Thursday, May 8, 2008

Off the Treadmill Other Structures

The first two photos are the washing station, which has the shower behind it, and the passive solar water heating system. Be sure to click on the water heating system. It is brilliant: just black hoses full of water being heated by the sun helped out by the glass in front of them.

The next two are the garden wall which runs from the courtyard (next post) to the Myrtle library. The closeup is the gate to the garden. As I understand it, all of the mass of the garden wall stores and holds heat to warm the garden soil.

The last photo, which should have been the first, is the troll bridge that we crossed over to get from where we parked the car up to the first of the cob buildings.

I neglected to take a picture of what I considered to be the most amazing auxillary structures: the outdoor composting toilets. Kei Chi said using the toilets was kind of like when we take the doggies to the potty box. They were sort of open outhouses facing out into the woods and surprisingly had no odor.


Dieverdog said...

So do they have to travel a long way to get supplies or do they really ever do that? Do they grow all their own food or do they still buy some consumer goods at stores? I guess there must be levels of this to which you can go. So the houses have no heating system, did I get that right? Were they cold, then? You know me, I don't like to be cold! I could do without the air conditioning much easier. I'm sure they must insulate better than "normal" houses though. I think those houses built into hills would keep a nice even temp year round. Did they say about how much you end up spending to make one? I'd be curious. Does everyone build their own house or are there some people who build them for other people who want to live in them but not build them? There must be a small market for that out there (maybe a growing one at that!). We all may need to learn to do these things before long and not have a choice.

Dieverdog said...

Oh, I forgot to ask... are there no indoor toilets? It sounded like what you said was that they were only outside.... not sure I could go for that on a permanent basis. Especially at night and then there's that whole bug thing with me....

Sharon Sahl said...

Hi Pam,
I guess there were lots of questions I left open. These people buy the things they don't grow but they are vegetarians so that mostly involves grains which are not suited to the climate they live in. So they buy organic oats, wheat, rice, etc, in 50 lb. bags as they need it. Presently they are less than 2 miles from the nearest small town where they can get or order those supplies but there was a small concern about how long trucks would continue to drive all the way out there. The heating systems were way cool. Those benches that you saw in the pictures have the exhaust pipes of a rocket stove (Ianto's invention) embedded in them. The rocket stove is made from a discarded 50 gallon metal barrel, burns significantly less wood than a conventional wood burning stove, and is only used as necessary. So where we sat for our workshop sessions was always toasty on our butts and if our toes got cold we just tucked them up under us. No one wore shoes in the library or the other buildings as far as I could tell. The thing about cob(and here I'm just saying what I heard because I don't understand it super well) is that it serves as a mass that stores and releases heat slowly. So it stores it during the day, which is why siting the house to make the most of the available sun is so important. Then the heat is released into the house at night. All that works really well in a temperate climate even allowing for lots of rain. Insulation is a whole different can of worms. It works by having lots of imbedded air, as in a comforter or a wool sweater. So in places that are really cold, people many times use straw bales coated with cob inside and out to insulate the parts of the house susceptible to cold, i.e., the north and west sides of the house, or even build whole houses out of straw bales.
Some of the houses have been built for as little as $500 and I know of others that have cost as much as many regular houses. The difference is how much you or the people working with you are willing to salvage, beg, borrow, or steal. These folks use found stone, as well as "urbanite", broken up discarded concrete, as foundations, wood from lumber mills that is considered unsalable for roofs, wool directly from sheep farmers for insulation and all sorts of other salvage. Windows, doors, toilets are frequently someone else's dicards and, yes, you can definely have an indoor toilet if you want.
There are lots of people who seem willing to help others build or learn to build. A few companies even will come to your site, help you get started, and build part of your house as a workshop for others who are learning the process. They usually require that you have taken part in workshops yourself. I don't know about having it all done but that is probably not far off.
But, you might have to get over "the whole bug thing".

jennifer said...

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