After much discussion Chris and I have come up with a plan to get the house jump-started again.As many know, we have been consulting in Kamloops for several months. I’ve been almost full-time and Chris 2-3 times a week. It’s been lucrative work. We didn’t NEED to earn this money to finish the house, but while we were taking a “break” from the house it felt right to earn some money. It’s been great. This week, though, I will begin training somebody to take over most of my duties at one of my clients’ place of business and Chris’ hours are also beginning to stabilize. We hope to work no more than two days a week in Kamloops and we hope to make them the same day to maximize fuel costs.Having EXTRA cash has given us some options. And we’ve been throwing around ideas for several weeks. We’ve watched our friends, the Robinsons, finish their cob home on Vancouver Island in exactly a year. They did it by hiring some of the work out. The downside to this, is that they have a small mortgage. The upside is…they are now living in their house!We have always stuck to our guns and did all the work ourselves to avoid taking on debt. Downside? We are still not in the house. Upside? No debt. So we have been thinking about what work we would be prepared to hire out, if we were to do it. How much could we spend on outside labour without taking on debt? It came down not to which jobs we were prepared to hire out, but who would we be prepared to employ to move a few of those jobs along.To that end, James Hornett, is going to become our paid employee for the three weeks leading up to August, when he flies to Japan, to hopefully bring back his wife, Asami, who has been waiting out the immigration process there since February. (Fortunately, she was 400 kms away from the tsunami.)James was one of our very first volunteers in 2009, when he stayed nearly two weeks to help us. He’s since come back several times to help out and we’ve found him thoughtful, helpful and a great worker. Since coming to BC from Newfoundland in 2009, James has been working in conventional construction in Vancouver. With his interest in sustainable building he is continually questioning conventional construction practices. James has also become a great friend of ours, and of my brother Tom and sister-in-law Stephanie, who have been luring him into Vancouver poker games and divesting him of small change. Check out our FB page, The Darfield Earthship, for James, who we recently added as an administrator (so that he could upload pics).We’re looking forward to having him back again starting next week. He was only just here last week getting us started on skylights and it was this that prompted us to think our plan just might work.It’s meant Chris and I have been scrambling to figure out the order of events, prepare for each job and accumulate materials. We have some cleaning to do, both in the shop (to organize tools) and the earthship (so that we can move around better in it). Not to mention (but I will) cleaning the house as we will all share one tiny bathroom, eating facilities and a tiny living room. Jobs that we will start/finish include the rough-in of electrical. We will also start thinking about plumbing, including the planters. We have lists started and questions to answer before we move forward.These include setting the floor height. We need to figure out how much space radiant floor heating will take up so that we can set finished floor height so we can set the electrical outlet heights and the planter heights. This will allow us to set the plumbing heights. We are madly researching in floor heating and perusing all new information on building planters on the many excellent earthship blogs out there. We expect to spend a whack of money in the next two weeks to accomplish all of this.Anybody with any knowledge of these areas is welcome to wade into the discussion ASAP! Chris plans on posting a sketch of what we think the radiant floor heating might look like, so that we can set height. We will send an email out to a few of our friends who have recently installed such a floor (and covered it with an earthen floor).Our plan coincided with the arrival of summer weather. As most of our work will be in the nice, cool earthship, I think this is pretty GOOD planning!
We are ready to begin our electrical! After receiving directions from the electrical inspector (via the electrician) that we needed to use ENT (non metallic conduit) and plastic boxes, Chris and I have spent many hours talking to suppliers. This option was expensive and cumbersome.We spoke to several of our new “green” friends on the Island-the Robinsons (www.canadianfamilyrobinson.com) and the Bairds (www.eco-sense.ca) -who have recently built cob homes. Cob is the material that is used between our tires and the material upon which our electrical wire will sit and be buried in. After pulling together photos and anecdotal evidence and sharing information from their jurisdictions, our electrical inspector gave us the go ahead to wire “normally”, that is using the regular wire and metal boxes, without conduit. In essence because cob is not considered a corrosive material in other jurisdictions our electrical inspector has agreed to follow precedent, as long as he is provided with photos and copies of our research. Yay. I am heartened that our mission to prove that we can build an alternative home affordably and under current regulations is possible. THIS is why it is important to build within the rules. Now, a precedent has been set in our jurisdiction and paves the way for others to build alternative homes with fewer challenges.More in the coming weeks.