Green Building Archive


Summer Cooling Advice from the Author of The Passive Solar House

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

Not only are Chelsea Green authors experts in their fields, from organic farming to green building, they’re incredibly nice folks! Just last week we got an email from James Kachadorian including this article full of tips to help fight the extreme heat a lot of the nation is feeling.

So here they are, some passive solar strategies for keeping your home cool without frying the planet.

by James Kachadorian, Author: The Passive Solar House

With temperatures soaring across our country and heat records breaking on a daily basis, let’s consider the summer cooling aspects of a properly designed solar home. On the cover of my book, The Passive Solar House, one will find the words The Complete Guide to Heating and Cooling Your Home.

Is this an oxymoron? Most people only associate a passive solar home with heating. However a properly designed passive solar home can and will be cooler in the heat of the summer than a conventional home.

First let’s start outside, with proper siting and the strategic planting and placement of trees. The following two pictures illustrate what can be done with deciduous trees. When the leaves have dropped, the winter sun is allowed to penetrate through the bare branches to heat the home. When the trees have leafed out, the summer sun is blocked. We all know it’s a lot more comfortable to sit under a leafed out maple tree in summer than to sit in the open sun.


Winter

Summer

The trees in these pictures were all planted when the home was built.

Next, by siting the home to face true south, the summer south sun that does get to the home is so high in the sky that there is little to no penetration via the south windows and patio doors. The next picture shows the amount of sun penetration at solar noon on the June summer solstice. Not only does the sun penetrate the home just a few inches; but the high angle of incidence “bounces” most the sun’s heat away from the patio doors and windows.

Summer Solstice

However, this is not the case for east and west facing windows. These windows are important heat collectors in spring and fall but can be detrimental in summer. The reason being that the sun’s east-south-west sweep around the home is greater in summer. The next diagram shows how the “slice of the pie” gets greater from December to June. The south aperture goes from 106 degrees in December to 234.6 degrees in June at north latitude 40 degrees.

Sun Angles

Window treatments are effective in controlling east and west heat gain in summer. Keep in mind that the sun’s rays are almost perpendicular to east and west windows in summer making the heat gain far greater than what happens with the  south faced windows. The following diagram and photograph show how east and west windows can be shuttered to keep the morning and/or afternoon sun out of the home. Of course, these same Thermo-Shutters are used in winter to reduce heat loss at night.

Thermo-Shutters

Decorated Thermo-Shutters

So far we have seen how we can control the macro environment by proper siting and the use of deciduous trees. We have also seen how we can keep the morning and afternoon sun out of the home by utilizing window treatments.

Now let’s go inside the home and see what we can do to keep the home cool. The most obvious is proper insulation. Almost everyone understands the importance of roof and wall insulation in controlling heat.  So let’s move on to discuss the use of thermal mass and simple ventilation techniques.

Thermal mass is used in a solar home to absorb heat both winter and summer. In winter the sun’s heat is stored in the thermal mass during the day and then released to the home at night when the sun is no longer shining. If the thermal mass is sized properly, the home stays at a comfortable temperature day and night. My term for this is that the home is in Thermal Balance. Or, the home has thermal inertia. Too much thermal mass and you have a cave. Too little thermal mass and you end up with a hothouse.

In summer, if the thermal mass is sized correctly, by the time that the house heats up, the heat of the day is over. Because of this, a thermal lag has been built into the home. In summer, the technique is to ventilate the home at night and let the night’s cooler air displace the heat retained in the thermal mass.

The formally patented Solar Slab described in The Passive Solar House book effectively accomplishes these heat exchanges because air is allowed to pass through the mass. The following diagram illustrates the air flow.

Note the ventilator placed in the attic. By running this fan at night the cooler night air drawn into the home and reduces the temperature of the Solar Slab. The home is then ready to take on the heat of the next day.

There are areas of the country where all the techniques discussed will not be sufficient to control heat and humidity; and mechanical air conditioning is needed.  In these areas the return air to the central air conditioner (heat pump) is passed through the Solar Slab. This will pre-cool the air and constantly assist the central air conditioner. Experience has shown that size of the air conditioner can be reduced because of the pre-cooling of the returning house air. This is analogous to present day hybrid cars where gravity is used in tandem with the mechanical engine. Whereby gravity charges the battery when the hybrid decelerates.  In the solar home described, the engine is the central air conditioner unit and “gravity” is the Solar Slab thermal mass.

Hopefully this discussion has demystified and illustrated how a solar home can be cooler in summer than a conventional home.

Plastic? Problematic. An Excerpt from The Natural Building Companion?

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

Article reposted from Natural Home & Garden magazine.

Design, craftsmanship and environmental impact are important to Jacob Deva Racusin and Ace McArleton, authors of The Natural Building Companion (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2012). This comprehensive guide to integrative design and construction focuses on natural building materials that leave a gentler footprint than current practices. While the industrial development of plastic in many ways made life easier, plastic production impacts every phase of the life cycle. Learn about the harmful effects of plastic on human health and the environment in this excerpt from chapter 2, “Ecology.”

Harmful Effects of Plastic

A sea change in building technology arrived in the 1950s with the “Age of Plastic.” Industrial development of fossil fuels into a wide array of plastics changed formulations in everything from insulation to mechanicals to paint, and plastic is still a ubiquitous component of every building assembly. Unfortunately, the impacts of plastic production in its many forms are heavy in every phase of its life cycle. While there is a common general understanding that plastics have negative ecological associations, a closer understanding of what types of plastics create what types of impacts will empower us to improve the toxic footprint of our buildings.

Plastics are not inherently bad, and they have many redeeming ecological features; in fact, many of the techniques we utilize in our designs involve targeted use of plastic products. Their durability and low maintenance reduce material replacement, their light weight reduces shipping energy, their formulation into glue products allows for the creation of engineered lumber and sheet products from recycled wood, and their formulation into superior insulation and sealant products improves the energy performance of our structures.

The feedstock of plastic is primarily petroleum- or natural-gas-derived, although bio-plastics are making inroads in the overall market share of plastic products. Obvious issues emerge regarding the finite amount of available petroleum resources, as well as the pollution associated with oil extraction and refinement; the massive Gulf Coast oil spill of 2010 is only one of the more notorious of the many ecologically devastating accidents that are not frequently considered in addition to the standard pollution impacts of extraction and refinement, which are extensive.

