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GBlist: Re: greenbuilding-digest V1 #234

The following posting is from Richard Kadulski by way of co-moderator
>Bruce Sullivan:
>I've been following the discussion about these alternative construction
>approaches with interest. As has been pointed out, by Marc and Mike
>O'Brien, you have to look at what is apropriate to the location, 
>etc. However, what most bothers me in this discussion, and some of the
>other alternative construction techniques - is that these are inherently
>a rural or at the least very low density suburban-property building
>How many earthships or strawbale houses are built within walking 
>of corner stores, schools, and many job opportunities? I can't seen this
>as something that you could fit on a 25 or 30 foot city lot.

I'm David Eisenberg of DCAT in Tucson, Arizona and I guess this is as 
good a place to introduce myself to this list as any.  Having finally 
just joined this list, I don't know what all has been posted recently on 
this subject, but I'll jump in anyway.  We just finished the wall raising 
for a straw bale affordable house for the self-help housing program of 
the Town of Guadalupe, Arizona (on the southern edge of Phoenix).  This 
is not a rural project at all, being in the middle of an older 
neighborhood a block from Interstate 10 with new development all around.  
The wall raising was something worth mentioning, since we started with 
the first course of bales already layed and added six more courses of 
bales, put on the roof bearing assembly, all the trusses, and sheathed 
the roof in one day.  We had around 160 volunteers in the morning for the 
wall raising and then a dwindling but incredibly dedicated carpentry crew 
for the rest of the day.

Anyway, there are straw bale houses all around the city here on all size 
lots.  The two straw bale houses in the City of Tucson straw bale project 
which won one of the national Innovation in Homeownership Awards from HUD 
and NAHB, (one of which was built by Habitat for Humanity and the other 
by the Tucson Urban League) are really suburban, but could have been 
built on most city lots in Tucson.  

Good design is more important than anything else when working with small 
lots, not to deny that on truly tiny lots, one often can't justify the 
thickness of straw bale, double adobe, rammed earth or earthship walls.  
But it is as much a cultural expectation about the minimum size of decent 
housing as anything else.  In Guadalupe, we built a 3 bedroom, 1-1/2 
bath, 1150 sf  house in a neighborhood with houses ranging from 400 - 500 
sf up to the more usual 12 to 1500 sf.  People in this community, which 
is mostly Yaqui indian, spend a tremendous amount of time outdoors in 
their yards and carports and under trees, etc. and don't seem to require 
large houses in general.  Matts Myhrman and Judy Knox built a beautiful 
440 sf straw bale guest house on a very tight urban lot in Tucson and it 
serves its occupant superbly.  

The square footage taken up by thick walls is a real issue - cost penalty 
actually - and sometimes not an acceptable trade-off for what is gained 
from that thickness.  But there is much gained - more than just the 
r-value in the walls.  Beauty, the feeling of massive walls, the quiet, 
the sculptural opportunities, etc. are all valuable benefits that 
shouldn't be discounted - especially in higher density neighborhoods.

Ok, off the soap box (straw bale?).  I'm glad to have finally joined this 
group and look forward to getting to know those of you I don't yet know, 
spending more time with those I do, and learning and hopefully 
contributing to the discussion.

David Eisenberg
Development Center for Appropriate Technology (DCAT)
PO Box 41144
Tucson, Arizona 85717
(520) 624-6628 (phone & fax)

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