Saturday, March 18, 2006

Let's get small..

The March 13, 2006 Newsweek has an article about Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan, a New York interior designer, who believes people can live comfortable in smaller spaces if they choose furniture and possessions sparingly and arrange them wisely.


You mean bigger isn't always better?

In fact, he is having the second annual contest for The Smallest, Coolest Apartment for small apartments and homes in the lower 48 states under 650 square feet.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Wanna breathe some fresh air? Strawbale walls!

Indoor Air Quality, Healthy Buildings, and Breathing Walls

Most people in America spend 90% of their time indoors.

The quality of the air inside your home directly impacts your health, due to the amount of time spent there.

Just ask "Dear Abby" just how bad mothballs in your home is for the air quality...

Good indoor air quality is determined by design, controlled ventilation and the use of appropriate healthy building materials.

Designed properly, strawbale walls are vapor-permeable "breathable" walls.

Strawbale walls allow vapor to quickly pass through, practically eliminating the potential for fungal growth on building surfaces.

Controlled mechanical ventilation is also important for good indoor air quality. A bathroom ventilation fan can also reduce humidity and mold in the home.

In the kitchen, cooking with a gas stove produces carbon monoxide.

Carbon monoxide poisoning can make you sick and give you flu-like symptoms.

It's important for good air quality to have a kitchen exhaust hood over a gas stove.

Personally, I happen to like the "chimney" style kitchen exhaust hoods vs. the ones that fit under your cabinets...

Saturday, May 07, 2005

What this planet needs is...more concrete???

No, not really. Concrete uses a lot of energy, so the less the better.

How to build a foundation with only the minimum of concrete?

"Rubble Trench Foundations" can be simple and effective foundations for strawbale.

Various forms of the rubble trench foundation have
been used for thousands of years in construction. has the step-by-step process of making a rubble trench foundation.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Q: How do I help the planet?

A: Build smaller houses.

From "Independent Builder: Designing & Building a House Your Own Way" by Sam Clark:

"The most obvious way to conserve land, energy, and building resources, especially wood, is to build smaller houses. A smaller house uses less materials, and causes less pollution, at every stage...this is the point most often ignored by people who talk sustainability."

Smaller houses are more sustainable, use less energy and cause less pollution...

If you really want to help the planet, "downsize" the size of your house.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Garage: The Most Versatile Room Not in the House?

Kira Obolensky says think of the garage as a "place that can capture the changes with which life presents us."

The garage can be nothing more than a container for our cars, bicycles and gardening equipment.

Or the garage can be a reflection of our present day "dreams and passions".

Kira notes that the garage is a "highly personal space, not usually intended for public viewing."

But it could also be used for a guest cottage, office, art studio, teenager's hangout, greenhouse, library, museum, soundstage or playroom.

And as one of the host's of NPR's "Car Talk" radio show notes, the versatility of the garage "becomes especially important when your wife throws you out of the house."

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Strawbale.Homes is now on "Google" Groups

Strawbale.Homes "Group" can be read on Google now

Groups are a "hidden" community of people on the Net that's been around longer than the "www" part that we all now think of as "the web"...

Google Groups

Browse Archives

Houses That Sing...

Bill and Athena Steen are righteous Strawbale "people".

They do a project every year in Mexico showing people you don't need a lot of money to live in a nice house.

You just need to build each other's homes.

Casas Que Cantan - Houses That Sing

A $500 strawbale home, Xochitl neighborhood of Cuidad Obregon, Mexico

The "I need a big garage for my SUVs, a big kitchen cause we never cook, and big bathrooms for my big, fat American arse" crowd...


Who wants to live in a
one-of-a-kind house, conceived by the iconic architect, in a private, peaceful, bucolic setting?

Like...where am I gonna put my 3 SUVs and all my crap I never use anymore?

"Frank Lloyd Wright Homes a Tough Sell"

Friday, November 12, 2004

Got Hot Water?

The conventional tank water heater that is found in the standard American home is like leaving your car running in your garage in case you might use it.

You heat up a whole tank full of water just in case you might want to use it.

You could use a solar hot water system instead. But a solar system only heats the water when the sun is shining.

Or you could use a propane (or natural gas) powered Tankless water heater.

Because a Tankless Water Heater heats the water up whenever you want to use it.

When you turn on the hot water faucet, the pressure drops and a microswitch in the heater kicks on and ignites the flame with a pizeo-electric crystal lighter, so no energy is used for the pilot light.

The flame heats the water as it goes through a tiny capilary tube. Because the water is heated as it is used, nothing is wasted.

A water barrel
, painted black, inside a well-insulated passive solar glass box enclosure could be a simple way to preheat the source water for the tankless heater.

Technical Corner

Aquastar 125B

*"Constant hot water supply" of the Bosch Aquastar 125B tankless water heater can support a single shower, or smaller multiple fixtures simultaneously.

*"82% efficiency rating".

*Standard models will modulate gas flame down to approximately 20,000 Btu;

*“S” models will modulate down to zero for preheated water. Get the “S” model if you have, or plan to have, a solar or woodstove preheating system, which will not affect normal operation (but costs lots more to add as a retrofit).

*The 125B model also has a new “L” option for low-flow or recirculation applications such as hot tub or slab floor heating.

*Aquastar now offers a pilotless “X” version of the 125. This model does away with the standing pilot light, uses electronic ignition, and significantly boosts energy efficiency.

*No electric plug is required, the ignition is powered by a tiny electric turbine that spins up when the water starts flowing.

*All other specifications are identical to the standard 125 B model.

*Mfg. warranty: 15 years on Host exchanger, 2 years on all else.

*29.75½ H x 18.25½ W x 8.75½ D, 44 lb. Portugal.

• Btu Input: 117,000

• 55°F Temp. Rise: 3.3 gpm
• 75°F Temp. Rise: 2.4 gpm
• 90°F Temp. Rise: 2.0 gpm

• Minimum Flow: 0.5 gpm

• Vent Size: 5½ Type B gas vent

• Water Connections: 1.2½ NPT

• Min. Gas Supply Line: 3.4½ NPT

• Min. Water Pressure: 15 psi