Read more: http://www.naturalhomeandgarden.com/green-living/health/harmful-effects-of-plastic-ze0z1205zsch.aspx#ixzz1vYGQUuXg

Read the entirety of Chapter Two here.

The Natural Building Companion is available in our bookstore.

Nature does the heavy lifting – All Permaculture books on Sale

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

Nature doesn’t till. Nature doesn’t need chemical pesticides. And monoculture? Nature ain’t even trying to hear that noise. So why do we break our backs fighting uphill battles when we can just look at the way natural systems work and, basically, rip them off?  Take a look at the selection of books below that will tell you  about a little something called permaculture: it’ll save you money, time, and wear and tear on your precious back

 Save 25% on all our permaculture books!

 Think that gardening and planting is only for the spring time? Well, autumn is great time for those perennials and planning your sustainable garden. The concept is simple – everything should serve multiple functions and let nature do the heavy lifting. 

 

We’d also like to give a shout out to Permaculture Magazine Permaculture Institute. They’re great resources on learning more about creating permaculture ecosystems and gardens. 

 

Check out the titles below of our permaculture books on SALE for 25% off.

 

Happy reading from the folks at Chelsea Green Publishing.

 

(Image credit Paul Kearsley)

 

Gaia’s Garden, Second Edition A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture

The first edition of Gaia’s Garden sparked the imagination of America’s home gardeners, introducing permaculture’s central message: Working with Nature, not against her, results in more beautiful, abundant, and forgiving gardens. This extensively revised and expanded second edition broadens the reach and depth of the permaculture approach for urban and suburban growers.

“The world didn’t come with an operating manual, so it’s a good thing that some wise people have from time to time written them. Gaia’s Garden is one of the more important, a book that will be absolutely necessary in the world ahead.” - Bill McKibben

http://www.chelseagreen.com/bookstore/item/gaias_garden_second_edition:paperback


Creating a Forest Garden
Working with Nature to Grow Edible Crops
Creating a Forest Garden
 tells you everything you need to know – whether you want to plant a small area in your back garden or develop a larger plot. It includes advice on planning, design (using permaculture principles), planting and maintenance, and a comprehensive directory of over 450 trees, shrubs, herbaceous perennials, herbs, annuals, root crops and climbers – almost all of them edible and many very unusual.
http://www.chelseagreen.com/bookstore/item/creating_a_forest_garden:hardcover

Permaculture Pioneers Stories from the New Frontier Permaculture is much more than organic gardening. Arguably it is one of Australia’s greatest intellectual exports, having helped people worldwide to design ecologically sustainable strategies for their homes, gardens, farms and communities. This book charts a history of the first three decades of permaculture, through the personal stories of Australian permaculturists. From permaculture co-originator David Holmgren, to ABC TV’s Gardening Australia presenter Josh Byrne, the authors span the generations and the continent.For those whose lives have been changed by permaculture, this book provides a context for articulating and celebrating their own stories and experiences. http://www.chelseagreen.com/bookstore/item/permaculture_pioneers:paperback

Meat: A Benign ExtravaganceMeat is a groundbreaking exploration of the difficult environmental, ethical, and social issues surrounding the human consumption of animals, and the future of livestock in sustainable agriculture. It answers the question: should we be farming animals, or not? The answer is not simple; indeed, we must decrease the amount of meat we eat (both for the planet and for ourselves), and the industrial meat system is hugely problematic, but Simon Fairlie presents in-depth research in favor of small-scale, holistic, and integrated farming systems that include pastured, free-range livestock as the answer to the pro-meat or no-meat debate. This is a life-changing book. http://www.chelseagreen.com/bookstore/item/meat:paperback

Sepp Holzer’s Permaculture “After reading this book, all I can say is Sepp Holzer is a Superstar Farmer. Holzer turns out an absolutely remarkable volume and variety of food products, all without one smidgen of chemical fertilizer, and on land in Austria that an Illinois corn farmer would pronounce too marginal for agriculture. American farmers and gardeners will be particularly interested in Holzer’s raised beds-which are quite different in construction from ours in the U.S.-as well as his inventive water well irrigation systems, unique methods for integrating livestock into his fruit and vegetable gardens, and practical, low-labor way to grow mushrooms. A fascinating book for anyone who aspires to become the ultimate, champion professional of sustainable farming.” - Gene Logsdon, author of Holy Shit: Managing Manure to Save Mankind, and The Contrary Farmerhttp://www.chelseagreen.com/bookstore/item/sepp_holzers_permaculture:paperback

 Perennial Vegetables

There is a fantastic array of vegetables you can grow in your garden, and not all of them are annuals. InPerennial Vegetables the adventurous gardener will find information, tips, and sound advice on less common edibles that will make any garden a perpetual, low-maintenance source of food.

Perennial vegetables are perfect as part of an edible landscape plan or permaculture garden. Profiling more than a hundred species, with dozens of color photographs and illustrations, and filled with valuable growing tips, recipes, and resources, Perennial Vegetables is a groundbreaking and ground-healing book that will open the eyes of gardeners everywhere to the exciting world of edible perennials.

http://www.chelseagreen.com/bookstore/item/perennial_vegetables:paperback

 Edible Forest Gardens: 2 Volume Set

Edible Forest Gardens is a groundbreaking two-volume work that spells out and explores the key concepts of forest ecology and applies them to the needs of natural gardeners in temperate climates. Volume I lays out the vision of the forest garden and explains the basic ecological principles that make it work. In Volume II, Dave Jacke and Eric Toensmeier move on to practical considerations:concrete ways to design, establish, and maintain your own forest garden. Along the way they present case studies and examples, as well as tables, illustrations, and a uniquely valuable “plant matrix” that lists hundreds of the best edible and useful species.

http://www.chelseagreen.com/bookstore/item/edible_forest_gardens_2_volume_set:hardcover

 Food Not Lawns

Gardening can be a political act. Creativity, fulfillment, connection, revolution-it all begins when we get our hands in the dirt.

