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idunno

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Re: Anyone here working on any interesting building projects?
« Reply #100 on: November 06, 2013, 08:51:02 PM »
Hi Laurent,

Sorry, I have no photos, but this cartoon...

http://xkcd.com/1267/

As I understand it, cob should provide very good insulation of itself. Certainly so if used in straw bale construction.

Around here, many of the older houses were built with a space for stabling horses/cattle/sheep on the ground floor/cellar. I presume that this would have provided some extra warmth in midwinter, but is unlikely to catch on again fast.

Wearing extra layers of clothing in winter, even indoors, strikes me as very sensible. In the UK this is official governement advice.

Also, I am reluctant to start a "hot water bottle" thread, as this would be just too self-indulgent of my pet absurd theory; that, at night, it is wiser to try to heat a



idunno

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Re: Anyone here working on any interesting building projects?
« Reply #101 on: November 06, 2013, 09:09:49 PM »
"wiser to try to heat a couple" of litres of water instead of trying to heat several thousand litres of air.

Granny knew best, on this and several other subjects; and my overall point is that I think that people looking to reduce their carbon footprint would do as well to look towards traditional ways of coping, as to waiting for "the market" to come and solve it all with innovation 'n' that. Though, as you say, there is room for both.

ggelsrinc

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Re: Anyone here working on any interesting building projects?
« Reply #102 on: November 06, 2013, 10:01:12 PM »
My heating pad runs on dog food and scraps. She's an Old English Mastiff with a body temperature several degrees or around 5 degrees higher than mine. Her reward is I allow her to sleep in my bed and my reward is going back to back with her, because it is so comfortable. No one can approach me without Lucy the Goosey using those big ears to hear them coming, but she isn't agressive. She looks something like this:



I built a bank once and felt disappointed it wasn't given to my charge once the money was placed in it.

Thorium MSRs are the most interesting building projects to date. Many nations are examining that old concept started to make a bomber run on nuclear power. Check it out!
« Last Edit: November 06, 2013, 11:32:12 PM by ggelsrinc »

Neven

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Re: Anyone here working on any interesting building projects?
« Reply #103 on: November 06, 2013, 11:38:16 PM »
Anyway, yes, there are definitely two different schools in "ecological" building as you have described; "modernistic" and "traditional".
Personally, I think the world needs both schools, though post-collapse I think "traditional" skills and experience will be more in demand and useful.

I totally agree with this, and am actually thinking a lot about it while doing stuff around the house. I think traditional is the more ecological of the two, in the sense that you use less synthetic/semi-toxic stuff. But modernistic is probably more energy efficient in the long run.

I always hoped/fantasized about doing the traditional stuff, renovating some old farm/house. But as we didn't find a proper place, we gradually started moving towards building our own house, and I felt more comfortable designing a conventional house, because it's a bit more like Lego, more palatable for someone like me who has some experience with building and DIY, but not that much either. I was scared of doing traditional things the wrong way and then having a lot of work trying to fix it or to have to learn to live with it.

And I'm a bit of an energy saving freak.  ;D  8)

Another appeal for me of building eco-modernistic is that it sets an example of what's possible, and that's useful if civilisation doesn't crash hard and fast.

BTW, I'll have an update next week or so, I'm currently extremely busy building a green roof in between rainy days. The outside plaster worked out well, although our contractor wasn't happy about our windowpanes in connection with the plaster. If water gets between the plaster and the wood, things will go downhill very quickly. But luckily our roof sticks out a whole meter from the wall, so the windows are safe most of the time. Either way, it gives the house a more traditional look.

I should be updating the PIOMAS post on the blog, but here are some images:













I will sigh a sigh of relief when that green roof is finally done! Then the exterior will be done, and we just have to fix a couple of problems (concrete water tank hasn't been built properly and is already leaking), and we can then start working on the interior stuff. For which we'll probably need another 5-6 months.
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ggelsrinc

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Re: Anyone here working on any interesting building projects?
« Reply #104 on: November 07, 2013, 01:00:54 AM »
Anyway, yes, there are definitely two different schools in "ecological" building as you have described; "modernistic" and "traditional".
Personally, I think the world needs both schools, though post-collapse I think "traditional" skills and experience will be more in demand and useful.

I totally agree with this, and am actually thinking a lot about it while doing stuff around the house. I think traditional is the more ecological of the two, in the sense that you use less synthetic/semi-toxic stuff. But modernistic is probably more energy efficient in the long run.

I always hoped/fantasized about doing the traditional stuff, renovating some old farm/house. But as we didn't find a proper place, we gradually started moving towards building our own house, and I felt more comfortable designing a conventional house, because it's a bit more like Lego, more palatable for someone like me who has some experience with building and DIY, but not that much either. I was scared of doing traditional things the wrong way and then having a lot of work trying to fix it or to have to learn to live with it.

And I'm a bit of an energy saving freak.  ;D  8)

Another appeal for me of building eco-modernistic is that it sets an example of what's possible, and that's useful if civilisation doesn't crash hard and fast.

BTW, I'll have an update next week or so, I'm currently extremely busy building a green roof in between rainy days. The outside plaster worked out well, although our contractor wasn't happy about our windowpanes in connection with the plaster. If water gets between the plaster and the wood, things will go downhill very quickly. But luckily our roof sticks out a whole meter from the wall, so the windows are safe most of the time. Either way, it gives the house a more traditional look.

I should be updating the PIOMAS post on the blog, but here are some images:













I will sigh a sigh of relief when that green roof is finally done! Then the exterior will be done, and we just have to fix a couple of problems (concrete water tank hasn't been built properly and is already leaking), and we can then start working on the interior stuff. For which we'll probably need another 5-6 months.

Please don't take this as a criticism, but merely informative. I live in an area where there is almost never a tornado and many commercial establishments like a stucco finish. We use a product over here, I think it's called drivet, it's been many years since I've been around it, and it's a styrofoam with a blue plastic mesh to add stucco. It is attached directly to the framing, be it metal stud or wood. It has limited structural integrity, but I've seen it added to wood framed and plywooded/composite wooded houses and then a stucco finish added. I was once involved in installing it and topping off the walls and cornice of a casino with a molded product. Doing walls with it is easy and stucco isn't that hard, though scaffolding is required. It's the insulation properties of the product that impresses me, and surely I'm not suggesting going back to square one on your project, because that would be a waste. I'm only trying to be informative to the next person and I don't even know if it's available in Europe. It's simply a plastic mess coated product of various thicknesses that can be easily screwed to surfaces and then apply a stucco finish. Since the framing is also insulated, it just adds more, but above is the most important. On the sides of buildings, sealing for leaks is what counts the most, particularly around doors and windows. A sensitive person can actually walk around a properly maintained home and fell the lack of draft regardless of thermostat settings. Spend your money on draft!

