Earthbag Hybrid Workshop in Guatemala

Join us for a fun filled workshop and vacation on the famous lake Atitlan (known for the mist) in a traditional Mayan community of Cerro de Oro all the way to Santiago Atitlan Solola, Guatemala. All inclusive cost $1,300.00

That’s eight nights and seven days of workshop/fun. Arrive at La K’zonA on March 12th for workshop starting Friday March 13th and departing Friday morning March 20th.

Stay a while longer at La K’zonA for $25.00 additional nights. Food included is $50.00 a night with three meals.

This is building workshop with hands on in each area of hybridizing bamboo and ferro cement to super adobe.

This allows you to build larger buildings and more flexible building design.

The outcome is a stronger building and always a faster building experience that anyone can learn and pass on to their team.

The cost includes hotel stay at the beautiful La K’zonA is a private hotel and hostel in a garden setting just a few yards or meters from the lake shore.

Thank you,
Carolina and the UlewAtitlan team.
https://www.facebook.com/events/1524619871122416/

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Small-Diameter Wood: An Underused Building Material


Many of those in need of housing have access to small-diameter trees in nearby forests. These trees can be used to produce materials that are ideal for building affordable homes. If used in conjunction with energy-efficient straw bale construction and other natural materials, small-diameter wood can be used to create a better home than most building systems, at lower cost.

US forests have been poorly managed and are now choked with small-diameter trees. Thinning these trees to reduce the risk of forest fires, which is currently at a record high, is a Forest Service priority. With an inexpensive firewood permit, anyone can obtain small-diameter wood for building a home. (Even though this wood could be used for firewood, it is more valuable as a building material.)

There are several advantages to using small-diameter wood for building:
– Small-diameter wood can provide all of the lumber for a house including studs, joists, plates, trusses, window and door frames, trim, and other components. Wood frame construction is the preferred building system in the US because of its speed and ease of construction, but unfortunately most dimensional lumber is not sustainably harvested. Using small-diameter wood encompasses the advantages of wood frame construction but uses wood that improves the health of the forest and reduces forest fires.
– The use of locally available wood reduces construction costs and avoids supporting environmentally irresponsible lumber companies.
– Wood in the round is much stronger than standard dimension lumber and requires less processing. Thus small diameter logs can be used, with fewer parts. For example only one-half as many trusses may be required, because pole trusses can be set every 48 inches (122 centimeters) instead of every 24 inches (61 centimeters).
– A US$40 chainsaw guide can be used to mill purlins, joists, studs, plates, and other components. (The Beam Machine is one example of a low-cost chainsaw attachment that can mill straight edges on poles.)
– The fire resistance of poles is much higher than stick-framed trusses or engineered trusses (TJIs). Wood poles have a two-hour commercial fire rating, in contrast to the other two options, which have a one-hour fire rating. And in the event of a fire, there is no toxic off-gassing – the leading killer in home fires.
– Timber frame/pole construction is more esthetically pleasing than wood frame construction covered with plasterboard. The beauty of the wood is left exposed, honoring the tree from which it came.
– Very few tools are required to build simple pole trusses. If they are built in uniform sizes, workers can be trained to build them quickly.

The use of small-diameter wood creates local jobs and places less reliance on highly processed materials that must be shipped long distances. Jobs are created in four categories:
1. Logging: Workers are needed to cut, mill and deliver poles.
2. Truss manufacturing: Workers are needed to build roof trusses. This could be a cooperative effort or an entrepreneurial cottage industry. Either way the quality will be higher and more consistent if specially trained workers build the trusses.
3. Milling: Workers are needed to mill logs into purlins, studs, plates, or joists. The simplest method uses a chainsaw and a guide. Mass production methods with commercial-sized equipment are even faster and more efficient.
4. Construction: Workers are needed to erect trusses, build walls, etc.

With all the advantages of small-diameter wood, we should take a closer look at how to use this resource that is so often near at hand.

Excerpt by Owen Geiger from Building Without Borders: Sustainable Construction for the Global Village, Joseph F. Kennedy (editor)
YouTube

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8 Great Straw Bale Projects From Around the World

David Fortin, left, and Michael Spencer stand by the potato storage facility that they designed and helped build of straw-bale construction in Kenya.

David Fortin, left, and Michael Spencer stand by the potato storage facility that they designed and helped build of straw-bale construction in Kenya.


“Whenever I drive past a new building on the edge of every town, I wonder — why aren’t they building straw bale? But the word is spreading, and staw bale buildings are becoming a more common sight around the world. Want to take a little tour?”

