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Thread: Natural Homes: techniques, solutions and beautiful images

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    Avalon Member Hym's Avatar
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    Default Re: Natural Homes: techniques, solutions and beautiful images

    Love the thread Constance. Also, I am appreciative of Bubu's informative input. These creative construction methods make building as a tradesman very rewarding. I love designing and building with of all of the materials you've shown, with varying levels of experience in a variety of those methods, though not nearly as much as I would like.

    I've built as a modern carpenter and simple architect, designing small projects for clients. Further on into my career, when I had the experience of using available earthen materials like adobe and cob mixes, I found that building itself was much more interactive, rewarding and healing. I loved earning a degree in earth building and then teaching the same.

    I have a strong connection with the founder/teachers of the bi-yearly conference held in the states called EarthUSA.org, the 10th International Conference on Architecture & Construction with Earthen Materials, which is being held later this year, October 27-29, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. At the conference, held in association with Adobe In Action, there are presentations from builders and architects from all over the globe. The presentations and technical papers with all of their engineering details are quite a treat to absorb when I look into the possibilities of building in other countries.

    We have built adobe/earthen domes-small and medium sized, adobe and wood churches-one with a vaulted ceiling and have made those comfortable adobe floors with embedded heating systems. We've also repaired historic earthen churches and other earthen structures. We've built a variety of earthen ovens, called ornos here, and had some delicious dinners cooked in them, homemade pizzas, delicious breads, etc..

    Thank You for this beautiful and creative reminder of Natural Building and it's potential to enhance our day to day experiences.

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    Default Re: Natural Homes: techniques, solutions and beautiful images

    Quote Posted by Constance (here)
    Quote Posted by Bubu (here)
    I was imagining cob blocks when I wrote post 31.

    less water less shrinkage. easier to file, more durable. This earth block machine can be use for that purpose. You are good at reading minds.
    Awesome on your imaginings! I completely agree with you there Bubu about there being less effort with the cob blocks. Although, I personally love the earthern floors.

    I think that maybe you read my mind!!!
    as an addendum I was imagining interlocking cob blocks for durability and ease of piling.
    Last edited by Bubu; 7th February 2019 at 02:34.

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    Default Re: Natural Homes: techniques, solutions and beautiful images

    Quote Posted by Hym (here)
    Love the thread Constance. Also, I am appreciative of Bubu's informative input. These creative construction methods make building as a tradesman very rewarding. I love designing and building with of all of the materials you've shown, with varying levels of experience in a variety of those methods, though not nearly as much as I would like.

    I've built as a modern carpenter and simple architect, designing small projects for clients. Further on into my career, when I had the experience of using available earthen materials like adobe and cob mixes, I found that building itself was much more interactive, rewarding and healing. I loved earning a degree in earth building and then teaching the same.

    I have a strong connection with the founder/teachers of the bi-yearly conference held in the states called EarthUSA.org, the 10th International Conference on Architecture & Construction with Earthen Materials, which is being held later this year, October 27-29, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. At the conference, held in association with Adobe In Action, there are presentations from builders and architects from all over the globe. The presentations and technical papers with all of their engineering details are quite a treat to absorb when I look into the possibilities of building in other countries.

    We have built adobe/earthen domes-small and medium sized, adobe and wood churches-one with a vaulted ceiling and have made those comfortable adobe floors with embedded heating systems. We've also repaired historic earthen churches and other earthen structures. We've built a variety of earthen ovens, called ornos here, and had some delicious dinners cooked in them, homemade pizzas, delicious breads, etc..

    Thank You for this beautiful and creative reminder of Natural Building and it's potential to enhance our day to day experiences.
    I am assuming that earth houses are labor intensive but virtually free materials. So coming up with ways to lessen the labor required could make it more competitive than traditional building system. I'm more for building low cost housing but architectural ones should not be left behind.
    do you have a website? As an earth house builder what salient tip/s could you give to a newbie like me. well I am a builder all my life but nothing with earth.
    Last edited by Bubu; 7th February 2019 at 02:38.

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    Default Re: Natural Homes: techniques, solutions and beautiful images

    Quote Posted by Hym (here)
    Love the thread Constance. Also, I am appreciative of Bubu's informative input. These creative construction methods make building as a tradesman very rewarding. I love designing and building with of all of the materials you've shown, with varying levels of experience in a variety of those methods, though not nearly as much as I would like.

