A House to Nurture the World and You

My House History

I grew up in an “old standard” house built in the ’20s.  My father, a gifted carpenter, treated our house as a continual project practically from the ground up, so I’ve seen every part of a house’s innards.  Ours in particular contained newspapers as insulation from the ’40s and ’50s, an old roof (complete with 13 layers of shingles) over which previous owners had built the current roof, and a crack-webbed cement foundation with half-century-old names scrawled into it.  Years and a series of demolition projects later, my childhood home contains high, creatively angled ceilings and a rainbow of hues from room to room.

The House Within

Houses are magic.  Many of us spend dozens of hours a week sheltered by their walls, and, when working nearby outside, gaze back at them with quiet gratitude as storms begin to rise.  In Building Green, Clarke Snell and Tim Callahan beautifully describe our deep connection to shelter.  A house isn’t just a box to sleep in; it’s a vital extension of who we are and what we believe.

Modern neighborhoods–full of cookie-cutter boxes–are designed for the market, not for people.  They provide no glimpse at the quality or cares of the stunning spirit(s) within.

However, green building changes everything.

An Amazing Array of Alternatives

When 90% or more of Americans (and perhaps inhabitants of other countries) hear “house,” they think of a stick-frame design.  Drywall, 2″x4″s, and fiberglass insulation are common words most folks have encountered.  Green building can involve these materials, but our flavor does not.

A computer sketch of our Dream HouseWe feel drawn to such “exotic” options as cob, rammed earth, earth bag, and much more.  Currently, we’re most enchanted by the rounded earth bag home to your left.  Dreamed up by one of our new favorite people, Owen Geiger (whose green building blog you can find at the link), this 678 sq. ft. house features a vaulted living room and half-loft whose balcony we fully intend to run dense with living vines.  We might even build a rainwater catchment, gray water recycling, indoor-plant-watering-and-filtration fish pond (aquaponics), but that’s one of our more ambitious ideas.  🙂

It doesn’t look like much in this picture, but the outside walls will be textured and colored with earthen tones.  The roof could come to life.  We could even dig into a hillside and build an earth berm to more effectively thermo-regulate the inside of the house.  Green building is an intensely personal, meaningful, and creative process.  It is also deeply complex.

A Vast New (or Very Old) World of Ideas

If you’re new to green building (like we were only a few years ago), and took a look at some of those links, you might feel a bit dizzy right now.  I know I still feel that way.  Why do we have to work so very hard, and master thousands of “new” concepts, just to live the lifestyle we want, that nurtures the world?  Shouldn’t living an earth-healthy lifestyle come naturally, as it seems to have centuries ago?

I’ll leave that topic for a future post.  For now, tell me, after digesting these words, what are your thoughts on “green building?”  What do you think are its implications for the world?  What was your house like growing up?

~Ryan



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Lisa
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Lisa

I often dream of living in an Earthship home (see http://www.EarthShip.net). They’re sustainable, create their own power, harvest/recycle/treat their own water, and can produce their own food. Did I mention that they can be made of mostly if not 100% recycled materials? They say “they” like the house does all the work, but this type of house sure makes it easier for a person to provide shelter and nourishment or ones self. I love how the design of the house works WITH nature in keeping the shelter climate-controlled with very little energy expenditure. Earthships are built slightly different depending on… Read more »

rpbancroft
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Oh that’s fine; I love detailed replies! Oooo, earthships… that was actually the type of building that got me thinking about alternative building designs. They’re absolutely amazing, and, if we can somehow work it out, we might consider one. My only concern (at least for us) is the price or amount of labor required. Just as with a Cob house, earthships are extraordinarily labor intensive (and thus expensive), except in the case of earthships, as opposed to cob, the labor is highly physically demanding. It’s possible to build an earthbag home for less than $10,000 if you do it right,… Read more »

Lisa
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Lisa

Derek’s capstone project before he graduated with a BS in Business Management, was to create a business plan for a strawberry farm (he doesn’t even like strawberries lol). To prove he had a capital advantage (endless ‘free’ water) he ran the drilled well 24/7 for a year. I know seems quite wasteful, but we did water our 300+ pine trees with the water. It was quite embarrassing when people would drive by and see our sprinklers going even in the rain, but he did prove that he had a major capital advantage with the water supply. The water table is… Read more »

rpbancroft
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Gosh, 24/7 for a year? I would love to hear the stats on how much water actually pumped through your hoses and hit your land. If that didn’t cause any erosion, you all must’ve had some good landscaping going. 🙂 I’ll bet you’re right about it sinking back into the water-table itself, though. That really makes me think of water usage in a whole new way. I’m sure some of it was lost to evaporation once it was released to the air, but still I think your story makes a powerful case for locally managed water sources. What intriguing information… Read more »

Lisa
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Lisa

Some people, especially those hooked up to municipal water systems, like to get all of their drinking and cooking water from springs. I know of one up your way if you’re interested. The people in the community have been using it for at least decades that I know of, but probably longer because drilling/digging wells in the area produces little to no water.

rpbancroft
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Oh yeah! I know a few people who refuse to drink water that doesn’t come from a natural spring, though the few folks I know are willing to drive over an hour for the privilege. I didn’t realize there was one close to us. Where might it be? And do you think there’s any chance it might be accessible to car-free folk? (Did we tell you we finally sold our car? We were pretty excited that it moved, finally).

Lisa
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Lisa

This spring would be quite a walk and I don’t think any buses stop close enough to use that type of transportation. Here’s a link to the location though just in case bus+bike would work for you: http://www.bing.com/maps/?v=2&cp=pz8wh574vpfw&lvl=18.50385669776734&dir=5.759904449433349&sty=b&cid=FB2DAA1BFDCC8787!1281

You might want to check out http://www.FindASpring.com. There’s a private spring listed In Rogers that a bus stop +bike might be close enough for you to use. I’ve heard the owner is very friendly and shares with everyone, just ask permission before using.

Mozel Tov! on selling your car. Derek will be so jealous when he hears! LOL

rpbancroft
Guest

Nice, thanks for the details! There’s actually a site that locates springs… I love technology sometimes. 🙂 And, of course, the people behind it who dream up its awesome uses.

Thanks! I know that will be fodder for many posts (considering that it’s a BIG commitment and lifestyle shift, which we’ve been exploring for a long while), so we’ll be telling that story in the coming months. I bet Derek will get there sometime. 🙂