Tag Archives: Houses

Insulated Earthbag Houses

Energy performance on most buildings can be improved with insulation, including those made of earth such as adobe and earthbag structures. Although most earth structures are located in hot, dry climates, there is increasing demand for low-cost, eco-friendly earth building techniques in cold climates. This article explores three innovative methods for insulating earthbag buildings, which extends their building range to cold regions.

Most earthbag buildings use polypropylene grain bags filled with soil. The bags are filled, stacked in level courses and then tamped solid. One or two strands of barbed wire between courses bond the bags to each other and add tensile strength. The building process using earthbags filled with insulation as described here would be nearly the same, although the bags would weigh significantly less and speed construction considerably.

Unlike other earth building methods, earthbag building has the unique advantage of providing either thermal mass or insulation, and therefore can be adapted for cold climates with an insulated fill material. Scoria, pumice, perlite, vermiculite or rice hulls are all suitable insulating materials. These materials are natural, lightweight, easy to work with and non-toxic. They will not burn or rot and do not attract insects or vermin. In addition, scoria, pumice, perlite, vermiculite are not adversely affected by moisture and can be used as part of earth-bermed structures.

The table below compares the approximate R-values of three sustainable insulating materials that could be used in earthbags. (The first column in the table is the insulative value per inch; the second column shows the R-value for a typical 15″ thick earthbag wall.)

Material — R-value/inch — R-value/15″

Rice hulls — R-3 — R-45

Perlite — R-2.7 — R-40

Vermiculite — R-2.13 — R-32 to 36

(Source: Wikipedia Encyclopedia.) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R-value_(insulation)

1) The first method for insulating earthbag buildings uses bags filled entirely with insulation. The main advantage of this method over the other methods described below is ease of construction. Walls are one bag wide and filled entirely with insulation. Thick earth or lime plaster on the interior provides thermal mass to help stabilize indoor temperatures.

A demonstration home using this method was built in Crestone, Colorado with scoria-filled earthbags. Scoria also is known as volcanic rock or lava rock. Due to its volcanic origin, scoria is filled with tiny air spaces, making it a good insulator. Although the R-value of scoria is debatable, the owner claims these earthbag walls are comparable to straw bale walls of around R-26 to R-30. This estimate includes 5″ of papercrete at approximately R-2/inch.

2) Another method for insulating earthbag buildings uses tube sandbags, also called traction tube sand bags, typically used to improve automobile traction on snowy/icy roads. (The bags are sold to add weight for vehicle traction.) This method involves stacking tube sandbags filled with insulation on the exterior of earthbag walls, thereby creating a double wall.

Filled tube sandbags provide about 10″ of insulation, which is perfect for many climates – not too much, not too little. Again, scoria, pumice, perlite, vermiculite or rice hulls could all be used for insulation. Perlite would be my first choice due to its high R-value (R-2.7×10″=R-27) and resistance to moisture damage, although the final decision needs to be weighed against other locally available and inexpensive natural materials.

3) A third possibility is to add a seam lengthwise down earthbags to divide them into two compartments. The outer part could be filled with insulation; the inner part with soil. Like the other systems described here, this would create an insulated wall with thermal mass on the interior. For many situations, especially structures in moderately cold regions, this is an ideal wall system.

The placement of the seam could vary, depending on the climate. In a mild climate like New Mexico, about 4″-5″ of insulation on the outside would suffice. This would provide about R-10 insulation. In a slightly colder climate the seam could go down the middle (50% insulation / 50% soil). In extremely cold or extremely hot climates I would fill the bags with 100% insulation (or all earth in a hot climate if insulation is not available).

The Various Types of Wooden Bird Houses to Buy

Whether you love the cheerful chirping of birds or you want to make your garden a beautiful place where birds can nest in, you have stopped at the right place. Read on to know some tips before you buy a birdhouse. When you do your research on birdhouses, online or at a conventional store, you will realize that there are plenty of options. Wooden bird houses are one of the best options you must look for. This is available in various types. We will talk about this in depth below.

Types of Wooden Bird Houses

The Rustic Wooden houses for birds are a good buy for the amateur watcher as these can be easily filled and cleaned. These are made out of Pine and Cedar. They have a contemporary, rustic charm to them, which make them perfect for all the species. It would look attractive in the backyard of your home.

Purple Martin Birdhouses

The Purple Martin is American’s most favorite bird. These rustic Wooden Bird Houses help you begin with them. Since these rustic styled wooden Purple Martin Birdhouses are so attractive, even the choosiest birds make their way in.

Chickadee and Wren Bird House

The Wren Wooden Houses for birds will help you in protecting these little birds and also give you the harmony of their complex singing. Chickadee Wooden Bird houses often are home to these happy and social little chickadees. They and help the birds to stay in during bad weather. These rustic birdhouses are ideal for any environment and location.

Bluebird Rustic Houses

If you wish to start a bluebird trail using one of the rustic houses, make sure to choose from the wide range available. Open top, nest box window, and small feeders for bluebird or horizontal houses for bluebirds are good. Place these at least 100 yards away from the bluebird house. You could also have two different bluebird houses at about a distance of 5 feet to keep the sparrows and the other species apart.

