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What is Hybrid Adobe?
An Overview of Our Workshops that Focuses on the Slickrock, Colorado Home Addition Project
In the process of building a sustainable and somewhat experimental home addition in western Colorado, I have been offering workshops and seminars on Hybrid Adobe which have been extremely successful both in attendance and enthusiasm. It seems the time has come for this very simple and inexpensive building method and I am excited to continue our seminar and workshop series.
Following is a summary of the work on Hybrid Adobe to get you up to speed on what is currently happening with our education and building programs on alternative and sustainable building. We are holding seminars and workshops that teach how easy it is to build with Hybrid Adobe. Workshops are scheduled in various west coast and North American locations, and during the summer and fall at our Slickrock, Colorado property located in the Four Corners region. We are near the Utah border between: Canyonlands, Arches and Mesa Verde National Parks. Contact us for workshop details.
Hybrid Adobe is a cutting-edge material with many applications including building, landscaping, sculpture, and insulation. Volunteers and workers in community are building low-cost, energy-efficient homes out of this material you can make on site. The components include recyclable and reusable materials (including newspapers, junk mail and waste paper), water, plant fibers, clay and a binder, such as Portland cement. The method is simple. You create a paper pulp in a mixer (similar to a large kitchen blender), blend in earth and perhaps cement (as a strengthening and bonding agent), plant fibers (including herbs such as medicinal sage or eucalyptus) and even natural color tint. Then you pour the adobe into forms to dry. The Hybrid Adobe dries in three days to three weeks and is then mortared into place with more Hybrid Adobe and can be sheathed in fibered adobe. Hybrid Adobe can also be used to create sculptures, garden walls, and furniture. It cuts easily with a saw once it is dry.
Hybrid Adobe is non-toxic, flexible for greater earthquake resistance, and best of all fire-proof. Compressive strength tests range anywhere from 600 to 2800 psi for this family of materials, depending on the blend. Tensile strength is extremely high due to the multi-directional nature of the paper fibers. Wall and panels can be reinforced with bamboo, red willow, or metal acting as rebar. There is no waste and grey-water is very suitable when mixing your batches of material. Walls can be left unsealed for maximum breathability or sealed with latex paint, weatherseal or non-toxic material such as linseed oil or prickly pear mucilage.
Since Hybrid Adobe is so easy, cheap and insulative (a 12" wall is rated at R24-R33 depending on the blend), it is perfect for do-it-yourself material for home builders or communities working together to complete a series of buildings. A person working alone could build a small dome in under a month. Hybrid Adobe panels can also be applied to the interior or exterior of existing structures. This gives the building a new aesthetic and improves structural strength while increasing its insulation value, reducing the energy needlessly wasted on heating and cooling.
Another reason the building method is appealing is that the materials are so light-weight and the procedure so simple that elders, children, under-served, and even homeless people can learn to build Hybrid Adobe shelters. Part of my intention in offering these seminars is to spread this simple low-tech method to people who are normally prohibited either financially or physically from building or buying their own house. When possible, Itravel to developing areas in Latin America to give the information away to local people who lack homes or live in sub-standard housing, This will empower elders and women to create their own beautiful housing.
The Hybrid Adobe method allows for incredible flexibility and creativity, as our ongoing project, near Slickrock, Colorado, demonstrates. This experimental hybrid, passive solar building combines papercrete (paper and cement building blocks), fibered adobe (paper and clay blocks), Hybrid Adobe (a fibered adobe/papercrete blend with plant fibers, herbs and glass bottles) and papercrete-covered strawbale, (which is much cheaper, easier and more energy efficient than current strawbale coverings). The building itself and our workshops demonstrate the applications of each.
We are using cedar post and beam as an example of a code-worthy building and to support the headers over the large windows. Hybrid Adobe and papercrete are structurally sound for load-bearing walls, and do not necessarily require and underlying wood or steel framing. The overall dimensions of the building are roughly 17-foot wide, 30-foot long. The ceiling is 13-foot high in the center with salvaged cedar logs reused from a 60-year old building. Since you can cut Hybrid Adobe with a all types of saws including chainsaws and handsaws, electrical wiring and plumbing can beadded after the walls are built by cutting grooves in the walls, insterting the utilities in and reapplying Hybrid Adobe plaster over them.
There are few straight lines in the design -- the walls are curved and the corners rounded. We used bottles and large pickle jars for storage of small items within the wall, and to allow light through. We are sculpting built-in shelves and niches directly into the walls, and a solarium with curved windows. One of the beds is set on a shelf extending outside the structure with curved glass above to provide an uninterrupted view of the amazing Colorado starry nights. The clear glass bottles in the walls have Christmas lights stuffed inside them, so that the whole wall lights up with a gentle diffused ambient light, similar to candle light.
The building is made almost entirely out of recycled or salvaged materials, including the paper and bottles, as well as the windowpanes and door jambs. The hand-dug hole created for harvesting the clay to make the Hybrid Adobe will become a fountain and pond. The only material purchases have been for Portland cement, gasoline to power the pickup used to tow the huge mixer, screws, other hardware, and miscellaneous small items. In fact, the budget for the entire 550 square-foot home addition is under $2,500. That's around $5.00 per square foot to build including the foundation. By mostly working together in barter situations we have spent only $400 US so far for labor costs, mostly for one friend who helped pour the foundation.
To attend a workshop or seminar, please contact us in advance. Partial scholarships based on need are available for kids, school groups, students, and elders. We don't like to turn anyone away from learning about this important material. Many thanks go out to the wonderful volunteers and partners who have participated in our workshop projects.
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