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GSBN: Digest for 6/25/03



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-> Re: GSBN:Ask the Experts
     by Huff n Puff Constructions huffnpuff@...
-> Re: GSBN:Ask the Experts
     by Kelly Lerner klerner@...


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

Date: 25 Jun 2003 01:21:50 -0500
From: Huff n Puff Constructions huffnpuff@...
Subject: Re: GSBN:Ask the Experts


Dear Chris

I will have a go at responding to your query from a TLS reader.

" The problem is, which one or combination there of would be best for me? I
live in Southern Arizona but am looking to build in Mexico's Baja Norte which
is of similar climate. Do I use straw bale because of the insulation
abilities, or adobe earth for thermal mass, or a combination thereof? The more
I read the more I get confused and the longer it takes for me to begin the
actual project."

G ' day Dave

I feel that the answer is fairly simple for you.  Not knowing your climate too
well I guess it has hot summers and reasonable winters with little or no
chance of perma frost?

I feel that you should definitely use straw bales for your walls and
preferably load bearing.  You should orientate the building East to West with
South facing windows for passive solar gain.  How much glass for a super well
insulated straw bale building?  I do not know but my guess is not as much as
we think.

I would look at earthen renders and earthen floors to obtain thermal mass,
making sure that the floors and walls that are exposed to winter sun are 4'
thick with good insulation.  This way you get to use the best of both worlds,
adobe for render and floors and straw bale super insulation for walls.

The winery in Lethbridge, Geelong, Victoria, Australia that we built, works
very well without the use of thermal mass to heat the building.  There are
very few North facing windows just 3 small ones and no other windows or doors
facing North (your South).  it is functioning very well and maintains an even
temperature throughout the year no matter what the external temperatures are. 
Mind you the walls are 3' thick!  Geelong has a similar climate to Arizona but
 much wetter some 20" annually.  (Winter frosts -3-6C; summer 40+C with very
cold winds directly off Bass Straight and the Antarctic).

For mine using straw bales and earth renders and floors has been a major
reason for my continued use of straw bales for I fear that if I had not met
Bill an Athena Steen at the Canelo Project in Elgin, Arizona I may have given
up straw bale building as the cement renders and all that preparation was a
real turn off physically and financially.  I certainly would not have taken up
adobe or mud brick building; far too slow with few benefits to a professional
builder.  So I feel that I have found the perfect medium to build with, mud
and straw, so what are you waiting for?

Hope that helps

Kind regards
The Straw Wolf
http://strawbale.archinet.com.au
61 2 6927 6027



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Dear Chris
 
I will have a go at responding to your query from a TLS reader.
 
" The problem is, which one or combination there of would be best
for 
me? I live in Southern Arizona but am looking to build in Mexico's Baja Norte 
which is of similar climate. Do I use straw bale because of the insulation 
abilities, or adobe earth for thermal mass, or a combination thereof? The more
I 
read the more I get confused and the longer it takes for me to begin the
actual 
project."
 
G ' day Dave
 
I feel that the answer is fairly simple for you.  Not knowing your 
climate too well I guess it has hot summers and reasonable winters with little

or no chance of perma frost?
 
I feel that you should definitely use straw bales for your walls and 
preferably load bearing.  You should orientate the building East to 
West with South facing windows for passive solar gain.  How much glass
for 
a super well insulated straw bale building?  I do not know but my guess
is 
not as much as we think.
 
I would look at earthen renders and earthen floors to obtain thermal
mass, 
making sure that the floors and walls that are exposed to winter sun are 4' 
thick with good insulation.  This way you get to use the best of both 
worlds, adobe for render and floors and straw bale super insulation for 
walls.
 
The winery in Lethbridge, Geelong, Victoria, Australia that we built,
works 
very well without the use of thermal mass to heat the building.  There
are 
very few North facing windows just 3 small ones and no other windows or doors 
facing North (your South).  it is functioning very well and maintains an 
even temperature throughout the year no matter what the external temperatures 
are.  Mind you the walls are 3' thick!  Geelong has a similar
climate 
to Arizona but  much wetter some 20" annually.  (Winter frosts
-3-6C; 
summer 40+C with very cold winds directly off Bass Straight and the 
Antarctic).
 
