Tasar This installment covers building the thermal mass walls out of tires, the thermal wrap, vent tubes, cistern installation and front stem walls. Please review your cart. The Rocket Powered Oven. Design Like You Give a Damn . I wish it was all in one book.
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We have beautiful, heavy, clay-rich soil. I hope in this post to outlines the challenges and what solutions I have come across to deal with if. From reading it and a few others resources I feel is it important to note that: Almost all mentions of expasive soil issues are in relation to foundations.
An Earthship has no foundations. Almost all mentions of expensive soil relate to hard-concrete responding to intense uneven pressures. Expansive soils are not inherently a problem — fluctuations in their moisture content is a big problem. If moisture content is stabilized then the problem is largely diminished. In addition to all this we have had an opportunity to observe how things behave in real life which is an excellent teacher — especially as I am about to get into a lot of theoretical ideas.
We live in a cob house that was built in and it is structurally sound. It has partial peripheral stone foundations and is holding up find sitting on expansive clay.
Other houses in the village were built with without any foundations and have been standing for many years. Of course there are also decayed houses … but I cannot say what kind of role soil-expansion had to play in their history. Though they have not yet withstood the test of time, we have built two underground concrete boxes with manhole access for our water infrastructure.
We have had a few ditches open over recent months and they have seen many transitions from wet to dry and they also showed no structural decay. The soil composition itself is considered clay-rich and my first misconception was that that meant it was mostly clay. While the clay is not a major quantitative element it is a dominant qualitative one. Clay particles in clay-rich soil expand when they come in contact with water. As it absorbs water it becomes sealed and much less penetrable for water.
This makes saturated clay-rich soil slow-percolating. We witnessed this clearly when we dug a small hole in the ground and filled it with water. The small pool stayed in place for quite some time, percolating into the ground very slowly. This makes clay-soil a structural force to deal with when building an underground house. There are two phenomena that lend a hand to the expansive behavior of clay.
The first was mentioned above — clay absorbs moisture and expands. So, for example, the fall season rains saturate the soil and the clay expands.
Then winter brings into play the second phenomena — freezing. The saturated and already expanded clay soil is now exposed to freezing temperatures which cause even more expansion.
These forces are insignificant in a bucket of clay but can translate into potentially thousands of tons of force pushing up against a house that is buried in the ground. Rammed Earth Tires — if a tire is packed with clay earth that is not dry enough? That could be a structural nightmare. It simply means that you need to have good drainage beneath the floor and around the house. Structural Pressure — now we that we have figured out that the earth around the house may be pushing up against the house with tremendous force — something needs to be done about it.
Insulation — wet earth sucks warmth out of the house. The Earthship is bermed with earth all around and so to maintain energy efficiency any contact with wet earth must be avoided or mitigated.
Possible Solutions Tire Walls Inherit Strength In a typical underground house the forces of the soil would be acting directly on standard earth-proofed walls usually concrete. The first main difference about Earthships is that the walls are massive … twice the width of typical walls.
The tightly packed tires offer much more structural resistance then their counterpart typical walls. In addition we are planning to have the internal walls also be tire walls for additional mass and structural support.
In addition, outer Earthship tire walls are designed to lean back into the surrounding earth which offers even more lateral strength.
Use Dry Clay Soil This is easier said then done at least in the Romanian climate which can rain any time and for any duration of time : The building site would have to be setup with a large area which is arranged to dry soil.
This area would have to be sheltered from the rain. It would also need to have exposure to sun and open-air circulation to promote drying. It would need to have a large surface area so that a substantial quantity of soil can be dried sufficiently for use in both tires slow and continuous consumption of soil over a long period of time and backfilling rapid consumption of soil in a very short period of time.
I suppose that if the excavated earth was placed in a narrow north-south and long east-west mound and that if that mound was covered with a slightly elevated clear plastic cover while enabling comfortable access for both wheelbarrows and a tractor — that soil could be reasonably dried!?
This also means that the tire walls themselves need to be kept dry throughout the project. Since Romanian weather includes rain-showers throughout most of the year except of course in the subzero temperatures of winter — this means that there need to be plenty of cover materials on site and a quick response when rain showers do appear.
Bring in Alternate Soil Though it can become a substantial expense it is possible to bring in sandy, good draining soil for both ramming tired and backfilling. The supply of soil can be regulated as needed so it can be kept reasonably dry.
This is something I would prefer to avoid because a it is costly and b it goes against the core idea of using local materials for construction. Backfilling The design of the Global Model Earthship introduces a perimeter wall of insulation and moisture barrier set about 1 meter away from the outside of the tire walls.