    I've built as a modern carpenter and simple architect, designing small projects for clients. Further on into my career, when I had the experience of using available earthen materials like adobe and cob mixes, I found that building itself was much more interactive, rewarding and healing. I loved earning a degree in earth building and then teaching the same.

    I have a strong connection with the founder/teachers of the bi-yearly conference held in the states called EarthUSA.org, the 10th International Conference on Architecture & Construction with Earthen Materials, which is being held later this year, October 27-29, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. At the conference, held in association with Adobe In Action, there are presentations from builders and architects from all over the globe. The presentations and technical papers with all of their engineering details are quite a treat to absorb when I look into the possibilities of building in other countries.

    We have built adobe/earthen domes-small and medium sized, adobe and wood churches-one with a vaulted ceiling and have made those comfortable adobe floors with embedded heating systems. We've also repaired historic earthen churches and other earthen structures. We've built a variety of earthen ovens, called ornos here, and had some delicious dinners cooked in them, homemade pizzas, delicious breads, etc..

    Thank You for this beautiful and creative reminder of Natural Building and it's potential to enhance our day to day experiences.
    Thank you so much for sharing all your experiences with us Hym, it makes my heart sing with joy to hear that you are so passionate about earth building and that you have so much expertise in this area!

    Would you consider contributing some of your photos and information about what you have built and designed here?

    I am sure you would have a lot of knowledge to impart?

    Quote The presentations and technical papers with all of their engineering details are quite a treat to absorb when I look into the possibilities of building in other countries.
    It sounds like one of those great conferences where you would obtain a lot of valuable information, gain many great insights and meet many interesting people. Something to look forward to in the future.

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    Default Re: Natural Homes: techniques, solutions and beautiful images

    As an earthbuilding newbie I'd suggest making some earthen/adobe blocks and experiment with them. Find out the possibilities of the earth in the land you occupy. Even better, build an outdoor oven/"orno" on your property, an oven to use for years to come.


    One Method to Build an Earthen Oven:

    Build it practically but with a creative plan that you can add a design to, making it a compliment to it's surroundings. Dig and gravel fill, tamp down, a trench foundation. Add an adobe mortar mix as a bed, lay your blocks with the same mix in-between (+/- 4 rows only per day- as not to compress the mortar too much), infill the interior of the walls with broken adobe blocks and earth, then a 2 inch layer of sand upon which common fire bricks are laid as the bed of the oven matching the top of the final layer of exterior adobe blocks. When building the oven itself you can build up the body of the dome shaped oven with 4 to 6 inch thick layers of a drier adobe mortar mix or by laying those same dried adobe blocks, with mortar in between each layer, into the domed form. When the clay formed dome is partially dry, 1 to 2 hours or so, you can cut out the oven opening, enough to put in a large pizza and a tall pot, and also cut out a 3 inch diameter hole near the back side of the top of the dome for air circulation. Both the adobe box base and the oven dome itself can be plastered with the same earthen mud or left alone. Then build a high temp.resistant, wooden arch shaped door to place/remove in the oven opening. ........ That was a little long, but it may be worth the effort and the fun.


    Yes, the common method of adobe building in it's most simple form is very labor intensive and Yes, the goal is to use both clay-the binder and sand-the strength of an aggregate, from the building site or nearby, which makes it a very inexpensive building material and quite practical in many areas of the world.

    ( I do not have a website because there is so much more material written already that covers much more than I know, as this thread shows.)

    Creating adobe blocks entails building multiple wooden forms, usually 4" X 10" X 14" in this region, then pouring the adobe mix of 70-80% sand and 20-30% clay, with added water, into those forms and then letting it dry for 2 or more days, setting them on their sides for about a week, then letting them cure for 2 or more weeks. Considering that it takes thousands of blocks to make the average building, that takes a lot of time to plan ahead.

    I do not like to use CEB's (compressed earth blocks), tho they are a much drier mix/quicker to make and are usually stabilized with portland cement, because they expand when wet and thus need to have an exterior coat of stucco to reduce structural breakdown.