For mine using straw bales and earth renders and floors has been a major 
reason for my continued use of straw bales for I fear that if I had not met
Bill 
an Athena Steen at the Canelo Project in Elgin, Arizona I may have given up 
straw bale building as the cement renders and all that preparation was a real 
turn off physically and financially.  I certainly would not have taken up

adobe or mud brick building; far too slow with few benefits to a professional 
builder.  So I feel that I have found the perfect medium to build with,
mud 
and straw, so what are you waiting for?
 
Hope that helps
 
Kind regards The Straw Wolf <A 
href="http://strawbale.archinet.com.au";>http://strawbale.archinet.com.au</A> 61

2 6927 6027</BODY></HTML>

- --Boundary_(ID_xo+DSVOUV6Qbk6yY3OWsrg)--


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

Date: 25 Jun 2003 10:55:25 -0500
From: Kelly Lerner klerner@...
Subject: Re: GSBN:Ask the Experts



>Dear Dave,

Thermal mass vs. Insulation... The "best" approach depends on many factors:

Climate: temperature, relative humidity and wind
(since I know this is a hot-dry climate, I won't even get into the 
discussion of relative humidity...)
Thermal mass (un-insulated for exterior walls) works best in area with a 
high diurnal temperature swing. Thermal mass doesn't prevent the flow of 
heat, it just slows it down. This can be good if the temperature is swing 
back and forth daily. For cooling, you need cool nights with plenty of 
ventilation (natural or mechanical) to cool the thermal mass down so it can 
radiate "coolth" during the day. You also need windows that you can open at 
night (for ventilation) and then close down during the day. For heating 
with thermal mass, you  need sunny daytime weather and a passive solar 
orientation. (Heating doesn't seem to be the issue for this climate 
though.) In hot dry climates, one can also use evaporative cooling to make 
the house more comfortable. When temperatures are high and relative 
humidity is low, a fountain in a courtyard, a stand of trees or a swamp 
cooler can bring be delightful.

Insulation is well suited for climates without a large diurnal swing. The 
heat flow is all in one direction (not swinging) and you want to stop it. 
For example, climates that get cold and stay cold - Minneapolis would not 
be a great climate for adobe - or climates that get hot and stay hot - 
Miami wouldn't be great for adobe either because the thermal mass would 
heat up and never cool down.

In truth, most climates are mixed. Some parts of the year you want thermal 
mass, other times, insulation performs better. I personally like a combo of 
insulation and thermal mass - straw-bale with thick earth plasters and cob 
built-in furniture with a passive solar orientation (with good summer 
shading of course). That way, you get the benefits of high thermal mass and 
insulation, both.

But wait... there are many other factors to consider:

Microclimate:
Are there particular elements on the site that change the more general 
climate - proximity to a body of water, winds, vegetation, lots of exposed 
thermal mass (rock, sand, etc)? Is it in a seismic zone? Termites to be 
careful of? Slope? Drainage paths?

What materials are available locally:
Is there straw available? Are there good soils for adobe or cob? Is there 
wood for a structural system? Concrete? etc?

Who will build it and what skills do they have?
If you're depending on local labor, you better find out what skills they have.

What's your budget and your time line?
If you need to build fast, pick a system that will allow you to do that. If 
you have budget constraints, you'd better start by costing out each system.

What's the weather like during the building season?
Is it rainy? How will you protect your building while under construction? 
Straw is especially susceptible to water damage, adobe less so. With straw, 
you might want to put the roof up first, then the bales.

What kind of design do you want?
Straw-bale needs a roof with large overhangs. If you want a flat roofed 
building with parapet walls, better to go with adobe.

What do you love? What calls to you?
Building a house is a huge commitment of both time and resources. When it's 
done, you'll live in it for a long time. In a hot-dry climate both thermal 
mass and insulation can perform well. Do what you love. Of course, you'll 
need to get some hands-on experience to see which materials you like best. 
A workshop or two or three and helping out with a friend's house will tell 
you which materials you feel best working with.




