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Free Economizer PDF Plans Now Available — 8 Comments

  1. Owen:

    I would be interested in reading your insights about what methods you would recommend to anyone that might want to customize one of your designs, such as this one, to reflect a particular traditional architectural style.

    I can easily envision this particular design highlighted in this blog post adapted to fit the taste of most any traditional style, and even fitting into a neighborhood that has many established homes. There are many ways to build this structure out of earthbags, cob, papercrete, or any number of construction techniques and still have the structure look like it might have been built 200 years ago and fit in a neighborhood of houses of that age.

    Earthbag and Natural building often gets stereotyped by naysayers as appearing radical. Space ship like. Hippie style. etc.

    I don’t think those stereotypes are fair. Yes, someone can CHOOSE to create a style of home that is non traditional, but they don’t have to if they choose something more traditional. There is plenty of opportunity for someone to customize to fit their own personal tastes.

    I think it would be very educational for everyone to envision one basic house design, and explain how it can be adapted to fit a variety of styles.

    The design in this blog post could easily be customized to become styles such as a Cape, Arts & Crafts, Victorian, Federal, Revival, Shingle, Spanish, etc, etc, etc… just about any of dozens of different styles.

    It would be fascinating to read how you would recommend using cheap and simple materials and techniques to convert the same design to fit any one of a number of different styles, and … if you choose to take the time … offer a quick rendering of that design to show how different visions of style could transform the look of that same design in different ways.

    All too often, average people fail to see the possibilities simply because they only see the first simple rendering.

    Plus, I think it would be fun to see how your imagination might interpret a single one of your designs in a variety of different styles providing a completely different impression.

    It might make for a fun exercise on your part, and a fun series of blog posts.

    Just a thought. Feel free to use the idea, change the idea, or ignore the idea as you deem appropriate.

    • Jay, that’s a very good idea. I’ll write a brief summary here and then consider this topic for one or more future blog posts. All of my designs are intentionally kept as simple as possible to keep costs low. Most architectural plans you see are highly embellished. All those details are expensive. My goal is to help make housing affordable.

      The first thing to emphasize is how easily house styles can be modified. It’s particularly easy to do in this case because the house is small and simple. The outward appearance could be changed to match dozens of styles with a little trim, various material choices, color and possibly some small architectural elements. It depends on how far you want to go and how much you want to spend. Here are three simple examples.

      Ranch style: Use stucco, wood or T-111 plywood siding and metal roof. This is what’s shown in the drawing. A little brickwork in the front would look good.

      Spanish: Common choices include stucco, window grills and tile roof. Tile is quite expensive, but keep in mind you only need a small amount because the roof is not large. If tile isn’t affordable, you could buy recycled, make your own tile, buy tile from a village shop or use another material such as Micro Concrete Roof (MCR) tile. This is a good option because they’re lighter weight, less expensive and easier to work with than heavy clay tiles. No need for extra strong trusses. Another option is metal roofing. This is often the most practical choice. Choose a color that matches roofs in your area.

      Craftsman: Common choices include stucco or wood siding (or combination), trim, wood shakes and covered entry with columns. A previous blog post explains how to add wood siding to earthbag houses: https://naturalbuildingblog.siterubix.com/wood-siding-on-earthbag-houses/ Adding stone or stone veneer on the foundation would look nice.

      Find a style you like and spend lots of time surfing the Internet and browsing architecture books in the library. Save your favorites in a physical or digital scrapbook. You’ll soon see the main differences between styles are often cosmetic — trim, color, surface finish and so on. A few changes go a long way.

      You could make more complex and costly changes if you’d like: different roof (gable, hip, clerestory, attic truss, wide roof overhangs, dormers, etc.), porches, entries, bay window, shutters, mud room, airlock entryway https://naturalbuildingblog.siterubix.com/airlock-entryways/. The list goes on and on and is only limited by your imagination and budget. Also note, you don’t have to make all the modifications at first. Some features could be added on later as time and finances allow.

      • I’m glad you like the concept.

        Lots of different details can be created with creative use of exterior plaster/stucco and paint. One literally dirt cheap thought is to fake the look of clapboards, shingles, etc. in an earthen plaster. For example, to fake the look of clapboards, one could make a wooden trowel that has a sawtoothed notching pattern to it. Just using a long straight 2×4 as a straightedge guide and sliding the custom trowel across that straightedge, you could quickly make rough fake clapboards in plaster. That technique was used for years (centuries?) for the old traditional way of making intricate interior plaster crown moldings.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjuhDyCbarA

        No reason why the rough concept couldn’t be used to make very simple straight fake clapboards on the exterior.

        Another option is to use stamping techniques like is used for concrete driveways and walkways to make fake stone or shingles in wall plasters/stuccos.

        These techniques still need the constant maintenance that a typical plaster job requires, but if someone is willing to spend the extra time to get the look they desire, the possibilities are nearly endless.

        It would all come down to how much time someone wants to invest on a particular look.

        Window and Door moldings can be created in a variety of ways using all types of different materials.

        Of course, there is always the possibility of salvaged siding/shingles from other structures. Pallet wood is another possibility.

        One could even go as far as to create fake Ionic Columns out of plaster surrounding an ugly pallet wood glue/nailed together post for a look of grandeur. They’d just need to make the proper guide trowels and rig the correct straight edges. The monetary investment could be extremely small, while the time investment significant, but for some people… WORTH IT.

        Somehow the idea of creating a fancy expensive looking house out of little more than mud, used pallets, and other people’s dumpster refuse just has an irresistible awesomeness to it that laughs in the face of what would normally be outrageously expensive.

        • In a way it would be fun to have $100,000 to play with so you could build several of these houses in different environments or parts of the country. Done correctly, people would barely believe they’re the same house. One could have rustic log siding that fits right in in Alaska and other areas. The possibilities are endless.

          • Well… instead of spending that $100000… how about this?

            If you REALLY want different perspectives, create a rendering that is a black and white line drawing of the simple house, and ask parents to print off the photo and ask their kids to color the house to look how they think it should look, and have them scan or take a photo of their creation to send back to you.

            I guess for that matter, you could even let kids of all ages color and photoshop it.

            Who knows? You might inspire the next great architect.

            That’s the great thing about crayons. They can take you more places than money can.

            Of course, the hard part might be when you try to choose which kid’s version is the best one.

          • That’s a good point. $100,000 would buy a lot of crayons…

            I’m open to reviewing some student art projects like this. My email is at the top of the page under About Us.

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