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paanta
paanta New Reader
11/15/10 9:06 a.m.
TRoglodyte wrote: Adobe? Doesn't get much more grassroots than mud !

Straw bales are probably more grass roots.

Another way to lower your footprint would be to move to NYC, sell the cars, and live in a tiny apartment.

Tom Heath
Tom Heath Webmaster
11/15/10 9:48 a.m.

I wanted to use the GRM back issue collection to make a Papercrete house.

Turns out you need to own the land before you start dumping truckloads of old magazines on it. Maybe someday...

DILYSI Dave
DILYSI Dave SuperDork
11/15/10 9:49 a.m.

Or you could just not buy into the carbon footprint BS, buy a normal house, insulate it, recycle, plant a garden, and not dump your oil in a hole in the backyard.

carguy123
carguy123 SuperDork
11/15/10 9:52 a.m.

A tiny apartment in NY hardly qualifies for reduced carbon footprint. The size does, but the location doesn't.

And then there's the cost factor. For the price of that tiny apartment you could have a nice sized, energy efficient house with trees, grass and even an organic vegetable garden.

TRoglodyte
TRoglodyte Reader
11/15/10 9:58 a.m.

Green acres is the place to be,Farm livin is the life for me! Land spreadin out so far and wide, Keep Manhattan just gimme that countryside. Remember that tune?

digdug18
digdug18 HalfDork
11/15/10 3:48 p.m.

I second the cargo containers, its an excellent use of a material and you can get the pre insulated ones that are already 4" of foam. Door kits are available for cheap as well. Good luck getting insurance for it though. I looked into it for a shed for myself, with a 8' roll up garage door on one end, a door kit and 2 windows preinstalled, for a 40' container it was $2200 delivered.

carguy123
carguy123 SuperDork
11/15/10 4:45 p.m.
TRoglodyte wrote: Green acres is the place to be,Farm livin is the life for me! Land spreadin out so far and wide, Keep Manhattan just gimme that countryside. Remember that tune?

Now I'm going to have to hunt you down and kill you. It's only take 20-30 years to get that out of my head

SVreX
SVreX SuperDork
11/15/10 5:14 p.m.

Here we go again...

I spent a lot of years designing and building appropriate technology houses all over the world. I've built EVERY SINGLE form mentioned in this thread, except for papercrete, and several that are not mentioned (like thatch, pressed earth brick, woven stick, and recycled tires). I can give the pros and cons on all of them.

First off, let me focus on what you said you are looking for. You said you are environmental freaks, are concerned about your carbon footprint, and that the focus should be on cheap and energy efficient.

But you also said land is cheap, and that you are willing to consume additional new resources to build something new.

These points are a contradiction.

There is never anything more "green" than an existing house, nor one with a smaller carbon footprint. It may consume more energy to heat, but it will not consume more non-renewable resources (like old growth timber, land, soil absorbtion area, and petroleum for processing the raws into final products).

But maybe you aren't quite as big an environmental freak as you think, and simply WANT to build. That's OK.

If so, the next question is, what do you mean by "green", "grassroots", or "environmentally friendly"? Do you mean easy to assemble yourself? Do you mean consume very minimal energy? Do you mean you want to conserve waste in the landfill? Avoid cutting trees? Build from post consumer waste?

There is no such thing as a "formula" that makes a house "green". It has EVERYTHING to do with what is important to you, and which specific areas are of concern to you. Kinda like the total electric car debate. Sure they don't emit emissions locally, but is the electricity generated by burning coal? How about battery disposal?

After you get past those "philosophical" issues, the first thing I think defines an appropriate technology is the local climate and available resources. If you are building in the midwest where there are lots of grain fields, straw bales might make sense. But don't use them in the NorthEast (the trucking will kill you), or the NorthWest (too wet a climate). Log homes are nice, but definitely NOT "green" if you are building in FL.