>----------------------------------------------------------------------
>
>Dear Editor,
>In February of 2001, after thinking about building a natural building for
>several years, I ordered 20 past subscriptions to the Last Straw as well as
>a new membership which I continue to receive.  I read them all and was
>totally sold on building a load bearing straw bale home.  Then I decided to
>read about other types of natural construction and have since read 20 plus,
>(every) book on the subject, including stone houses, adobe, rammed
>earth,cob, earthship, etc.etc.
>PS.   The best book I've read most recently, "The Natural Plaster Book" by
>Cedar Rose Guelberth & Dan Chiras is a detailed description on how to
>finish any and all of the above natural homes which brings me to this
>e-mail today.  Because of my extensive reading, I feel that I could build
>any of these style homes or even a combination thereof (in my sleep).  The
>problem is, which one or combination there of would be best for me?  I live
>in Southern Arizona but am looking to build in Mexico's Baja Norte which is
>of similar climate.  Do I use straw bale because of the insulation
>abilities, or adobe earth for thermal mass, or a combination thereof?  The
>more I read the more I get confused and the longer it takes for me to begin
>the actual project.
>Does Last Straw have any writers that can help answer this question with my
>region in mind, with explanations of why?
>
>Sincere Regards,
>Dave Adams
>
>
><smaller>Dear Editor,
>
>In February of 2001, after thinking about building a natural building
>for several years, I ordered 20 past subscriptions to the Last Straw as
>well as a new membership which I continue to receive.  I read them all
>and was totally sold on building a load bearing straw bale home.  Then
>I decided to read about other types of natural construction and have
>since read 20 plus, (every) book on the subject, including stone
>houses, adobe, rammed earth,cob, earthship, etc.etc.
>
>PS.   The best book I've read most recently, "The Natural Plaster Book"
>by Cedar Rose Guelberth & Dan Chiras is a detailed description on how
>to finish any and all of the above natural homes which brings me to
>this e-mail today.  Because of my extensive reading, I feel that I
>could build any of these style homes or even a combination thereof (in
>my sleep).  The problem is, which one or combination there of would be
>best for me?  I live in Southern Arizona but am looking to build in
>Mexico's Baja Norte which is of similar climate.  Do I use straw bale
>because of the insulation abilities, or adobe earth for thermal mass,
>or a combination thereof?  The more I read the more I get confused and
>the longer it takes for me to begin the actual project.
>
>Does Last Straw have any writers that can help answer this question
>with my region in mind, with explanations of why?
>
>
>Sincere Regards,
>
>Dave Adams

Kelly Lerner, Architect
One World Design
http://www.one-world-design.com
510-525-8582


******************* NOTE *******************
There may be important message content
contained in the following MIME Information.
********************************************


- ------------------ MIME Information follows ------------------

- --=====================_9609357==_.ALT
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"; format=flowed

<<<<<< See above "Message Body" >>>>>>

- --=====================_9609357==_.ALT
Content-Type: text/html; charset="us-ascii"

<html>
<blockquote type=cite class=cite cite><font size=3>Dear
Dave,</blockquote> 
Thermal mass vs. Insulation... The "best" approach depends on
many factors: 
 
<b>Climate:</b> temperature, relative humidity and wind 
(since I know this is a hot-dry climate, I won't even get into the
discussion of relative humidity...) 
Thermal mass (un-insulated for exterior walls) works best in area with a
high diurnal temperature swing. Thermal mass doesn't prevent the flow of
heat, it just slows it down. This can be good if the temperature is swing
back and forth daily. For cooling, you need cool nights with plenty of
ventilation (natural or mechanical) to cool the thermal mass down so it
can radiate "coolth" during the day. You also need windows that
you can open at night (for ventilation) and then close down during the
day. For heating with thermal mass, you  need sunny daytime weather
and a passive solar orientation. (Heating doesn't seem to be the issue
for this climate though.) In hot dry climates, one can also use
evaporative cooling to make the house more comfortable. When temperatures
are high and relative humidity is low, a fountain in a courtyard, a stand
of trees or a swamp cooler can bring be delightful. 
 
Insulation is well suited for climates without a large diurnal swing. The
heat flow is all in one direction (not swinging) and you want to stop it.
For example, climates that get cold and stay cold - Minneapolis would not
be a great climate for adobe - or climates that get hot and stay hot -
Miami wouldn't be great for adobe either because the thermal mass would
heat up and never cool down.  
 
In truth, most climates are mixed. Some parts of the year you want
thermal mass, other times, insulation performs better. I personally like
a combo of insulation and thermal mass - straw-bale with thick earth
plasters and cob built-in furniture with a passive solar orientation
(with good summer shading of course). That way, you get the benefits of
high thermal mass and insulation, both.  
 
But wait... there are many other factors to consider: 
 
<b>Microclimate: 
</b>Are there particular elements on the site that change the more
general climate - proximity to a body of water, winds, vegetation, lots
of exposed thermal mass (rock, sand, etc)? Is it in a seismic zone?
Termites to be careful of? Slope? Drainage paths? 
 
