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Old 10-05-2006, 11:35 PM
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I thought it might be a good idea to have a thread just for these pro-environmental homes since we hijacked the Moriarty thread to talk about them, so here is a place to do just that. Environmentally friendly homes are usually to help the environment and us as well. They could be underground, solar, rammed earth or other types of earth friendly homes. I just read from the Durango Herald online about a rammed earth home there. It was in the Good Earth section.

'A no brainer'
Using the sun saves money
October 5, 2006

In the *Florida Mesa home of John and Jean Lyle, heat, hot water and electrical power pretty much take care of themselves - courtesy of the sun.

Rammed-earth walls 18 inches thick, and active and passive solar applications keep temperatures within a six- to seven-degree range throughout the year. The Lyles' single-story, 2,600-square-foot house with a large loft has no air conditioning.

"It's obvious in the Southwest that if we don't utilize the sun we're just plain nuts," John Lyle, a self-employed electrical engineer, said while showing visitors through his house Monday. "This is high tech in a sense, but the Anasazi were doing it a long time before we did it."

Among features of the Lyle home, one of 11 stops on the seventh annual La Plata County solar tour next weekend:

• Photovoltaic panels with a capacity of 2,000 watts produce enough electricity to keep the house off the grid. An array of 12 batteries store power, but a propane-powered generator stands by as backup during periods of extended cloudy weather.

"We use the generator about 25 hours a year," Lyle said. "If there's a week without much sun, the house definitely gets cooler."

• Eighty square feet of solar thermal panels heat water for household use and for radiant floor heat in a 300-square-foot enclosed patio.

Solar thermal panels convert the sun's rays into heat, while photovoltaic cells convert the rays into electricity.

• The eaves of the south-facing house were designed to block summer sun but welcome winter rays.

Sixty percent of the passive solar gain is direct - from double-pane windows with a southern exposure. Forty percent is attributed to seven sections of metal foil-covered trombe walls - after French engineer Felix Trombe - on the same side of the house.

In either case, massive walls and concrete floor absorb heat during the day and release it slowly later. The house is cooled if necessary by opening windows at night.

"Mass is what makes solar work," Lyle said.

Interior temperatures are uniform throughout the house because of the open-ceiling construction and wall mass. Temperatures stay in the high 60s in the winter and peak at about 74 degrees in the summer.

Almost 100 people - contractors, volunteers looking to pick up some ideas and students from the Renewable Energy and Carpentry program at San Juan College in Farmington - helped build the house, which received its certificate of occupancy in December 2004.

The cost of the house was comparable to a stick-built house, Lyle said. But more important are the savings that will accrue to the environment, he said.

"We use an extravagant amount of energy in this country," Lyle said. "Our intent is to minimize the impact on the environment. The savings will be enormous. A solar house was a no-brainer."

Written By Dale Rodebaugh | Herald Staff Writer
*Florida Mesa is an area just outside Durango, Colorado

I thought it was a wonderful article and I think pertinent to New Mexico as well as Southern Colorado. New Mexico should have more of these homes to take advantage of the sun which is plentiful in NM.
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Old 10-05-2006, 11:46 PM
Location: Tejas
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I know its not a home. But the Visitors Center at Clayton Lake State Park is pretty neat. The walls have straw bails of hay in them. Charles the manager said he turned on the heating and AC once the day it opened, to make sure it worked and hasnt turned it on since.
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Old 10-06-2006, 12:13 AM
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I know someone who has a straw bail home and it is supposed to really keep heat in during the winter and hot out during the summer. That is great that your Visitors Center is made of that! It just doesn't make sense to not use all these things to make us all use less oil and gas. I also know someone in Oklahoma who has a concrete home and doesn't have to worry about tornadoes or termites! I once visited a dome home too that was awesome. The wind can't pick the roof off like a regular home so those would be great in hurricane country. The rooves peeling off are the major reason homes suffer so much damage from hurricanes, next to flooding. I think a dome home up on stilts would be smart if you want to live on a beach.
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Old 10-06-2006, 01:17 AM
Location: Metromess
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Thumbs up Straw-bale homes

I have a book on straw-bale homes. They have great insulating characteristics; even if you were on the power grid, you wouldn't need to use much. Thanks, Crackerjack, for creating a thread dedicated to ecologically friendly housing. I'll be monitoring it!
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Old 10-06-2006, 09:23 AM
Location: Tejas
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I reember watching a TV show at home (Ireland) a few years ago about a house built into the side of a hill. They got water runoff and purified it itself. Its amazing to see these houses i think. Id love to eventually live in a straw house like the visitor center. Its neat, they have a glass panel on the inside so you can see the straw.

If youre interested, i built a site at Moderator cut: ad for it. If you click on pictures and then visitor center you can see it. I have more somewhere which i can put up when i get them.

Last edited by Yac; 10-06-2006 at 09:49 AM..
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Old 10-06-2006, 02:07 PM
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Thanks for this thread, Crackerjack. I have been following the recent "tiny house movement." The materials are traditional wood and metal, but the houses are so small (and cute) that they definitely qualify as enviro-friendly. Here are some links:

* Tumbleweed Houses:


* NPR segment about tiny houses:


* Small House Society:


I want to do something like this, and the biggest problem I am running into is finding a place to legally place one. Zoning laws and covenants are not too friendly toward enviro-friendly living.
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Old 10-06-2006, 05:07 PM
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Arrow One more thing to think about...

While I am 100% for environmentally constructed homes.

A huge drawback is - one can have a lot of difficultly getting a conventional loan on these types of homes. Many lenders won't touch these as far as mortgages go. These homes are considered unconventional housing.

Another big issue is Insurance providers - hard to find an Insurer to insure these homes.

Do your research before committing to these ventures.

Just my 2 cents...


Last edited by Informer; 10-06-2006 at 05:35 PM..
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Old 10-06-2006, 11:15 PM
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Jecc, those are some great websites, thanks! I love to learn about all sorts of homes that are earth friendly. It would be so great if one whole city was all environmental friendly homes! All the electricity was solar or wind powered too. Why can't a city be built just like this? Any big business people out there, you might think about starting a city that would have only solar or wind power and the homes and building would be built either underground or made of rammed earth or straw bail homes, or any of these other earth friendly homes. That would be great! I think it would be a hit too!

Informer, I just don't understand why banks would penalize people for building these homes. They are built better than regular homes too. These homes like the underground, concrete and rammed earth homes, will be around long after the regular homes are long gone. Insurance people, take notice! Look at the ancient Indian ruins. The earth brick homes are still there centuries later, the pioneers homes of wood are long gone.

Catman, this will be a good place to talk about our underground homes too!

BrainH, I see your website got the boot. It happens. I wish there was a way we could have links to all websites but they don't allow any with ads in them. You can cut and paste your words from your website and even pics onto your posts though and since it won't have ads, they will allow that.
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Old 10-06-2006, 11:42 PM
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Originally Posted by Crackerjack View Post
It would be so great if one whole city was all environmental friendly homes! All the electricity was solar or wind powered too. Why can't a city be built just like this?
Totally agree, and NM would be a perfect place for it. With 300+ days of sunshine per year in most parts of the state, it is a real no-brainer. Ditto with AZ and CO. Usually if the sun is not out, the wind is blowing.

I too love the idea of underground homes. I also like nice views out windows, so I'm leaning more toward the above-ground tiny houses shown in the links above. I live in a 600 SF prefab cabin above 9000 feet — lots of sun and wind around here. Still, I wish I had gone with a smaller place. Even with a fossil fuel like propane, you can heat 200-300 SF for peanuts.

This is all great to talk about, but I fear we are thinking at least 50 years ahead of our time. Banks and lenders are all about "value" and "investment," not about practical needs and essential living. Houses are not homes as much as they are "investments." In a way, this society will have to go back in time about 100-200 years before it can move forward into the next 50 years without doing more damage than has already been done, to a time when we return to real living. I don't mean to be cynical, but what most of this society now calls "living" — huge houses, huge debts, etc. — is a slow and deceptive form of dying.
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Old 10-07-2006, 12:21 AM
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Jecc, I totally agree with you! Yes NM,AZ,CO and UT are great places for solar and wind power and West Texas and Eastern NM would make great wind farms! I wish bankers would think about their own children and their futures. Do they want them to grow up in a world where we are dependant on foreign oil, at the hands of our enemies? Are there any bankers, creditors, businessmen and women out there who will step up and say, "I am going to reach out and take steps to making my country less dependant on foreign oil that is depleting. I am going to buck the trend and help those who are helping the earth."

I know that having say a concrete home, you won't have the bug spraying for termites or worrying about a tornado coming through and tearing your house down or a hurricane ripping it up. An underground home, same thing. The homes I see you want too, are so cost effective! They would be great to make say in areas where many homes were destroyed like in New Orleans. Those homes would be fast, effective and efficient! I am looking at these dome homes too that are really cool. They resist wind and are strong. They also can be made as big or as small as you want. I think the future is in all these types of homes and I venture to say a wise man or woman, who would get ground of it, could make a great living at selling these type of homes.
I would love an indoor greenhouse too that could grow a lot of herbs, flowers for next spring, veggies and fruits like bananas. A city with a huge greenhouse the size of a stadium where many people could grow food! How about earth homes surrounded in a circle with the center being one big greenhouse commune area! Wow, that would be great! I even have thought about how they could take those old abandoned factories and turn them into greenhouses with homes in them for poorer families, to feed them as well as house them. I also see those cruise ships, when they get older, they scrape them, but why not turn them into homes too? They could be docked and they could house a lot of people. I guess I am searching for ways people can reuse things that are considered junk.

Wow, you live above 9,000 feet! That sounds awesome! It is cold now? I wish I could feel some cold but being in Phoenix, cold isn't an option here!

I knew an elderly lady who lived in a small yurt out in the boonies. Yurts are cool too! They have some that look really nice inside as well. Many new things we can do, but funny how it is the old things from ancient times that we are just now learning! I think the ancient peoples were way smarter than our society gives credit to them!

Last edited by Crackerjack; 10-07-2006 at 12:39 AM..
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