Thursday, August 25, 2005

BWB Straw-Bale Construction Guides

The Builders Without Borders (BWB) Straw-Bale Construction Guide was created to meet the growing demand for easy-to-understand instructions on building strawbale homes. It was designed for workshop participants, the communities that work with BWB and anyone who wants to build a comfortable, affordable home. This book is a pictorial how-to guide on straw-bale construction basics that emphasizes low-cost methods to help those in the greatest need for affordable housing. To read more about this book, go to

The BWB Facilitators Guide is the curriculum that accompanies the BWB Straw-Bale Construction Guide. The Facilitators Guide outlines the purpose of each section, activities, discussion topics, technical considerations, time frames and exercises to accomplish the desired goals. Lesson plans on each topic help the instructor convey the concepts in the Straw-Bale Construction Guide. To read more about this book, go to

These Guides were co-authored by Dr. Owen Geiger, the Director of the Geiger Research Institute of Sustainable Building.

You can order the BWB Straw-Bale Construction Guides from:
Builders Without Borders
119 Main Street
Kingston, NM 88042
(505) 895-5400

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Dirt Cheap Shelter

Ever wonder how to build a simple home for very little money and without going into debt? Free articles on the Geiger Research Institute Publications page explain how to use low-cost, locally available natural materials such earth, small diameter wood and straw to keep expenses to a minimum.

Tractor cob: Cob houses last for centuries and can be built using the soil from the building site. Consisting of just clay, sand and straw, cob is well suited for owner-builders short on cash. However, the process hasn’t become widespread because it is so labor intensive. This article (the first full-length article on tractor cob) explains how you can eliminate over 90% of the labor using a tractor to mechanize the process.

Tamped earth floors: Earth floors have been used since the beginning of history. Floors in Taos Pueblo, for example, have lasted for over 600 years. Imagine how much you could save by not replacing carpet or linoleum every 15-20 years. (And, they don’t require expensive wood framing, offgass toxic chemicals or clog up landfills.) The main drawback to earthen floors is they are very slow drying. Tamped earth floors are much faster drying than poured earth floors and have the potential to turn this age-old building technique into mainstream use.

Small diameter wood: As a result of poor management, US forests are choked with small trees. Thinning this excess wood improves the health of the forest, reduces risk of forest fires, and provides a nearly unlimited source of wood for those who harvest it. These small trees can be used in the round (which is inherently stronger than milled lumber) for pole trusses, posts. beams, etc. Or they can be turned into door and window bucks, studs, plates, rafters, cabinets and furniture using an inexpensive chainsaw guide.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Free Straw Bale Shelter Plans

For about $350 you can build a simple straw bale shelter thanks to the efforts of Matts Myhrman, Judy Knox and Owen Geiger. The Geiger Research Institute offers the free plans on their website. They include drawings, specifications and basic instructions, and are available in three formats - Microsoft Word, JPEG and HTML.

Based on straw-bale construction techniques in Build it With Bales, by Matts Myhrman and S.O. MacDonald, these free shelter plans show how almost anyone can build one in just a few hours. These plans are ideal for creating temporary shelter for refugees, disaster victims or anyone else in need of quick, easy-to-build, safe shelter using a minimum of tools.

The basic shelter design can be easily upgraded into permanent shelter by adding plaster (including earth plaster), a more durable roof, and other improvements. In addition, the plans can be modified to meet site-specific conditions. For example, the roof overhang could be increased in rainy climates to better protect the bales.

Elimination of Poverty Housing

Substandard housing - crude shelters haphazardly made of scraps of junk, cardboard and similar materials – is where over one billion of the world’s poorest live. These shacks, and the associated grinding poverty of those who live in them, are an affront to civilized society. We can and must do better.

Dr. Owen Geiger, the Director of the Geiger Research Institute of Sustainable Building, has spent his life searching for affordable housing solutions and is now unveiling the first comprehensive plan to eliminate poverty housing at two upcoming events:

- August 14-15, 2005 in Pine Ridge, South Dakota: Sustainable Sustainable Development and Technology workshop.

- September 3, 2005 in Crestone, Colorado: Renewable Energy Fair, 2-3 pm.

Dr. Geiger is calling for a Global Housing Initiative to address the unprecedented level of homelessness and substandard housing. His proposal is designed to mesh with the Millennium Project – the United Nations' ambitious program to cut poverty in half by 2015 and eliminate extreme poverty in our lifetime.