Monday, June 15, 2009

Cisterns are back, using grey water or rain harvesting for drought conditions

Collecting rain water and filtering it is much easier than it sounds. It just involves some filters and a good design. 
There is more than one way to use your grey water. From Gutter collection, sink runoff, barrels around the home to collect the rain. It will take the load off the local sewage system and feed your garden during the dry months.
This is a great resource site that gives detailed helpful hints from tax breaks to installation tricks.  
For example, Using grey water from your sink requires you to use biodegradable soap or you will kill your plants.  

The Eight Principles of Successful Water Harvesting

1. Begin with long and thoughtful observation.

 What is working, what is not? Build on what works.

2. Start at the top (highpoint) of your watershed and work your way down.

Water travels downhill, so collect water at your high points for more immediate infiltration and easy gravity-fed distribution. 

3. Start small and simple. Work at the human scale so you can build and repair everything.

4. Slow, spread, and infiltrate the flow of water. encourage it to stick around, “walk” around, and infiltrate into the soil.

5. Always plan an overflow route, and manage that overflow as a resource.

Always have an overflow route for the water in times of extra heavy rains, 

6. Maximize living and organic groundcover. Create a living sponge so the harvested water is used to create more resources, 

7. Maximize beneficial relationships and efficiency by “stacking functions.”

Get your water harvesting strategies to do more than hold water. Berms can double as high-and-dry raised paths. Plantings can be placed to cool buildings in summer. Vegetation can be selected to provide food.

8. Continually reassess your system: the “feedback loop.”
Observe how your work affects the site, beginning again with the first principle.

Friday, June 12, 2009

SIP Prefab House Kit (Structural Insulated Panels) - cheap and green

Starting around 23,000 USD dollars, this is a perfect solution for a 3 bedroom 1200 square foot home that can be customized per end user or site. The kits are bare bones: you get design and structure (SIPs exterior walls & roof, and design documents). End user will need to finish the house with a local contractor. They have created a list of windows, cladding & doors to order directly through the vendor to make it easy on purchasers and their contractor.

This then gives you great design, but allows you to choose the systems and finishes that best compliment your lifestyle and budget, thus making it your own.

A very important consideration when looking for a home lot is the structure’s passive solar design. In order to be their most efficient, these homes must have their designated wall facing true south, and with enough room to have their passive solar design work best.

The Casa Ti is one of the single family units that have been designed but they have larger units available and more traditional design as well. 

Global Sun Solar Oven - up to 400 degrees for less than 300 dollars

Solar Cooking has come a long way. 
During the sun hours of the day, the food is cooked in the same amount of time as a regular oven. And it has become the preferred way of cooking lots of meals because of how it cooks the food. Solar cooking allows many of the natural flavors of food, which get baked out in conventional ovens, to remain. The slow, even rise in temperatures in a Global Sun Oven gives the complex carbohydrates time to break down into simple sugars allowing subtle natural flavors to emerge. Sun baked foods stay moist, the natural internal juices do not bake out, resulting in a superior, moist taste and much less shrinkage. 

  • Cooks Any Kind of Food with the Power of the Sun - No Fuel Needed!
  • Reaches Temperatures of 360 to 400 Degrees Fahrenheit!
  • Totally Safe - No Danger of Fire!
  • Used Daily in 126 Countries Around the World! Ruggedly Built
  • As Portable as a Small Suitcase! 22 pounds
  • Dimensions: 9 in x 12 in. With the shallowest point from the glass at 5 in.

Modest House, Prefab home with glass exposure

Modest house is a prefab green designed house that uses a modern structure with insulated panels. Their design allows for the maximum amount of exposure to the surrounding environment with its choice green materials. 
The design allows for rainwater recapture in order to have a grey water system for a green roof or plumbing.
Prices starting at USD 250.00 per square foot. Finished price does not include the price of the land and installation on the site. 

Delux hammocks, rainfly, misquito netting

These are the Rolls Royce of Hammocks. Easy to setup and use as a bed, a chair, and a tent if no trees are available to use it as a hammock. They have several different versions for different uses, weights. All of these Canadian made Hennessy Hammocks include attached mosquito netting, detachable rain fly, support ropes, tree huggers to protect the of the bark of trees, and stuff sack with set up Instructions on back.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

African Tent Living, Stylish, breathable, durable

Perfectly earthquake safe structures that will last a lifetime. Built in South Africa, these massive hotel like tents are stylish and provide a large live able space. It takes about 10-12 weeks to manufacture  the various style of tents they offer. Their tents are  130 Sq. Feet (12 Sq. M) to 3,670 Sq. Feet (340 Sq. M) and more. They also allow for you to customize their designs at an additional cost because they check to see if it can handle snow, wind, earthquakes. They work best on a wood or concrete structure that needs to be prebuilt locally. It takes a few days to a week to assemble the tent on location. 

