Ronin’s CORGANIX shipping container/earthbag hybrid design is gaining a lot of traction. His post yesterday at Renaissance Ronin Blog triggered 33 emails and mirrored content on about 30 sites. This is a new approach for earthbaggers that’s well worth considering. In this case, Ronin is selling the ISBUs with a pre-finished kitchen and bath. He estimates it would take a plumber and electrician about one hour each to hook up the utilities. You’d have a safe, disaster-resistant shelter to live in (check local codes first) while the surrounding walls and roof were built. Creative designs with workable solutions and excellent value like this one are bound to catch on.
The following discussion provides a snapshot of the main questions people are asking.
I’ve been reading about your Hybrid (Earthbag/ISBU) house everywhere! It seems that it’s caught on like wildfire. MANY of the lists and forums I participate in have threads talking about it.
But something still troubles me. If you build a home with a STEEL SPINE (ISBU) as you say, isn’t the achieved r-value STILL a concern? Isn’t that box still an oven?
Dirty hands but active mind…
Dear “Dirty hands”…
I suppose it’s better to have dirty hands and an active mind… than the other way around… ;)
Here’s the deal;
While the “heart” of the Hybrid Corganix home is an ISBU, it’s completely surrounded by earthbags, except on the ends. Those exposed ends are insulated using SPF to achieve extremely high R values. We’re talking about insulating less than about 1/6th of the shipping container, based on a 20′ High Cube. That greatly reduced surface area requiring insulation saves the home builder a TON of money.
Further, the TOP of the ISBU is covered with high-performance SIPs (Structual Insulated Panels) to insure that it performs exactly as required.
The real meat in this hybrid home is in the earthbag system. You see, the ISBU is just “a box filled with goodies” that is incorporated into the home as a “housing system”. The use of the ISBU allows us to “preassemble” the guts of the house so that you don’t have to. You “set it and forget it”… (I know, I know… too many late nights watching infomercials. Sorry, RONCO!) ;)
The idea behind the Earthbag/ISBU home is to use the earth as insulation. This is a little confusing to some, but here goes. The standard use of the term “R-value” doesn’t necessarily apply to earthbag homes in the way most people are taught to believe it would. Simply put, R-value represents the resistance of any given material to it’s conductivity and transfer of heat.
Homes constructed using Earth utilize all that created “thermal mass” to store the heat during the day and then… release it at night. That earthen wall structure just becomes a simplified battery used for heating and cooling. And earthbag home acts like a drive gear in a machine… it keeps the temperature fluctuations within the structure relatively small (and sometimes even constant), provided you use somebody like Dr. Owen Geiger to help you with the math.
In fact, I rarely see Owen incorporating anything that even remotely resembles AC into his earthbag homes. Because of the caliber of the design work, AC and Heat are rarely required.
And, if you get out on the ‘Net and start asking earthbag home owners the hard questions, they’ll tell you that they rarely have power bills relating to heating and cooling that approach a single Benjamin. At least that’s been my experience.
Again, it’s a testament to good design and using the materials in the way that they work the best.
Here’s Owen’s response:
I agree completely with Ronin. The earthbags will shelter and protect the ISBU except for the ends of the container which are insulated with SPF. About the only thing I can add is to look into insulated earthbag houses if you’re planning to build in cold climates. See my article How to Build an Insulated Earthbag House for details.