<b>What materials are available locally: 
</b>Is there straw available? Are there good soils for adobe or cob? Is
there wood for a structural system? Concrete? etc? 
 
<b>Who will build it and what skills do they have? 
</b>If you're depending on local labor, you better find out what skills
they have.  
 
<b>What's your budget and your time line? 
</b>If you need to build fast, pick a system that will allow you to do
that. If you have budget constraints, you'd better start by costing out
each system. 
 
<b>What's the weather like during the building season? 
</b>Is it rainy? How will you protect your building while under
construction? Straw is especially susceptible to water damage, adobe less
so. With straw, you might want to put the roof up first, then the
bales. 
 
<b>What kind of design do you want? 
</b>Straw-bale needs a roof with large overhangs. If you want a flat
roofed building with parapet walls, better to go with adobe. 
 
<b>What do you love? What calls to you? 
</b>Building a house is a huge commitment of both time and resources.
When it's done, you'll live in it for a long time. In a hot-dry climate
both thermal mass and insulation can perform well. Do what you love. Of
course, you'll need to get some hands-on experience to see which
materials you like best. A workshop or two or three and helping out with
a friend's house will tell you which materials you feel best working
with. 
 
 
 
 
<blockquote type=cite class=cite
cite>---------------------------------------------------------------------- 
 
Dear Editor, 
In February of 2001, after thinking about building a natural building
for 
several years, I ordered 20 past subscriptions to the Last Straw as well
as 
a new membership which I continue to receive.  I read them all and
was 
totally sold on building a load bearing straw bale home.  Then I
decided to 
read about other types of natural construction and have since read 20
plus, 
(every) book on the subject, including stone houses, adobe, rammed 
earth,cob, earthship, etc.etc. 
PS.   The best book I've read most recently, "The Natural
Plaster Book" by 
Cedar Rose Guelberth &amp; Dan Chiras is a detailed description on how
to 
finish any and all of the above natural homes which brings me to
this 
e-mail today.  Because of my extensive reading, I feel that I could
build 
any of these style homes or even a combination thereof (in my
sleep).  The 
problem is, which one or combination there of would be best for me? 
I live 
in Southern Arizona but am looking to build in Mexico's Baja Norte which
is 
of similar climate.  Do I use straw bale because of the
insulation 
abilities, or adobe earth for thermal mass, or a combination
thereof?  The 
more I read the more I get confused and the longer it takes for me to
begin 
the actual project.  
Does Last Straw have any writers that can help answer this question with
my 
region in mind, with explanations of why? 
 
Sincere Regards, 
Dave Adams  
 
 
<smaller>Dear Editor, 
 
In February of 2001, after thinking about building a natural
building 
for several years, I ordered 20 past subscriptions to the Last Straw
as 
well as a new membership which I continue to receive.  I read them
all 
and was totally sold on building a load bearing straw bale home. 
Then 
I decided to read about other types of natural construction and 
have 
since read 20 plus, (every) book on the subject, including stone 
houses, adobe, rammed earth,cob, earthship, etc.etc. 
 
PS.   The best book I've read most recently, "The Natural
Plaster Book" 
by Cedar Rose Guelberth &amp; Dan Chiras is a detailed description on
how 
to finish any and all of the above natural homes which brings me to 
this e-mail today.  Because of my extensive reading, I feel that
I 
could build any of these style homes or even a combination thereof
(in 
my sleep).  The problem is, which one or combination there of would
be 
best for me?  I live in Southern Arizona but am looking to build
in 
Mexico's Baja Norte which is of similar climate.  Do I use straw
bale 
because of the insulation abilities, or adobe earth for thermal
mass, 
or a combination thereof?  The more I read the more I get confused
and 
the longer it takes for me to begin the actual project.  
 
Does Last Straw have any writers that can help answer this question 
with my region in mind, with explanations of why? 
 
 
Sincere Regards, 
 
Dave Adams  
</blockquote>

Kelly Lerner, Architect 
One World Design 
<a href="http://www.one-world-design.com/"; eudora="autourl">http://</a>www<a
href="http://www.one-world-design.com/";
eudora="autourl">.one-world-design.com</a> 
510-525-8582</font></html>

- --=====================_9609357==_.ALT--



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