I remember when CFBs first arrived and I paid $7 apiece for 22 of them to save my mom money. I took a light bulb from my daughter's house to the store and asked if ornamental light could be replaced with something more energy efficient along with some bathroom lights. The gentleman showed me an expensive LED light, that reminded me of those old CFB days, but he only had one in stock and I needed 6. It was 2 watts and a light on a Christmas tree or decoration is at least 5 watts. I don't care what it costs, I want those dining room lights in my daughters house changed to 12 watts. I know the price will eventually go down.

That was just another off topic ramble, I thought may be helpful.

Cheers! 

Neven

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Re: Anyone here working on any interesting building projects?
« Reply #105 on: November 07, 2013, 06:46:35 AM »
Quote
It's simply a plastic mess

Indeed!  ;) ;D

Although I have been forced to buy a bit of styrofoam for the green roof (to get a slope for water to run off) because the contractor didn't build it as desired, I'm really trying to avoid the stuff. Yes, it has great insulation properties, it's cheap and probably useful for upgrading existing buildings, but it's made of oil and it's a mess when disposed of, mostly because of toxic fire retardants.

Every time I see styrofoam I'm reminded of a documentary I once saw, where they cut open a dead seabird and its stomach was full of the stuff.
« Last Edit: November 07, 2013, 07:08:39 AM by Neven »
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ggelsrinc

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Re: Anyone here working on any interesting building projects?
« Reply #106 on: November 07, 2013, 10:36:33 AM »
The biggest problem involves cups and food containers. Stuffed animals often use Styrofoam. Construction use is intended to be permanent, so it's alright for stucco and some molded work. It seems to be durable, but can be destroyed in a strong wind. There is a big time disposal problem though. It's so light it's easy for it to get to the water and has to be buried to avoid the trashy mess. I would like to see Styrofoam's use in the food industry stopped and there are easy ways to get substitutes. The oil part doesn't bother me much, because that oil is better sequestered than burned as fuel. Plastic trash needs to be recycled and also it's use avoided in the food industry. Paper and glass with a deposit would work.   

Neven

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Re: Anyone here working on any interesting building projects?
« Reply #107 on: November 08, 2013, 04:46:10 AM »
Yesterday I had to saw a PVC pipe, cut styrofoam (absolutely hate the stuff), stuff rockwool to insulate a drainage pipe that goes trhough the roof, and use some smelly EPDM glue. Even though it's only a small part of the building process, I really dislike making concessions.

I hope we get that green roof right and tight. I don't want to do this again in the next 10 years. We're doing it relatively cheap (under 2000 euros for a 35 m2 flat roof), but man, it's a lot of work! More later.
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Lucas Durand

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Re: Anyone here working on any interesting building projects?
« Reply #108 on: November 11, 2013, 01:18:07 AM »
Neven,
Looking forward to seeing some pictures of your "green roof".

I know what you mean about EPDM glue.
I used EPDM on the roof of our attached sun room and I remember it felt like I was holding my breath the whole time - fun times!
As disgusting as dealing with fumes may be, it would be hard to do a proper job of a "green roof" without EPDM.

Neven

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Re: Anyone here working on any interesting building projects?
« Reply #109 on: November 11, 2013, 11:04:51 PM »
The EPDM sheet itself is fantastic, a wonderful material, reasonably green as well (much more than PVC), but the glue less so.  :)

Here are a couple of images showing the process so far. This is a drawing I made that shows some of the details:



The contractor built a flat roof consisting of 18mm OSB - 240mm beams/cellulose - OSB

The green roof is coming on top of that, with 2-10 cm styrofoam - 1.14 mm EPDM sheet - 25 mm polypropylene drainage boards - fleece to keep out small particles - substrate - plants, with 30 cm of pebbles on the edges.

The styrofoam is used to create a slope and let all water drain at the back of the roof:



First I attached a 20 cm/8 inch high wooden beam around the roof:





Then I laid the styrofoam out:



With the EPDM gully:



This gully was glued to the EPDM sheet, but first I had to make a hole through the roof. Here's some images showing that process:











There are now two things I have to find solutions for:

1) What kind of substrate mix to create for the roof
2) Whether to physically attach the EPDM sheet to the edge of the roof

For 1) I will use a mix of expanded clay aggregate, mixed with soil and sand I already have on-site. I just don't know yet how much of each I should use. All in all I need 2.5-3 cubic metres.

For 2) I'm still doubting a lot. My contractor and a roof guy who has provided me with a metal thing (I don't know what you call those) to close off the edge of the roof, see sketch above, say that I have to glue and/or screw the sheet to the beam. I'd rather not do this. First of all, I'm not a fan of closing things permanently, but especially in this case as I'm not sure this construction is 100% moisture proof.

Either you build a flat or green roof by allowing water vapor that enters the construction to come out again. Or you make sure no water vapor can come in, which is extremely difficult. Unfortunately our contractor forced us to go for the second option because he didn't build the roof as I asked him to (with a slope, and a special sheet on the ceiling inside that 'knows' when to close off completely or open up to let moisture out).

The thing is, if something goes wrong at some point, and I have to find out where the problem is, I want to be able to deconstruct everything without having to break stuff, like the glued and screwed EPDM sheet. And if you're going to screw it, you have to glue it as well, or else you get bigger and bigger holes in your sheet as it contracts and expands due to temperature.

I just want to leave a flap of 40 cm/15 inches, fold it a couple of times, lay it on the beam and close it off with the metal thing in the first sketch. My contractor says moisture might then slip in and enter the construction.

It's like going to the doctor who tells you you need some kind of medication or else you'll die.  But the medication is just as bad as the disease. ;)

Anyway, I'll post some more images of the EPDM sheet and the wooden larch construction I've made to make the side of the green roof look nice. Mounted them today, lot of work preparing though (600 pre-drilled screws).
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Lucas Durand

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Re: Anyone here working on any interesting building projects?
« Reply #110 on: November 12, 2013, 01:49:22 AM »
Neven,
Very interesting...
How you sloped the styrofoam and are using a drainage mat over the EPDM...
And it looks like you are doing a good job (nice pictures).