This is the perfect structure in temperate climates and has an advantage over yurts because of the several layers of tent roof that allows for it to breathe. It also allows for taller people more walking space without the fear of hitting your head on top of the tent. Structurally it allows for someone to connect with nature and their environment in a unique way just by rolling up a wall or installing a clear window. 

The company also provides bathroom options and composting toilets for enviromentally fragile environments. 

Thursday, June 4, 2009

A great design using 6 containers, the quik house

The Quik House is a prefabricated kit house built in NJ and designed by Adam Kalkin from 6 recycled shipping containers. From Order time to moving in it will take less than 6 months.  It has three bedrooms and two and one-half baths in its 2,000 square foot plan. The shell assembles within one day at your site, you will have a fully enclosed building. From start to finish, it should take no longer than three months to complete your house on site.

The owner is responsible for everything in the ground plus finishing the roof, making final electrical and plumbing connections, and installing wall finishes if necessary.

The pricing is broken down and estimates to be around 184,000 dollars plus shipping.
Here is the detailed list.  

Build a foundation with hand tools, perfect for green homes

A solid foundation that reaches deep into the ground without digging holes or pouring concrete! Installation is simple. The precast concrete head is installed at the ground surface, and steel bearing pins are driven through the head and into the ground using simple hand-held tools. This is the best way to install a reliable and durable foundation that will last the lifetime of your structure.

Using the Diamond Pier DP-100 to support residential structures reduces concrete use by 70 to 80%, and by eliminating excavation, dramatically reduces the carbon footprint of conventional construction, saves precious topsoil, and preserves natural drainage.

The foundation is simple and quick to install, with no site grading or special skills, and creates a wood skirted, vented crawl space or open post and beam superstructure, supported on the piers. This superstructure can stand alone, or be integrated with slab on grade garage construction, and can be constructed in most native penetrable soils.

Emergency Shelter for 200 dollars - the hexayurt

The Hexayurt is a prize-winning shelter you can build yourself for about $200, using fire safety insulation boards and a time honored yurt design. Suitable raw materials include common building materials ( fire safe insulation boards,) hexacomb cardboard and plastic. You cut six 4' x 8' panels in half diagonally to make the roof, and use six more whole panels to form the walls. It takes about two hours. 

Many of these were created for Burning Man and around the world. Not a permanent solution for housing but sturdier than a tent.. 

PreFab Kits - the metro Cabin

The Metro Cabin is a kit that can be put together in 3 Days by 2 people. It uses high quality materials and is guaranteed for 25 years with a limited warranty. At 16' deep x 20' wide it has generous room. It has an expansive, airy feel due to the ceiling height which is 9'-9" in the front. This system is constructed of treated timber perimeter wood beams, engineered joists, and 3/4" wood sub-flooring. The walls are stud-built with wood siding on the exterior. The cabin is trimmed in durable, high-grade spruce wood throughout. The curving galvanized steel beams support the 2" x 6" tongue-and-groove pine roof deck.

Prices start around 32000 and then the options kick in, a kitchen, a bathroom, etc.
They have worked with Ikea to create some interior options which I am sure you could do as well.
They use the instant heat water system which might not be good for a solar rig.
You will have to build the deck your self which would expand the living space of the cabin greatly.
There is also a need to find a way to insulate, heat, cool the structure as well. I do not see any of these in a snow setting. 

The company also offers the metro shed as a temporary office. 
I am sure a few of these could be tied together to create a more livable space for a family. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Organic Architecture, Low Impact Housing or Houses from the Shire

Using naturally found materials in Wales, lots of sweat equity, and a vision of whimsy this house was built for around 12,000 USD and can be used all year round. The reason this shelter works is the following. 
  • Dug into hillside for low visual impact and shelter
  • Stone and mud from diggings used for retaining walls, foundations etc.
  • Frame of oak thinnings (spare wood) from surrounding woodland
  • Reciprocal roof rafters are structurally and aesthaetically fantastic and very easy to do
  • Straw bales in floor, walls and roof for super-insulation and easy building
  • Plastic sheet and mud/turf roof for low impact and ease
  • Lime plaster on walls is breathable and low energy to manufacture (compared to cement)
  • Reclaimed (scrap) wood for floors and fittings

Sustainable, low impact, and affordable housing for those who want to partner with their local surroundings rather than dominate it.
This is a very cool site with plans and ideas on making your own.  

Lightweight Concrete Construction for Low Income Housing

Lightweight Concrete has been used in the US for 50 years, mainly to reduce weight in flooring. It is a simple process of combining concrete with lighter substances such as cinders, pumice, volcanic slag, clay instead of sand and gravel. Lightweight concrete may weigh from 35 to 115 pounds per cubic foot, depending on the type of lightweight aggregate used or the method of production.

As compared with the usual sand and gravel concrete it has certain advantages and disadvantages. Among the former are the savings in structural steel supports and decreased foundation sizes because of decreased loads, and better fire resistance and insulation against heat and sound. Its disadvantages include greater cost (30 to 50 percent), need for more care in placing, greater porosity, and more drying shrinkage.

This link is a cool example of a Mexican Adobe created with this technique.