• Building With Awareness Blog

Rubble Trench Foundations

Concrete Is the primary material used for house foundations. It is very polluting to manufacture and contributes a significant amount of greenhouse gasses to the planet. A rubble trench foundation, such as the type used in this straw bale home, reduces the amount of concrete by over 50%. A rubble trench foundation replaces the majority of the concrete with broken stone.  This rubble trench foundation was approved for this home by a structural engineer, and therefore was accepted by the local building codes. Even though it uses much less concrete than a conventional foundation, structurally it is just as strong.  You can now watch the video for free on YouTube or Vimeo and see how this foundation was built from start to finish. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XY3OYKee2lA&t=423s

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Introducing The “Building With Awareness” YouTube Channel On How To Build A Straw Bale Home

Stream the entire 2 hours and 42 minute “Building With Awareness” video for FREE! Follow along in the construction of a hybrid straw bale home. Learn about straw bale, heating and cooling your home with solar energy and passive solar design, earth and clay plasters for walls, how to build an adobe wall, photovoltaic electrical systems, and much more. Please subscribe to the Building With Awareness YouTube channel. Leave us a like and comment!  The “Building With Awareness” guidebook is still available for purchase. Buy The Book    Stream On YouTube Best wishes from the Building With Awareness team! 

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Photographs of The EV1 Electric Car

The EV1 electric car by General Motors was was produced from 1996 through 1999. It was the first modern production electric vehicle to hit the road and was availible through a lease program through the manufacturer. Despite its short life (the vehicles were ultimately all recalled by General Motors and destroyed), I believe the aesthetics of the EV1 surpass any electric car on the road today. The design hit a sweet spot of being visually distinctive without being too outlandish. The form made a visual statement that this car was different. It was nice to look at and a blast to drive. Driving the EV1 convinced me that electric cars were the future of transportation. It would be another decade before commercially available all-electric automobiles would be on the road again.  Following are photos that I shot of the EV1 in Los Angeles, California. — Ted Owens All photographs Copyright © 2016 by Ted Owens. All rights reserved. You may use these photographs on your website for non-commercial use as long as they are unaltered and you link back to www.BuildingWithAwareness.com    

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Solar Power For Your Home

Solar PV home

What do you need to know before converting your house to solar electrical power? Below are some of the questions that we will answer: • How much will the solar power system cost you up front? • Should you lease or own the equipment? • How big does the PV system need to be to supply all or most of your power? • How do you choose a solar company to install the system? • Should you use a large national company like SolarCity, or go with a small local installer? • How is designing a grid-intertie system different from designing an off-the-grid solar system? • What is the one big missing element that solar installers never tell you about—yet it can have a profound effect on the cost of your system? • If an electric car is in your future, how do you size the system for the additional electricity that will be needed to charge the car with free solar energy? Should you oversize the system now, or add more solar panels after you purchase the electric vehicle? • How easy is it to deal with your local electric utility company when going solar, and why are some utility companies trying to discourage you from using solar electricity? Adding solar panels that generate electricity to your existing home has never been as easy and as economical as it is today. In my straw bale house, which is featured on the Building With Awareness web site, the entire structure…

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Video Aerial View of a Small Straw Bale Home

straw bale solar-powered home as seen from a camera drone.

In November we photographed my small straw bale home from the air using a aerial drone with a video camera. This gives a unique view of the house from a perspective that is rarely seen. Note the relatively few number of solar panels on the roof. This 1.2 kilowatt pv system provides all of the electrical power for the structure. The metal roof is an ideal surface for collecting rain water for the buried cistern that supplies all of the non-potable water. The long side of the home is angled to face south for maximum solar gain. Building a small home costs less to build and less to maintain over the years. Running time: about one minute Aerial Drone Video of a Small Straw Bale Home from Ted Owens on Vimeo.

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Earth Plaster For Straw Bale and Adobe Homes

One of the most enjoyable natural materials to work with is earth plaster (which is also referred to as mud plaster and clay plaster). It is also known as mud plaster and clay plaster. The material is as simple as the name implies. Earth plaster is nothing more than sand and clay (with chopped straw, if desired) mixed together in the proper proportions to prevent cracking. When mixed and applied properly, this wall covering will be hard, durable, and beautiful. In many regions of the country, earth plaster can even be used on the exterior walls and may easily last for seven to ten years or more without any maintenance. One advantage of earth plaster in a natural hybrid home is that the color of the plaster itself can eliminate the need for any paint. This is good for the environment and can reduce construction costs. Earth plaster walls can be made in almost any color you desire. Even white walls are possible. For color tints, natural pigments can be added to the white plaster, and a range of colors can be created from yellow to red to green. In a natural hybrid home such as this, the wall finish is a major visual attribute to the overall look of the house. The earth plaster walls have a rich patina that is not possible with paint alone. The material is breathable, unlike many paints and stucco. This is ideal for straw bale construction in that moisture from within the walls…

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Installing Electrical Wiring In A Straw Bale House

The straw bales are now in place, and it is time to complete the rough-in of the electrical wiring for the home featured in Building With Awareness. In order to meet code requirements, an electrician is hired for this procedure. As I mentioned in a previous article, some of the wiring for the house had been placed within the adobe walls while the bricks were being laid. For the straw bale walls, a chainsaw is used to cut one-and-a-half-inch deep channels into the bales. The electrical wire is pushed into these notches and run to the electrical outlets and switches in each room. The wire can also be pushed into the seams between the bales. The end of a blunt wooden stake can be used to push the wire into the notches or the bale seams. The wire used here is called UF cable, which stands for Underground Feeder. This is a very durable and moisture-resistant wire that is designed to be buried underground. When a wire must pass from the inside to the outside of a bale wall, it is fastened with tape to a long needle or rod made from one- quarter-inch-diameter metal. It is pushed through the bale, the tape removed, and the needle pulled out, leaving only the wire in place. When wire is being run through ceilings and frame walls—not adobe or straw bale—Romex cable can be used. Romex cable is somewhat more flexible than UF cable, and is therefore easier to work with. The…

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