Saturday, November 22, 2008

Documenting Strawbale Addition - 9

Time to write another quick update about the strawbale project. We feel the end is nearly in sight, and are still aiming to move in by Christmas. The pine ceiling tongue & groove boards have all been oiled (two coats of Ontario hemp oil) and are beautiful. The oil really brings out the grain in the wood. This week we worked at installing them, and were thankful we had purchased a nailgun (which more than doubly paid for itself compared to if we had rented it).

We experimented with lime washes on the walls, using natural pigments to come up with a wheat colour. There is quite a variation in colour from one wall section to the next, which may have to do with parts of the plaster varying in wetness under the lime wash. We are hopeful this will even out and will give it a few more days to dry/cure. Lime wash goes a long way - you do brush it on like paint, but it is made up to be a very watery consistencty so it doesn't cover the way paint does. It is more like it gets absorbed into the wall and blends or bonds with the plaster. This is why lime washes can help "heal" cracks and repairs later on in subsequent years. We also tried to use a paint roller too, but had limited success as the roller didn't work the wash into the plaster as well as the brushes did.

We've shovelled in more limestone screenings, and are currently tamping them down with an electric packer ("jumping jack"). This is hard physical work, but what step of this project hasn't been? We'll be happy to be able to put our feet up during the winter months and rest, while we dream of spring projects like the outdoor plaster, the living roof, and maybe a new cob solarium addition. We'd like to experiment with more earthen plasters/cob/adobe. A few nights ago we watched the "Garbage Warrior", a documentary about Michael Reynolds, an architect turned extreme eco-builder of "earthships" in Taos, New Mexico. After being inspired about building affordable homes completely out of garbage (tires, bottles, cans) combined with natural materials found on site (clay, sand, earth, stone), we would like to work at continuing to learn about creating buildings that are low impact and self-maintaining. Here's a short synopsis of the film (

The film - Garbage Warrior

What do beer cans, car tires and water bottles have in common? Not much unless you're renegade architect Michael Reynolds, in which case they are tools of choice for producing thermal mass and energy-independent housing. For 30 years New Mexico-based Reynolds and his green disciples have devoted their time to advancing the art of "Earthship Biotecture" by building self-sufficient, off-the-grid communities where design and function converge in eco-harmony. However, these experimental structures that defy state standards create conflict between Reynolds and the authorities, who are backed by big business. Frustrated by antiquated legislation, Reynolds lobbies for the right to create a sustainable living test site. While politicians hum and ha, Mother Nature strikes, leaving communities devastated by tsunamis and hurricanes. Reynolds and his crew seize the opportunity to lend their pioneering skills to those who need it most. Shot over three years and in four countries, Garbage Warrior is a timely portrait of a determined visionary, a hero of the 21st century.

Earthship n. 1. passive solar home made of natural and recycled materials 2. thermal mass construction for temperature stabilization. 3. renewable energy & integrated water systems make the Earthship an off-grid home with little to no utility bills.

Biotecture n. 1. the profession of designing buildings and environments with consideration for their sustainability. 2. A combination of biology and architecture.

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