“Learn how David Fortin, architecture professor at Montana State University, and his student Michael Spencer researched solutions to a housing shortage in Kenya for three years. This past summer, they worked on building straw bale structures in the east-African country. This summer they and a team of MSU students will build six to eight houses made from straw-bales in Ex-Lewa, a farming area of central Kenya. The 30-by-15 foot storage building that Spencer helped build last summer that holds 20 tons of potatoes cost about $2,000, or one-fourth less than what it would cost if it had been built of traditional stone or wood-frame construction. Spencer said. “There is already a long waiting list of people interested in straw-bale structures. I could work full-time for the next two years just on building straw-bale houses in Kenya for current clients who want houses like this.”

Billings Gazette

Digging in the Driftless.com

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Urban Agriculture in Atlanta

“A video survey of urban agriculture and community gardening in Atlanta. This story was featured on “This is Atlanta with Alicia Steele,” a Telly Award-winning and Emmy-nominated magazine show on PBA, Atlanta’s PBS Station. View more from “This is Atlanta” at http://www.pba.org/atlanta.”

YouTube

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Glass Block Windows in Earthbag Walls

Finished view of glass blocks in our earthbag roundhouse

Finished view of glass blocks in our earthbag roundhouse


Decorative glass block adds light to bathrooms while maintaining privacy. It’s easy to set glass block in earthbag walls and other thick walls made of strawbale, cob, stone, adobe, etc. Here’s how I added glass blocks to our Earthbag Roundhouse Studio.
2x6 bucks support the glass blocks

2×6 bucks support the glass blocks


I made two separate 2×6 bucks just a little larger than the glass blocks for each opening. There are two bucks and two blocks per window — one on the inside and one on the outside with a gap in the center of the wall. Make the bucks with short scraps of wood if possible. Figure out how much curvature you want on the plastered edges and then put the bucks in place as you lay the bags. (Ours are 1”- 2″ from the edge of the bags.) The earthbags on each side hold the bucks firmly in place. The bucks are strong enough to support earthbags on top with no lintel, although you could add boards to create an attractive lintel. When you’re ready to set the glass blocks, add some small finish nails inside the bucks as stops so they don’t slide in too far. The plaster curves around, covers the bucks and seals the gaps. Mask off the glass to reduce cleanup later.

Video of finished Roundhouse Studio
(We’ve since replaced the thatch with 30-year red microconcrete roofing tiles.)

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Natural Building Options for Tiny Trailer Homes

T-111 exterior plywood siding

T-111 exterior plywood siding


Question: What are some good natural material options for tiny trailer homes?

Owen: Good options include cellulose or wool insulation (especially in the roof), straw/clay wall insulation with wood siding or paneling on both sides. Exterior grade vertical groove plywood siding is a popular choice (T-111). On top of this you could add trim boards to create a more pleasing batt and board appearance. Loose straw insulation without clay slurry is a fire hazard and could attract rodents. Mix the straw with thin clay slurry. Add a layer of plywood all around for shear strength (the T-111 would work fine). In addition, you could add 1/4″ plywood on the interior and shoot thin paneling on top with a brad gun. I’ve done this with excellent results. Check out thin aspen paneling. Aspen wood is light colored and will help make a small space look larger and more pleasant. Recycled wood works great too, and an obvious choice for floors. The brads leave tiny holes that are easy to fill with wood putty (use the soft, creamy kind that you can wipe off with a rag). Pre-finish the interior paneling outside with the boards laid flat to avoid runs and stinking up your home.

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Electric Vehicles Policy Backgrounder

  Context

  • There is constant evidence of the need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions greatly, in order to tackle the climate crisis. A recent paper in Nature showed that for a 50% chance of keeping the global rise in temperature below 2C, cumulative global emissions up to 2050 must be limited to 1,100 gigatonnes of CO2. Most fossil fuels will need to remain in the ground, including 99% of Canada’s oil sands. Globally, fossil fuel reserves are 2,900 Gt. The Earth’s known fossil fuel resources are 11,000 Gt.
  • NASA climate scientist James Hansen has stated that “2C global warming is a disaster scenario that must be avoided.”
  • To meet its fair share of necessary global greenhouse gas reductions and minimize the harm of climate change, Canada must cut its GHGs by 100% by 2040.
  • Transportation produces 28% of Canada’s GHGs.
  • EVs offer a way to reduce the impact of transportation even when fossil fuels power the grid.
  • Canada lacks any national EV adoption targets or policies.
  • Canada has an abundance of clean, zero-carbon, low-cost electricity.
  • Canada’s federal government has stated that it will seek to harmonize with US climate policies.