    There still are a few local companies here in the SouthWest states that make and sell the adobe blocks for a very small fee. Almost all of these producers use machinery, like a skip loader and metal forms, to make thousands of adobe blocks a day.

    Remember that too much clay creates structural weakness, cracks, in the block. Some adobe purists preferring to master the mix instead of adding straw.

    As a note, some use a very small amount of asphalt emulsion, in a 1 to 10% concentration in the water as a binder and a waterproofing agent and then call the block stabilized.. I have seen an overuse of it to the point of it continually outgassing it's toxicity over time. Also, I have seen it overused in an oven/orno at a local, "historical" plaza for years, most likely infusing toxicity into the baked goods it produced. Again, master the mix.

    Although composed in '07 there is a very informative and detailed series of questions and answers from a mentor of mine, Quentin Wilson of the EarthUSA conference, that will answer many of those queries you may have in mind. It is from the Green Home Building.com website, a site which also addresses much of the subject material discussed so well in this Avalon thread.

    http://www.greenhomebuilding.com/QandA/adobe/mixes.htm

    Enjoy and share your learning with us when you get going.
    Last edited by Hym; 7th February 2019 at 05:34.

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    Default Re: Natural Homes: techniques, solutions and beautiful images

    I have a high spot on my homestead with a view of the river.
    I have built several homes in my life, and I have one more in me, I am sure!
    I think it will be patterned off this one...



    It reminds of one I visited up in the Yukon Territory in 1985

    Thank you for the inspiration!

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    Default Re: Natural Homes: techniques, solutions and beautiful images

    Quote Posted by Tree Of Life (here)
    I have a high spot on my homestead with a view of the river.
    I have built several homes in my life, and I have one more in me, I am sure!
    I think it will be patterned off this one...



    It reminds of one I visited up in the Yukon Territory in 1985

    Thank you for the inspiration!
    Tree of Life, that sounds completely awesome! If I was out your way, I would help you build it...

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    Default Re: Natural Homes: techniques, solutions and beautiful images

    Thanks Hym I will do that, I wasn't aware that the cob blocks I was imagining is no different than adobe blocks. Anyways you are correct in saying "master the mix. perhaps a cross mix between adobe and cob formed sorta drop forge not wooden forms

    "Adobe is essentially a dried mud brick, combining the natural elements of earth, water, and sun. It is an ancient building material usually made with tightly compacted sand, clay, and straw or grass mixed with moisture, formed into bricks, and naturally dried or baked in the sun without an oven or kiln"
    Last edited by Bubu; 7th February 2019 at 07:36.

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    Default Re: Natural Homes: techniques, solutions and beautiful images

    Yes that is a good definition of adobe. In fact it is often called Solar Adobe Architecture. When we trained in this vernacular* we also became adept at accurately determining the ability of each building to both heat and cool the interiors, all based on latitude and land mass location, wind and moisture exposure, and the materials used.

    Adobe is a very efficient transfer medium for solar absorption from the outside and then thermal release to the interior, if it is not encased in stucco or any other barrier. These natural materials need to breathe, unless the temperatures are extreme, in which case there are some proven solutions.

    The dilemma of most modern, average and common building practices in both residential and commercial construction is the air-tight encapsulation of the entire building, which often may compromise the health of the inhabitants. However, when air circulation systems are incorporated into the design and the build those problems can be solved.

    The common problems of stale air, unhealthy penetration of debilitating mold from moisture penetration, and the outgassing of toxins from carpets, furniture and formaldehyde-infused binders (esp. in o.s.b./wafer board) can be mitigated with an understanding of the need for fresh air circulation in each building and an awareness of being mindful in how we build, finish and furnish our living spaces.

    This reminds me that I have to go visit a friend who i donated some 3/4" plywood to use as forms for his rammed earth home build.

    By the way, it will be nice to live in a healthier, abode/home myself as i have been renting an old adobe home for years that is a heat sink, and the builders, some 80+ yrs. ago, portland-cement stuccoed both the exterior and the interior walls.

    *Vernacular, meaning local, common to the area. Much too fancy a word for me to have used before, but I finally found the fitting occasion for it's use. My old teachers might be proud, or laughing at the least.
    Last edited by Hym; 7th February 2019 at 19:50.

