We thought spring was right around the corner last week when we submitted our building plans, but the last week has been bone chillingly cold. We were down to -20 degrees Celcius on a couple of evenings and the snow is just not melting. The driveway is a skating rink and unfortunately it slopes down to the highway. It is up over zero today, and the long term forecast is for warmer weather.
The good news is that I have read some more books during this cold weather!
My copy of Water From the Sky (Michael Reynolds) arrived a couple of days ago. I truly wish I had read this book prior to laying out my plans. This book is detailed and clarifies a number of issues that were not well explained in the Earthship Volumes. The book also has color pictures which give a much better idea of what a finished home might look like. Also, it provides good examples of what has worked and what has not worked based on thirty years of building experience. Hopefully I will be smart enough to listen and understand what is being described. It has certainly given me a number of ideas as I think about my building.
I borrowed a book called Earthships: Building a Zero Carbon Future for Homes (Mischa Hewitt and Kevin Telfer). This book was written about two earthships that were built in the United Kingdom. This is a well written book that goes into some construction and technical details. It also has good colour pictures of finished buildings.
I have also now had a chance to review the Engineer’s Report sold by Earthship Biotecture that gives structural support for rammed earth tire walls. The report cautions about using earth cliffs as descrbed in the Earthship Volumes. It recommends getting the advice of a geotechnical engineer if you are planning to use this construction technique. Thankfully, this is not a concern for us as we plan to fully level our building site. Otherwise the report is positive about tire walls with lateral restraint (a bond beam)!
I also stumbled across a video on the internet that talks about gray water recovery and the permitting process in California. This is a good primer on the subjet and has an excellent list of books for further reading at the end. Sandra provided a link to this video on a previous post.
Possibly my single biggest discovery of the week was a briefing document written about the regulatory environment surrounding gray water in British Columbia (it obviously also has some application to the rest of Canada). It is called REGULATORY AND LEGISLATIVE BARRIERS TO AN EARTHSHIP-LIKE WATER/SEWAGE SYSTEM IN BRITISH COLUMBIA. I have asked the author for permission to post a link to this document on the blog as I do not know how available it is, but I have not yet heard back from him.
We have spent the rest of our week seeing if we can prove that the existing septic system on site is satisfactory to support our proposed earthship. We are required to submit proof of an acceptable existing septic system or get a permit to build a new one in order to get a building permit. Because we are increasing the size of our home the septic regulations require a larger septic tank and field than what was previously acceptable. There is no allowance in the current regulations for composting toilets or gray water recovery in dictating the size of a septic installation. We think our existing system is big enough and hopefully the inspector coming next tuesday agrees with us. Otherwise, we might be looking at the installation of a new septic system that will barely get any use, and cost in the neighborhood of $15,000 dollars. Our fingers are crossed!