Date: 7 Sep 1998 19:48:04 -0500
From: M J Epko <duckchow@...>
Subject: I'm not beating a dead horse. I'm not.
The very thing I feared would happen around this whole Earth
Quarterly/Fibrous Cement thing is happening. The letters below are
published (along with many others) at
I've also included (below) some other descriptive material from the issue
that's posted at the website.
One letter is from a woman in Michigan (cold and wet) who is going to stop
recycling her paper and build a fibrous cement sauna. Somebody in Tucson is
wondering about FC boats. (Yes, boats.) Fortunately, the publisher replied
that FC "absorbs water like a sponge." On the other hand, the publisher
also said that adding Elmer's glue to the mix would result in a good
statuary material (without indicating that Elmer's glue is water-soluble).
In another place, the publisher says, "I bet fibrous cement would work
great as insulating stucco!" A 64-year-old woman on a fixed income in moist
Mississippi seems thrilled that she can finally build herself a house. A
man in North Carolina was considering SB, cordwood, or a geodesic dome for
his farm in Missouri - and now he's decided that a FC dome is the way to
go. A woman in Georgia loved the FC issue of Earth Quarterly, noting how
happy she is that the coverage isn't limited to just desert climates. A
person in Tennessee wants to "go into production tomorrow!" A man in
Colorado thought that the issue was "an incredible wealth of information."
A person in France wants to know if anybody working with FC is coming
there. An elderly woman in Colorado believes that she's finally found the
answer to how she can make herself a house.
On the other side of things, the truth may out more quickly than I'd
imagined. A woman who lives down in City Of The Sun, where the FC domes
that Earth Quarterly heralded are located, stopped by the other day. She
said that the domes are "falling apart."
The quotes that shook me up:
...what a great use for scrap paper! We've been talking for years about
building a sauna--so, the bags of paper have been transferred from the
recycling bin to the sauna materials spot. The challenge of building for
the colder north will keep us happily busy for awhile!
I am dreaming of making paper cement sculpture--sand and/or earth
casting--garden goddesses/fountains--rainbows--and boats--what about boats?
Fibrous cement has to be the most ingenious, exciting idea to come along
yet! Imagine building practically free! For years, this 64-year-old
displaced homemaker has thought about building a home. However, with very
little fixed income--how can it be done? Now I know!
I was planning to buy a farm in Missouri and build either a straw bale,
cord wood, or Geo-dome kit home. Now it will be fibrous cement. In an old
old issue of Mother Earth News, they had the plans for a building "hoop"
anchored on pins at both ends that let you build a big cord wood dome. This
would work great on fibrous cement. Truss work can be 1-2 feet wide. You
just lay the brick and "mud" them in place and after drying time, winch the
truss forward to the next course to be laid. Truss design allows for small
to big 40' high domes.
I loved the first issue of Earth Quarterly, and I loved the paper house
article! I'm really glad to see this type of publication being put out, and
that you're expanding your focus beyond the desert southwest.
Toccoa Falls, GA
The focus on fibrous cement was both excellent and inspiring. Makes me want
to go into production tomorrow!
The depth of your article on "Paper Houses" was outstanding... Thanks for
all the hard work/planning that goes into publishing such an incredible
wealth of information.
I'm real glad to have "discovered" you... Please let me know if anybody
involved in fibrous cement (has anybody tried with lime?) comes to Europe.
c/o Las Encantadas B.P. 217, F-11306 Limoux-Cedex, France. Tel/fax 0468315111.
Just had to write and let you know I saw your ad "Paper Brick Houses
75#162#/sq. foot" in the July Mother Earth News. When I saw the ad I thought
myself "yeah, right" and decided to "waste" the $3.00 to see what kind of
scam it was. I am an elderly woman who lives alone on 40 acres. I have no
electricity, running water, etc. I have been reading books on alternative
housing, trying to find a method I can handle to build myself a house.
Most of the methods I have read about require what I call the "3 M's"
(money-muscle-machinery) all of which I have in very limited quantities.