Quote
Either you build a flat or green roof by allowing water vapor that enters the construction to come out again. Or you make sure no water vapor can come in, which is extremely difficult. Unfortunately our contractor forced us to go for the second option because he didn't build the roof as I asked him to (with a slope, and a special sheet on the ceiling inside that 'knows' when to close off completely or open up to let moisture out).
Yes, it's one way or the other.
Like you, I tend to see very little value in making things "perfectly" waterproof in a way that prevents the assembly from drying out if it ever does get wet.
Ideally, wall and roof assemblies of this type should be able to dry out either to the exterior or the interior (and preferably both).
I think in this case you are commited to having an assembly that needs "perfect" water-proofing on the exterior side and so you should probably glue the EPDM down all the way around (this is what I would do).

So your roof assembly should be able to dry to the interior then...
If I understand correctly, you had wanted a "smart" vapour retarding membrane on the interior side of the ceiling?
What was installed instead, an impermeable vapour barrier membrane?

If it ever comes to it (ie, you must try to find a leak under the substrate) I would say that you would have to sacrifice the EPDM and cut into it around the perimeter.
As long as the styrofoam hasn't been glued down to the OSB, then you should be able to lift the loose EPDM and the styrofoam out without making too much mess - if you're carefull (and lucky) you may be able to put the styrofoam and EPDM back in place and cover the entire thing with a new sheet of EPDM.

ggelsrinc

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Re: Anyone here working on any interesting building projects?
« Reply #111 on: November 12, 2013, 02:50:43 AM »
My only experience around EPDM has been in commercial construction and it's covered with stone. Of course, the slope and drains are planned ahead of time, so water will flow by design. I've never seen a residential application, but without proper design, only shims, a rasp and a lot of elbow grease will work to correct a screw up. Laser levels don't lie, so finding the down slope isn't hard.

I just had to put my two cents in and value it much less than that.   

Neven

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Re: Anyone here working on any interesting building projects?
« Reply #112 on: November 12, 2013, 08:41:50 AM »
Quote
So your roof assembly should be able to dry to the interior then...
If I understand correctly, you had wanted a "smart" vapour retarding membrane on the interior side of the ceiling?
What was installed instead, an impermeable vapour barrier membrane?

Exactly, an impermeable vapour barrier membrane with aluminum coating (another fantastic concession for me), on top - or actually below - the OSB.

Luckily we have some time left before deciding what to do with the edges. It's very wet now (rain, mist) and we just let the EPDM flap over the edge with 25 kg bags of pebbles holding it there. Up till now there was no moisture below the EPDM. If it stays like this, I'm taking my chances. I seriously don't dig having to destroy the entire sheet EPDM and dig out over 3 m3 of materials if there's some moisture somewhere.

Better start saving for a new construction in 3-5 years straight away. And pray...  :-\ :)
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Neven

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Re: Anyone here working on any interesting building projects?
« Reply #113 on: November 12, 2013, 08:42:30 AM »
BTW, I forgot, Lucas, did you do anything with green/flat roofs for your house?
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Lucas Durand

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Re: Anyone here working on any interesting building projects?
« Reply #114 on: November 12, 2013, 09:19:28 PM »
Neven,
I think you'll probably get more than three to five years out of your green roof - unless it leaks, then three to five years might be a good guess.
With the aluminum facing on the OSB, at least the structural components of the roof should retain the ability to dry to the inside and should last.
Is the ceiling itself "airtight"?

My wife and I, we talked a little about building a green roof over the sunroom but eventually gave up on the idea - at the time there were just too many other things to worry about...

Have you decided what kind of plants you will put into the substrate?
I wonder if you could grow some edibles up there using a sub-soil or drip irrigation system?

Lucas Durand

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Re: Anyone here working on any interesting building projects?
« Reply #115 on: November 12, 2013, 09:25:17 PM »
My only experience around EPDM has been in commercial construction and it's covered with stone.

Ah yes, I've heard about that...
That in some commercial applications, they don't use glue and simply weigh the EPDM down using smooth gravel as "ballast".
Do you know how the perimeter of the EPDM is treated in such cases - is it glued or otherwise fastened down?

Neven

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Re: Anyone here working on any interesting building projects?
« Reply #116 on: November 12, 2013, 10:16:09 PM »
Neven,
I think you'll probably get more than three to five years out of your green roof - unless it leaks, then three to five years might be a good guess.
With the aluminum facing on the OSB, at least the structural components of the roof should retain the ability to dry to the inside and should last.
Is the ceiling itself "airtight"?

Yes, it is. It's OSB, and with the vapour barrier added to that, I don't think a lot of air will pass. From a construction point of view it's fairly simple, just a square of approx. 20 m2. The roof itself is bigger because it extends 50 cm past the outer walls (30 cm).

I'm not so much afraid the roof will leak, because it's a continuous sheet, and like I said, EPDM is really a very nice and sturdy material. They say it can even withstand the elements for 50 years without any cover.

I'm afraid of moisture creeping in under the EPDM because I didn't glue it or screw it on the edges (yet). But the roof guy (Spengler in German, meaning tinsmith, over here the guys who do all the gutters and other metal stuff on roofs) came over today to look at the flat roof and said there is no way that any moisture will get past the edge. So that was a bit of a relief.

And yes, the pebbles and substrate keep everything in place, so there's no need to glue the sheet. Except perhaps at the edge.

Quote
Have you decided what kind of plants you will put into the substrate?
I wonder if you could grow some edibles up there using a sub-soil or drip irrigation system?

We will mostly put in drought-resistant herbs like thymian, but where the substrate is only a couple of centimetres thick (it gets thicker towards the middle) we will probably use succulents/sedum.

Edibles will be difficult because the substrate will have a max of 12-13 cm -> extensive green roof. For edibles you need to go intensive -> 30 cm and beyond.

But we have plenty of space  for gardening as it is.  ;)

We're building it mostly for the life span, for the esthetics and for the experience (we'll probably do it on our carport and chicken coop as well).

Anyway, didn't get a chance to continue working on the green roof today, because I totally forgot the solar panel guy was coming! I helped him quite a bit, and almost wet my pants because of my fear of heights, and am completely devastated from climbing up and down and trying not to fall. We're installing the modules tomorrow...
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JayW

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Re: Anyone here working on any interesting building projects?
« Reply #117 on: November 16, 2013, 01:05:42 PM »
Nice job Neven, I haven't been around the forum very long, but have seen the progress on your house and it looks great.  I am actually a carpenter, and have been building for about 15 years, and learned the trade working summers in high schools, and thought college. I was hoping I could share some of what I have learned.