Food Not Lawns combines practical wisdom on ecological design and community-building with a fresh, green perspective on an age-old subject. Activist and urban gardener Heather Flores shares her nine-step permaculture design to help farmsteaders and city dwellers alike build fertile soil, promote biodiversity, and increase natural habitat in their own “paradise gardens.”

http://www.chelseagreen.com/bookstore/item/food_not_lawns:paperback

The Small-Scale Poultry FlockThe most comprehensive and definitive guide to date on raising all-natural poultry, for homesteaders or farmers seeking to close their loop, The Small-Scale Poultry Flock offers a practical and integrative model for working with chickens and other domestic fowl, based entirely on natural systems.No other book on raising poultry takes an entirely whole-systems approach, nor discusses producing homegrown feed and breeding in such detail. This is a truly invaluable and groundbreaking guide that will lead farmers and homesteaders into a new world of self-reliance and enjoyment. http://www.chelseagreen.com/bookstore/item/the_smallscale_poultry_flock:paperback

Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond SustainabilityDavid Holmgren draws a correlation between every aspect of how we organize our lives, communities and landscapes and our ability to creatively adapt to the ecological realities that shape human destiny. For students and teachers of Permaculture this book provides something more fundamental and distilled than Mollison’s encyclopedic Designers Manual. For the general reader it provides refreshing perspectives on a range of environmental issues and shows how permaculture is much more than just a system of gardening. For anyone seriously interested in understanding the foundations of sustainable design and culture, this book is essential reading. Although a book of ideas, the big picture is repeatedly grounded by reference to Holmgren’s own place, Melliodora, and other practical examples.http://www.chelseagreen.com/bookstore/item/permaculture:paperback

The Basics of Permaculture DesignThe Basics of Permaculture Design, first published in Australia in 1996, is an excellent introduction to the principles of permaculture, design processes, and the tools needed for designing sustainable gardens, farms, and larger communities.Packed with useful tips, clear illustrations, and a wealth of experience, it guides you through designs for gardens, urban and rural properties, water harvesting systems, animal systems, permaculture in small spaces like balconies and patios, farms, schools, and ecovillages. This is both a do-ityourself guide for the enthusiast and a useful reference for permaculture designers. http://www.chelseagreen.com/bookstore/item/the_basics_of_permaculture_design:paperback

Earth User’s Guide to Permaculture, Second EditionThe principle for permaculture is simple: provide back to the earth what we take from it to create a sustainable environment. The three principle aims are: Care for people; Care for the earth; and Redistributing everything surplus to one’s needs. Included in this new edition are chapters on seed-saving, permaculture at work, integrated pest management, information about domestic as well as rural water usage, a non-destructive approach towards dealing with weeks and wildlife, and designing to withstand a disaster. Earth User’s Guide to Permaculture is suitable for beginners as well as experienced permaculture practitioners looking for new ideas in moving towards greater self-reliance and sustainable living. http://www.chelseagreen.com/bookstore/item/earth_users_guide_to_permaculture_second_edition:paperback
Getting Started in Permaculture Permaculture experts Ross and Jenny Mars outline the steps to transform your garden into a productive living system. Modeled upon the development of Candlelight Farm, and illustrated with photographs, this guide encourages the reader to make positive steps towards reconciling human impact with nature – following the permaculture ideal. Permaculture is based on the ethics of caring for people and our planet. It is about growing your own healthy food, being resourceful and environmentally responsible. Permaculture concepts and ideas can be applied successfully from small suburban units to large farming properties. http://www.chelseagreen.com/bookstore/item/getting_started_in_permaculture:paperback

The Permaculture Garden Working entirely in harmony with nature, The Permaculture Garden shows you how to turn a bare plot into a beautiful and productive garden. Learn how to plan your garden for easy access and minimum labor; save time and effort digging and weeding; recycle materials to save money; plan crop successions for year-round harvests; save energy and harvest water; and garden without chemicals by building up your soil and planting in beneficial communities. Full of practical ideas, this perennial classic, first published in 1995, is guaranteed to inspire, inform, and entertain.http://www.chelseagreen.com/bookstore/item/the_permaculture_garden:paperback

 

Permaculture in a Nutshell This inspiring book is a concise and accessible introduction to the principles and practice of permaculture in temperate climates. It explains how permaculture works in the city and the countryside, including on farms, and also explores ways people can work in cooperation to recreate real communities. Permaculture in a Nutshell is the ideal introduction to this complex subject—essential reading for those wishing to understand how a new way of perceiving horticulture can transform our relations other humans and with the Earth.http://www.chelseagreen.com/bookstore/item/permaculture_in_a_nutshell:paperback
Permaculture in Practice This DVD, whose aim is to inspire people to start their own permaculture projects, shows how permaculture is practiced in four very different settings: a Hampshire back garden belonging to the editors of Permaculture Magazine, including fruit trees, vegetables, bees, chickens, and ducks; a City Challenge project in Bradford close to a housing estate with 10,000 residents, tackling the problems of unemployment, environmental awareness, and backyard food growing; a community co-op in Devon, which involves a café, allotments, and local composting scheme; and a small farm in the Forest of Dean where innovative marketing schemes ensure a close link between producer and consumer, including meat production, a vegetable box scheme, and locally produced charcoal.http://www.chelseagreen.com/bookstore/item/permaculture_in_practice:dvd

Permaculture PlantsThis is an easy-to-use guide to selecting hundreds of perennial species. It is indispensable for growers and designers working in subtropical and warm temperate/arid climates, and also includes some cool-climate tolerant species. Permaculture Plants: A Selection details hundreds of common and unusual edible, medicinal, and useful plants. http://www.chelseagreen.com/bookstore/item/permaculture_plants:paperback

 

The Permaculture Way The Permaculture Way shows us how to consciously design a lifestyle which is low in environmental impact and highly productive. It demonstrates how to meet our needs, make the most of resources by minimizing waste and maximizing potential, and still leave the Earth richer than we found it. http://www.chelseagreen.com/bookstore/item/the_permaculture_way:paperback

 

The Earth Care Manual The long-awaited exploration of permaculture specifically for cooler Northern Hemisphere climates is finally here! Already regarded as the definitive book on the subject, The Earth Care Manual is accessible to the curious novice as much as it is essential for the knowledgeable practitioner.Permaculture started out in the 1970s as a sustainable alternative to modern agriculture, taking its inspiration from natural ecosystems. It has always placed an emphasis on gardening, but since then it has expanded to include many other aspects, from community design to energy use. It can be seen as an overall framework that puts a diversity of green ideas into perspective. Its aims are low work, high output, and genuine sustainability. http://www.chelseagreen.com/bookstore/item/the_earth_care_manual:hardcover

