December 24, 2008

December 22, 2008

Aviation Grade Cob

I spent last week helping with a multifaceted project. A beautiful and innovative home renovation. The family has built a rocket stove in their downstairs, which was once a tiny crawl space. The stove's chimney travels up through an earthen bench on their upstairs porch. When I arrived, I helped build the wall that connects the bench and chimney to the lovely ferrocement roof. This curved shell wall, made with wire wattle and a super efficient light weight cob mix, will be the new exterior wall to their now expanded bedroom. Kata Polano was the project manager of this Autumn's natural building activation. We also applied an earthen plaster on the side of the house that now it has a functional straw clay insulation. I will update with photos once we have applied a finish plaster to the wall and bench in January.

December 12, 2008


I have wanted to go to Cal-Earth for the last 15 years. While taking a passive solar design class in college, I saw Nader Khalili's book "Ceramic Houses and Earth Architecture" sitting on a desk. It was the first natural building book I had come across and I was entranced. I was concurrently taking a clay sculpture class and the idea of creating a ceramic house to live in fulfilled so much of what I had been searching for. Also, my mom has exposed me to some of Nader's translations of Rumi poetry and his book "Racing Alone", which I love. Last week my friend Ed and I joined Wes and Marge of the Santa Barbara Permaculture Guild on their yearly trek to visit Cal-Earth.
I have posted many of my photos here. Enjoy!

Wes and Iliona Khalili

The bag and wire set up for construction


These earth balls provide shade and cooling for the building

Didn't expect to see this kind of construction but was pleased. An earth bag house constructed with double garage doors! The next two photos are of the interior of this house. Modern possibilities.

Here you can see an intelligent way to cool a building.
The "scoop" on the left (above) gathers wind into the building, wind goes into a channel and enters the house through the shutter-like doors pictured below. It cools the building and leaves through the "scoop" on the right.

You can see the contrast above of Cal-Earth's location
and the encroaching suburban development.

I can't get over how wonderful this idea is. Ceramic window forms!
This is definitely going on the list for a must have in my house.

Awesome collection of arch forms

Some talented potters live on-site

Many beautiful models

And now for a part I am very, very excited about....

A video of Mike, one of the on-site potters, explaining the process of firing a structure.

The photos that follow should help to clarify some of what he is talking about.

The "clay pegs" to be used in the firing process

Hopefully a helpful diagram above. Here, the inner dome is the structure, the "t" shapes are the "clay pegs" and the outer line represents the insulative firing fabric he describes.

Mike shows me an earth oven he is building

At the end of the day Iliona Khalili taught me about the procedure and flavor of Iranian tea.
Truly delicious.