Wild Bird and Owl House

Everyone who loves watching birds think that every bird deserves a home. This is why there is a range of Wooden Bird House for wild birds too. Some Wild Bird and Owl houses are for larger birds. Similarly, birdhouses for ducks, woodpeckers and owls are important. These are made in the USA and are available on the Wild Bird House section in most online sites.

Bird Houses – Eco Friendly and recycled

Available on the Internet also is a range of Wooden Bird Houses that are made of recycled or scrap wood. This is the type of wood that the larger manufactures plan to either burn or toss away. This wood is used by craftsmen and reused to make beautiful structures for birdhouses. These offer numerous unique characteristics such as screw and nail holes. They are also painted to make sure the birdhouse look colorful and they are non-toxic. So, if you believe in protecting the Earth and are eco-friendly, pick one of these from any online store.

Sustainable Houses: The Calm Living House in Melbourne

What is it?

You must have heard of the Sustainable homes that are being built all over Melbourne and have been for a few years now. So, I decided to check out and do some research on the internet about the whole thing. Apparently, there are a large number of sustainable houses and you can make a paid trip to some of this. So I decided to check out one of them – the Calm Living House at Upper Ferntree Gully 3156.

Basically, it was built by the famous owner and builder Anton Engelmayer. The house was built with completely eco-friendly objects and is completely passive, that is, it, in no way, harms the ecosystem or the atmosphere.

Here is what I found out.

What are its features?

The house is a standalone type of architecture. It is 54m square, has six large bedrooms and 2 large bathrooms. Its design is adaptable in nature. It consists of two green walls, three green roofs and one rain garden. The presence of such a green infrastructure is beneficial for the solar panels installed in the house. Therefore, the green makes sure that there is enough energy and electricity for the house to run upon. The flora also acts as a binder of the soil, thus preventing soil erosion and water run off by controlling the flow of water at the steep side.

What are the eco-friendly sustainable features?

The house has been built with insulated panels. The paint that was used all over the house, is completely non-toxic and therefore, does not emit toxic fumes, which is harmful to the environment as well as the family living in the house.

The entire household runs on solar energy, which is generated by the solar pv grid system installed. This generates electricity as well as heats water. The temperature inside the rooms remains low due to cross ventilation and the presence of ample green trees.

The house is also provided with a drip irrigation water system as well as an edible garden filled with local as well as seasonal fruits and vegetables. Certain water wise plants are also present in the garden and the surrounding. You can even grow chicken in a coup here!

What is the approximate cost of the sustainable home?

Around 150,000 dollars approximately. They provide tours to the house for 25 dollars. That is how I got to visit it!

Passive Houses, the Best Eco-friendly Homes

With ever-increasing population, coupled with the continued world appetite for more energy, there is a global demand for energy-efficient homes. In response, architects all over the world are designing more sustainable homes that use better insulation and high-efficiency appliances. These designers are also incorporating in their buildings, the use of new sources of power, such as solar panels and wind turbines, which are the icons of the green building. In such a quest for the best eco-friendly homes, passive houses were born.

Passive houses were started in a small town in Germany outside of Frankfurt. The objective of a passive house is to create a warm and comfortable house without energy demand. The goal is accomplished by recycling heating.

Surprisingly, many people in North America are not familiar with them even though they are gaining a lot of following in European countries. As it incredible as it may sound, they use 90% less energy than a traditional house We are talking about paying only 10% of the energy bill that a traditional home is paying.

Just as North America is lagging behind China and some European and Asian countries in internet broad band use, it has yet to wake up to the tremendous energy savings that these inventive homes are providing. The Passivhaus Standard as it is known is much firmer than the Energy Star that many in North America consider as adequate environmental barometer.

Even as President Barack Obama is already being considered as the environmental President by many for his bold initiatives to transform the U.S. as the undisputed leader in the new and growing green economy, many in Europe are way ahead of the curve on passive homes. While the Obama government is poised to overhauling 75% of federal buildings in an effort to save $2 billion through energy efficiency alone, and the funding of green schools, passive homes are little unknown here.

Best green homes:

Passive houses use only 10% of energy used by conventional homes of comparable size. They use “recycled heat” generated inside the house to heat the home itself. By incorporating ultra-thick insulation and re-engineered doors and windows, the house is sealed so that no heat gets out and no cold air sips in. They are extremely energy efficient houses that don’t need an extensive heating or cooling system like geothermal heating system or heating boiler.

The house is heated by the sun, but also from the heat from the residents and even appliances in conjunction with an air-heat exchange system to provide fresh air and recycle the heat of outgoing air. In the winter, only a back-up heating element of 1kW maximum is recommended. The heating requirements for the U.S. is less or equal to 15kW/sq m. To make sure that a house meets the energy performance standard for passive houses, it is tested with ‘blowerdoor’ and thermal infrared camera.It is important to note that the building principles used in building passive houses can be transferred to new buildings and retrofits.

There are now an estimated 15,000 passive houses worldwide, most of them being built recently and mostly in Europe. What is holding the U.S back from this all important leadership role in the green economy?