Then came your ad. This was the best $3.00 I ever "wasted." I believe I've
found a method I can handle to build myself a house. Thank you.
Dove Creek, CO
The following is from the issue, and is reprinted at the Earth Quarterly
A paper house isn't made out of sheets of paper blowing in the wind.
Instead, it's built with a type of industrial-strength paper mache called
fibrous cement. Basically what you do is take a large mixing vat, soak old
magazines and newspapers until they're soft, and then mix together a soup
of 60% paper, 30% screened dirt or sand, and 10% cement. Then you take this
glop and either (1) make it into blocks or slabs, (2) pour it into forms
directly onto your wall, (3) plaster over existing walls, or (4) use it for
mortar. (It's possible to use straw or even dried grass to supply the fiber
if paper is unavailable. Cardboard can also be used-its only disadvantage
is its bulk.)
When dry, fibrous cement is lightweight, an excellent insulator, holds its
shape well, and is remarkably strong. It is resistant to being crushed
(compressive strength) and to being pulled apart (tensile strength).
(Regular concrete, on the other hand, has high compressive strength but no
tensile strength to speak of, which is why it usually has to be reinforced
with steel bars, called "rebar.")
Fibrous cement is highly fire-resistant. Since the individual paper fibers
are saturated with cement, oxygen doesn't have a chance to penetrate, and
combustion cannot be sustained. I tried an experiment, aiming a propane
torch at a fibrous cement block to see what would happen. The block charred
on the surface where the flame hit it, but it didn't burn after several
minutes of direct flame. A piece of 1x2 lumber, by comparison, burst into
flame within a few seconds of being torched.
Consider some figures: Fibrous cement has a compressive strength of 260
psi, without sand in the mix. Adding sand triples the compressive strength.
An 8-foot-high, one-foot-thick wall of fibrous cement has a load bearing
strength of 15 tons per running foot, yet weighs only 120 pounds per
running foot! An elaborate foundation is not necessary, because the weight
of a wall amounts to only one pound per square inch! The insulating value
of fibrous cement is considerable-its "R" value is 2.8 per inch. This means
that a 12" wall has an "R" value of 33.6, which is impressive by any standard.
In addition to increasing the compressive strength, there is
another-astounding-advantage to adding sand to fibrous cement-you end up
with a substance that has a high insulating value and a high thermal mass,
all in one package. There is no other building material that can make this
claim. How this works is: each individual grain of sand embedded in the
"matrix" of fibrous cement is surrounded by insulating air pockets and
paper fibers. Because of all that insulation, it takes a relatively long
time for heat to flow from one sand grain to another. Since the sand is
distributed evenly throughout the mix, you end up with "the ultimate
thermal flywheel effect" which is amazingly efficient-a fibrous cement wall
will take all day to warm up, and all night to cool down. Even if fibrous
cement wasn't so cheap, it would be revolutionary for this reason alone.
Factoring in (1) low cost, (2) high tensile strength as well as high
compressive strength, (3) high insulating value and (4) high thermal mass,
we definitely have here a substance that has the potential to create a
revolution in the construction industry. It's about time!
One advantage of working with fibrous cement is you don't have to worry too
much about how much water to add to the mix. With regular concrete, if you
add too much water, the final product will be weaker than it should be.
With fibrous cement, the cement is absorbed by the paper fibers, insuring
that it is evenly distributed throughout the mix, and any excess water
simply evaporates or oozes into the ground.
When dry, fibrous cement can be sawed with a chain saw or a bow saw, so you
can build your walls first and add windows and doorways later wherever you
want. You can screw into it or sand it. The blocks can be keyed, and fitted
together later. It's amazingly versatile stuff.
Freewheeling autonomous speculation - Think!
Personality #7 represents only itself.
M J Epko - duckchow@...
Kingston, New Mexico
Nothing is sufficient for the person who
finds sufficiency too little.
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Subject: Digest for 9/7/98
To: "GSBN" <GSBN@...>
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Date: Mon, 07 Sep 1998 22:48:33 -0500