Electric Vehicles

  • By September 2014 600,000 EVs had been sold globally. The US leads with 260,000, followed by Japan with 95,000 and China with 77,000. There are also around 6 million hybrid electric (non plug-in) cars.
  • Canada has no official target, but in 2010 Natural Resources Canada’s Electric Vehicle Technology Roadmap for Canada set a vision of 500,000 EVs by 2018, 15% of the market for new vehicles.
  • There is clear evidence that financial incentives drive EV uptake.
  • In the US, EVs have a federal tax credit of $2,500 plus $417 per kwh of battery capacity up to $5,000. Total incentive = $7,500 US. The top sellers are the Chevy Volt 73,000; Nissan Leaf 72,000; Toyota Prius HEV 38,000; Tesla Model S 38,000. Total EVs on the road = 290,000, 40% in California
  • In Norway, EVs were 12% of automobile registrations in October; 14% for the first 10 months of the year, dominated by the Nissan LEAF and the VW e-Golf. In Dec 2014 Norway had 43,000 EVs (95% full EVs, 5% hybrids), chasing a goal of 50,000 EVs by 2018. Norway’s financial incentives make EVs cost the same as a regular car, plus free parking, free ferries, free charging, and free use of HOV lanes.
  • Ontario has a vision for 5% EVs by 2020. The province gives EV purchase incentives up to $8,500; a green licence plate allows single occupant EVs access to the high occupancy lanes on highways. 20% of Ontario Public Service passenger vehicle purchases will be electric by 2020.
  • Quebec’s 2011 – 2020 Action Plan wants 300,000 EVs in Quebec by 2020 = 25% of new light passenger vehicle sales.
  • BC’s Clean Car Incentive of up to $5,000 expired in March 31, 2013 and has not been replaced. $6 million has been funded for 450 charging stations, including highway fast-charging.
  • Personal experience from an EV driver on Salt Spring shows that a Nissan Leaf costs $15 - $20 a month in electricity, versus $250 a month in gas for their previous vehicle.
  • The cost of EV batteries is falling steadily, enabling cheaper vehicles to enter the market, falling from $1000/kwh to $750 (Nissan Leaf). Current battery prices are around $500/kwh. They need to fall to $200 to enable new EVs to cost the same as conventional cars.

EV Take-Up Rates

  • San Francisco: 15,000 EV drivers out of 838,000 people = 1.8%
  • Norway: 44,000 EV drivers out of 5 million people = 0.88%
  • Los Angeles: 17,000 EV drivers out of 4 million people= 0.425%
  • Salt Spring: 30 EV drivers out of 10,000 people = 0.3%
  • California: 102,440 EV drivers out of 39 million = 0.26%
  • Oregon: 6,000 EV drivers out of 3.97 million = 0.15%
  • BC: 1400 EV drivers out of 4.6 million = 0.03%
  • Canada: 9300 EV drivers (including hybrid EVs) out of 33 million = 0.028%

Canada’s Ideal EV Policy

  1. Adopt the vision of the Electric Vehicle Technology Roadmap for Canada, and establish a goal to see 500,000 EVs on the road by 2024, and the full conversion of Canada’s light-duty vehicle fleet to EVs by 2040.
  2. Establish a High-Level Electric Vehicles Task Force dedicated to making Canada EV-friendly.
  3. Require Canada’s auto-industry to reduce vehicle fleet CO2 emissions standards from the current 153 grams CO2 per km by 2016 to the EU goal of 95g CO2/km by 2020, and zero grams by 2040.
  4. Match US EV incentives and tax breaks, equivalent to US $7,500 per vehicle. This would cost $750 million over 5 years for 100,000 vehicles, plus support for more charging stations.
  5. Apply a CO2 emissions scale to the federal sales tax for new and used vehicles, with a lower rate of tax on efficient vehicles being cross-financed by a higher rate of tax on inefficient vehicles.
  6. Seek a continental agreement with the United States and Mexico for the transformation of North American vehicle industry to zero carbon transportation.