The Woodland Way Ben Law is an experienced and innovative woodsman with a deep commitment to practical sustainability. Here he presents a radical alternative to conventional woodland management that creates biodiverse, healthy environments, yields a great variety of value-added products, provides a secure livelihood for woodland workers and farmers, and benefits the local community.This brilliant book covers every aspect of woodland stewardship from both a practical and philosophical standpoint. Ben Law writes from the heart after long years of struggle with a whole host of naysayers who tried to convince him by fair means and foul to give up his vision for a renaissance in the countryside. http://www.chelseagreen.com/bookstore/item/the_woodland_way:paperback
A Forest Garden Year A Forest Garden Year offers tips on how to graft an apple tree from which you can crop a variety of apples over several months; how to grow shiitake mushrooms and perennial leeks; how to pollard and prune; protect crops from wind; attract beneficial insects; and increase beneficial minerals in the soil—all while creating a haven for yourself and for wildlife. This 49-minute DVD shows how you can apply the principles of forest gardening to spaces big and small. Martin takes viewers through the seasons in his Devon, England, forest garden and shows them how to plan their planting to mimic the layering, density, and diversity of a forest. http://www.chelseagreen.com/bookstore/item/a_forest_garden_year:dvd
Creating a Forest Garden and A Forest Garden Year: Book & DVD SetCreating a Forest Garden tells you everything you need to know – whether you want to plant a small area in your back garden or develop a larger plot. It includes advice on planning, design (using permaculture principles), planting and maintenance, and a comprehensive directory of over 450 trees, shrubs, herbaceous perennials, herbs, annuals, root crops and climbers – almost all of them edible and many very unusual. The accompanying 49-minute DVD, A Forest Garden Year, shows how you can apply the principles of forest gardening to spaces big and small. Martin takes viewers through the seasons in his Devon, England, forest garden and shows them how to plan your planting to mimic the layering, density, and diversity of a forest.http://www.chelseagreen.com/bookstore/item/creating_a_forest_garden_and_a_forest_garden_year_book_dvd_set:book%20&%20dvd%20set

Designing and Maintaining Your Edible Landscape Naturally First published in 1986, this classic is back in print by popular demand. It is the authoritative text on edible landscaping, featuring a step-by-step guide to designing a productive environment using vegetables, fruits, flowers, and herbs for a combination of ornamental and culinary purposes.It includes descriptions of plants for all temperate habitats, methods for improving soil, tree pruning styles, and gourmet recipes using low-maintenance plants. There are sections on attracting beneficial insects with companion plants and using planting to shelter your home from erosion, heat, wind, and cold.http://www.chelseagreen.com/bookstore/item/designing_and_maintaining_your_edible_landscape_naturally:paperback

Forest Gardening Forest Gardening is a way of working alongside nature–an approach that results in great productivity with minimal maintenance, and a method for transforming even a small cottage garden into a diverse and inviting habitat for songbirds, butterflies, and other wildlife. Based on the model of a natural woodland, a forest garden incorporates a wide variety of useful plants, including fruit and nut trees, perennial herbs, and vegetables.Hart’s book beautifully describes his decades of experience gardening in the Shropshire countryside, yet the principles of “backyard permaculture” he explores can be applied equally well in other locales across the planet, from tropical to temperate zones. http://www.chelseagreen.com/bookstore/item/forest_gardening:paperback

Future Scenarios In Future Scenarios, permaculture co-originator and leading sustainability innovator David Holmgren outlines four scenarios that bring to life the likely cultural, political, agricultural, and economic implications of peak oil and climate change, and the generations-long era of “energy descent” that faces us.Future Scenarios depicts four very different futures. Each is a permutation of mild or destructive climate change, combined with either slow or severe energy declines. Probable futures, explains Holmgren, range from the relatively benign Green Tech scenario to the near catastrophic Lifeboats scenario.Future Scenarios provides brilliant and balanced consideration of the world’s options and will prove to be one of the most important books of the year.http://www.chelseagreen.com/bookstore/item/future_scenarios:paperback

Gaviotas: A Village to Reinvent the World Los Llanos—the rain-leached, eastern savannas of war-ravaged Colombia—are among the most brutal environments on Earth and an unlikely setting for one of the most hopeful environmental stories ever told. Here, in the late 1960s, a young Colombian development worker named Paolo Lugari wondered if the nearly uninhabited, infertile llanos could be made livable for his country’s growing population. He had no idea that nearly four decades later, his experiment would be one of the world’s most celebrated examples of sustainable living: a permanent village called Gaviotas. http://www.chelseagreen.com/bookstore/item/gaviotas:paperback%20-%20revised%20edition