As far as green roofs go, I honestly have no experience, not have seen one in my area.  Flat roofs are also very rare hrs to because we have snowpack that readily exceeds 3 feet. From what I have seen, you look like you are on the right path.  One area I would be concerned about is the flat roof to sidewall transition.  Will snow accumulation be an issue?  Make sure that's it's flashed well and high enough up the wall, if snow build up.

A note on traditional building.  I have worked on many farmhouses, some nearly 300 years old.  Where I live Maine, USA.  Building was done with 2x4 exterior walls, covered with pine or hemlock boards. Often with gaps.  Little, or more often, no insulation and a fireplace in every room.  New England is heavily forested, so firewood has always been plentiful.  The costs associated with retrofitting houses like this are prohibitive.  Fortunately, I often work for folks who are successful enough to afford this. And they are also concerned about the environment, as well as saving old farmhouses.  Where the old timers really nailed it was with site lay out.  They always have the majority of windows facing south, and as much roof facing the north.

I also hate to use any foam products, especially those containing formaldehyde (attracts ants and smells bad) but is now basically required for basements.  Also, architects and homeowners have been requesting a shell of foam over the whole structure to create a thermal break.  The call it a continuous envelope.  I'm not sold on the airtight idea, I like houses to breathe.  I recommend just a single vapour barrier on the interior side of the studs, and a breathable house wrap under the siding.  Masonry and stucco homes are essentially non existent here.  My insulator uses a blown in product made of recycled fibers and treated with borax to discourage animals.  Please, never use fiberglass, it's best used as an air filter. But, insulation and sealing up around windows is certainly the most important.

Since I know little of the ice, maybe I can contribute here.  I'm still just 35, have much to learn, and always open to new ideas.  But I like to think I have an idea what I am doing, plus one house I built won awards for energy efficiency.  The architects deserve the most credit, but I learned some tricks.
"To defy the laws of tradition, is a crusade only of the brave" - Les Claypool

ggelsrinc

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Re: Anyone here working on any interesting building projects?
« Reply #118 on: November 16, 2013, 01:58:14 PM »
My only experience around EPDM has been in commercial construction and it's covered with stone.

Ah yes, I've heard about that...
That in some commercial applications, they don't use glue and simply weigh the EPDM down using smooth gravel as "ballast".
Do you know how the perimeter of the EPDM is treated in such cases - is it glued or otherwise fastened down?

My only experience in seeing it built was a Hilton connected to a Casino. They glued the seams and the perimeter was walled off much higher than these image examples which are more common for commercial roofs.





I have seen many ways to make the perimeter for ordinary EPDM roofs, but wasn't present during construction, including using EPDM to cover the perimeter.

https://www.google.com/search?hl=en&site=imghp&tbm=isch&source=hp&biw=1280&bih=627&q=epdm+roofing&oq=epdm&gs_l=img.1.1.0l10.7630.12584.0.18921.4.4.0.0.0.0.811.2283.0j1j5-1j2.4.0....0...1ac.1.31.img..1.3.1576.Mz1ljKj0Ls4

They were basically flat roofs engineered to direct water down internal drains.

Neven

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Re: Anyone here working on any interesting building projects?
« Reply #119 on: November 16, 2013, 06:01:24 PM »
Nice job Neven, I haven't been around the forum very long, but have seen the progress on your house and it looks great.  I am actually a carpenter, and have been building for about 15 years, and learned the trade working summers in high schools, and thought college. I was hoping I could share some of what I have learned.

Thanks a lot, JayW!

Quote
As far as green roofs go, I honestly have no experience, not have seen one in my area.  Flat roofs are also very rare hrs to because we have snowpack that readily exceeds 3 feet. From what I have seen, you look like you are on the right path.  One area I would be concerned about is the flat roof to sidewall transition.  Will snow accumulation be an issue?  Make sure that's it's flashed well and high enough up the wall, if snow build up.

It will be fastened high enough on the wall and the overlapped by a façade sheet/membrane that protects the wall from any moisture that comes between the wooden façade (larch planks with 1 cm opening between them, mounted on wooden bars).

Quote
I'm not sold on the airtight idea, I like houses to breathe.

I know what you mean, but when a house breathes, it loses warmth. At the start of the thread I wrote about how I'm not a fan of heat recovery ventilation systems, but I'm going to experiment with a small decentral unit. It will be months before I can report on that though.

A couple of days ago our PV array was installed. 5.25 kWp that should produce a little less than 6000 kWh a year:

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JayW

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Re: Anyone here working on any interesting building projects?
« Reply #120 on: November 16, 2013, 07:00:28 PM »
I have built a house where they installed a unit that has a heat exchanger and dehumidifier that is ventilated through two 8 inch vents.  It was installed at the very end of construction and wrung gallons of water out in the first few weeks.  It's truly amazing how much moisture is released by all the building materials.  It no longer collects the copious amounts it did at first.  I am doing more work for those people and will and see how it has performed these last couple years.  It's a large house, exposed on a hill, with many nights below 0°F, I'll be interested to see how efficient their house has been.
"To defy the laws of tradition, is a crusade only of the brave" - Les Claypool

Lucas Durand

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Re: Anyone here working on any interesting building projects?
« Reply #121 on: November 18, 2013, 01:03:14 AM »
Also, architects and homeowners have been requesting a shell of foam over the whole structure to create a thermal break.  The call it a continuous envelope.  I'm not sold on the airtight idea, I like houses to breathe.
Hi JayW,
Actually, through a lot of experimentation and forensics work building scientists have compiled a large body of evidence that the expression "build tight and ventilate right" is the best way to approach modern construction for both energy efficiency and also durability.

As Neven mentioned, a building envelope that leaks air, leaks energy.

Also, air transports far more water vapour into building assemblies than does diffusion of water vapour through building materials, so air leaks are also a major durability issue.
Interestingly, the durability concerns of air leakage aren't really an issue in the types of ancient farmhouses you described because (as you said) most are so poorly insulated that there is not usually enough of a temperature gradient across the envelope to cause any condensation within those assemblies.

I agree with you that a house needs to "breathe" but only in the sense that the various assemblies should be able to dry out by diffusion - preferably in both directions (to the inside and to the outside) depending on the ambient conditions.

