Our test building has been complete for a couple of weeks now. I've been busy digesting some of the lessons learned. No doubt, some experienced adobe contractors (few if any in our neck of the woods) might say, "of course, we knew that!" I can fully appreciate that. And there's certainly no substitute for carrying the "thinkin'" to the "doin'" on your own, and that was more than true in this instance.
We learned a great many lessons on material prep, staging, handling...a great deal on block "tweeking," etc...and even more on the plaster phase. I think it might be instructive for those of you following the blog for me to give a debrief in outline form on lessons learned. More to come on that.
I will have more pictures posted soon but will start with the set below. You can see our finished structure as it stands now. The deep overhangs gave us a nice framework for protecting our still-drying plaster from rain with plastic sheets. The roof design mimicks the multi family project specifications and has a big impact on our energy modelling. We get the added bonus of great protection for the walls from rain. The front (eastern exposure) has a 4 foot over hang, 3 feet on the back (western exposure) and 2 feet on either side (northern and southern exposures.) These orientations do not match our project site which will be 4 feet to the west, 3 feet to the east, and 2 feet to north and south. We're spec'd for exposed rafters etc. as you can see by clicking the thumbnail below which is a google sketch up model of our multi family project.
click thumbnail above for full size image
One huge lesson learned (and I dare say I was told as much but just didn't quite snap to) was how much more efficient our build would be by not integrating CEB into our door/window sections. That one front section seen in the photo above that included the door, window and polycarbonate panel infills had a multiplier effect on our time on the build that I feel will dramatically impact the economics of our future projects. Part of the goal was to learn, which we did, but also to start demonstrating the cost efficiencies and energy efficiencies (costs going forward) of using earth construction techniques like CEB. We have already started modifications to our plans to fit to the design and to reflect our build experience.
You can see Daniel hard at work here working out the details on the door and window section. Again, huge drag and inefficiency on this element. But then, that was the purpose right? To learn, calculate and reconfigure!
While my intention with the photo above was not to be artsy in any way, my unique angle does serve the purpose of illustrating several interesting elements. First was the tile Aurelio selected which I thought looked rather "cheesy" in the box....but ended up looking great on the floor. Just goes to show why I don't pick design elements and he should be nominated for some future Earth Architecture Design show!
One item of note is how the guys figured out that by rotating the blocks on their side, we ended up with a more stable wall section between the door and window that was just right for a 2 switch panel for lights. The opening for the box was created by cutting a block short to match the depth of the box, something they repeated in the walls to practice for electrical conduit and junction boxes for outlets. If you look closely at the photo above you can see a plaster variance about a foot off of the floor on the left hand wall surface. By cutting blocks 1 inch short on that course, and 3 inches short where junction boxes would be installed, we were easiy able to provide the necessary cut outs that could be plastered and hidden.
All in all a very worthwhile experience. Modifications ahead on this structure for demonstration purposes include removing sections of plaster inside and out and replacing with alternative treatments, completion on the passive ventilation design (worthy of a full blog post when completed) and the installation of data loggers by John Morony. We're all excited about the future data stream which I will figure out how to graph and keep updated.