Actually, log homes are never green. They consume an enormous quantity of board footage of timber for a minimal footprint, and require extensive maintenance to avoid drafts, etc. as they shrink (they ALWAYS shrink. Dry logs will STILL shrink). But, they DO give thermal mass, and this MAY reduce energy consumption (if air infiltration is handled well).

Answer a few of the questions, and I'll respond with more details.

SVreX
SVreX SuperDork
11/15/10 5:21 p.m.

Cargo containers have been beaten to death on this board. I've built with them. They are NOT cheap, and they create nightmares when meeting the needs of the building codes. Oh, you can forget bank financing for them, or resale.

They suck for energy efficiency, have no wall cavities to install utilities in, condensate (and rust) extensively, and require large equipment for installation (not too grassroots).

If you are an engineer who works for a trucking company building in a rural area, maybe. Assuming you can weld, and don't want electric concealed, air conditioning, running water, or to recover your money when it is time to sell.

SVreX
SVreX SuperDork
11/15/10 5:21 p.m.

How do you guys perceive log homes as "green"?

SVreX
SVreX SuperDork
11/15/10 5:26 p.m.

Word on Tumbleweed houses... Neat concept, well executed, but severely overpriced. They understand design, but have little understanding of mass production techniques which can help reduce costs. They are also very limited in their capacity and ability to scale up.

If anyone is interested in this option, contact me. I am developing a similar concept with an architect utilizing some lean construction methods which should be significantly less expensive.

And maybe greener.

SVreX
SVreX SuperDork
11/19/10 12:42 a.m.

I really am interested in more input on why some of you consider log homes to be green.

poopshovel
poopshovel SuperDork
11/19/10 8:35 a.m.

Glad this thread is here. We used to watch that "Extreme Homes" show a lot. Not sure if it's still on or not. One of my favorites was a guy who took an old grain silo, cut it in half length-wise, poured to concrete slabs, and built two houses with it. Exposed plumbing and electrical, all industrial hardware, etc. It's funny, because the guy was a good ole' boy, and had no idea that what he'd created was an ultra contemporary place.

So, I've had that on the brain for a while. I don't remember how they addressed insulation. That might get expensive and complicated quickly. Anyway, while I would obviously want it to be energy efficient, I'm no 'green freak' and wouldn't pay $100,000 up front to save $10 a year on a light bill.

My main goal would be to build something CHEAP, and IMHO, the more bare-bones functional it is, the cooler it is. Plus, less money spent on building means more money to spend on land, means the dirt race track around the house can be larger.

Any thoughts, Paul?

pinchvalve
pinchvalve SuperDork
11/19/10 8:39 a.m.
SVreX wrote: There is never anything more "green" than an existing house, nor one with a smaller carbon footprint. It may consume more energy to heat, but it will not consume more non-renewable resources (like old growth timber, land, soil absorbtion area, and petroleum for processing the raws into final products).

Neat story on NPR about this subject this week, never thought that I was being green in not building new!

procainestart
procainestart Dork
11/19/10 4:26 p.m.

Have you looked into passively heated designs?

NY Times said: No Furnaces but Heat Aplenty in ‘Passive Houses’ From the outside, there is nothing unusual about the stylish new gray and orange row houses in the Kranichstein District, with wreaths on the doors and Christmas lights twinkling through a freezing drizzle. But these houses are part of a revolution in building design: There are no drafts, no cold tile floors, no snuggling under blankets until the furnace kicks in. There is, in fact, no furnace.

The whole article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/27/world/europe/27house.html?pagewanted=all

Also, have you looked into straw bail construction? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straw-bale_construction

Finally, have you looked into pre-fabricated homes? Not double-wides, etc., but real, modular, pre-fabricated structures that are brought to the site and installed.

All that said, and as noted above, the "greenest" home is the one that's already built...

Jensenman
Jensenman SuperDork
11/19/10 6:33 p.m.

Recycling an older house is indeed a green method for all the reasons Paul mentioned. But, having tried that once, hell no I ain't doing it again. I ain't doing that remodel while you live in it stuff ever again. Life is just too short.