How to Make A Forest Garden A forest garden is a food-producing garden, based on the model of a natural woodland or forest. It is made up of fruit and nut trees, fruit bushes, perennial vegetables and herbs. It can be tailored to fit any space, from a tiny urban back yard to a large rural garden.It is also a low-maintenance way of gardening. Once established there is none of the digging, sowing, planting out and hoeing of the conventional kitchen garden. The main task is picking up the produce!This highly practical, yet inspiring book gives you everything you need to know in order to create a beautiful and productive forest garden.http://www.chelseagreen.com/bookstore/item/how_to_make_a_forest_garden:paperback
Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands & Beyond: Volume 1 The first volume of three-volume guide on how to conceptualize, design, and implement sustainable water-harvesting systems for your home, landscape, and community. This book enables you to assess your on-site resources, gives you a diverse array of strategies to maximize their potential, and empowers you with guiding principles to create an integrated, multi-functional water-harvesting plan specific to your site and needs.Volume 1 helps bring your site to life, reduce your cost of living, endow you with skills of self-reliance, and create living air conditioners of vegetation growing beauty, food, and wildlife habitat. Stories of people who are successfully welcoming rain into their life and landscape will invite you to do the same!http://www.chelseagreen.com/bookstore/item/rainwater_harvesting_for_drylands_and_beyond_vol_1:paperback
Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands & Beyond: Volume 2 Earthworks are one of the easiest, least expensive, and most effective ways of passively harvesting and conserving multiple sources of water in the soil. Associated vegetation then pumps the harvested water back out in the form of beauty, food, shelter, wildlife habitat, and passive heating and cooling strategies, while controlling erosion, increasing soil fertility, reducing downstream flooding, and improving water and air quality.Building on the information presented in Volume 1, this book shows you how to select, place, size, construct, and plant your chosen water-harvesting earthworks. It presents detailed how-to information and variations of a diverse array of earthworks, including chapters on mulch, vegetation, and greywater recycling so you can customize the techniques to the unique requirements of your site. http://www.chelseagreen.com/bookstore/item/rainwater_harvesting_for_drylands_and_beyond_vol_2/
The Uses of Wild Plants A must-have for foragers, botanists, herbalists, gardeners, permaculturists, and anyone who wants to learn more about wild plants, this insightful guide provides interesting and valuable uses for more than 1200 species in 500 genera of wild plants found throughout North America and beyond.The Uses of Wild Plants provides a survey of how plants have been used for food, drink, medicine, fuel, clothing, intoxicants, and more throughout history. Each listing includes a detailed description and drawing to aid in identifying these valuable plants in your garden and in the wild. http://www.chelseagreen.com/bookstore/item/the_uses_of_wild_plants:paperback

Now Available: Passive Solar Architecture!

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

We’ve been awaiting the release of this book for a long time! Solar pioneers David Bainbridge and Ken Haggard have put together a monumental book on how buildings can use the power of the sun for heating, cooling, lighting, and more. At long last, Passive Solar Architecture: Heating, Cooling, Ventilation, Daylighting, and More Using Natural Flows is available in our bookstore.

From a review in Sustainable Industries:

Passive Solar Architecture: Heating, cooling, ventilation, daylighting and more using natural flows, demonstrates how integrated design can create buildings that are more healthful, comfortable, quiet, secure, lovely, economical, and use 80-90% less energy than buildings commonly constructed today.

Of the many residential and commercial buildings exhibited in the book, author and architect, Ken Haggard, is probably most proud of this Congregation Beth David Synagogue in San Luis Obispo, which uses 82% less energy than the state’s restrictive energy code allows and cost no more than a conventional building. Haggard notes that most of the techniques are common sense and proven, in some cases for more than 2000 years, and that a range of subsidies, perverse incentives, ignorance and foolishness have led most planners, architects, designers, developers and builders to ignore these simple strategies.

The book shows how and why we can change to improve security, comfort, health, productivity in the workplace, and the economics of the built environment. These principles are important for any homebuilder, buyer, renter or business owner to understand. They can save energy, provide security during climate extremes like the ongoing heat wave, reduce costs for energy and medical care, and increase productivity. They can also improve learning and student outcomes in schools.

Drawn from the coauthors’ and contributors’ decades of successful experience, Passive Solar Architecture is both inspiringly broad in scope and delightfully detailed. City and neighborhood planning is intermixed with many small gems—such as a metal water wall detail to capture winter sun—and examples in climates from around the world.

According to John S. Reynolds, FAIA, Professor of Architecture Emeritus, University of Oregon, and Honorary Past Chair, American Solar Energy Society, ‘This is a welcome and unique resource for my university seminars in passive heating and cooling.’

Well worth the wait.

Get your copy today!

How to Build a Backyard Pond with Tim Matson

Monday, August 15th, 2011

This was reposted from Yankee Magazine.

For more than 25 years, Tim Matson of Strafford, Vermont, has designed ponds for clients around northern New England.

Tim Matson got his start designing ponds by building one for himself. That was 33 years ago. Since then, it has served him well. “It’s done just about everything,” says Matson, who’s authored four books (the newest is Landscaping Earth Ponds) and produced a DVD on ponds and pond building. “I taught my kids to skate on it. In the summer I swim every morning in it. And it brings in all kinds of critters.” In the early days, when his home didn’t have plumbing, he even used it as a water source. But beyond all that, Matson says, ponds are a draw for less quantifiable reasons. “People just want water,” he observes. “It’s in their soul. They feel comfort and security knowing they have a good body of water nearby.”

Study Up
Done right, a well-constructed pond may come with a price tag beginning at $8,000, so it’s important to know exactly what you want before an ounce of dirt is moved. Do you want a beach? Is a fire hydrant part of the plan? Will you introduce fish? How will it be landscaped? Look at other ponds for inspiration, Matson advises; then, when you’re ready to move, vet your contractors. “I’ve seen some expensive ponds filled in after a year,” he warns.

Location, Location, Location
To find the right pond spot, search for sags in the land or down slopes: places that indicate a nearby source of steady groundwater. And remember: Never build a pond below your septic system. “You don’t want bad water going into the pond,” Matson notes.

The Dirty Truth
At its core, a good pond begins with good dirt, which can determine whether a pond can hold its water. A few test pits, each about eight feet deep, can offer clearer details about the land’s water source and soil composition. A sandy mix, for example, is a huge red flag. “You want a loam mixture that has between 10 and 20 percent clay,” Matson says.

Into the Deep
Hey, even if you don’t plan on doing any high dives into the water, you still don’t want a pond that’s too shallow. Minimum depth is 8 feet, Matson recommends; otherwise, winter temps may freeze your pond solid, killing off the fish. “And in summer,” he adds, “the water will heat up and the transmission of light will make plant growth too active.”

Eyes on the Prize
A newly built pond isn’t a finished pond. You’ll have to monitor erosion issues; an unexpected load of nutrients may introduce algae problems; and maintaining a proper water flow (what’s entering and what’s leaving the pond) is critical. “I always tell people, there are two important ingredients for a pond,” says Matson, laughing. “Water and good luck. There are so many uncertainties.”

For more on pond building and design, visit Tim Matson’s Web site: earthponds.com. For a video, go to: YankeeMagazine.com/more

New Summer Releases On Sale

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

It is officially summer! In celebration of sunnny days, afternoons in the garden, and curling up to a book in the sun, we are putting all our new releases on sale for 25% off.

