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Building a house
  • I understand, that house building with the GVCS right now is focused and bricks and centered around the brick press. What is a good thing, in my opinion.

    I'm no architect, and I wondered all the time, how to make a two story building just with bricks. But then I saw this:

    Do that, and after the house stands, just add bricks on the outside for better insulation and stability.

    The only thing needed from GVCS would be all those metal fittings. Well, and the saw mill, of course, to cut all the wood.
  • 15 Comments sorted by
  • Vote Up0Vote Down
    September 2012
    I must admit, when I first saw them assembling it I had to check the description to see if it was made by Ikea! haha!

    It is a very innovative method of building. It would be interesting to see it made out of a bamboo composite to increase it's sustainability. The metal fitting could be easily produced with a streamlined punch or automated torch. I would love to see the house blueprints for that building to compare the similarities/differences between it and a traditional light timber house.
  • Vote Up0Vote Down
    September 2012
    Found another video on building a wooden house, which also shows how the foundation is made. From the Jamaican Red Cross, no less:

    And this one - a house made of sandbags:

  • Vote Up0Vote Down
    September 2012
    I drew up a set of blueprints for a small earthbag building that I was
    going to build until we decided that cob was the way we wanted to go. I
    love earthbag buildings, especially when combined with straw bale
    exterior insulation. Bullet/earthquake/hurricane proof buildings that
    are extremely durable and very cheap to make. They do take a long time
    to build, but if the process could be streamlines then they could become
    a serious contender as a building method of the future. I recommend reading the book Earthbag Building, it is very well done and shows great techniques to anyone who want to learn how to build with them.
  • Everyone has good ideas for walls, but walls aren't important. The foundation and the roof are what cost the real money. It doesn't matter how clever you are about the walls if you have to use the same foundation/roof as everyone else. And that isn't even addressing all the other stuff that makes a house habitable, like wiring, plumbing and finishing. If you do all that stuff the same too then even getting the walls for free reduces your cost by like 20%.

    Also, being able to build quickly is really only of benefit to large organizations that build lots of houses. It doesn't help individuals.
  • Vote Up0Vote Down
    September 2012
    Actually I've found the foundation to be as easy as the walls, or easier. Lined rubble trench foundation with french drain and it's done cheap and easy. The roof on the other hand is very tricky. Having to be water tight, strong, light and durable means that we are always looking for new building methods. Domed or corbelled earthbag building do serve all of thoughs functions as well as being able to also serve the function of a foundation in lieu of a rubble trench one. The common issue for them is not structural, but aesthetic. They tend to be very whimsical looking and so drive off anyone who likes rectangular or cube-like buildings. Modern bamboo buildings employ a roof material that is cheaply grown, but requires a different skill set to use then traditional light timber building. Reciprocal frame roof building is also very cheap to build, and also quite easy compared to traditional building, although it is again for a round building.

    The other thing to think about it the true nature of cost, which is not only a static dollar value that we have calculated once the house is build. The longevity of the structure must also be taken into account as a building that seems cheap really isn't cheap if it lasts a fraction of the time of another material. The funds saved by getting low cost and durable walls/foundation can be invested in a quality roof thereby reducing the overall cost of the structure.

    It can also take months for an earthbag buildings walls to be put up if it is just being done by one homeowner or one family. In this case it would definitely benefit individuals to have a system that allowed for a more streamlined approach to building.
  • Vote Up0Vote Down
    September 2012
    Regarding roofing I have found this one:

    This principle should be scalable, so larger roofs should be possible with this approach as well.
  • As far as i understood the roof framing is not such much the issue, as is the rainproofing of the roofs. Modern roofs have quite expensive materials to waterproof them with several layers of rubber and insuation, and also protect the roof from frost and make it durable for several years without maintenance. If you live in a desert you probably dont worry about this.

    The most low tech approach that i have seen for cold /rainy climate is the green roofs used traditionally in northern Europe.
    Even today green roofs with sod can protect reasonably well and enhances insulation of the entire house, therefore reducing energy footprinte even further. 
    For traditional green roofs, bark is layered over woodplanks. And then sod is cut and applied. The grass should be cut once a year on the roof however there are examples of trees growing on roofs and still being watertight.
    What i like about the green roof is the enhanced cooling in summer and heating in winter. Also the sod can be cut from the construction site.
  • I forgot to mention that today a layer of rubber is hidden below the bark on traditional green roofs, just to make them maintenance free. Hoever the material costs are still a lot lower than for your typical 21st century roof.
  • Vote Up0Vote Down
    October 2012
    I don't think that the outer layer of the roof is the problem, but the innert framing and statics. A platform roof would be the most simple construction, but it has a lot of issues regarding snow load, rain drainage. leakages, etc. Most green roofs are platform roofs, because on a slanted roof you have a problem to fix the soil. That does not mean, that I'm opposed to the idea of green roofs, just the contrary. I only don't think that this could be an easy solution.
  • Most traditional roofs are slanted roofs though, they simply use a final board to fix the sod.

    Cost-wise the roof insulation&protection materials concern me much
    more than the underlying wood construction, especially in germany the
    roofs get so expensive and its not the wood thats the problem.
    Anyhow i saw some interesting low cost techniques used here for roof building in namibia, maybe something for you. 

  • Vote Up0Vote Down
    November 2012
    Some great stuff. I have a good collection of books on hay bail and cob construction and also have the earth bag book. My personal favorite is Ceramic Houses. The author has been firing adobe structures for years. I'd love to give it a shot. Amazon has the book for sale. It goes in and out of print so it's good to grab a copy while you can.
  • In homes insulation is an important consideration in many climates.  Natural materials such as straw ale isn't always available.  Mother Earth had a good article,,  on cellulose insulation but it required a hammermill to process the waste paper.  Have technologies such as this been considered?
  • I have a friend that is studying Architecture at the same University as me. He built his own house from cob and straw bales and he teaches all kinds of workshops and classes on the building techniques. The biggest issue with most of these techniques is the amount of time it takes. With a team of 10 people you could build a 600 sq. foot earth-bag house in just a couple of weeks, but with only a couple of people it takes considerably longer.

    I have seen videos of worker teams building with earth-bags, and with heavy equipment you can actually build each layer of the house with one long continuous bag. The main reason most people use small bags is because they are doing everything by hand. The same goes for CEB, you could theoretically build walls that are a single compressed block (also known as the rammed-earth technique), but smaller sizes are used for convenience.

    Essentially, my friend told me that these building techniques are for people that have a lot of time on their hands but little money.
  • I've got some designs for multiple kinds of 2 story, insulated, CEB construction that I'm planning to write at some point.  I've hired an architect to go through it all with me and have been studying all of the structural engineering considerations that go into it for the past year.

    The simple story is:

    - Dual wall with insulation.
    - either two 6" walls with concrete or wooden columns or one 12" wall and one 6" wall with either a larger foundation or less insulation
    - a wooden or concrete bond beam at the transition between 1st and 2nd floors.  Also a smaller ring beam ontop of the 2nd story to connect the roof to

    Some old plans are on the wiki:

    More recent plans and notes about our build will be posted over the course of the year as we build and learn.  More details at
  • Also, one thing to note with a lot of those 'build a house/roof in one day' videos is that there is a lot of work they aren't showing, like figuring out all of the cuts to make, and pre-assembling a lot of things.  It looks more like a cheap stunt similar to those companies that have everything built in China but then have it shipped to the US and put the last screw in here so they can say that it was 'assembled' in the USA.

    I'm not saying that the kind of building they are doing isn't fast or it can't work, but my BS meter goes off when I tricks like this.

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