Party Platforms

The Conservative Party website does not address transportation or EVs. Information on the Natural Resources Canada and Transport Canada websites suggest that the government’s current support for EVs is primarily information and coordination, with some research. The prime minister has said that Canada would harmonize its climate policies with the US. Logically, therefore, the government should match the US EV incentive of up to $7,500, which has encouraged the sale of 290,000 electric vehicles. Canada’s EV sales in January 2014 were 6,000

NDP Transport Policy  

New Democrats believe in:

  • Imposing strict energy efficiency and emissions standards for motor vehicles, appliances, and buildings.
  • Reshaping energy policy for the 21st century means moving away from fossil-fuel dependence toward a green energy future by investing in solar, wind, wave, and geothermal sources, working with provinces and territories to share clean energy; and ensuring energy conservation in transportation and building methods.
  • Investing in the development of “green cars”.

Liberal Party Transport Policy

  • BE IT RESOLVED that the Liberal Party of Canada consult with provinces, territories and municipalities and propose an integrated, intermodal national transportation strategy, that serves large and small communities, within two years of taking office;
  • BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that a Liberal Government develop a predictable and reliable transportation funding commitment for at least 10 years, with the allocation of funds to be determined by the population and predicted growth of the population.

Green Party Policy  

Green Party MPs will:

  • Work with the motor industry, provinces, territories and other partners to develop a sustainable vehicles strategy, leading to an 85% reduction in emissions below today's level by 2040.
  • Adopt California standards requiring a 30% reduction in CO2 emissions from new vehicles sold in Canada by 2015, 50% by 2020 and 90% by 2025.  This will drive the manufacture of zero-emission vehicles and the infrastructure to support them.  It will also create fuel efficiency standards in line with leading U.S. states for the 2011 model year.
  • Accelerate the market arrival of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and fully electric vehicles by signing the Plug-In Partners advanced purchasing agreement (creating a federal buying pool) with a commitment to buy large numbers of PHEVs for federal government use as soon as they are available. Carbon conditionality clauses in federal contracts will include a requirement for the purchase of plug-in vehicles as soon as they are more readily available.
  • Work with all governments and businesses in Canada to join a Canadian green car buying pool and to join the Plug-In Partners buying pool.
  • Offer scale-based rebates of up to $5,000 for the purchase of the most efficient vehicles, and scale-based fees on the purchase of inefficient vehicles.
  • Require mandatory vehicle fuel efficiency labeling, adopting the European system.
  • Allow tax write-off benefits only for energy efficient company cars.
  • Provide incentives for Canadian manufacturers of electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.
  • Establish a new authority to create a just transition fund for the automobile sector, funded by an additional fee on all sales of inefficient cars in Canada.

(By way of disclosure, Guy Dauncey, BCSEA Communications Director, contributed extensively to the Green Party’s Climate Policy seven years ago, including EV policies.)

Bloc Quebecois Policy

In 2009 the Bloc proposed a 3 step plan for electrical vehicles with the goal that in 10 years, 15% of cars in Québec could be electric.

  • Step 1: Improve batteries by increased support for R & D.   
  • Step 2: Develop EV recharging infrastructure.
  • Step 3: Incentives for people to buy electric vehicles.

Resources

BC Sustainable Energy Association

Empowering British Columbians to build a clean, renewable energy future

www.bcsea.org  info@bcsea.org

January 2015

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50 Shades of Electric Vehicles Policy

 

Nothing

Nothing. It’s the building block of all mathematics, from which numbers begin.

It’s also the current state of federal policy on electric vehicles in Canada. The BCSEA wants to change that and start adding some numbers, and we are seeking fifty volunteers to help us do so.

Five years after the government-funded Electric Vehicle Technology Roadmap for Canada recommended adopting a goal of 500,000 EVs by 2018, nothing has been done to advance their take-up.

There is a federal election coming, however, and just as the climate crisis is a top issue demanding federal leadership, a coherent climate platform must include strong measures to reduce carbon emissions from transportation, which produces 28% of Canada’s carbon pollution.

A shift from to electric vehicles combined with a shift to renewable electricity could go far to reduce those emissions, while also reducing the harmful health impacts caused by air pollution.

The BCSEA is seeking 50 volunteers to help put EVs on the agenda for this year’s federal election. We want to generate a ‘race to the top’ among the parties, so that the next government will have made strong promises to support electric vehicles, and be armed with the best policies to take to Paris for the big UN climate talks.

What Might an Ideal Electric Vehicles Policy Include?