Neven

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Re: Anyone here working on any interesting building projects?
« Reply #122 on: December 14, 2013, 11:34:23 PM »
Okay, we finished the green roof two weeks ago, here's the second round of images.

EPDM on sloped Styrofoam:



Drainage mats:



Where all the water goes to:



The sides of the roof are clad with larch planks, with a special aluminum profiled thing on top to prevent water from entering the construction on the sides:



Then a special mix of recycled roof tiles (50%), sandy loam (40%) and compost (10%) was brought by a truck and delivered on the roof. This was a good decision, although it cost more than making it ourselves, which would've been a mini-Herculean task.



On the sides you still see a white filter fleece that we laid on top of the drainage mats before the mix was delivered:



End result (that is, without next year's plants):







Now we're cladding the side walls of the roof with a larch construction. I don't want any screws to be visible, so have doubled my work load, but hopefully it will be worth it. I hope to have it finished by the end of the month.
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Neven

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Re: Anyone here working on any interesting building projects?
« Reply #123 on: January 13, 2014, 02:27:11 AM »
The larch cladding of the roof's side walls was finished just after New Year's Day. Here's the whole process on both sides:



and...



I'm currently insulating the shafts where piping for stuff like water and sewage come into the house. After that building stairs and insulating the roof with 32 cm of cellulose. I'll post images of the more interesting stuff wrt sustainable/green building.
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ccgwebmaster

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Re: Anyone here working on any interesting building projects?
« Reply #124 on: January 13, 2014, 02:58:45 AM »
I for one would be very interested in your nautical protection. I've always thought that the mobility offered could prove a huge asset in chaotic times.

This picture shows the sun setting as I headed offshore on what i guess passes for a maiden voyage (it was unsuccessful, more details at http://deusjuvat.wordpress.com/2014/01/07/a-slap-on-the-wrist-from-the-ocean/ for anyone interested). The vessel is messy as there wasn't even enough time to clear the decks before attempting to leave (this would have been attempted under way had things gone better).

I'll go back or forwards or both from this for this topic - I've got an awful lot of time and effort into this already and a lot of water already under the bridge. Once I relocate it will be easier as certain external factors that complicate things will no longer apply at that point. Remarkable luck permits a second attempt (while death was a relatively unlikely outcome, many possible outcomes for this particular trip amount to instant and total failure and several of those risk factors went about as extreme as possible without actually happening last try).

TerryM

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Re: Anyone here working on any interesting building projects?
« Reply #125 on: January 13, 2014, 08:41:41 AM »
ccg
Read your harrowing account. Don't be discouraged, sailboats are for sailing not for motoring ;>)
Your boat's bigger than anything I've ever sailed but once you get the rigging straitened out I think you'll find yourself wondering why you put so much effort into the FF propulsion system.
I've never found anything as thrilling as bending a little bit of the breeze to propel me wherever I wanted to go. I've never been in a sailing boat handled well without a sail being set & they're always better once the engine is turned off.
Terry

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Re: Anyone here working on any interesting building projects?
« Reply #126 on: January 14, 2014, 08:31:46 AM »
Read your harrowing account. Don't be discouraged, sailboats are for sailing not for motoring ;>)
Your boat's bigger than anything I've ever sailed but once you get the rigging straitened out I think you'll find yourself wondering why you put so much effort into the FF propulsion system.
I've never found anything as thrilling as bending a little bit of the breeze to propel me wherever I wanted to go. I've never been in a sailing boat handled well without a sail being set & they're always better once the engine is turned off.

Well - being up a river right now and having no idea if I could sail something this big out of it (the river isn't very wide in places) means wanting the engine for at least short range maneuvering. Due to life challenges the engine room spent almost two years being flooded with rain water. The previous owner used a cockpit deck leak as a pretext to go on board to (most likely him) steal the main winches (still not replaced, rather expensive) without anyone on site thinking to inform me about anything during an absence inflicted in large part by a divorce (also part of the unhelpful background circumstances) despite my asking about the boat during that time (and paying for storage).

The same leak took around 5 minutes to locate and resolve when I finally got to the boat again (a couple of years ago now - this project is in the 7th year now if you include time spent saving). By then the engine had taken damage - engine mounts and oil pan were effectively destroyed by galvanic corrosion - the transmission was suspect - the batteries (such as they were) were trash and the starter was destroyed. It's lucky that the engine and transmission are still functional at all, let alone solid enough to run for the ~14 hours they did last trip. A sharp blow from a hammer was required to get the transmission to initially find forwards gear after several changes of fluid amidst an hour of running in reverse to warm it up...

I have every intention of running on the sails next time (which would mean I likely have enough diesel right now for years). I've got whatever portion of ~2 months I don't spend working on non boat stuff to get the rig operational and improve as much else as possible (subject to a budget ~nil).

I have no idea how this thing will sail yet - I suspect it will be slower and duller than the dinghy I taught myself on, but I went splat so many times in my first year with that thing that it's probably just as well (it was a 2 man dinghy, overpowered for one in stronger winds). With four sails (up to five if I get a fisherman sail) to trim instead of two - I should in theory have a lot of options for how I balance the vessel under sail.

I'm hoping to get some sort of sheet to tiller self steering operational (although the main steering is hydraulic there will be a manual tiller too once I fabricate it) or the risk is 4-5 days of near continuous steering for the first sailing trip... wouldn't really be my idea of fun.

JimD

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Re: Anyone here working on any interesting building projects?
« Reply #127 on: February 10, 2014, 03:48:19 PM »
Everyone knows about solar hot water and many about solar ovens for cooking, b ut here is something that a few of you might not have thought of and could find a use for.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/fredericton-man-builds-300-solar-furnace-decreases-heating-bill-1.2527065
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ghoti

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Re: Anyone here working on any interesting building projects?
« Reply #128 on: February 10, 2014, 05:14:19 PM »
Seems the CBC reports on systems like this every few years. Neat idea but much less effective than solar domestic hot water or PV and really quite expensive to buy if you aren't handy enough to build your own. South facing skylights probably provide more heating than these air systems as well.

I seriously considered building an air heating system but instead I have a skylight, evacuated tube hot water system and PV all over my roof. Other very important thing to note - in Canada sun angles are extremely low in the winter and hours of daylight very short. If the trees don't shade you your neighbour's house probably does and even when they don't it is more likely than not very cloudy and snowing :P The sun is finally reaching 30 degrees above the horizon at noon - for me an exciting milestone on the way toward spring.