 

Check out the collection below: 

 

 

 

Just off the presses, Slow Gardening offers a practical yet philosophical approach to gardeningone that will help you slow down, take stock of your yard, and follow your own creative whimsy in the garden. Slow Gardening will inspire you slip into the rhythm of the seasons, take it easy, and get more enjoyment out of your garden, all at the same time.

 

In  Alone and Invisible No More, physician Allan S. Teel, MD, describes a community-and technology-based approach to overhauling our eldercare system. Based on his own efforts to create humane, affordable alternatives in Maine, Teel’s program harnesses both staff and volunteers to help people remain in their homes and communities. It offers assistance with everyday challenges and highlights technology to keep older people connected to each other and their families and stay safe.
Don’t like spending money in garden centers? Think you can make it yourself for a fraction of the price or find a cheaper option? In, Grow Your Food for Free, Dave Hamilton shows you how. By recycling and reusing materials creatively and making the most of what you have, you can gather all you need to grow your food on a budget. From money-saving tips for every season to step-by-step instructions with easy-to-follow diagrams, this how to book is a must-have for everyone.

 

Permaculture is much more than organic gardening. Arguably, it is one of Australia’s greatest intellectual exports, having helped people worldwide to design ecologically sustainable strategies for their homes, gardens, farms, and communities. Permaculture Pioneers charts a history of the first three decades of permaculture through the personal stories of Australian permaculturists. It invites each of us, permaculturists or not, to embrace our power in designing our world out of the best in ourselves, for the benefit of the whole earth community.

 

Seed Savers Exchange, the nation’s premier nonprofit seed-saving organization, began humbly as a simple exchange of seeds among passionate gardeners who sought to preserve the rich gardening heritage their ancestors had brought to this country.  In Gathering, Ott Whealy’s down-to-earth narrative traces her fascinating journey from Oregon to Kansas to Missouri and then back home to Iowa. Her heartwarming story captures what is best in the American spirit: the ability to dream and, through hard work and perseverance, inspire others to contribute their efforts to a cause.

 

A Taste of Tagore  illustrates the writing of Rabindranath Tagore, India’s first Nobel Laureate, are contemplations in our daily lives. These extracts are taken from his many writings about the environment, education, the arts, politics, travel, and humanism. The book is divided into Poetry, Prose, and Prayers. Evident in these writings, Tagore’s lifestyle embraced simplicity, moderation in consumption, the practice of arts in daily life, cohesion and harmony between religions, cultures, and countries. A Taste of Tagore brings to the reader the diversity, depth, and spirituality of his writings in one book.
Emergency Sandbag Shelter is not only a comprehensive “how-to” manual for use in disaster response, but will also be of interest to anyone who wants to build their own simple, cost effective and low-impact structures.  Now for the first time, this book is made available to people around the world by its inventor, award-winning architect Nader Khalili (1932-2008), who dedicated his life to teaching others how to build shelter for humanity.This book, with over 700 photos and illustrations, shows how to use sandbags and barbed wire, the materials of war, for peaceful purposes as the new invention known as Superadobe or earth-bag, which can shelter millions of people around the globe as a temporary as well as permanent housing solution.

 

If you’ve never opened a seed packet before and want to grow your food but don’t know where or when to start, this book is for you. With advice for the new gardener, covering everything from how to plant seeds, when to pull up the carrot, and how to harvest potatoes, How to Grow Your Food will guide you–whether you have a balcony, bare concrete, a patio, or a larger patch of ground
Winter and early spring require a different kind of gardening than the summer months; not a lot grows at this time, but a well-planned plot may nonetheless be quite full. Through winter, soil is cool and transforms the plot into a large outdoor larder where many vegetables keep healthy and alive, ready for harvesting when needed. How to Grow Winter Vegetables explains how to have plenty of both stored and fresh vegetables to eat during the lean winter months.

 

E.F. Schumacher was a key figure in the development of environmentalism in the 20th century, and has left an enduring legacy. A profound thinker who was admired by Keynes, Beveridge and Cripps, he was for many years economic adviser to the Coal Board, and later put his ideas into practice by setting up the Intermediate Technology Development Group (now Practical Action) and becoming involved with the Soil Association. He was the inspiration for many other organizations that continue to this day, including the New Economics Foundation and Schumacher College.

 

 

Adobe Homes for All Climates … Really?

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

Tristan Roberts at BuildingGreen.com recently posted a book review of Lisa Schroder and Vince Ogletree’s Adobe Homes for All Climates: Simple, Affordable, and Earthquake-Resistant Natural Building Techniques, in which he raised some legitimate questions about the book’s “all climates” claim.

Lisa Schroder was kind enough to respond to some of the questions that Tristan raised in his review. Is adobe really appropriate for all climates? Read on, and decide for yourself…

From the Building Green review:

Adobe Homes is filled with practical tips, gorgeous pictures, useful construction drawings, and step-by-step help for anyone looking to build adobe, whether a professional or a homeowner. There are tips on earthquake resistance for locations with seismic concerns. There is extensive guidance on the often-overlooked issue of setting up your site to mix, mold, dry, store, and build with adobe bricks. The book gets into finishes, integrating windows and doors, and a lot more.

Unfortunately for me, I wasn’t looking at the book with this lens. Before I could really contemplate setting up a site for adobe production, I had to be sold on adobe for this climate. I was looking for ideas on cozy earth building in a climate with 7,500 heating degree days (many of them cloudy, for days at a time), 500 cooling degree days, and a distribution of those heating degree days throughout 12 months. And an adobe structure in this climate will be an energy hog, because, as the authors note, adobe has a very low R-value.

In short, the “for all climates” tagline, which drew me in, is a stretch. Yes, there is a suggestion to add a layer of insulation in colder climates (mentioned in the inspiring foreword by Bruce King, and in a subsequent paragraph in the book). Yes, there are nice pictures of snow-covered Rocky Mountain adobe (which may be cold–at times–but gets a lot more sun, making adobe a better choice). But building an adobe wall and adding insulation to it for this climate requires at least a whole chapter (more than the paragraph currently devoted to it), and perhaps a whole book. Here are some questions that this “missing” chapter might help answer:

  • What kind of insulation works well with an adobe structure?
  • How much is needed?
  • Should the insulation be interior of the adobe, exterior of it, or both?
  • What are the benefits of building adobe and also a secondary insulation system? Why is it worth doing versus just using another construction system?
  • What construction and moisture details are necessary for adobe to be durable through a cold, wet, winter?
  • How does the addition of insulation affect the vapor profile of the adobe wall? Any issues to watch out for

I hope these will be considered in future editions or articles by the author. In the meantime, this looks like a great resource for natural builders in climates where adobe makes more sense–most classically, the Southwest U.S.

