Building with earthbags is essentially building with adobe bricks without going through the lengthy process of making them. You take polypropylene sandbags, fill them with a moist mix of sand and clay, tamp them down hard and connect the layers with 4 point barbed wire. Then, you cover them over with an earthen plaster.

In reality, I didn't use polypropylene bags. Some Brasilians started a type of construction they call hyperadobe which uses mesh bags, or continuous tubing, made from the same material as the onion or potato bags in the grocery store. They don't require barbed wire, though otherwise the process is just about the same.

As I talk about in the blog posts, my design has been guided by simplicity and efficiency. More than anything, what's been most important to me is to live in a house that I myself, with no building experience whatsoever, can design, build and maintain. A natural extension of that has been the desire to live in a peaceful space. For me that means a home that's in tune with nature, thus limiting the use of imported materials for construction, in addition to those that will be needed later on, such as for heating. Please enjoy reading, ask me any questions, get inspired, and come help and learn!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Magical World of Windows

I was excited about windows. A central part of my heating plan--passive solar--they seemed simple enough to buy. As far as I could tell, the most difficult decision was how I wanted them to open, which for me was a double-hung style which vertically opens from top or bottom giving excellent control over ventilation.

I had started to look around in Portland, where I was planning to buy used/not needed new windows, when I happened to be browsing the Canadian earthbag blog. The author, my savior, mentioned her difficulties in finding windows without low-e coating. I somehow had failed to pay any attention to this glazing and its repercussions for passive solar design. Not surprising, however, since it's been difficult to impossible to find anything else that lists anything but the benefits of these windows--and mind you, a lot of literature doesn't even mention the decreased solar gain aspect, instead focusing on reduced energy costs.

One of the ways in which low-e glazing functions is to prevent solar gain, thus helping you keep cooling costs down and furniture-degrading uv rays out. That's the literature everywhere, including here in Portland where I would think they would want as much solar gain as they could get. But no, everything you read is keep cooling costs down, keep cooling costs down. I've been reading about roof insulation and it's the same mantra. I guess I haven't lived in enough of this country for this to make sense to me.

What this means for me is that I have to buy new windows. Which is fine. Luckily they do have high solar gain low-e windows so I have been attempting to get those. So far I have failed in that endeavor. Though most window manufacturers source their glass from Cardinal, which does have available a low-e-179 (soon to be low-e-180), most window companies won't actually use it, and I don't think it's for cost reasons. Marvin, which is quite high-end, apparently does though I have read from some forums that when it comes down to actually filling your order they won't. Jeld-wen provides it but only on their uber-expensive custom wood frames. I am waiting to hear back from a company in New Mexico which stocks Serious Windows, out of California. Here in Portland today I saw a window salesman at Parr Lumber. He seemed quite confident that he could get me that glaze via Empire Pacific Windows. I told him I would be impressed; in reality I think he's naive. Or a god. Time will tell.

All of this is simultaneously explained and made more nonsensical by the government's Energy Star rebates which offer up to $1500(?) for replacing your windows with low-e, low solar gain windows. Despite the fact that it is by far the best energy choice in a place like New Mexico, those rebates would not be available for high solar gain low-e windows. Essentially, then, somebody who purchased the most energy efficient windows would not be eligible for an energy rebate. Nice to know they're looking out for people and energy conservation, no?

For now I'm waiting to hear back. I do have faith, though, that someone, somewhere will find me decently priced windows with low-e high solar gain glazing. In the meantime, just give me a call if you'd like to hear me rant endlessly about the magical world of windows.

1 comment:

  1. An excellent way to avoid heat gain is by using deciduous trees. They provide shade in the summer (sun is high) and have no leaf cover in the winter(sun is low) when you need the gain. A correctly designed roof overhang can also be effective.