Between Beavers and Termites

hunting and gathering T-shirtThanks to PBS I’ve discovered that my humanly talents at home building reside somewhere between that of a beaver and a termite (the termite being more efficient, the beaver less). Said dreary program also informed me that “all homes are unsustainable.”

I mean, crap. Just because it’s true in a “we’re all going to die eventually” sort of way doesn’t mean I want to smoke it on a Wednesday evening. Then again, there might be something to this whole naked foraging/hunting and gathering thing. Maybe our ancestors gave up on that too easily.

But I’m not the kid of guy to take such a PBS pimp-slap sitting on the sofa. A termite? I’ll show you, Betty White, who can build a more sustainable home than a termite! (As long as no termites are around to mess it up for me.) [Read more...]

Build your Post-Apocalyptic Compound with Hemcrete

by Miroslavk82When acid rain starts to fall, mutant scorpions attack and marauding wackos try to eat your flesh you don’t want to find yourself holing up in a ramshackle farm house or an abandoned flat in NYC or London. You’re going to need a practical yet functional fortress to weather the decades of madness until the dove returns with the olive branch in its beak.

To build said fortress you’ll need to consider security, self-sustainability and endurance. The answer to all three is, you guessed it, hemcrete. (Start bugging your representatives to legalize the growing of hemp now, so you can start construction before the end comes.) Hemcrete is a bio-composite building material made by mixing specially prepared hemp shiv with a lime-based binder (Montana Hemp Council Magazine, Vol. 4, 2011).

Basically, this means hemcrete is made from cooked lime and ground up hemp stalks. But the result is as zombie proof, fire proof, mutant bug proof, bullet proof, mohawk proof dwelling. [Read more...]

Non-housing Alternatives

Movie poster for Swiss Family RobinsonWhat could be better than to live in a sustainable dwelling that, as far as the government is concerned, isn’t even a dwelling? You’d have no taxes and very little zoning codes to deal with, while at the same time treading lightly on this whimsical little sphere we call Earth. “Wow, RedneckGranola, how can such a thing be possible? Since you are so often full of organic manure, I just can’t believe you.”

Yes, yes. I know. I too was once skeptical, as yourselves, until I realized all you have to do is be considered a nutjob and such a storybook living can be within your grasp. I’m not talking about living out of a Vanagon or VW bus (I said nutjob, not hippy freak!). For starters, I’m talking about tree houses. [Read more...]

Extreme Home Makeover: Mud Edition

Earth Architecture, book by Ronald Rael

Earth Architecture, book by Ronald Rael

I have come up with yet another way for the humanity sucking institution of television to untether itself from its obligate parasitic ways and enhance our world at the same time it fogs our minds and contributes to hemorrhoids across the globe. (Even now I’m sitting on a donut. Oy vey!)

No, I’m not talking about having David Duchovny personally record his voice on thousands of voicemail boxes saying, “The truth is out there, so leave your name and number. I’ll call you back when I find it.” But I am of course talking about ABC’s Extreme Makeover Home Edition… gone native. [Read more...]

Breed Industry with Granola and get Modcell?

Modcell exteriorAvert the eyes.  Yes, they are at it again.  Brits hold no modicum of decency when it comes to their efforts at mating sustainable products with modern building methods.  Hemp and straw are so pure and modest, while industry is so brutish and base.  Will it ever work?

Modcell is attempting, in their Flying Factory, to create the illusive commercially viable, modular, super-insulated, high-performance, low energy ‘passive’ buildings built using renewable, locally sourced, carbon sequestering materials.  I know, I know.  Crazy.  When will these money hungry, earth-lovers give up? [Read more...]

Big Box Agriculture: Can Stores Become Farms?

forrest_fulton_reburbia_ext-670x270America’s farmland has long been under siege by suburban development. This is nothing new. What is new is that a cease-fire has been called in most parts of the nation. And a conversation is developing about how to move into this new window of opportunity in a manner that not only restores the balance between urban demand and farm supply, but also helps to reenergize our failing economy heavily dependent on the construction industry.

This summer, Reburbia, a suburban design competition, was held by Inhabitat and Dwell Magazine. The competition set out to gather creative and imaginative ideas on how to go about re-visioning the American suburban sprawl that will almost certainly become our suburban wasteland without intervention. Several of the ideas were great, but one in particular caught my eye. [Read more...]

In Building, Passivity May be the Best Action

passivstandardSalt Lake City is going passive.  Joe and Rebecca are teaming up with Brach Design and Fisher Custom Building to build Utah’s first certified passive house.  That is the plan anyway.  Brach Design is Utah’s only certified Passive House architect and this will be his first passive house if everything turns out right.

You may be thinking, “Who gives a diddly ding dang do.”  But let me tell all you Flanders swearing neigh-sayers, this is pretty ding dang diddly cool.  Let’s not forget that 76% of all electricity produced by U.S. power plants goes to the building sector.  Passive House started up as PassivHaus in the UK, but that was too stinking European sounding for God-Bless-‘Em-Americans, so we changed it to Passive House Institute US, but it is the same thing.  Passive House is a certification that literally beats the insulation off of rating systems like LEED.  The graphic shows it pretty well (although LEED is not pictured because it is a bit like comparing apples to oranges).  But the point is that Passive House is the stiffest energy efficiency standard the world has seen by far. [Read more...]