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a briefing document

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Eco-building is part of a series of briefing documents on housing and making living systems ecological.
This grouping is contained within a set of documents on global concerns at abelard.org.
eco-building Distributed energy systems and micro-generation
Living in containers - modern prefab homes
Non-pv (photovoltaic) solar technology
sustainable futures briefing documents global warming briefing documents energy briefing documents

getting free of governments and corporations
buildings from straw, newspaper and concrete
near zero-consumption houses
using homes to generate electricity
do-it-yourself heating
building generates co2

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getting free of governments and corporations - mostly on buildings

The other day, I pointed to technology that is fast developing and capable of making (some) individuals free of the oil companies for transport.

Today, I refer to another move to independence - innovative building materials that are far cheaper and more effective than much of the poor standard build methods presently used in the UK.

Are the government serious about ecology or are they more interested in control and bribes from corporations?

buildings from straw, newspaper and concrete

Wall sample of StrawJet building with straw.“The StrawJet harvests straw in the field before it has been crushed or damaged, orients the stems so they are all parallel, adds a clay based binding material, compresses the bundle and binds it into a continuous length of 2 inch cable using a polyester yarn. Once the clay has dried, the cable becomes a rigid cylinder.“

“Completed Wall Structure

“Walls can be built up using different materials to meet specific design requirements. The example at the left shows a wall with vertical straw columns and horizontal members from Jerusalem Artichoke. Also shown is a conduit to carry electrical wires and / or plumbing.” [Quoted from greeninventor.org]

marker at abelard.org

“I built a building 14' X 14' using a mixture of newspaper and portland cement. I want to build another with added chopped straw to the mixture for strength and to expand the mix. I live in Southern Oregon and have had no problems with mold or structure problems after 1 year. The roof is sheetmetal that is at least 16" past all walls. The building cost about $300. All the newspaper was free. The acrylic paint was $10. Most of the cost was sheetmetal.” [Quoted letter to from treehugger.org]

marker at abelard.org

“Bob Teixeira decided it was time to take a stand against U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

“So last fall the Charlotte musician and guitar instructor spent $1,200 to convert his 1981 diesel Mercedes to run on vegetable oil. He bought soybean oil in 5-gallon jugs at Costco, spending about 30 percent more than diesel would cost.

“His reward, from a state that heavily promotes alternative fuels: a $1,000 fine last month for not paying motor fuel taxes.

“He's been told to expect another $1,000 fine from the federal government.

“And to legally use veggie oil, state officials told him, he would have to first post a $2,500 bond.” [Quoted from charlotte.com]

near zero-consumption houses

Interesting house construction for near zero energy consumption and it doesn’t even have photovoltaics.

Sample pricing

ARC3232 This house has a floor area of about 2000 sq feet. The kit price is $60,000.

Homes are shipped via tractor-trailer at a cost of approximately $1.55-1.85+ per truck per mile. Mileage is measured from Raleigh, NC to your site. Most homes fit on 1 or 2 trucks. The customer pays the freight company for shipping upon delivery. Delivery is free for homes built in North Carolina.

The total finished cost of the home depends on your tastes in finishing materials, how much (if any) work you do yourself, and labor costs in your area. Expect your total home cost to be approximately 3-4 times the kit cost. [Of course,] Specific site costs, such as land purchase, blasting, or well drilling are not included in these estimates. [Quoted from enertia.com]

Now where can I get a house built to these standards, at this cost, in Europe?

using homes to generate electricity

“ [...] The south-facing glass side of the structure captures the winter sun, but during the summer the sun is high enough in the sky so that the rooms don't heat up.

“The building, a so-called positive energy house, actually produces more energy than its residents need -- it's essentially a tiny power plant. The solar panels on the roof produced almost 9,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity in the first year. Subtract the structure's own power usage along with heating costs and there's still a surplus of around 2,000 kilowatt-hours left over. The monthly expenditures of €100 for electricity and heat are more than offset by the €400 in revenue the solar panels bring in.

The key point is that the family can actually make money with its energy-efficient way of living. And it doesn't require spending winter evenings reading by candlelight or taking only one warm shower a week. But such homes remain the exception in both Europe and America. Most of the 17 million houses and apartment buildings in Germany spend some 30 percent of their total energy use just heating rooms and water. This also happens to be where most of the savings potential lies." [Quoted from spiegel.de]

Low-energy houses can get by on 7 litres of fuel oil per sq m [psm]. Old buildings (most) can eat 50 litres psm.

“In Germany the big [generating] firms -- RWE, E.on, EnBW and Vattenfall -- have carved up the territory. They set the industry's agenda and they are betting on large power plants that require vast quantities of water for cooling and an expensive long-distance power grid requiring lots of maintenance.

“Smaller plants that service end customers in urban centers are far more efficient. Such co-generation plants are usually fired by gas and are normally located close to the customers who use the power -- hospitals, schools or industrial facilities. They are also able to provide both electricity and warmth at the same time." [Quoted from spiegel.de]

Prototype solar haeting unit made using metal drink cans.do-it-yourself heating

“I decided instead to take advantage of the south-facing side of the garage and build a solar furnace to collect some of that sunshine just bouncing straight off my garage.” [Quoted from blog.hemmings.com]

marker at abelard.org

“Taking advantage of a wall that faced toward the south on his garage exterior, Daniel Strohl stacked soda cans in coluns inside of a box, after drilling them out.

“Then, this dude painted the cans black for maximum sun absorption and arrayed them as columns, sort of how your regular air heater would work.

“A whole lot of caulking later, he had something that looked like the figure above- to which he attached an air hose to feed into his garage. Using this message he was able to get an 80 degree heat differential, which ain’t shabby.” [Quoted from myninjaplease.com]

However, note from the original page:

“I determined the intake air temperature, which should have been the same as the ambient air temperature, to be about 80 degrees. Using the same equipment and methods, I determined the outlet temperature to be about 95 degrees - thus a 15 degree temperature differential. Not 110 degrees, but not bad [...] ”

related material
the trombe wall, a passive solar system
Distributed energy systems and micro-generation

building generates co2

building material CO2 produced in manufacture
concrete 385 kg CO2/m3
steel 12,200 kg CO2/m3
brick 375 kg CO2/m3
wood –900 kg CO2/m3*

Of course, steel is not normally used as a bulk building material, but as a structural strengthener.

* The value for wood is negative because wood sequesters carbon dioxide, binding CO2 from the atmosphere.

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