How it was Built

Jane Faith and Tony Wrench; the Roundhouse, Jan 4th, 2005

This is designed to be, and works well as, a simple ecohome for two workers on a communally run farm. Living without our own car, earning our income by music and by adding value to the products of the land, using wood for heat, water from the mountain well and lighting by photovoltaic cells linked to a battery. It has a compost toilet for solid wastes and a reed bed for sink and bath water. The design is based on the Celtic Roundhouse, of which there are reconstructions three miles away and traces on the mountain behind us. It also owes some design aspects to the roundhouses of the Miwok, Pomo and Mandan peoples of north America - particularly the turf-covered roof, using 150 straw bales as insulation rather than 18" or so of pine needles. The idea for cordwood and cob walls came from the early Swedish settlers to north America, mentioned by Ken Kern in his book 'The Owner-Built Home'. The rubber roof membrane, the reciprocal frame design for the rafters and the secondhand double-glazing are all more recent inventions. More pics of the interior in page 'how we live', and full details of its construction in the book 'Building a Low Impact Roundhouse', see below.

The most frequently asked questions are:

How long did it take to build?

The wood for walls and roof totalled approx. 200 thinned Douglas Fir trees from a piece of forestry Jane and I bought adjacent to our smallholding in Cwm Cych. One winter - about four months - we spent cutting these trees to size and stacking them, with the aid of two wwoofers (Willing Workers on Organic Farms). The second winter, 1997/8, we built the house in another four months, usually working as one or two people but sometimes with a large gang working together, as on the roof completion day.

How much did it cost?

The most expensive item was the single sheet of rubber pond liner that forms the waterproof roof membrane, which cost 650. Next was the woodstove with back boiler at 420. Then electrics, wood transport, windows, nails etc. The grand total is 3,000! We paid for the items as we went along, so did not go into debt, for which we are thankful. Here is a short series of pictures of the construction:

The site, a bank of bracken, in 1996 The henge of 13 support beams and crosspieces A centre Y-post holds up the reciprocal roof rafters The roof skeleton is strengthened by willow radials The skylight formed by the joining of the rafters members of our local permaculture group, friends and neighbours help put 150 bales of straw on the roof and cover it with a rubber pond liner work starts on turfing the roof Jane mixes cob - clay and grit from the hole plus water plus straw the exterior nears completion window ledge with grapes and cats, 2001

If you want any more details of how specific bits were made, reciprocal roof construction, plumbing, solar panels etc, plus the story and ideas behind it, may I refer you to my book "Building a Low Impact Roundhouse", published in 2001 by Permanent Publications at 9.95, and available from them by phoning
(UK)01730 823 311. You can access their website by clicking here.

I have had some good feedback about this book. You can now (since May 04) also order it direct from me by sending 10 (UK) or 15 euros (eurozone), incl p&p, to Tony Wrench, Brithdir Mawr, Newport, Pembs, UK, SA42 0QJ.
From mid 05 there will also be another book 'Earthright Devices', so look out for that.

You've probably been thinking 'If the book is that good, it's probably been translated into Norwegian', and you'd be right! Here's what it looks like:

Bigg ditt eget kubbehus!

It is available from this email address.

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