• Building With Awareness Blog

Adobe Walls For A Solar Home

Thick and heavy walls absorb and store heat, unlike conventional wood-stud walls, and even straw bale walls. These are called thermal mass walls. If thick and heavy walls are used in the interior of a straw bale house, the efficiency of the home is improved dramatically over using only straw bale walls (results will vary depending on the local climate).  The thermal mass walls I used were made of adobe bricks. Adobe is mud that has been poured into a form and then dried in the sun. Adobe and other earthen materials are about as ecologically sound as you can get. These thick adobe walls are a very important part of the heating and cooling system for the home. They absorb excess heat in the summer to keep the home comfortable. In the winter the adobe walls passively store the heat from the sun during the day in order to keep the house warm at night. They key is to use highly insulated straw bale exterior walls combined with thick thermal mass interior walls.  Watch the step-by-step process of building adobe thermal mass walls from our Building With Awareness YouTube and Video channels. 

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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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