Thursday, August 20, 1998 11:02:09 PM
GSBN Item
From: GSBN@...,Txinfinet Incoming
Subject: Digest for 8/20/98
To: GSBN
-> Re: Wrong, wrong, wrong
by M J Epko <duckchow@...>
-> Re: Wrong, wrong, wrong
by M J Epko <duckchow@...>
-> Re: Wrong, wrong, wrong
by John Straube <JFSTRAUB@...>
-> Re: Wrong, wrong, wrong
by (email address removed)(matts a myhrman)
-> Re: Wrong, wrong, wrong
by "Rene_Dalmeijer" <rened@...>

----------------------------------------------------------------------

Date: 19 Aug 1998 23:25:59 -0500
From: M J Epko <duckchow@...>
Subject: Re: Wrong, wrong, wrong

At 12:09 AM 8/18/98 +0200, you wrote:
>I agree that the article is very partisan but I think some of your
>corrections are maybe a little partisan too. It's not simply a case of SB
>versus FC. Gorden Solberg is quite clearly an FC disciple. I think it is
>better to state simply which statements you think are incorrect and the then
>finish off with a more general observation.

Thanks for the quick and insightful response, Rene! Sorry my answer hasn't
been on the same schedule - things have been a bit crowded these past
couple of days. I'll be incorporating many of your thoughts into the next
draft.

I understand your point about the initial draft sounding partisan. I
should perhaps explain why I answered it in the manner that I did.

Sixteen of the 24 pages of the issue of Earth Quarterly were dedicated to
fibrous cement in the context of building residential domes for 75 cents a
square foot. The examples given did not include foundations, any finishing,
no mechanical systems, etc, but no direct mention (rather, it was quickly
in passing) was made of that fact. No mention that the climate these
example structures are in has one of the lowest annual rainfall amounts in
the US, has very mild winters, etc. Much of the information given is well
beyond suspect: one of the suggested "water-resistant coating" recipes, for
instance, was "to a load of paper slurry [made in a 55-gallon drum]... add
2 shovels of cement, 2 shovels of lime, 6 shovels of clean sand, and
possibly salt as a hardening agent."

It would be plainly obvious to people with some building experience or
knowledge that the information given was profoundly incomplete (whether by
accident or invention is immaterial) and flawed... but the magazine was
aimed directly at inexperienced owner-builders. The subsequent interest and
discussions of fibrous cement that have taken place on various internet
lists has carried the woefully incomplete presentation into naively excited
interest and activity from people in many different climates.

And so my aim was not only to rebut the seriously flawed information about
strawbale, but to indicate that the information presented about fibrous
cement was also seriously flawed.

My primary concern is not that strawbale took a hit, but that the Earth
Quarterly issue on the whole had stirred up a great deal of false hopes in
many people who can't afford false hopes. Fibrous cement proponents are
taking the same track that many enthusiastic people in the strawbale
revival had taken in the early days: promising more than is true in their
zeal, and omitting vitally important information. That happens sometimes
still, and I've also taken strawbale advocates to task for being
incomplete, misleading, and misinforming.

>Costs, This depends on what comparison you make, appels and pears.

That's always the case. There are minimal strawbale buildings which equate
to the fibrous cement domes. The comparison, in my mind, however, isn't so
much strawbale vs fibrous cement, but implied promises vs reality.

>The other arguments boil down to incoherent raving not really deserving
>serious comment. Basically what it boils down to is this: FC has it's
>advantages and SB has it's advantages.

Understood. Again, however, my hope is to sneak in some rational thought
about fibrous cement as well, since it was so sorely lacking in the
magazine in question.

It's my understanding that fibrous cement has been actively researched and
utilized to some degree (if not widely) in Europe. I'd be extremely
interested in hearing the thoughts and opinions of the European contingent
on fibrous cement - I would like to know a great deal more about the
material than I do, as I think that it has promising uses.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Freewheeling autonomous speculation - Think!
Personality #7 represents only itself.
M J Epko - duckchow@...
Kingston, New Mexico
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
... they feel that they are being mocked and that
their values are being attacked at the very root;
they hurl curses about in every direction and pull
the blanket of their education up over their ears.
- Hermann Hesse, Language


----------------------------------------------------------------------

Date: 19 Aug 1998 23:26:19 -0500
From: M J Epko <duckchow@...>
Subject: Re: Wrong, wrong, wrong

At 01:50 PM 8/18/98 +1100, that Straw Wolf, John Glassford wrote:
>is there any difference in fibrous cement and standard cement
>from the embodied energy, resource depletion and inherrent
>pollution that goes in to it's manufacture.

None. Fibrous cement uses standard portland cement as a component
material. The mixture given in Earth Quarterly was 60% paper, 30% sand or
dirt, and 10% cement. So, a 12"-thick wall is equivalent to a 1.2"-thick
solid cement wall (without any aggregate).

It also employs paper which could be recycled, which is soaked and pulped.
The pulping and mixing process favored by the proponents in Earth Quarterly
uses an auto engine to drive a lawnmower blade situated at the bottom of a
55-gallon stock tank.

>Compare the production of straw to concrete/cement and I hope
>that you will all agree that there is an impelling reason to
>use straw versus cement of any kind.

Your point was beautifully made. It also suggests that earth plasters need
more investigation. (I was at a small structure yesterday with two coats of
earthen plaster finished with a limewash. Its (apparent) strength was
impressive.