  1. Adopt the vision of the Electric Vehicle Technology Roadmap for Canada,  and establish a goal to see 500,000 EVs on the road by 2024, and the full conversion of Canada’s light-duty vehicle fleet to EVs by 2040.
  2. Establish a High-Level Electric Vehicles Task Force dedicated to making Canada EV-friendly.
  3. Require Canada’s auto-industry to reduce vehicle fleet CO2 emissions standards from the current 153 grams CO2 per km by 2016 to the EU goal of 95g CO2/km by 2020, and zero grams by 2040.
  4. Match US EV incentives and tax breaks, equivalent to US $7,500 per vehicle. This would cost $750 million over 5 years for 100,000 vehicles, plus support for more charging stations.
  5. Apply a CO2 emissions scale to the federal sales tax for new and used vehicles, with a lower rate of tax on efficient vehicles being cross-financed by a higher rate of tax on inefficient vehicles.
  6. Seek a continental agreement with the United States and Mexico for the transformation of North American vehicle industry to zero carbon transportation.

What do Canada’s Political Parties Have to Offer?

The Conservative Party website does not address transportation or EVs. Information on the Natural Resources Canada and Transport Canada websites suggest that the government’s support for EVs is primarily in the form of information and coordination, with some research. The prime minister has said that Canada would harmonize its climate policies with the US. Logically, therefore, the government should match the US EV incentive of up to $7,500, which has encouraged the sale of 290,000 electric vehicles. Canada’s EV total sales by January 2014 were just 6,000.

The NDP’s Policy Book makes no mention of electric vehicles, but they believe in “investing in the development of “green cars”.  

The Liberals’ Transport Policy also makes no mention of electric vehicles, but they have resolved “to propose an integrated, intermodal national transportation strategy, that serves large and small communities, within two years of taking office.” 

The Green Party's Vision Green has an extensive policy which includes working with the motor industry, provinces and others to develop a sustainable vehicles strategy leading to an 85% reduction in emissions by 2040; requiring a 50% reduction in CO2 emissions from new vehicles by 2020 and 90% by 2025; and offering rebates up to $5,000 for the purchase of the most efficient vehicles, financed by fees on the inefficient vehicles. (By way of disclosure, I contributed extensively to the Green Party’s Climate Policy seven years ago, including EV policies.)

Fifty Volunteers…

We are seeking fifty people who will join our BCSEA Electric Vehicles Policy Letter-Writing Team, and undertake to write a personal letter to one or more of the people listed below, seeking support for a strong EV policy. Each letter will be different - hence fifty shades of policy.

Would you be willing join our team? If you can, email Tom Hackney, the BCSEA Policy Director, at thackney@bcsea.org, and send us a copy of any letter you write (it helps us to know how successful our efforts are).

Would you be willing join our team? To do so, please send us an email to info@bcsea.org

People to write to:

For our EV Policy Background Paper, see HERE, and the attachment below.

 

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No Lava Rock/Scoria Available in Alaska

From Angela, a reader in Alaska: “I just wanted to add some updated info. I have been searching high and low for scoria. Alaska doesn’t have readily available sources. I have contacted a long list of people and while we can find the volcanoes and a scoria pit even, there’s no way to get it to the general public. Which really frustrates me because I’m been hot on the trail for a long time trying to build an earthbag home for us. If anybody gets any bit of updated info, please share.”

Owen: Your best bet then is to build a straw bale house. Bales are super insulating, easy to work with and should be available in many places. Search this blog for lots of information on strawbale building. One interesting design is called a straw bale yurt. The cold and wind would just blow around a small home like that and be real toasty inside. Thanks for searching for scoria and reporting back. This will save others from going through the same process. If by chance somebody should find some lava rock/scoria in Alaska then please leave a comment here.

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An Overview of Alternative Housing Designs: Part 1

Adobe kitchen

Adobe kitchen


From Temperate Climate Permaculture: “If you read my article on building an intentional community, you’ll see that I am strongly recommending bypassing the traditional mortgage path and promoting build-it-yourself, alternative housing. I have shared a few posts on some of the alternative housing options, but I thought it would be fun to give a brief overview of the more common (of the overall uncommon) alternative housing options that are available today.

Obviously, the photos in this article are just a sampling of what exists and what is possible. These photos are meant to give a general sense of what a building style looks like.
As I started to put this article together, I realized it was going to be photo intensive. I decided to break it up into a few parts.
• Part one covers Adobe, Earthbag, SuperAdobe, and Cob Homes.
• Part two covers Straw-Bale, Earthship, Earth-Sheltered, and Cordwood Homes.
• Part three covers Geodesic Domes, Wood Pallet Homes, Shipping Container Homes, Yurts, and Hexayurts”

TC Permaculture.com

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