JimD

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Re: Anyone here working on any interesting building projects?
« Reply #129 on: February 10, 2014, 06:11:39 PM »
ghoti

Fair points.  But knowing how to do this in the future, or even now if you are poor, could be very valuable.

You can do it for nothing almost.  It is just a matter of scavenging parts.  There will be lots of scavengable parts in the future.
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How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

Lucas Durand

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Re: Anyone here working on any interesting building projects?
« Reply #130 on: February 20, 2014, 08:10:44 PM »
A great resource for many different do-it-yourself solar project ideas:
http://www.builditsolar.com/

Neven

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Re: Anyone here working on any interesting building projects?
« Reply #131 on: February 20, 2014, 08:37:13 PM »
Very nice resource, Lucas, thanks.

I'm building a lot, but not so interesting lately. Making a staircase, insulating the roof, etc. Will report once I get to the more interesting stuff again next month.
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Lucas Durand

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Re: Anyone here working on any interesting building projects?
« Reply #132 on: February 20, 2014, 08:46:25 PM »
Hi Neven,
I am doing the same - building away but not very interesting.
I am also building stairs ;-)

TerryM

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Re: Anyone here working on any interesting building projects?
« Reply #133 on: February 21, 2014, 04:14:52 AM »
Lucas
Thanks for the link. No immediate projects but interesting stuff.
Terry

ghoti

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Re: Anyone here working on any interesting building projects?
« Reply #134 on: February 21, 2014, 07:48:43 PM »
Deciduous vines for the south side of my house are in my plans. Just hope I don't create an unmanageable situation. I just want to decrease the heating of the brick wall.

Neven

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Re: Anyone here working on any interesting building projects?
« Reply #135 on: February 25, 2014, 03:25:45 PM »
OK, I think I have a new interesting building project, but I'd like to hear some of your thoughts on it.

Maybe the thing that has bothered me most is the lack of ecoblahblah alternatives for the bathroom, specifically the shower portion of it. I'm not a fan of tiles because it takes huge amounts of energy to create them and once they're stuck to something, they can't be re-used. And it has to be done right, with special sheets behind them to prevent unseen damage because of leaks (pretty important in a wooden house). One thing I really hate, is that all corners need to be sealed with silicone. It never holds for very long, gets mildew on it, and is a PITA to replace. And to replace it you need to buy a tube of which you'll only use one quarter. In other words: completely unsustainable stuff.

So no tiles, and no silicone, that's the goal. I have to say I've been driving myself insane with this one, for months on end, racking my poor little brain and searching for alternatives.  I thought about buying a used stainless steel tank, make holes in it, and use that as a shower cabin. But it's very difficult to find one in the right size, for the right price, I don't know how to get it in the house (heavy!) and I don't have the tools to make holes and entrance.

Another alternative would be to buy a used plastic of fiberglass tank. There are some on offer because Austria contains a couple of wine regions, but they're not so cheap, they often look dirty (from wine residue or mold), difficult to get the right size, and fiberglass isn't such a healthy material to work with.

I did find a plan B, which consists of a simple Komplettdusche, a complete shower cabin, without tiles or silicone:



It's not so cheap, it comes with all kinds of extra water wasting nonsense like big shower heads, massage jets, and I'm not sure about cleaning it and its longevity, but it's a plan B.

Still, I want to come up with something better! I thought about using some kind of plaster, or making a cabin out of ferro-cement, but I fear it won't be waterproof. Maybe use special boards, but you still have to seal the corners.

This morning, under the shower, I finally came up with something that might work, that's non-expensive, pretty ecologically and energetically sound, and I have some experience with. Earlier in this thread I posted about the green roof we built back in November, using an EPDM sheet to seal the roof. I was very impressed by this material. It's flexible and supposed to be super-strong. Apparently it can remain functional for 50 years, just lying bare on a roof.

So my Eureka-moment today involved building a U-shaped cabin out of OSB, line the bottom and ceiling with EPDM, with the sheet turned up on the sides, overlapped by an EPDM sheet that runs around the three walls. The sheets are glued to the walls and each other with glue or primer. For intrusions like water pipes I can use special EPDM sleeves that I already use for cables through walls and roof to make them airtight.

Cons: Can it be cleaned easily? How dirty can it get (calcification)? My wife isn't thrilled about a black shower.

Pros: Cheap (should be doable under € 200), relatively easy to build, custom-made, relatively sustainable materials, very sturdy, fun project!

I'd make it in a such way that it's easy to replace when not working. But let me re-iterate how annoyed I am that so far I haven't been able to find any eco-alternatives for bathroom stuff! Maybe I haven't looked hard enough.

OK, I'm going to spend some time looking at the cons of this EPDM shower cabin today. Any ideas would be very welcome. But, of course, I'm going to do it.  ;) ;D
« Last Edit: February 25, 2014, 03:30:52 PM by Neven »
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Neven

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Re: Anyone here working on any interesting building projects?
« Reply #136 on: February 25, 2014, 03:49:59 PM »
Found this after a cursory look:

Cleaning

According to this list, EPDM has no problems with soap, washing soda or vinegar, which are our primary cleaning products. It does have a problem with oils, petroleum-based as well as natural, like coconut or olive oil. My wife won't be thrilled about that, as she likes to put that stuff in her hair, etc.

Speaking of which...

Black

Apparently EPDM can be painted with a white liquid coating. That way we would contribute to a much needed albedo increase, a bit like the white roof project.  ;) Edit: I just found a white EPDM sheet.

I'll have to look into this some more. Could be an option for the walls and ceiling.

Another possible con could be the frequent treading, but again, EPDM is said to be extremely sturdy and flexible. And I would have to find a water-proof way of drainage...

edit: Thought of another possible con: fire-retardants and/or other stuff in the EPDM.
« Last Edit: February 25, 2014, 04:46:34 PM by Neven »
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Martin Gisser

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Re: Anyone here working on any interesting building projects?
« Reply #137 on: February 25, 2014, 07:26:49 PM »
A standalone shower cabin looks like an excellent idea. Seen such a thing several times in old/historic houses in Regensburg. It's the standard method to cheaply and quickly upgrade or extend unsuitable building fabric.

