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House #
House Style
Size Ft2
Year Built
Hybrid—Strawbale, Tire walls-Earth bermed, and Stick Framed
General Contractor
Sub-contractors (significant) & Type
Owner and Tom O'Dell (architectural drawings) Owner Main Framer, Craig "Derosa" Edwards,
Primary E-Design Factors
Significant E-Products Used
The house has a hybrid wall system. Walls are composed of tires packed with earth, straw bales, and 2x6 stick frame.
Off-grid PV system 720 Watt +Separate solar system for well.
1700 gallon cistern (buried plastic).
Earth plaster interior walls.
Recycled windows and other materials.
Floor is brick/tile, and packed oiled earth.
Used local timber (beams, rafters, posts).
NA The house is comfortable and energy efficient.
The adobe floor is a favorite place in house.

The owner would have made the gap between the roof and walls more airtight.

There was moisture seepage at the base of the tire wall on the north side of the house adjacent to the kitchen. It has been fixed. The tire walls have had no problems with moisture, since.
The owner wanted a relatively small house that would connect him to the earth and would disturb the land as little as possible. He was impressed by the rammed earth tire house designs, called Earthships, by the architect, Michael Reynolds of Taos, and found inspiration from the book, A Pattern Language, by Christopher Alexander. After spending two years on the design, the result is a house that is a great example of using several types of sustainable building techniques. The roof contains rigid foam insulation. The south facing wall is primarily stick framed (2x6) with glass batts for insulation; most of the west and a significant portion of the north wall is made of 292 tires filled with rammed earth (like an "earthship"), and then partially earth-bermed; the east wall, and a portion of the north wall is 3 string, wheat grass, strawbale infill (walls are timber framed to allow for the infill) from Quincy, Washington. Each type of wall seems appropriate to it position on the site, and functions well in terms of heating/cooling efficiency. When you are standing by the front door of this house, it seems small and neatly tucked into the land. But when you enter, an expansive space with beautiful wood ceiling beams in a radiating pattern, invites you into a friendly open floor plan and a warm light environment.

The house is off-grid, using a 720 watt main system, and a separate smaller system for the well pump. The well pump runs on solar DC (direct current), so it does not need an inverter, fills a 1700 gallon cistern on a hill above the house. Gravity supplies the needed water pressure. The "dual mode" refrigerator runs on propane, but can be switched to electric. The owner has hinge-mounted the solar panels at their base, this allows for optimizing their angle of elevation relative to the height of the sun (an altitude adjustment, not an azimuth adustment)—he adjusts the angle about three times a year.

Most of the beams, posts, and rafters were milled from local forest land, reducing the embedded energy (saving transportation costs) of the lumber. The windows are recycled/salvaged (from: Jake's Bargain Barn, Lynden, WA). A section of the floor is packed-earth sealed with linseed oil, brick laid on packed earth is used in other places. Passive solar energy coming from the south facing windows, heats up the mass of the floor and soaks into the sand and earth under the bricks. The owner had difficulty obtaining a mortgage, but was eventually successful.

Mother Earth News thought enough of this home to put it on the cover of the magazine in 2001. The owner/builder has been generous in sharing with the larger community, his well earned knowledge gained from building this sustainable home.

Owners Advice: Keep it small and simple. Use the free energy from the sun.