Meet Scott – who is now here on his Dedicated Project Visit, focusing on preparation for CEB construction. We are evolving a Modular Building System based on CEBs, the next fork after our initial directions.
I been here just over two weeks now and I am becoming more and more comfortable with the daily happenings and challenges on this old soybean field. I have not properly introduced myself to the OSE on-line community yet and I would like to do so through this short video, which I made before arriving as part of my application. I first heard about Factor E Farm through Juliet Schor’s Plenitude, her introduction to Marcin’s work provoked enough curiosity for me to come volunteer for a month. My work here has focused primarily on laying out the foundation and building the roof trusses for the CEB workshop coming soon. I have also helped in the garden and with the canning and storing of various food items. Working with Will and Marcin has been a fascinating learning experience, especially considering I barely had a grasp on the phrase “open-source” before arriving. Now, I write to you from a newly installed Linux operating system in dual boot Linux/Windows!
In this post I want to primarily update everyone on the CEB workshop progress, including our ideas and hopes for the final design. But I also want to speak about life at Factor E Farm from a volunteers perspective, providing insight for others who to want to come for a Dedicated Project Visit.
In two weeks (right when I leave unfortunately) we will begin construction of a building which will allow us to accomplish three goals. First, it will allow ample space for the increased production of our first two product releases: the Liberator and the LifeTrac (release planned for May 1, 2011). Second, it will provide us with inexpensive, modular, and replicable living/work units. And finally, and most importantly, it will give us the opportunity to demonstrate Compressed Earth Bricks in action.
The Google Sketchup file that can be downloaded here gives a cross section view of our workshop to be. It will consist of fifteen 16’x16′ units (256 square feet), ranging in height from 10ft to 14ft, with each unit housing a different piece of machinery such as the open source CNC Torch Table, the open source Induction Furnace, or the open source Lathe – with ample space around for ergonomic design. The middle path will be open to drive a vehicle through in order to move heavy parts being manufactured (and because it is being built over our driveway!). At the corner of every unit will be a 2’x2′ column of CEBs, these will support the roof. The walls of the structure are flexible to our needs. We can produce an open air structure, a greenhouse, or winterized straw bale with easy fill-in of hammermilled strawbale. I have finished building the roof trusses for this structure, and documented their construction on the wiki. Further documentation of the CEB Modular Building System is also started on the wiki.
The exciting feature of these work/living units is their modularity and the ease of replication. Using earth and wood (next year) from the farm, we can quickly build a structure for our needs. Our design easily accepts additions, allowing us to expand the size of our structure. Soon we expect to have a kitchen, bakery, and bunk house all from this same basic design. As we build the structures we will be updated everyone on the costs. So far the roof trusses for one unit total $250. Other expenses we expect include the sheet metal roofing, cement foundation, floor, steel angle brackets, and any non CEB wall additions such as greenhouse glass windows. In the future we expect the wood to come from the property and to be able to produce all the metal components from scrap steel, greatly reducing our costs. We are not aware of any other modular masonry building system (outside of bricks themselves), but we are aware of the work of CMPBS on GreenForms, a modular building system based on wood posts, and other similar work and concepts such as GroHome.
The basic modular building unit consists of 4 CEB columns, 2’x2′ thick, in a 16 foot grid. This allows infinite modular additions to be made, and the roof can also be extended. Walls can be built to suit whatever purpose is required, from home to workshop to greenhouse to chicken house to luxury suite. Insulation can be filled in wall and roof cavities. There are practical details to consider to make this work, and so far, we think we have them covered.
When I first arrived I was a bit disappointed with our cookie cutter design of the modular CEB units, picturing a suburb of mud homes. Personally I have spent hours building beautiful structures from clay, manure, sand and water mixtures. I enjoyed the aesthetic freedom it provided, the feel of the material on my hands and feet, the sense of community as we all jumped on the daub together. But I also remembered the time it took to build, the number of people needed for efficiency, and how the smell of poo stayed on me for days. I have come to the conclusion that we need both of these styles of building, assuming both are sustainable and community oriented. But we have places all over this world trying the latter, and only a handful focusing on replicability and modularity. This IS an important project. With a tractor, CEB press, and saw mill which you can build in your garage, earth and trees from your land, and only a smattering of external materials (which we are working on creating), you can build a simple home, not extravagant, showy, or huge, but able to fulfill your needs. (Although with the hole from the earth you can have a pool…aka pond.) This brings us one step closer to freedom.
This has been an exciting project to design and begin construction of. The implications of this work are far reaching, especially in reducing poverty and our reliance on off-site materials. Needless to say I will be checking the blog in the upcoming months looking for key updates.
It has also been exciting to see the day to day operations of Factor E Farm. For an on-site project three years old, with only a smattering of hands involved, and funded solely by readers like you, the amount of work accomplished here is impressive. From caring for the plants and animals, to preparing food, to updating the wiki and blog, to building, inventing, failing, succeeding, collaborating, learning, brainstorming,…it can be exhausting! But the uncompromising belief in this experiment and the amazing support we receiving from seemingly random people the world over is rejuvenating.
Still life is relaxed here. There is no pressure, no hard dead lines, no micro-management. If you need a day off, take it; if you see something that needs to be done, do it; if you want to go fish, then go and feed us. The expectations are that you know best what you need to accomplish a certain task, if you need help seek it out, and do everything to OSE standards. Bring with you passion, personal motivation, and love for independent (and group) problem solving. It is a surprisingly simple life here; everyday I find personal time to play the Ukulele, watch half a documentary, or call family and friends.
Unfortunately I am only able to donate a short month of my time to this project, but I hope to return in the future. I want to see the apple trees taller, the soil healthier (damn mono-culture!), Marcin with some free time (haha!), and of course a fully functioning construction set ready to create change.