Proposal for free creative commons natural home designs.
Wiki Natural Houses: free, open source, downloadable PDF and CAD files so everyone can build their own low cost home.

I’ve been exchanging ideas with Jason in the UK about an affordable housing concept. For background information on Wikihouses, watch Alastair Parvin’s videos here and here.

Wikihouses: What Alastair Parvin is saying is 95% spot-on in my opinion. I agree about architecture by everyone, for everyone, but I’m not a fan of plastic houses since they offgas toxic fumes and lack the beauty and properties of natural materials. Factory fabrication makes more sense for smaller consumer items such as furniture, etc. in my opinion. Plus, there’s no real need to factory fabricate parts if you use naturally available local materials such as wood poles and straw bales. Most people can find bales and wood poles more easily than CNC machinery. Houses of natural materials can be round, domed, organic shaped, square or rectangular. They can look any way you want. (See my Earthbag House Plans site for lots of options.)

How about doing a Wiki Natural House! Free plans, community input, super low cost, nontoxic natural materials, DIY friendly, optimized designs, passive solar, superinsulating, etc. Natural materials better lend themselves to creative designs. We want to avoid standardized ticky-tacky homes like US suburbs. Instead, build interesting yet simple houses. Simple roundhouses, for example, like I’m describing can be built in one day! (It’s already been done.)

What’s needed to jump start Wiki Natural Houses is a set of free high quality building details — very efficient systems for building foundations, post and beam, roofs, earthbag benches, etc. There are lots of ways of doing things. The challenge is to focus on optimized systems that are do-it-yourself friendly and ultra low cost. The dome home in France would be a good goal to shoot for: $4,000 for a small, simple home… say 2 bedroom, one bath. The cost will be higher if it’s code approved, of course.

A lot of this building detail work has already been done and is freely available on our Natural Building blog. Search for post and beam built with standard hardware, gravel bag foundations, external pinning, earthen floors, pallet floors, compression rings, reciprocal roofs, etc.

The main sticking point is code versus non code designs. Trying to meet code is a slippery slope for multiple reasons. Codes vary from place to place, wood must be officially graded by approved inspectors (that rules out poles from a local forest), etc. etc. That said, I think we should work towards a code approved design since most people live in areas with building codes. Those without codes can use lower cost, simpler methods as explained on our blog.

On a related note, I’ve been corresponding with someone who wants to create a large wiki type natural building training project. Their focus will be on open source training materials that provide sufficient info so people don’t need to buy books or take expensive training programs and workshops. It would be very exciting to see both projects brought to fruition.

I think we should design and build a house for you [Jason in the UK]. That would motivate you and provide a case study for others to emulate. Ideally, it would also meet lots of other people’s needs. No point in building a one-off design that no one else wants. So part of your task is identifying what people really want in terms of size, shape, costs, etc.

I would like to use the dome home in France as a starting point, except I would like to do roundhouses instead of domes, and see a 6′ wide patio door on every room plus more windows for solar gain. Omit the skylights because they tend to leak and cause overheating.

You don’t have to be a building expert to do this. Countless people have built their own homes, even in code approved areas. You just need to take the time and effort to follow through on things and track down answers. I can do the technical work, all drawings and provide general guidance.

Note: This will be a rather long project since Jason is in university. He probably won’t start building until he has graduated.

For free plans currently available, click here.


Comments

Wiki Natural House Proposal — 5 Comments

  1. If Jason is going to build in the UK, then he will need heating from October to March, when the sun here is too low to provide reliable heat.

    A suggestion is that the plans should make available an option for builders who need additional heating in the winter, in the form of a rocket stove with benches. As the benches associated with a rocket stove are substantial, then the ideal situation would be to include these in a version of the plans from the start for those people who need them.

    In the UK, a conventional metal stove is likely to be expensive especially if new, so a rocket stove would keep the budget reasonable. Maybe Leslie and Ianto at rocketstoves.com could give advice about the above suggestion ?

    Regards, Phil

    • Projects like this take a long time and often get side tracked as life has a way of throwing curve balls at us. But people don’t have to wait for this project to be finished. Start your own project. Start a blog and share your plans and ideas. And remember most of the building details are here on our blog or elsewhere on the Internet for free.

  2. I love the concept of a DIY Natural House Wiki.

    Putting up house plans is an excellent beginning, and very important.

    I suggest that the potential is there to do more. A lot more. It also need not require a huge investment in time or web resources either.

    I offer as a concept model another website, http://www.diyelectriccar.com/

    That website is dedicated to diy construction. In their case, constructing your own electric car, and not a house. I encourage thinking about using many of their ideas in building a wiki AND DATABASE of Natural buildings.

    Note that website has a blog of articles highlighting various people’s projects and news of interest. (Kinda like this blog site, but for electric cars.) So that portion already exists and doesn’t need any alterations. Owen and Kelly are doing a fantastic job already.

    Look at the menu at the top of the diyelectriccar page. Take particular note of the GARAGE option. Trust me… look closely at their garage. Then consider what that database might look like for diy and natural houses instead of cars.

    Imagine a listing of DIY home building projects, where anyone anywhere can input a listing for their own project. They can input relevant data about costs, type of construction, location information, where they acquired materials, etc. They also can provide a link to their own personal webpage, blog, youtube account, etc about their own project.

    I don’t know what web service diyelectric car is using to implement that database of cars, but I suspect that same service, or one similar could be implemented as a companion to this blog site.

    The content of that database would be added by everyone. Everyone building a home that they are proud of and want to show the world could add their own listing.

    Imagine a prospective diy natural home builder sorting that database by … say for example earthbag houses, under $5000, in rainy climates, with 2 bedrooms, no building codes. Or what about strawbale houses, in cold climates, building code approved, 3 bedrooms, earthquake zone, sorted by cost from cheapest to most expensive. See the power?

    Now imagine another tab on the menu bar. Another database, very similar to the GARAGE or the diy house database, but this database is COUNTIES WITH FEW OR NO BUILDING CODES. Instead of a blog post with lots and lots of comments, imagine organizing all that information, and allowing the individuals commenting to input what they learn about their own respective counties. Any reader of this website could enter a county into the database and fill in as many fields as they have knowledge about. Appropriate fields for septic codes, composting toilets allowed, whether rubble trench foundations are allowed, permit fees, etc. etc. etc. Let the readers of this website input the appropriate data.

    After viewing the GARAGE on the diyelectriccar website, take a look at their wiki.

    Again, imagine that wiki containing information about building natural houses instead of electric cars. Everything from plans and drawings, to instructions to build a reciprocal roof frame. How to select a site. How to grade a site. As the wiki grows, people with expertise on every aspect of building can contribute and update the wiki. Someone with a lot of experience on green roofs might write that section, while someone with experience on pallet wood shingles, might write a section about how to do that.

    Next thing you know, if enough people contribute, you have a full encyclopedia about how to build a house, complete with links to projects that have been built, videos, and photos of projects during construction and after completion.

    For what it’s worth, I think that is a worthwhile model to think about in creating a wiki environment for natural building.

    Note… it puts the diy builder as the primary content supplier in a very organized and powerful way.

    Nobody should expect a full featured website and wiki to be written in a day, but every day as each person adds his/her own little bit, the knowledge base grows and grows.

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