TerryM

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Re: Anyone here working on any interesting building projects?
« Reply #138 on: February 25, 2014, 09:18:09 PM »
FWIW
A few bath designs that I'd thought highly of over the years included a drying porch accessible directly from the tub/shower facility. Provides a path for removing excess humidity most of the year & the luxury of slowly drying in the sun.
A motor home I once had used the whole bathroom as a shower stall, the shower head on a flexible hose made for very easy cleanup of the room.
A large wooden drain grid fitted to the floor might save wear and tear on the EPDM as well as providing a non-slip surface for wet feet.
Removing excess humidity before it causes problems has to be a priority in a home that's as tight as yours. Difficult to do without relying on a fan.
Terry

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Re: Anyone here working on any interesting building projects?
« Reply #139 on: February 26, 2014, 12:58:54 AM »
OK, I think I have a new interesting building project, but I'd like to hear some of your thoughts on it.

OK, I'm going to spend some time looking at the cons of this EPDM shower cabin today. Any ideas would be very welcome. But, of course, I'm going to do it.  ;) ;D

Neven,

Anything you might use for a shower will be it’s last application, so considering what is a throwaway item is really irrelevant , I might think.
One of the tings I do is water control projects (design & construction) and building maintenance. From these commercial applications I’ve been requested to do residential re-modeling, usually from office workers where I’m working.
I’ve done several bathroom’s including mine.
If it’s a simple shower stall you’re after, that’s a no brainier.
There is simply no better material than tile. For your application one might consider a  simple 36” wide tile wall, with three glass sides.
I would agree, no silicone, silicone is a horrible product that does not work.
You might consider 12” tiles with a cement board (DuRock) backing. Of course this DuRock which comes in 3x5ft pieces or 4x8ft pieces would need to be glued and nailed to the framing (use 2” galv nails). Durock can be easily cut either by scribing or with a sawzall. And your right about grouting, it’s a traditional nonsense….mastic, which would be used to glue the tiles to the durock would also be used in place of the grout. Simply apply enough to have it forced out of the seams when you place the tile on the wall. Mastic is water proof, does not hold moister and thus does not perpetuate mold.  If forward planning is implamented you would only need to cut the top row of tiles. Forget the tile spacers, use as little space as possible between the tiles.  If this is done right there will be no water intrusion at all, important in a stick framed house. The rest of the room could be done with green board, a sheet rock product used in water rooms. That, in combination with bathroom primer and paint (bathroom paint is a specialty product) would provide a water friendly room. If ventalation is a concern, I use a solar powered fan that’s normally available through a marine store like http://search.defender.com/?expression=solar+vent&x=8&y=8 you’ll find them adequate and in the price range from $50 to $150.

If you need to seal a seam against water penatration Solar Seal 900 is the best…it cures to a semi hard state, it works and will continue to work for 50 years. The only down side to Solar Seal 900 is that it is a oil based product, And contains VOC.

Best,
Bligh


Neven

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Re: Anyone here working on any interesting building projects?
« Reply #140 on: February 26, 2014, 10:49:49 AM »
A standalone shower cabin looks like an excellent idea. Seen such a thing several times in old/historic houses in Regensburg. It's the standard method to cheaply and quickly upgrade or extend unsuitable building fabric.
Yes, but it's Plan B for now.  :)

A large wooden drain grid fitted to the floor might save wear and tear on the EPDM as well as providing a non-slip surface for wet feet.
That would be a good idea. I've been discussing this with my wife, as the floor is probably the most vulnerable part. I'm going to look for solutions for regular showers. I'm sure there is stuff on the market for this.

Quote
Removing excess humidity before it causes problems has to be a priority in a home that's as tight as yours. Difficult to do without relying on a fan.
Yes. Of course, the bathroom has a small window (facing North). We're also planning to use a lot of loam plaster in the bathroom, except in areas where there can be direct contact with water, around sinks and bathtubs etc, where we'll use tiles. Loam can take up quite a bit of moisture and then slowly release it again, see for instance this graph:



They increased relative humidity from 50% to 80% and then measured how much grams per square meter is taken up.

But I'm thinking about installing a fan as well, except I don't know yet where to lead the moisture to. Not outside, because I don't want to breach the walls or roof. Perhaps to a water drain, so that moisture condenses and runs off?

Anything you might use for a shower will be it’s last application, so considering what is a throwaway item is really irrelevant , I might think.

If it’s a simple shower stall you’re after, that’s a no brainier.
There is simply no better material than tile. For your application one might consider a  simple 36” wide tile wall, with three glass sides.
Thanks, bligh8, but I really want to find an alternative to tiles. I already have a plan B, but want to explore this EPDM idea I have. Perhaps in the end I'll surrender and opt for tiles (can always do that, of course, if the EPDM doesn't function well), so your info will be useful then.

The stall will be in a niche. I'll make a design in Sketchup and post the images here later this week.
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Laurent

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Re: Anyone here working on any interesting building projects?
« Reply #141 on: February 26, 2014, 11:59:42 AM »
Some of you have already tryed the tadelak ?
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tadelakt
Seems very good, natural materials, quite cheap. Certainly difficult to do...?

TerryM

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Re: Anyone here working on any interesting building projects?
« Reply #142 on: February 26, 2014, 10:21:52 PM »
tadelak sounds like a wonderful product - totally new to me.


Perhaps a large solar fan in the small window. Excess humidity can cause big problems & nobody wants bathroom odors wafting through the house. Counting on condensation to lower humidity won't work, it needs to be vented. Bathrooms should be kept at a negative pressure to avoid these problems. Even in the Nevada desert the Casino's must vent at least 5% of their already chilled air to keep things livable.


Terry

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Re: Anyone here working on any interesting building projects?
« Reply #143 on: February 26, 2014, 10:38:38 PM »
I have to admit to having very little experience in the matter, but it seems to me that using wood for the back of your shower is not out of the question. It is used for boats isn't it? A plywood panel with a good varnish maybe? keep some gap open between the panel and the actual wall of the room so if the panel gets damp your wall isn't damaged. There are shower trays which incorporate heat recovery, warming cold water as the warm shower water runs away, so your higher spend on that does some good.
The vent could also include heat recovery, condensation in the heat exchanger will improve heat transfer, making fresh air enter as warm as the humid air going out.

Neven

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Re: Anyone here working on any interesting building projects?
« Reply #144 on: February 26, 2014, 11:41:41 PM »
Some of you have already tryed the tadelak ?
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tadelakt
Seems very good, natural materials, quite cheap. Certainly difficult to do...?

I fear it's too difficult, but looks nice!

I have to admit to having very little experience in the matter, but it seems to me that using wood for the back of your shower is not out of the question. It is used for boats isn't it? A plywood panel with a good varnish maybe? keep some gap open between the panel and the actual wall of the room so if the panel gets damp your wall isn't damaged.


