Earthbags - earthbag building is one of the lesser known natural building methods and one of the most versatile. A typical bag is clay and sand in a sandbag. The clay acts as a binder and the sand stabilizes the bags so the mix won't shrink too much as they dry. Earthbag walls are bullet-proof, fire-proof, bug-proof, flood-proof, impact-proof - you get the point, they're very strong!
Solar electric - we already have 1 kW of panels and 8 Trojan L-16 deep cycle batteries. Our electrical needs are pretty minimal, our biggest draw is a DC fridge. We use LED lights (which are extremely efficient and long lasting) and modern tablets and laptops use very energy.
Solar hot water - to free ourselves of having to use propane, we'll install a solar hot water system. This will include a well-insulated holding tank to keep the water warm for prolonged periods. We may also wrap a coil around our wood stove for hot water during long, cloudy periods.
Biogas - biogas is mostly methane and is produced when organic matter decays. This can be collected and used to power stoves or other gas appliances. This will be used mostly for cooking and will help us become totally propane free.
Hydronics - by piping hot water through pex in our floor, we will heat our house from the ground up.
Rainwater harvesting - we have used rainwater for almost 7 years. We will also collect rain at this house.
Passive solar and thermal mass - by having lots of South-facing windows we will maximize Winter solar gain. All of those windows you see at the bottom of the house are actually super-insulated freezer doors. By having the back of the house bermed (back-filled) we help regulate the inside temperature. These are the same principles that earthships use to stay comfortable. By using earthbags instead of rammed-earth tires, we save an extreme amount of labor.
The humanure system - aneasy, effective and inexpensive composting method.
Bottle wall - a beautiful natural building method where bottles are placed in an earthen wall. The tree design you see on the front of the fossil fuel-free house is bottle wall. From the inside it has an effect like stained glass.
A picture of the bottle wall before the sun room was added.
We will have a wood stove but I think it will mostly be for those times when we want to sit by the fire. We may later build a rocket or a masonry stove - we haven't decided which yet. There will likely be a fairly short transitional phase where we are still using some amount of propane for cooking and water heating. We may be able to reduce or avoid this entirely by cooking and heating water with a diversion load .
What We Need & What You Get
Our campaign has a goal of $16,700. This money will all go towards materials and site-preparation.
$1500 land clearing and leveling.
$500 for 2000 sandbags
$2000 windows and doors
$500 loads of dirt for plaster, bag fill and backfilling
$2000 solar hot water system
Total - $16,700
If we get more than what we're asking for, it will help cover the cost of all of the perks we're offering and may allow for better video editing software and higher production values for our documentary on the building process. If we get less than the goal amount, all of the money will still go towards materials and we will still honor all of the incentives we've offered to those who donate.
Everyone who donates will get a link to a youtube documentary about the building of this house (upon completion of the house and documentary, of course!) and our deep gratitude.
Higher tiers will include the book "A Sustainable Life" (projected release date - late 2017) a how-to book that details in step-by-step instructions our building projects, including this new house and/or "Ecological Awakening" - an educational book that points out our inseparable connection to the environment (it should be finished by the end of 2016). Some contributors will get to choose what form they receive the documentary in and the highest levels will get skype consultations with me (Morgan). I want to make my time available to people who are trying to transition to a sustainable way of living. I'm also part of a successful, land-owning intentional community and have years of experience making it work. I'm happy to help up-and-coming communities as well.
Our first earthbag house has gone viral. Since Ross Lukeman did a write up on our house a few years ago, I've seen several knockoffs with dubious information. Here's the original article. We have a page at earthbagbuilding.com. Dr. Owen Geiger has shared our house twice on his Natural Building Blog. Mother Earth News shared a write-up about our house on facebook with their almost 2.2 million subscribers. We are convinced that this new house will get even more exposure and we look forward to sharing what we learn with the world. These techniques will be most applicable to areas without building codes. This information is intended for the owner builder and not someone who must go through a rigorous coding process. That being said, many of these techniques and principles can be used wherever you are in the world. I saw an ad for an "inexpensive," pre-fab, "zero-carbon" house that costs almost $250,000. Our house will end up costing less than a third of the price of a double wide trailer.
All of the economic reasons aside, what we really want is to live in a way that has no negative impact on the environment. Using permaculture principles and intelligent waste management systems like humanure, I know it's possible to make your surroundings even more lush and fertile than they would be without you. We see it as absolutely crucial that humanity reduces the amount of greenhouse gasses and other pollutants that we're putting into the atmosphere. This house and homes like it are a step in that direction.
Risks & Challenges
In my experience, every building project will face unexpected challenges but we have a good team working on this house, including experienced carpenters to help make sure we get everything right. I am no stranger to finishing big projects. I have written 4 books ("Blessed Disillusionment" [published], "The Unliving" [self-published], "Myth of the Ego" and "Spiritual Self-Reliance" [not yet published]) and and am working on the 5th ("Ecological Awakening"). As I said before, I have built and finished many structures. I even made a video game and published it (quite an undertaking - let me assure you!). We plan for the main part of the house to be done by the end of July 2016.
Other Ways You Can Help
If you can't invest money but would like to help in other ways, feel free to contact me via the email in this campaign. Also please share this campaign on facebook and through other social media with anyone else you think might want to be part of it. If you'd like to come take part in the build, let me know. We will have multiple workshops