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.