I'm not sure if wood would work. I have a friend who makes furniture and we discussed making a shower cabin out of larch, but I think it would look less and less welcoming very quickly. And I'm not sure about how water-proof it is, especially at the seams (which are always the problem areas in construction). Oh, and it would be mucho expensive.

My criteria simply are: ecological, sustainable, not too expensive. OK, I take back the simply;D

But EPDM more or less fulfills all of these criteria, and it's extremely waterproof to boot. It's the construction that complicates things. I can do the three walls with one continuous sheet, but how to connect to the bottom? I can use a special glue, if the bottom is also EPDM. I also thought about asking the local smith to make a stainless steel container, about 3-4 inches high, and glue the EPDM to that. But EPDM on EPDM would probably be a stronger connection, and stainless steel isn't that cheap...

Quote
There are shower trays which incorporate heat recovery, warming cold water as the warm shower water runs away, so your higher spend on that does some good.
The vent could also include heat recovery, condensation in the heat exchanger will improve heat transfer, making fresh air enter as warm as the humid air going out.

Yes, I looked into this a bit (here's a very cool looking product called Joulia), but it doesn't really pay off, especially as we already shower a lot less than we used to (big compliment to my girls, I'm the most wasteful now) and have an extremely efficient shower head (4 liters per minute).
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JimD

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Re: Anyone here working on any interesting building projects?
« Reply #145 on: February 27, 2014, 05:13:57 AM »
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

Neven

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Re: Anyone here working on any interesting building projects?
« Reply #146 on: February 27, 2014, 11:27:42 AM »
Have you looked at this kind of option?

http://premiercarebathing.com/walk-in-baths/oversize-walk-in-baths/laguna/

I did. Too expensive, although I'd love to have one. Then I'd be all set for the next 40-50 years.  :D
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bkpr

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Re: Anyone here working on any interesting building projects?
« Reply #147 on: March 05, 2014, 09:38:42 PM »
For those wanting a inexpensive, bullet proof propagation greenhouse, for seed to seed operation, Visit southernoregongreenhousesupplyinc.com.

It's based on re-purposing a 10'X20', 8 legged steel carport frame.

E-mail there or to me here, and we will give away directions on how to reproduce it, We have designed this model for AC climate controls, as well as passive aspiration, if AC is impractical, or not wanted.

Parts can be had all over, but in a pinch, yes we will ship what you may not find locally. The first one we build five years ago, still works to this day, and is where we are propagating this year's starts, a lot of it, saved seed.

To those thinking of adding a sun room or greenhouse type of add on to their home, be cautious. 

The humidity these can create can be drawn into the living space and create humidity problems, exampled by mold, mildew, fungi, dry wrought etc.  Use of a temp/humidistat digital device be used. Modest in cost, and can give day time high as well as night time low. Very helpful. 

Happy growing
bkpr

Neven

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Re: Anyone here working on any interesting building projects?
« Reply #148 on: March 06, 2014, 12:03:21 AM »
To those thinking of adding a sun room or greenhouse type of add on to their home, be cautious. 

The humidity these can create can be drawn into the living space and create humidity problems, exampled by mold, mildew, fungi, dry wrought etc.  Use of a temp/humidistat digital device be used. Modest in cost, and can give day time high as well as night time low. Very helpful.
That's interesting, and I'll research that properly before making any decisions on where to position the greenhouse. After we're done with the house, there are three further projects on the menu: Chicken coop, root cellar and greenhouse. I have all kinds of potential combinations (also with the house) in mind, but not sure about anything yet, except for some of the materials.

Small update on relatively cheap and sustainably built shower cabin:

I don't think I want to have EPDM on the bottom, as it's very difficult to get the corners right. I thought about buying a plastic or metal container (used in garages to catch oil, etc), but have two problems: 1) difficult to connect the EPDM to plastic materials like polypropylene, and 2) where does the water go to? A hole can be made, but how do you attach the siphon to it?

So now I'm thinking about buying a (used) shower tray, because that has a built-in siphon. And instead of letting the underside of the EPDM flap over the shower tray and glue them together (I hate gluing stuff, because materials should be kept separated as much as possible), I'm thinking about flapping the EPDM under the OSB panel it's mounted on, and then put the construction on the shower tray, and clamp both together.

To clarify I've made a very quick drawing to show to my wife:



This is something I could test in a miniature version, to see how waterproof it is. Not sure when I'll have time though...

But I'll report. Sounds like an interesting building project to me. Should be doable under 200 euros.
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JimD

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Re: Anyone here working on any interesting building projects?
« Reply #149 on: March 06, 2014, 05:58:43 PM »
Neven

Over the lifespan of a shower design I think the clamping idea is going to be very prone to leakage and problems.  I think I would avoid that configuration.

To help provide some guidance I showed your ideas to my wife who's profession before she retired was working for various large scale home builders (600+ houses per year) as the warranty manager.  This means that she is an expert in construction materials and techniques and spent 25 years organizing work crews to fix problems with how houses were assembled.

Her response is that you absolutely should not do what you are showing in your drawing.  It is guaranteed to have problems with leakage around where you are clamping and even more important is that you just cannot put osb board in a bathroom as the inner wall condensation problem will eventually result in the glue in the osb board dissolving and the osb board will turn into mush. 

Your inner shower wall must use a material that is highly moisture resistant.  The only thing to use for long life is cement board. You can used 'greenboard' a water resistant wallboard for the rest of the bathroom if you like but it is 2nd rate.  Nothing else unless you go to block or cement walls.  Tile is the best option for long life but expensive.

If I were you I would consider the following option.  Line the entire shower area with cement board (it does not have to be thick).  Skim coat it with a thin set mortar making sure that all joints are sealed.  Make sure it is smooth.  Coat that with a high quality water proof epoxy paint, marine paint or special urethane paint of an appropriate color.  Two coats.   See the paint experts on your selection and make sure you take into account safety as some of these paints require respirators be used when applying.  People have done this and it will last a long time.  You will need to repaint it at least every 10 years.  Be especially diligent with where you meet the shower pan if you are using one.  You could also form and make the shower pan out of cement and blend it right into the cement walls and then paint the floor as well.  I have done this with making my own shower pan and walls and then I tiled myself.  It is expensive.

Your wife especially and you as well I am sure are going to want this area to look NICE.  NO one wants to use a scummy looking shower and it is your house that you are going to live in forever after all.
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein