the road away from hell

January 19, 2007

Casemeau requested more pics from my earth buliding course so here’s some from the places we visitedmedium_earth_house.JPG

the microwave plate window from the previous post is in the centre of this pic. The rest of the house is yet to be built but since there is no need to wait for plasterers and painters they haved moved in right away.


earth floor with pretend tile pattern, from a very flash house. I was only allowed to take photos of the floor, nothing else.


a glass blower on a rammed earth wall.


rammed earth house – a bit dark I thought, mind you it was so wet that day I couldn’t tell where the sun was


A potter’s house/work/shop/teaching facility under a Karaka tree


looking down a stairwell, the walls have a limewash on them. The bottom steps are earth.


Under construction, a combination of rammed earth and in-situ adobe. The small windows in the far corner are large bottles with marbles in the bottom. New Zealand is a major earthquake zone (like California) so a lot of timber and steel structural support is required by council. This can be avoided if you make the walls thicker (like the Great Wall of China)


The class gathers round the mobile desk. Note the twisted roof. Also note that the post and rooves are put up first so that the rest of the building can continue shaded from the summer sun and the unseasonal showers we’ve been having.

This is the house that has the finished bedroom with the microwave plate window (out of shot) The owners, who had no previous building experience were building the house. They had also saved costs by shifting an old house bus on site to live in while the main house was under construction.


One comment

  1. great photos! thanks!

    Posted by: casemeau | 01/19/2007

    Those are some lovely homes. I have a brick home and simply adore the low maintenance. I wonder how those homes do on long term maintenance? I know they day will come when I’ll want less space than I have now and cob/earth homes seem to fit the bill.

    Posted by: Frank Black | 01/20/2007

    Your very lucky to live in New Zealand! Due to the temperate climate and the remoteness I’m sure it will be one of the best places to live for surviving the collapse.

    Posted by: John Giroux | 01/20/2007

    We’re on the road but here’s a few quick answers to the questions raised.

    Frank, the maintenance certainly has the potential tobe an issue, if you put plenty of cement in the mix it will be quite long lasting, if you don’t then maintenance is quite simple with an earth plaster being an easy thing to mix up and apply.

    In NZ though we are required to use eve overhangs that are suitable for protecting the walls – depending on local wind and the quality of the materials used.

    John – I hope you’re right, my only fear is that it becomes a getaway for wealthy corporate types.

    Chris, one of the ways that people have started to do this is by erecting a post and beam structure and putting the roof up first (as one of the pictures showed I think). It makes it easy to work in any weather and it avoids the whole structural issue. I do hear that people in Nelson (NZ) have developed a method od really thick walls that enables them to get even further away from modern techniques but a lot of the stuff we looked at had steel reinforcing in it. I think this does compete easily with modern techniques because anyone can do it – so you cn save on the labour. In the end though, I want to learn about it for the time when modern teachniques are no longer available to us.

    Jim, what you are doing sounds interesting, I had thought that the high-paper content bricks were a bit laborious to make but I haven’t actually built a house yet so you may wish to correct me. From what I have learned insulation is not a big deal with these places as the mass stablises the temperature so well that even if you open the door in winter and let the cool air in it will warm up again quite soon (in NZ). That said people are working on higher insulation methods down here so that they will meet the ever increasing standards.

    Posted by: Aaron | 02/14/2007

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