The Building System

The building will keep its occupants comfortable any time of year by means of its body and added systems which function by themselves with natural solar energy only. The building is cost effective and durable.

Description of Parts of the System

Rammed earth blocks with various earthen and cellulose plasters for protection and insulation, coatings as required.
Natural biocomposite material for partition wall systems, ductworks, roof and floor structures. Composed of agricultural cellulose – fine, coarse and whole plant fibres: hemp, flax, etc.
-minerals – clay soil, gypsum, other binders, water
-400 – 1000 kg/cubic M density (equivalents = from balsa wood up to water)
-Cast in place and/or pre-cast
-Fireproof, insulating and heat storing
weatherproof and insulating coating exterior, natural plaster materials and coatings -interior
Use some ultra low flush toilets with on site sewage treatment, perhaps in a bio-gasifier which yields -dry, sterilized organic material and grey water.
Black water system (Such as Living System), Grey water system (organic processing), passive irrigation.
Water collection and storage on site.
Keyline irrigation to fit into Permaculture.
Cheat the wind
Set amongst trees and shrubs
Face the sun
Have some moveable partition walls made with the processed cellulose panels
Have chases for wiring, plumbing, fibre optics, etc. which allow changes
Hierarchy of spaces from most to least public
Be easy to decorate
Plaster on the walls applied which could be hand sculpted
An inspiring yet humble appearance

Availability of the System’s Components

High cellulose plant material from primarily agricultural sources would be collected and processed to be whole stalks, coarse, medium and fine fibre, and in order to release other constituents of the plants for availability to the moulding and strength and durability qualities of the materials before transportation to the site.

Minerals and binders, including clay subsoil would be transported to or derived from the site. These raw materials would be combined and placed and/or cast into the building components as a slurry containing water or pressed or extruded into shape. Equipment used may be a truck-based batch plant and conventional concrete pumping equipment for the cast materials. Standard modular formworks would be ganged and moved as large units along the path of construction with a crane and casting could continue with removal of formworks within a few hours because of the gypsum and cellulose content. Full strength of the structural materials would occur with drying over a period of time while construction and occupation of the structure proceeds. Some materials will harden almost immediately while others can take longer to harden and dry. It has been shown that in rammed earth, the strength increases another 40 per cent after the first six months to the two year mark, even though the material is dry at 6 months. With the high cellulose content, one expects very rapid drying depending on binders used.

Samples and results from several sources indicate the building material works. These sources are: our own test samples and building experience, the French method of Isochanvre where over 250 homes have been built, the German Liechtlehmbau, in use for hundreds of years and the subject of published DIN tests, the American cast earth and shot-crete methods, The Univeral Building Code and Arizona, California and New Mexico Building Codes, historical examples of earthen and cellulose architecture worldwide and in Southern Alberta and British Columbia.

On one of our rammed earth projects in 1991, a Senior Building Inspector of the City of Calgary, Rick Gardner, brought in a collegue who made a video of the making of a rammed earth wall. The video is available and the project may be viewed. Our company was the contractor for the first stress skin panel home in Alberta for Albany Homes, who have operated as a local manufacturer and builder since 1993. One of the company’s proposed projects was awarded a CMHC grant for rammed earth construction. The company draws on a technical team of engineers and specialists. Much of the complementary parts of the system, especially those of water and sewer are available as components or able to be made here, although would have to be combined with expertise and knowledge. The roof system requires development.

The lighting system requires engineering and testing, though parts and pieces are commercially available. Photovoltiac is straightforward mainstream technology, although DC current equipment is more costly than AC current equipment at this time.

Passive solar and mass wall thermal storage follows the accepted models.

The phase change salt system has sufficient data for evaluation of design and implementatio, though it is suggested there have been crystallization problems to solve.

There is local technology available for heating and cooling without moving parts.

This information is intended as a guide to understanding a comprehensive systems approach. For more information please contact us.