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    Default Re: Natural Homes: techniques, solutions and beautiful images

    Quote Posted by Hym (here)
    *Vernacular, meaning local, common to the area. Much too fancy a word for me to have used before, but I finally found the fitting occasion for it's use. My old teachers might be proud, or laughing at the least.
    Here's the vernacular distribution of adobe homes, that is, the experience of centuries of natural builders

    http://www.naturalhomes.org/adobe-ve...AdYgo4GV_heGUM

    Click image for larger version

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    Default Re: Natural Homes: techniques, solutions and beautiful images

    Primitive technology is seriously the best ever 'go to' for inspiration when it comes to being at one with nature and building in the elements.

    This guy is an absolute genius and I highly recommend watching as many of his videos as you can.





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    Default Re: Natural Homes: techniques, solutions and beautiful images

    This is a fascinating short video on how Romans made the first concrete.



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    Default Re: Natural Homes: techniques, solutions and beautiful images

    "we also became adept at accurately determining the ability of each building to both heat and cool the interiors, all based on latitude and land mass location, wind and moisture exposure, and the materials used."

    wow intriguing, can you give an overview?

    "Adobe is a very efficient transfer medium for solar absorption from the outside and then thermal release to the interior, if it is not encased in stucco or any other barrier. These natural materials need to breathe, unless the temperatures are extreme, in which case there are some proven solutions. "

    I dont know how this is possible acting like a one way mirror. since a material is either an insulator or conductor. But your experience is much better argument than theories.



    'The dilemma of most modern, average and common building practices in both residential and commercial construction is the air-tight encapsulation of the entire building, which often may compromise the health of the inhabitants. However, when air circulation systems are incorporated into the design and the build those problems can be solved.


    "The common problems of stale air, unhealthy penetration of debilitating mold from moisture penetration, and the outgassing of toxins from carpets, furniture and formaldehyde-infused binders (esp. in o.s.b./wafer board) can be mitigated with an understanding of the need for fresh air circulation in each building and an awareness of being mindful in how we build, finish and furnish our living spaces."

    yep on spot. I feel sorry for people who dont feel it. that is why I sleep on makeshift outside the house enclose space is just to unhealthy and I can feel it even if no one tells me.
    Last edited by Bubu; 7th February 2019 at 23:44.

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    Default Re: Natural Homes: techniques, solutions and beautiful images

    Quote Posted by Constance (here)
    Primitive technology is seriously the best ever 'go to' for inspiration when it comes to being at one with nature and building in the elements.

    This guy is an absolute genius and I highly recommend watching as many of his videos as you can.




    this vid been posted here on this forum but is a good reminder and for the new members. I wish I can be on that house. hopefully I will

    I think the best thing to do is to come up with ways to an easy build. I think it can be done its just that there not much money into it so no one cares. But if someone can come up with system and machines for an easy build that can compete with traditional building system and rent that equipment for on site production of cob blocks then there is some payback. adobe system simply is not acceptable for mass building. its a very primitive system. cob blocks formed on hydraulic press or drop hammer or mechanical hammer is the way to go.
    Last edited by Bubu; 7th February 2019 at 23:55.

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    Default Re: Natural Homes: techniques, solutions and beautiful images

    Cross-referencing here. Thanks Bubu!

    How to ventilate a house

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    Default Re: Natural Homes: techniques, solutions and beautiful images

    In a pattern language #117 Sheltering roof, the roof is seen as playing a primal role in our lives.
    "...The most primitive buildings are nothing but a roof. If the roof is hidden, if its presence cannot be felt around the building, or if it cannot be used then people will lack a fundamental sense of shelter."


    It is really important to have a roof that will support the type of climate that you live in. A well designed and made roof can last for several hundred years.

    For example, this roof is made out of eelgrass (seaweed grass). You can find this unique home in Læsø, in Denmark. A shout out to all the Danish folk here!

    A couple of interesting factoids, a seaweed roof can last anywhere up to 400 years and because of the high concentration of salt in the eelgrass, it doesn't burn.

    Click image for larger version

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    If you have ever traveled, you might begin to notice a pattern with the vernacular (there's that word again!) roof architecture around the world.

    In regions where there is heavy snowfall, the roofs are high pitched so that you don't get heavy snow build up, in arid regions, the roofs are often flat with water collection and in regions with high rainfall, the roofs are pitched to get water off that roof as quickly as possible.

    In areas where you experience high rainfall or a hot climate, it is imperative to have a good top hat with extended eaves.

    Extended eaves can serve many functions. They can:
    • Serve to keep rain from hitting your siding, windows, and doors of your home.
    • Help to prevent door and window jam rot.
    • Shade windows when solar heat gain is undesirable.
    • Allow the rain to drip away from the foundations
    • Provide you with shelter from the rain when you are entering your front door
    • Reduce splashback - It keeps the eave drips away from the house
    • Provide a shady place to hang out on hot days
    • Be used to extend your living space - an undercover verandah eg. outdoor kitchen and living area
    • Are great social places for gathering with friends and family.


    Click image for larger version

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    Last edited by Constance; 9th February 2019 at 02:51.

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    Default Re: Natural Homes: techniques, solutions and beautiful images

    Constance, the videos from the man showing "primitive technology" are very good and informative to even the average person. Those video essays are fun to watch. I've done a lot of that. Waddle and Daub, firing clay, loving the mud. In fact when he is making additions to the small hut built with twig/stick waddle (sticks "waddling"/weaving in and out of vertical posts/branches and mud daub/ dabbled) we see that in the formation of the earthen chimney he is adding layers of mud clay over the small rock foundation in that "U" shape. That is the same method I discussed in making and earthen oven/orno.

    Also, I've know about the amazing longevity of the concrete that the Romans created, with the vital ingredient being volcanic ash. The p.s.i.(the compression resistant strength in pounds per square inch) of that concrete is much higher than the average we use today.

    Bubu. We use Ed Mazria's "The Passive Solar Energy Book" as our primer for calculations when designing new homes and for assessing the needs of pre-existing homes. His book has "detailed sun charts, latitudes, longitudes, thermal conduction of various materials, insulation rating of various materials, real world examples, and much more."

    A proven method for using adobe for heating a living/working space, a trombe wall, is by using a glaze-framed (glass) wall just inches outside of a sun exposed earthen wall. This intensifies the heat absorbed by the adobe/earthen wall which then releases the heat into the cooler interior over a comfortable 8 to 10 hour period, more or less. The use of a small fan, we sometimes call a squirrel fan, helps circulate the air into other areas in the house.

    The most efficient wood heating method I know of is called a Russian fireplace/stove and it is a unique method of building a masonry unit that is centrally located for both heating and cooking. The method has the highest rate of using every BTU available in any wood used as a fuel source.
    Last edited by Hym; 9th February 2019 at 06:16.

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    Default Re: Natural Homes: techniques, solutions and beautiful images

    Quote Posted by Hym (here)
    Constance, the videos from the man showing "primitive technology" are very good and informative to even the average person. Those video essays are fun to watch. I've done a lot of that. Waddle and Daub, firing clay, loving the mud. In fact when he is making additions to the small hut built with twig/stick waddle (sticks "waddling"/weaving in and out of vertical posts/branches and mud daub/ dabbled) we see that in the formation of the earthen chimney he is adding layers of mud clay over the small rock foundation in that "U" shape. That is the same method I discussed in making and earthen oven/orno.

    Also, I've know about the amazing longevity of the concrete that the Romans created, with the vital ingredient being volcanic ash. The p.s.i.(the compression resistant strength in pounds per square inch) of that concrete is much higher than the average we use today.

    Bubu. We use Ed Mazria's "The Passive Solar Energy Book" as our primer for calculations when designing new homes and for assessing the needs of pre-existing homes. His book has "detailed sun charts, latitudes, longitudes, thermal conduction of various materials, insulation rating of various materials, real world examples, and much more."

    A proven method for using adobe for heating a living/working space, a trombe wall, is by using a glaze-framed (glass) wall just inches outside of a sun exposed earthen wall. This intensifies the heat absorbed by the adobe/earthen wall which then releases the heat into the cooler interior over a comfortable 8 to 10 hour period, more or less. The use of a small fan, we sometimes call a squirrel fan, helps circulate the air into other areas in the house.

    The most efficient wood heating method I know of is called a Russian fireplace/stove and it is a unique method of building a masonry unit that is centrally located for both heating and cooking. The method has the highest rate of using every BTU available in any wood used as a fuel source.
    yes I see how the adobe wall would heat up with the arrangement, but I think more of the heat harvesting is accomplish by the fact that air from inside the house circulates in the space in between the glass and the adobe coming in from below and going back inside the house from the top. using same principles of "hot air rises" air occupies empty space to effect continuous circulation of air.

    As to the Russian stove/heater its logical to locate it centrally although I am more in favor of installing a heat exchanger which is very simple and easy to construct. then the fireplace can be located anywhere in the house or even outside. and more efficient too.

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    Constance (9th February 2019)

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    Avalon Member Hym's Avatar
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    Default Re: Natural Homes: techniques, solutions and beautiful images

    A Trombe Wall can be completely sealed with no direct air penetrating the earthen thermal mass wall and entering the indoor space, or it can have both upper and lower vents installed for creating active air current control. The older ones I have been in are vent-free and work very well.

    Bubu. Can you tell us more about the specific design of the heat exchanger you are describing and is this in conjunction with the use of a Russian Stove?
    Thanks.
    Last edited by Hym; 9th February 2019 at 07:28.

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    Constance (9th February 2019)

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    Australia Avalon Member Constance's Avatar
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    Default Re: Natural Homes: techniques, solutions and beautiful images

    Quote Posted by Hym (here)
    I've done a lot of that.
    Fantastic. So much fun!

    Quote Waddle and Daub, firing clay, loving the mud. In fact when he is making additions to the small hut built with twig/stick waddle (sticks "waddling"/weaving in and out of vertical posts/branches and mud daub/ dabbled) we see that in the formation of the earthen chimney he is adding layers of mud clay over the small rock foundation in that "U" shape. That is the same method I discussed in making and earthen oven/orno.
    I find it astonishing that everyone doesn't have access to this information. Not that I am a big fan of the current education system for children but if they were going to teach anything, this is the kind of information that children might really get something out of.

    Quote Also, I've know about the amazing longevity of the concrete that the Romans created, with the vital ingredient being volcanic ash. The p.s.i.(the compression resistant strength in pounds per square inch) of that concrete is much higher than the average we use today.
    Absolutely.

    Have you seen this?


    Secret of how Roman concrete survived tidal battering for 2,000 years revealed
    "It is a mystery that continues to baffle modern engineers. Why do 2,000-year-old Roman piers survive to this day, yet modern concrete seawalls embedded with steel crumble within decades?

    Even Pliny the Elder, writing in Naturalis Historia in 79AD, noted that concrete structures in ancient harbours, ‘become a single stone mass, impregnable to the waves, and every day stronger,’ despite being constantly battered by seawater.

    Now scientists in the US think they have found the answer, and it could finally lead to modern sea defences which withstand time and tide.

    They discovered that when saltwater mixes with the volcanic ash and lime used by Roman builders, it leads to the growth of interlocking minerals, which bring a virtually impenetrable cohesion to concrete.

    "We're looking at a system that's contrary to everything one would want in cement-based concrete," said Prof Marie Jackson, a geology and geophysics research professor at the University of Utah who led the study."
    Quote A proven method for using adobe for heating a living/working space, a trombe wall, is by using a glaze-framed (glass) wall just inches outside of a sun exposed earthen wall. This intensifies the heat absorbed by the adobe/earthen wall which then releases the heat into the cooler interior over a comfortable 8 to 10 hour period, more or less. The use of a small fan, we sometimes call a squirrel fan, helps circulate the air into other areas in the house.
    You mean like this Trombe Wall Diagram? (In this diagram you would replace the concrete wall with an earthern wall)

    Click image for larger version

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    Quote The most efficient wood heating method I know of is called a Russian fireplace/stove and it is a unique method of building a masonry unit that is centrally located for both heating and cooking. The method has the highest rate of using every BTU available in any wood used as a fuel source.
    Is this what you were thinking of? The brick masonry heater.



    What do you think of rocket mass heaters?



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    Last edited by Constance; 9th February 2019 at 07:31.

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