Perhaps a full-blown article is in order; we can send it to Earth
Quarterly (retaining full rights of ownership, of course), and also run it
in The Last Straw. Win-win.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Freewheeling autonomous speculation - Think!
Personality #7 represents only itself.
M J Epko - duckchow@...
Kingston, New Mexico
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
... they feel that they are being mocked and that
their values are being attacked at the very root;
they hurl curses about in every direction and pull
the blanket of their education up over their ears.
- Hermann Hesse, Language


----------------------------------------------------------------------

Date: 20 Aug 1998 08:33:39 -0500
From: John Straube <JFSTRAUB@...>
Subject: Re: Wrong, wrong, wrong

I agree with your sentiments, MJ, but also think you/we should take the
moral high ground and avoid "partisanism" in your reply. Although it is
clear that SB and FC have relative advantages, it is fairly clear to me
that FC has some serious disadvantages. I sent out a post a while back
outlining some of the technical realities of FC (whatever that sweeping
term means) and I think some of those point couldbe made.

A larger question I have is, should you waste too much time on this
publication? If it is so biased and poorly reported, do people respect
it? You are right to reply and ensure that some unsuspecting homesteader
is not disappointed but it is not a reputable mag like EBN, Fine
Homebuilding, Prog Arch etc.


- -----------------------------------------------------------------------
John Straube
Civil Engineering Dept. Building Engineering Group
University of Waterloo Webpage http://sunburn.uwaterloo.ca/beg
Waterloo, Ontario, CANADA N2L 3G1
UW Phone 519 888-4567 Ext 2378 UW Fax 519 888 6197
Personal Phone 519 741 7920 Personal Fax 519 885 5193
x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x


----------------------------------------------------------------------

Date: 20 Aug 1998 11:34:59 -0500
From: (email address removed)(matts a myhrman)
Subject: Re: Wrong, wrong, wrong

Judy Knox here with a brief response...
I have to agree most with John Straube. We've always had this kind of
problem with misinformation and bias; choosing the best way to invest our
time and energy to make good information available is the challenge. I
deeply appreciate your concerns, MJ, and willingness to try and see
something is done about it - but maybe a brief response recommending
reliable information materials and resources on straw-bale construction
would benefit the most. I mean, if we could use it as a forum to get new
subscribers for The Last Straw, we could claim an Akido victory!

_____________________________________________________________________
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----------------------------------------------------------------------

Date: 20 Aug 1998 16:28:17 -0500
From: "Rene_Dalmeijer" <rened@...>
Subject: Re: Wrong, wrong, wrong

I would like to add the following:

My remarks solicited a very good point you made in your reply to me.


- -----Original Message-----
From: M J Epko <duckchow@...>
To: (email address removed)<GSBN@...>
Date: Thursday, August 20, 1998 6:17 AM
Subject: Re: Wrong, wrong, wrong


> It would be plainly obvious to people with some building experience or
>knowledge that the information given was profoundly incomplete (whether by
>accident or invention is immaterial) and flawed... but the magazine was
>aimed directly at inexperienced owner-builders. The subsequent interest and
>discussions of fibrous cement that have taken place on various internet
>lists has carried the woefully incomplete presentation into naively excited
>interest and activity from people in many different climates.
>
> And so my aim was not only to rebut the seriously flawed information about
>strawbale, but to indicate that the information presented about fibrous
>cement was also seriously flawed.
>
> My primary concern is not that strawbale took a hit, but that the Earth
>Quarterly issue on the whole had stirred up a great deal of false hopes in
>many people who can't afford false hopes. Fibrous cement proponents are
>taking the same track that many enthusiastic people in the strawbale
>revival had taken in the early days: promising more than is true in their
>zeal, and omitting vitally important information. That happens sometimes
>still, and I've also taken strawbale advocates to task for being
>incomplete, misleading, and misinforming.
>
I now understand that you were trying to make clear that accurate
information is what is needed. I think the rave articles about FC will
backfire on the technique once failures start to become apparent. The view
advocated by many SB supporters is be honest about problems this will avoid
negative publicity and backlash when failures do take place. The cheap lable
for SB is one of the backlashes SB is experiencing now.
>
> It's my understanding that fibrous cement has been actively researched and
>utilized to some degree (if not widely) in Europe. I'd be extremely
>interested in hearing the thoughts and opinions of the European contingent
>on fibrous cement - I would like to know a great deal more about the
>material than I do, as I think that it has promising uses.
>
It was very popular in the 70's all kinds of building materials were based
on it. One of the more popular ones in the Netherlands was a prefab system
for making floors. In a certain period nearly all ground floors, above crawl
spaces were made using this technique. But FC has been replaced by other
techniques like airated concrete or styrofoam-concrete composites. FC
rapidly aquired a cheap=inferior lable and I suppose this led to its demise
as a popular material. I also know that in France it was very popular in the
prefab building systems popular there. Again it lost popularity there too
because it was viewed as a cheap=inferior solution. BTW this French high
rise building technique was exported very successfully to the former
communist countries. Basically the prefab members are composites consisting
of thin concrete outer shells, sometimes inlaid with ceramic tiles, and an
FC interior giving meagre insulation as the whole member is about 150mm
thick. Gaps and cold spots in the connections between the members caused and
causes serious building damage.

Rene Dalmeijer


----------------------------------------------------------------------

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