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design considerations

Page history last edited by PBworks 12 years, 4 months ago


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The "big event" of 2008 will be the construction of a new Start-to-Finish Kid's Cottage here on the land!  There will be a series of workshops spanning the spring and summer to teach natural building skills through this project.  By doing a small 8' x 10' building, we can learn many techniques in a short period of time. I seek to improve on the Strawbale Studio construction process. 


Foundation: My goal for the foundation is to minimize or eliminate cement, and incorporate natural, local insulation in the floor and the foundation wall. The foundation trench will go down below frost line (42 inches in this climate) and be filled with "rubble" (miscellaneous sized fieldstone rocks from the land).  Just below ground level (at "grade") we will start building a short wall about 12-14 inches high, which I am calling the "knee wall" or "stem wall".  We will utilize three different types of techniques into this knee wall (explained in detail below) thus making this a "hybrid knee wall system".  The north side will be round stones, the east and west sides will be made of "urbanite" and the south wall will be "dry-laid". 

Cement will be very, very minimized and used only for the north side of the foundation knee wall ~ a 10' long segment ~ which will use round stones from the land, that need the support of cement, since they are round! (Perhaps we will make our own "Roman Cement" like they did in the Cob Wall in Madison, Wisconsin.  (See the "Making a Cob Wall video by "Outta the Box")  This fieldstone wall will have a cavity which we intended to fill with zebra muscle shells which will serve as insulation to keep the heat of the cottage in, and the cold out!  Yes, Zebra Muscles, based on research done in Denmark with using Muscles as non-degradable insulation in floors! The east & west stem walls will be built with "urbanite", pieces of broken cement sidewalk that I picked up in Oxford Michigan: a section of sidewalk on a side street was being replaced, and the old broken pieces were no longer needed.  Thus this is "recycled cement".  The south-facing segment of the above-grade foundation will be "dry-laid".  This means that flat stone (which we are selectively harvesting from our primarily round fieldstone piles on the lan) will be stacked, with out any mortar, so that they are stable in themselves.  Then the spaces between the stones can be "chinked", filled in, with lime, gypsum or an earthen (cob) mix. By combining these three techniques into a "hybrid" foundation wall, a lot of skills will be taught, and we can gain experiential feedback as we see how the different systems perform.  I expect them all to do great, really.  They are all time-honored techniques, with the exception of the "urbanite", which is considered relatively long-lasting. 


Insulated floor:  We really missed this in the Strawbale Studio, so this time we have a design insulation strategy that should keep the floor and stem wall "wraped cozy" like a nest.  The top soil n the interior of the building and the subsoil will be removed down about 8 inches (this needs to be figured out more specifically).  On top of that will go rock, and then muscle shells.  These will serve as a capillary break so water doesn't wick up from the ground, and also as an insulative layer to some degree.  On top of that will be some "light clay" (straw or chopped phragmite coated with slip ~ a thick clay and water mix).  This strategy will be used on the floor, and also up the sides of the interior of the stem wall, creating a kind of "nest" of insulation.  The stones will not show on the inside, which will be an aesthetic loss, but stones can be shaped into the base of the earthen benches which will wrap around much of the interior anyway! 


Round Pole Framing:  My goal here is to have a roofing system that doesn't take 4 professional men and power tools to build.  What could a few people like me find, prepare and put up?  So this Oxford Kid's Cottage will be made from small trees on the land, with the bark taken off, and joined together by some simple notching (not fancy, beautiful timber framing) and some drilled holes and bolts for pinning.  We will also do lashing with rawhide in some non-load bearing areas to gain more experience with how that performs over time.  Round pole framing is completely compatible with thatch which does not require a flat surface like asphalt shinges or a metal roof might need.  Thatch simply flows over these variations in shape, naturally.


Design:  What would people likely build?  A gable roof rectangular building.  How can we keep it simple, but still have it be totally enchanting?  Through some small modifications, like rounded interior benches, and by having an interesting, flowing roof line, which is totally possible with thatching and round poles!  What about solar orientation?  have lots of south facing windows, and lift the southern roof eaves a bit to let in more light, and drop the north eaves a bit, like a Shaker New England design. There needs to be about 1 sq foot of glazing (glass window) for every 8 square feet of floor space in the building ( Deb Rowe sez) This will be an easy ratio to accomplish in this small building. 


Thatching: I still am totally in love with thatched roofs, so that aspect will certainly stay in our design.  But since it is going to be a gable roof this time ( two slanted side meet at the top, our average, typical roof) this will mean that the thatching will be a little different than on the hip roof (all four sides slant in) where the thatching just wraps around the building and keeps going.  Instead we will have to do a special application of reed to protect the edges of the roof.  The reason I have chosen this design is because most people will probably not construct a hip roof, and also the gable roof allows for windows up in the gable, which will be sweet for a little sleeping loft.  We may try a different type of ridge application (cattails), or stick with the "butt up" technique using Phragmite reed grass.  This is not easy to put in words, so I won't try.  Come to the workshop on thatching! 



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