Read the full, original review at BuildingGreen.com.

Lisa Schroder responds:

Hello Everyone,

First of all, I want to thank you for an interesting discussion.  The topic of how to improve the insulation qualities of earthen walls has been in review for the past few years. My personal experience with adobe has been in areas where the sun does shine, even if just for an hour a day in the winter.  We often made bricks in the rain and covered them tightly with plastic to dry.  Adobe bricks don’t necessarily need the sun, but they do need to be protected from moisture and allowed to dry out.  However, when building an adobe home in colder, cloudy regions, insulation is often needed to make a comfortable home that uses the minimal amount of additional heating.

One great adobe mentor of mine is Quentin Wilson of the Adobe Association of the Southwest in New Mexico.  He states that “strange things will happen if you add insulation to the adobe.  The wall will perform better than the sum of the two R-values.”  He calls it phantom R’s.  This is because the adobe is not an insulator but a capacitor and conductor that mimics insulation in certain situations.  When you couple capacity with resistance you get more resistance than expected in a non-steady state situation.  Electrical engineers understand this as capacitive reactance or a band pass filter.

Considerable research has been done in many parts of the world on this topic and I am happy to share with you some of the conclusions.  Most importantly, the use of passive solar design is essential to utilize the sun’s energy to heat the home in the winter.  This may require reducing the eaves to allow the winter sun to enter the home.

Secondly, it is suggested that home owners insulate their adobe walls at least on the side facing away from the sun; this would be the north facing walls in the Northern Hemisphere or the south facing walls in the Southern Hemisphere.  One recommendation would be to attach 2″ battens, insulating with wool or another natural, breathable material, and cladding.  Many people also use 2″ of polystyrene with plaster over to increase insulation.  Dow Styrofoam Utilityfix xps is a closed cell foam and will not loose its R-value to moisture uptake.

Another good option would be to use conventional timber frame construction with insulation and cladding for the exterior walls and interior adobe brick walls for thermal mass.  These homes make use of all the good qualities of earth, such as regulating humidity levels and neutralizing airborne toxins.  The exterior walls do not require large overhangs, thus are suited for passive solar design.

Lastly, you can make adobe bricks with improved insulation values for exterior walls.  These bricks include light aggregates, such as untreated sawdust and paper pulp, and when combined with earth increase the insulation value.  The exterior side of these bricks walls require 3 coats of plaster for added protection against moisture.

Ultimately, what makes adobe homes suitable for colder climates is when they are designed for the sun.  The excellent thermal mass qualities allow the walls to slowly retain the heat and slowly release the heat into the home.  As for all green building products, some are more suitable to certain regions, and it may be difficult to acquire and produce the necessary adobe bricks in some places.  But studies show that adobe bricks made on site have the lowest carbon footprint of all building materials, and this should be considered with evaluating our building products.

I like the idea of including an additional chapter on insulating adobe where this topic can be discussed in depth with details and examples of the ideas mentioned above. Hopefully this information has shed some light on alternative ways to improve the insulation qualities of adobe brick homes.  I do believe that adobe brick homes can be suitable for all climates, when the appropriate design is applied.  Again, thank you for this lively and interesting discussion.

Lisa Schroder
Co-author of Adobe Homes for all Climates

Su Casa Magazine reviews Adobe Homes for All Climates

Friday, September 24th, 2010

Su Casa Magazine included this complimentary review of Adobe Homes for All Climates: Simple, Affordable, and Earthquake-Resistant Natural Building Techniques, in a fall round-up of newly released building books.  Although Su Casa is based in the Southwest, don’t forget that (as authors Lisa Schroder and Vince Ogletree explain) adobe can be used in any region or climate!

The following review first appeared in the Autumn 2010 issue of Su Casa Magazine.

New Mexicans are so possessive about adobe construction, you’d think we invented it here. The truth is, as authors Lisa Schroder and Vince Ogletree point out, people around the world have built with mud bricks for more than 5,000 years, and earthen material for 10,000—remember Jericho? Today, they claim, half the people in the world occupy an earthen home, and with good reason. Adobe is cheap, dirt is plentiful, and building with bricks lends itself to construction by beginners—which also lures many first-time owner-builders to start laying their own walls. Further, Schroder and Ogletree contend, adobe isn’t just for arid climates, as the book’s examples in New Zealand and England attest.

Adobe Homes for All Climates aims to be an instructional manual for novices, owner-builders, and experienced builders switching to adobe or seeking to learn new techniques. Hoping to encourage and inspire, the authors include fairly detailed chapters about making and laying adobe bricks, installing lintels and making arches, putting in conduits and pipes, installing windows and doors, attaching top plates and putting on bond beams, and applying plasters and other finishes.

New Mexican adoberos, who might rightly claim to have experience with the material second to none, will find a few challenging—or at least different—approaches on these pages. The authors don’t typically insulate their adobe walls, while most New Mexicans now insulate the exterior. Schroder and Ogletree advocate an 11 ¼-inch by 11 ¼-inch by 4 ¾-inch brick versus the typical New Mexican brick of 10 by 14 by 3 ½, the thickness of which accommodates making them in a frame with standard 2x4s (which aren’t really 4 inches). Furthermore, the authors use a sand/clay mix augmented by 5 to 7 percent cement, and they only occasionally add aggregate or fiber like straw. Their bricks, however, will cure even when it’s raining—can’t do that with a pure mud/clay mix—and weather much better in a wet climate.

Maybe the most dramatic difference, though, is Schroder and Ogletree’s patented “Adobe Madre” reinforcement and scaffolding system. They mold their bricks into a variety of shapes, each based on the basic square brick but with cutout holes and channels. Some look like a U, some like a square doughnut, some like a squared C. When stacked appropriately, these shapes accommodate a reinforcing steel bar, plumbing, or electric wiring run vertically through the wall. A channeled brick works with scaffold pipes, allowing you to build up removable scaffolding as you work higher up the wall. When you’re done, you slide out the pipes and fill the holes. Way cool.