Okay, if I could buy a house, add all the necessary insulation wiring etc to make it energy efficient and only then move in, yeah I might go for it. But the chances of finding what I want are pretty remote, like kid's bedrooms big enough to actually move around in. That 10x10 crap don't cut it.

So when it comes time to build the next chez Jensen, I have a list of things to build into it, many of them are related to liveability (such as decent size bedrooms, properly wired celing fans, stuff like that) and many are energy usage related such as extra insulation, passive solar heat, geothermal cooling assistance, etc.

Let's not forget a big ol' extra deep 2 car garage and a big ol' shop out back.

mistanfo
mistanfo SuperDork
11/20/10 3:56 a.m.

An interesting method that I saw recently ( and it would fit aesthetically where we are looking to retire) is to take two metal silos of equal diameter, and squeeze one slightly smaller, insulating between them. I am thinking that having insulation against the outer, and then a layer of concrete between that and thinner for thermal mass, and you have a home that doesn't look like a home. Which, in a field at the edge of farmland, blends nicely. Just build as many as you need square footage. Build on the south side of the road, have windows and doorson the south side of the silos, and no oneneeds to be the wiser.

poopshovel
poopshovel SuperDork
11/20/10 8:25 a.m.
mistanfo wrote: An interesting method that I saw recently ( and it would fit aesthetically where we are looking to retire) is to take two metal silos of equal diameter, and squeeze one slightly smaller, insulating between them. I am thinking that having insulation against the outer, and then a layer of concrete between that and thinner for thermal mass, and you have a home that doesn't look like a home. Which, in a field at the edge of farmland, blends nicely. Just build as many as you need square footage. Build on the south side of the road, have windows and doorson the south side of the silos, and no oneneeds to be the wiser.

linky? TV show?

Big ego
Big ego SuperDork
11/20/10 8:28 a.m.

missle silo?

http://www.silohome.com/

stroker
stroker Reader
11/20/10 10:41 a.m.

In reply to Big ego:

Only two problems with that idea:

  1. $

  2. wife

Karl La Follette
Karl La Follette HalfDork
11/20/10 12:32 p.m.

http://www.yurts.com/

Derick Freese
Derick Freese HalfDork
11/20/10 12:36 p.m.

In reply to stroker:

Silos are cheap. Making a silo livable can be a pain in the arse.

Tell the wife that she's going to live in a silo and like it. If she doesn't like it, then you have one hell of a bachelor pad.

SVreX
SVreX SuperDork
11/20/10 8:26 p.m.
poopshovel wrote: Glad this thread is here. We used to watch that "Extreme Homes" show a lot. Not sure if it's still on or not. One of my favorites was a guy who took an old grain silo, cut it in half length-wise, poured to concrete slabs, and built two houses with it. Exposed plumbing and electrical, all industrial hardware, etc. It's funny, because the guy was a good ole' boy, and had no idea that what he'd created was an ultra contemporary place. So, I've had that on the brain for a while. I don't remember how they addressed insulation. That might get expensive and complicated quickly. Anyway, while I would obviously want it to be energy efficient, I'm no 'green freak' and wouldn't pay $100,000 up front to save $10 a year on a light bill. My main goal would be to build something CHEAP, and IMHO, the more bare-bones functional it is, the cooler it is. Plus, less money spent on building means more money to spend on land, means the dirt race track around the house can be larger. Any thoughts, Paul?

Adaptive re-use.

Same idea as using an existing house, but using existing (and outdated) commercial (or other type) structures.

I know of some great houses that have been built out of silos, gin mills, libraries, gas stations, barns, post offices, etc.

Big ego
Big ego SuperDork
11/20/10 8:36 p.m.

I've seen some old churches and old schools turned into some awesome houses.

An old gas station would be a stellar home for a gearhead.

SVreX
SVreX SuperDork
11/20/10 8:39 p.m.

True, except for the MAJOR potential of soil contamination.

Get a clean inspection report first.

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