Colorado Earthship Build: Day 5 (Tires and cisterns)

Friday. Another day at the build site. Once again, it was a perfectly sunny morning and, of course, rather hot as the day progressed. I’m not sure what happened, but the heat was really killing me today, even though it didnt’ seem much different than the other days. I just didn’t have a lot of oomph.

We started off putting in the next layer of insulation at the west wing area where we have been working. Here is a shot of Jenn (on left), Susan (on right) and Kat (the hat at the back) moving a sheet into position.


Due to the fact that you want to stagger the sheets both horizontally and vertically, you do have to trim some of the sheets. You do a measure, draw line and then cut it with a small hand saw. This creates a lot of white debris so it looks like it is snowing. As a result, we had a snow dog.


Kat and I thought it might be a good idea to take some pictures to help explain some of the tire pounding stuff we had talked about yesterday, so let’s talk about that for a minute.

There are a couple of ways you can use to level a tire. The first one is to jab a pick axe or pry bar under the bottom of the tire, lift it and pound the dirt down. This is effective, but has limits. If you do it too much, you’ll end up bulging the dirt out of the bottom and you’ll get rocky tires. You don’t really want that, but for some small lift, it’s quite effective.


A second technique, which I talked about yesterday, is to put the pick axe under the lip of the side wall and pull it up. This will create a cavity that you can pound more dirt into.


You can really push up the side wall if you pound a rock under the lip. We had one tire that needed to be raised a lot and I had so many rocks pounded into that thing by the end, it might as well have been filled with concrete. It was dang hard and certainly not going anywhere.


Anyway, back to the build.

Here is a shot of the rest of the build site from where we were working. You can see the guys putting the EPDM rubber liners in the botanical cells (remember those trenches from yesterday?). After the rubber, they get filled with gravel and then sand and finally soil for the plants.


We were working on tires again in the morning. Here is a shot of Kat with a pry bar helping me to level a tire.


I was beat by lunch and was happy for the break. As we were finishing lunch, some rain rolled in which was a life saver for me. With the sun behind some clouds, some rain falling down and our recent repast, I was renewed for the afternoon.

I spent most of the afternoon leveling the pad for the cistern that was to be installed in the west wing. These are preformed, purchased cisterns, not custom made ones. Here is ours just after it was delivered by the back hoe.


Yeah, the cisterns are pretty huge. Each one holds 1700 gallons (roughly 6600 litres).

Leveling the pad for it was time consuming, but I greatly enjoyed it as it was a nice break from pounding tires. Of course, my leveling tools were a four foot (1.2M) level and a 16′ (5m) 2×8. I had two others, one with a rake and one with a shovel so we could move the dirt around.

Eventually it was ready and we gathered a bunch of volunteers to move it into position.


I gave the camera to Kat and grabbed a spot on the cistern. There was a big heave-ho! and we picked it up and started to move it.


We got it up on the pad and pushed it into place. You can see me at the back there with the green hat and the pony tail.


There were a few minor adjustments, but it went up pretty smooth.


There ya go. One cistern put in place. Now all we need is Lou the plumber to come over and connect the pipe to it.


After that excitement, it was time to take some more pictures 😛

In this picture you can see the BUTTress forms they were building along the back wall of the garage. The forms have rebar running through them which is connected to the rebar that goes through the bond beam over the top of the wall. When the concrete is poured, it will form a solid structure tying all of the pieces together. The buttresses are there to satisfy the engineers that the wall won’t fall over. In this case, at this site with the potential for land slides, it’s extra security.


When we finally made it to the end of the day, we all gathered around Phil and had a Q&A session. If you have ever seen the Garbage Warrior movie, or many of the other Earthship Biotecture videos on the net, you’ve probably seen Phil. He’s a great and fun guy to work with/for and he is the longest standing Earthship crew member (since 1992, I believe). He has a tonne of experience, has built his own Earthship and is basically the foreman for the project, second only to Michael Reynolds.


Phil brought the drawings along and we got to ask him all sorts of things. The first thing I asked is what the budget for this build was. His answer was “we charge $225 per square foot and the building is around 4400 square feet. Do the math.” That’s just shy of one million. This is a really serious building and you’ll understand why when I show you some of the pictures of the drawings.

This first one is a top down view showing the roof detail on the front/bottom tier. Those are stairs on the east/west sides heading up to a patio. In the middle is a big glass atrium, that has doors on either side so you can walk from the east side patio, over a bridge through the atrium, to the west side, and vice versa. Yeah, I’m sure that wasn’t cheap.


Here is a section drawing showing the two tiers and the garage.


Here is a nice rendered view from the front of what it is supposed to look like when it is finished.


Another finished rendering from the east side.


Finally, after snagging all those pictures of the drawings and Q&A was over, we headed out. But not before Kat decided to see just how strong those buttress forms are.


Yeah, they have to build them very strong so when you pour it full of concrete, it doesn’t burst. I have heard stories of that happening and it doesn’t sound fun. Concrete weighs a lot. Be prepared 🙂


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