or standard framing, put in so the ceiling stays level.


Offline Shelley

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Re: Building with Awareness DVD
« Reply #7 on: April 23, 2005, 03:25:30 PM »
That's the cool thing about NM Glenn.  There's a code.  Don't need an engineer if you follow the code.

Bale is what you saw on the video...no load bearing.  Adobe is also what you saw and he made reference to the code several times.

Wonder, Amanda, if the code here specifies rebar.  Have never checked.

Read an article written by the plaster gal.  She made reference to the first coat put on with a DW hopper.  Now that makes sense and would save a lot of time.  We've often wondered why no one uses a gun on the outside for the first coat.  What the pool guys use to spray gunite pools.

The bale guy seemed to indicate a preference for metal lath on the exterior.  Also was a little displeased that they hadn't cleaned up the walls a little more b4 plastering.   I didn't notice any difficulty with the wire.  Will go back and check.  I'd rather wire it than spend the rest of my life trying to plumb out the wall with mud plaster.

Anyway, great video.    Wonder why no one ever use an air nailer?  You could tell that none of those guys were used to swinging a hammer.  Maybe they just wanted to use what they thought the average owner/builder would use.
It's a dry heat.  Right.

Offline glenn kangiser

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Re: Building with Awareness DVD
« Reply #8 on: April 23, 2005, 09:49:37 PM »
Interesting Shelly, we actually have a straw bale code also, but apparently it requires an engineer to design the post and beam frame, therefore -get out the checkbook :-/

It also requires someone else to do energy calcs if you can find one who will do strawbales-  get out the checkbook again-I can't believe what my friends are having to spend for what is supposed to be an affordable building method. :o
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Offline Shelley

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Re: Building with Awareness DVD
« Reply #9 on: April 24, 2005, 08:02:46 PM »
Hey Glenn,

Was out on a web site today. www.adobebuilder.com
Owner is one of the "deans" around here.

Reference was to adobe and rammed earth.  Talking about states with codes.  CA listed as state with a code that was the "most restrictive".  Maybe that's why your bale friends are having so much heartache.

Noticed your comment about heat loss calcs.  We have a little work sheet that you turn in with plans.  Anyone with sense can do it.
It's a dry heat.  Right.

Offline glenn kangiser

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Re: Building with Awareness DVD
« Reply #10 on: April 24, 2005, 08:41:14 PM »
California is geared toward relieving all potential builders of any excess cash they have, may get or can borrow.  If my friends had been forced to have an engineered septic they would probably have had to go outlaw.  School tax alone here is $2.15 per square foot.
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Offline John Raabe

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Re: Building with Awareness DVD
« Reply #11 on: April 26, 2005, 07:52:57 AM »
In most earthquake areas strawbale houses often end up using more old growth timber for the post and beam frame than would have been used in the standard platform framed house. This house (in the DVD) used recycled lumber for the larger beams, but thinking that strawbale houses are a "Green" solution if every builder built this way is a pipe dream.

Remember, stud frame construction evolved OUT of earlier forms of housing such as timber frame, log and strawbale construction mainly because they could be done by fewer, less experienced builders, more quickly and using less timber to build more. The materials of modern frame construction (OSB, I-joists, finger jointed studs) are produced more and more on sustainable wood fiber farms and are very efficient at getting the most out of those giant plants.

As I've said before... too bad familiarity breeds contempt. Too many people think that if they want to build a house for themselves they need to build the walls out of something unusual — why is it always the walls?

On the other hand, when was the last time you were able to get a bunch of strangers to show up at your house and work all weekend on a frame house? Build that wall out of straw, or tires or something new and you'll get a crowd.
« Last Edit: April 27, 2005, 11:50:52 AM by jraabe »
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Offline glenn kangiser

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Re: Building with Awareness DVD
« Reply #12 on: April 26, 2005, 08:02:08 AM »
Seems to me you are suggesting that eveyone who wants to try something new should put 18" of dirt over their head like me--:o    Thanks for seeing it my way, John. ;D
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Offline John Raabe

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Re: Building with Awareness DVD
« Reply #13 on: April 26, 2005, 09:30:21 AM »
18" of dirt overhead is fine as long as it stays there.

I worry about the earthquake issue on some projects - see my Peace Corps story here: (Most interesting Place I ever Lived) http://www.countryplans.com/jr_hist.htm.

Would hate to see that come down on you my friend (as it did to another great experimenter we both respect).  :P

In some cases, I guess I'm saying, tried in true works in the roof as well. This was your point in the first place, I expect. (Sometimes it takes me awhile to get your humor, but then I laugh out loud.)

« Last Edit: April 26, 2005, 09:39:47 AM by jraabe »
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Offline Shelley

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Re: Building with Awareness DVD
« Reply #14 on: April 26, 2005, 03:48:57 PM »
Agree with you John.  Himself does too.  He's the one who drags me back to the planet after I see some off-the-wall thing that would be cool to do.

Even tho adobe is mainstream here, it's not readily available in every part of the state.  Making your own bricks adds a year to the process.

There are two adobe yards in our new town.  If something prevents our adobe construction, it'll be frame.  Two AARPers can manage most of that alone ;D.
It's a dry heat.  Right.

Offline glenn kangiser

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Re: Building with Awareness DVD
« Reply #15 on: April 27, 2005, 12:14:58 AM »
Actually, Mike Oehler had an engineer work out the calcs with a good safety margin - cheap but not stupid-- I checked it out to make sure his designs were sound before building then reduced the loading 25% as he later recommended.  I regularly set down 3000 lb. pallets of dirt with my crane without worry of where   I set it- even if it already has dirt on it.  This is about equal to the live load of the foot of water that is calced into the rule of thumb tables in the book besides the reduced loading on the dirt. ;D

Sometimes my humor is just plain weird ::)  Oh, crap--- I just remembered - that dirt over my head is 2/3 horse manure.  I really do hope it stays there now :-/
« Last Edit: April 27, 2005, 12:18:01 AM by glenn-k »
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Offline John Raabe

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Re: Building with Awareness DVD
« Reply #16 on: April 27, 2005, 11:30:58 AM »
Also, the fact that you pushed all that dirt against the walls will help support the heavy roof in case of a big rolling earthquake. Your whole structure will all pretty much move as a unit.

These are the kind of earthquakes that kill thousands in IRAN because the unstabilized walls start flapping back and forth and the heavy mud roof supports pop out of the pockets in the wall.
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