If you’re in the target audience—curious newbie or open-minded professional—you’ll want to add this to your reading alongside the other classic adobe books. You’ll find these on most mud-heads’ shelves: Adobe: Build It Yourself by Albuquerque builder Paul Graham McHenry Jr. (University of Arizona Press), which was the bible for a generation of new-to-adobe builders in the 1970s; the classic plan book Adobe Architecture, by Myrtle and Wilfred Stedman (Sunstone Press); Passive Solar House Basics by alternative energy pioneer Peter van Dresser (Gibbs Smith, Publisher); and the more recent Adobe Houses for Today, by Su Casa contributors and home designers Laura and Alex Sanchez (Sunstone Press).

Check out Adobe Homes for All Climates by Lisa Schroder and Vince Ogletree today!

Q&A with Lisa Schroder: Adobe Homes for All Climates

Saturday, September 11th, 2010

We’ve got your burning questions about adobe home building covered in this Q&A session with Lisa Schroder,  founder of Adobe Building Systems LLC and author of our newest Green Building title -  Adobe Homes for All Climates: Simple, Affordable, and Earthquake-Resistant Natural Building Techniques.

First things first: what exactly is adobe?
Adobe is an earthen construction method in which sun-dried bricks are made from a mixture of sand, clay, and sometimes a strengthening agent, such as straw, lime, cement, bitumen, or others.

Most Americans, if they think about adobe at all, think of it as a purely regional building material, limited to New Mexico and nearby southwest locales. But you began building with adobe bricks in New Zealand, of all places. How did that happen?
During my engineering studies at North Carolina State University I began an interest in green building. At the time (1998) there wasn’t much activity in the field, other than promoting more natural paints or carpets. When I moved to New Zealand to study architectural design, I discovered there was a renaissance occurring with earth building. I began working as a designer for adobe homes in 2000 and fell in love with the material and the process. It was fascinating to make bricks and build walls with local material from the nearby quarry. I knew I had found my niche in construction once I was introduced to adobe building.

How adaptable is adobe to wetter or colder climates?
Adobe is best adapted to wetter climates with the addition of a stabilizer. We find Portland cement to be the most user-friendly material to use, as it fortifies the bricks to be stronger and more resistant to moisture. We can make bricks in the rain and build our walls with more confidence in wetter climates. 

In colder climates, it is always best to use solar passive design, which allows you to use the sun to warm the inside of the building as best as possible. In more extreme climates, the thickness of the walls can be increased so that it takes longer for the heat to be released outside. The solid thickness of the walls have a high thermal mass, which improves the thermal dynamics of the home.

Does building with adobe impose architectural limitations?
There are certain limitations to adobe in terms of how high you can build. Building standards require that the taller your structures, the wider the walls have to be. But with a typical 12” thick wall, you can build up to 2 stories. There are, however, beautiful architectural elements of adobe that can be incorporated into any design, such as adobe brick arches, built-in niches in the wall, timber lintels, and a variety of finishes to the wall to suit your individual style.

In your book, you emphasize earthquake resistant construction. Why is that so much of a concern for you?
Unfortunately many lives have been lost during earthquakes from adobe brick homes that collapsed because they were not properly built This has given adobe an often unfair reputation since they can be built to withstand high earthquake zone regions. Rather than replace adobe construction methods with less sustainable construction materials that have a greater impact on our environment, we should educate ourselves how to improve upon this method of building, especially in areas where adobe is the predominant building material.

How can an adobe brick structure be built to withstand earthquakes?
Engineering elements, such as bond-beams, vertical and horizontal reinforcing, and proper foundations, need to be incorporated into the adobe home in an effort to protect the lives of almost half the world’s population that live in them.

What are the advantages to building with adobe bricks?
Adobe has one of the lowest levels of embodied energy of any material used in construction today. Bricks can be made by hand and on-site using unskilled labor, local materials, and easily obtainable tools. Due to the forgiving nature of the slightly irregular bricks, novices can become proficient adobe bricklayers in just a day. Sturdy, solid, and energy efficient walls can be achieved by all builders to create a home that will last for generations with little to no structural maintenance.

How easily can homeowners-to-be build an adobe home by themselves?
There’s often nothing easy about a labor of love. Any construction process will go through times of difficulty and hardship. The difference with building your own home out of earth is the feeling of satisfaction and pride in your walls. By choosing to build with adobe, we are making a choice that eases the impact on our environment for years to come. The bricks may be heavy to work with and more expensive than timber frame to construct, but you can rest assured the final product will be in a class of its own.

Check out Lisa’s book, Adobe Homes for All Climates, to learn more.

An Interview with Stephen and Rebekah Hren on Planet Green

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

On a recent trip down to Durham, North Carolina, I was lucky enough to stay with Stephen and Rebekah Hren, authors of The Carbon-Free Home. Their beautiful two-story house produces enough energy to fill all of their energy needs and is outfitted with all kinds of ingenious projects straight from their book. In front, a garden grows everything from artichokes to pomegranates, while chickens roam around in the backyard. They were gracious enough to talk to me about how we can become a more sustainable society.

What’s the simplest home project people can do to start towards having a carbon-free home?

Two biggies are phantom loads and hanging up clothes to dry instead of using an electric dryer. Phantom loads are things like TVs and computers and also battery chargers that often are on standby and therefore partially on at all times. Using a power strip or motion-activated outlet to turn these things on or off when not in use can often reduce their power consumption by three-quarters. By one estimate, if people in the US were more conscientious about not having phantom loads, that would save enough electricy to power the continent of Australia. Folks often say that solar power is expensive and only for the wealthy, but much of our book is focused on things that both renters and homeowners can do that gives them access to renewable energy and also saves them money. Probably our favorite is hanging up clothes to dry on a solar clothes dryer instead of using a fossil-fuel powered dryer. For a typical household, installing one of these solar devices is roughly equivalent to installing $8-10,000 of solar electric panels.

Read the whole article on PlanetGreen.com…

photo

The Carbon Free Home is available in our bookstore.

The Hrens’ new book, A Solar Buyer’s Guide for the Home and Office, is available for pre-order now!


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