This creates two distinct backfill areas: 1 between the tire walls and the insulation; 2 outside the insulation and moisture barrier. This means that this soil humidity is going to be relatively stable. If it is filled with mostly dry soil then it will also not change much, if it is filled with moist soil — then it may shrink as the envelope of the house dries over the first years of operation. Either way that part of the backfill is relatively stable and becomes and extends the fabric of the house.
Then there is the second — outer backfill — the one that is outside the moisture barrier. For this backfill I would prefer to use a good draining soil.
It is a smaller volume of backfill and therefore less expensive to do so. It would serve two purposes. One is faster draining of any moisture that comes near the fabric of the house.
The other is an additional pillow against the pressures of the surrounding earth. So already there is plenty of support against the potential pressure of the surrounding expansive clay soil.
My thoughts are to excavate in such a way that the resulting surface will be slightly downhill more elevated towards the back of the house. A level layer of gravel would then be placed on it. The gravel would cover the entire construction area up to and including the perimeter insulation wall and future tire walls which will be built on the layer of gravel.
Common sense tells me that the gravel layer may also act as a flexible absorption layer should their be any excess pressure due to expansive soil from below. Drainage On the gravel I would place a french-drain system made up of: A perimeter drain pipe.
Two main main drain pipes which collect flow from the U-drains and lead out to the two sides of the house and connect to the perimeter drain. This would both remove excess moisture should it ever accumulate and create as our architect suggested a pleasant and mud-free work zone.
Living Roof Our intentions are to install a living roof instead of a rain-collecting roof. The weight of the living roof as carried by the all the inner and outer structural tire walls is an additional counterweight to pressures from the surround soils. Most of the weight of the roof will be transferred down into the ground below the house. Some of the weight will be transferred to the side walls to do their outward leaning angle. This is unexpected and welcome benefit of the living roof.
Though in an Earthship I believe there are two aspects to this challenge. One is during construction which in a self-build can take years and the other is the typical finished house. My thinking is to start with the moisture barrier from within the tire walls — so it would be placed on top of the gravel. Then each course of insulation would be covered by another overlapping sheet. In the end a top sheet of moisture barrier will extend from the roof and will overlap the top course of insulation sheathing.
The floor area can remain uncovered as rain water will be diverted by the drains. Insulation Though insulation is not directly related to the structural aspects of expansive soils it can effect the thermal performance of the house within these soils.
Expansive soils hold a lot of moisture content and wet-earth can suck warmth from a house much more then dry earth. Thorough insulation as would be required in the Romanian climate , in my opinion, has not yet been achieved in Earthship designs based on freely available information online. This is a testament to the fact that Earthships do not originate in cold and soggy climates and soils. Insulation was added in later Earthship designs and is now standard in the Global Model, but I believe it is still not up to the task of dealing efficiently with the Romanian climate.
First, as designed in the Global Model, the insulation panels are better off protected from moisture — so it is sensible to install them within the moisture barrier sheath. In addition to that I would like to extend the insulation to close off additional energy bleeds from the house: Floor insulation will be added throughout the house — above the gravel drainage layer and beneath the earth floor.
Floor insulation will also extend beneath the tire walls — it will be laid out around the perimeter and beneath the inside walls before tires are put in place and filled with dirt. Floor insulation will also extend beneath the inner backfill area and through to the perimeter insulation panels. The stem-wall for the inner corridor wall will also be insulated beneath ground level with R5 insulation panels to prevent energy bleed through the concrete. Similarly the concrete footers for the front wall living roof load bearing posts will be insulated below ground.
Roof insulation will continue and meet the perimeter insulation panels using R10 panels this insulation is closer to ground-level and therefore exposed to more sever ground-frost. On the front face wall frost-blocking 45 degrees insulation panels will be installed. I am still debating what to do with the planters. Together with the bermed earth and living roof this should provide an effective shell of insulation that should prevent energy bleeds from the core of the house to the surrounding earth.
Summary It seems to me that if properly dried soil still no clear idea on how to achieve this can be created and maintained on the work site, together with uncompromising moisture barriers and insulation should make it OK to build an Earthship in clay soils. I would be grateful to hear other opinions and other experience on this issue. First, all earthships need to be built on undisturbed ground and not on gravel. Second is the load on the insulation below the tire wall.
Determine the weight of the wall and the crush or deformity rating on the insulation.
Is It Possible to Build an Earthship in Moist, Freezing, Expansive Clay Soil?
Earthship Global Model Operation One: Tire Work (Earthship Global Volume How to Build Your Own)