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left, the Natural Building workshop comes to a close, and The Roundhouse Gang poses for
celebration, having accomplished a good, solid work and a valuable asset to The Farm ETC community.

im on roundhouse roof soaking boards for roof oak board roof shot The Roundhouse Gang at workshop completion, 2002

2. earthbags, formed by simply filling fiberglass bags with available earth (or sand, or even durable recyclables), then are stacked by a few rows atop this foundation, all around the structure. in addition, bags form the majority of the structure’s back walls for strength and moisture impermeability:

The Roundhouse:
A Green Building Project Tour  

just for fun,
heres a SimPL project walk-through of Gandalph and the Roundhouse, Farm ETC 2002
The Roundhouse, a

hybrid-method natural building, constructed
in conjunction with
The Farm Ecovillage Training Center Tennessee, USA, circa 2000-2002.
yes, a while ago, but good natural building stuff is never out-of-date.

The Place.
The Farm ETC is located in rural Tennessee, USA, and has been a mainstay of permaculture, natural living and soft-method technology education since the 1970s.

here we see a project utilizing a few examples of (green) natural building technology in the same structure, both as an experiment to observe the benefits and possible pitfalls of combining techniques, and to take advantage of material properties where they are needed.

let’s walk you through the construction process-

1. rubble trench foundation is created by digging a 2 foot deep trench, and filling it in with rocks and durable debris, or rubble. this is done to prevent groundwater seepage into the structure’s walls, and to facilitate an aerated-drying effect to prevent rot and molds:rubble trench

3. strawbales then are stacked atop the earthbags, to complete the wall structure:

4. cob mix (clay, sand, straw) is then used as a sheathing plaster, to cover over the combination of strawbale-and-earthbag structure. after initial drying, the cob surface is plastered over again by another layer of cob, or a clay-sand plaster mix, still later with a finish plaster consisting of some combination of lime, animal dung, sand and clay soil:

5. electric and utilities are run into the structure before completing the wall plastering, with electric fixturing and receptacles easily cut into the cob or strawbales. extra care and caution must be taken with electrical insulation, and to ensure no future water seepage will cause damage. conduits or waterproof wire sheathing are also required for this reason.

6. roofing is normally installed- even completed- prior to placing wall materials, in order to protect the construction efforts from inclement weather, but this project gives us advantage to document the entire wall structure, prior to it being covered over with a required, exaggerated roof overhang.

the roof structure begins with roundpole roofing joists (from trees on-site), which are joined by a center post, and which sit atop embedded beams along the walls. on top of the joists are oak lap sheathing- inexpensive castoffs from a local Amish mill:

rubble trench n bag foundation earthbags n crew

7. roof finishing details. the final roofing layer is vegetated, covering the layer of oak lap pictured above.  manufactured sheets of thick EPDM are purchased to cover the oak boards as waterproofing. discarded sheets of recycled carpeting sandwich the EPDM on top and underneath as protection. the vegetation begins with a generous layer of topsoil, which is finally covered by grass sod.

The Roundhouse is eventually joined by Gandalph the Furious, the turf-coveredgandalph the furious earth oven earth oven seen here:Gandalph and the Roundhouse, Farm ETC 2002 >

Albert Bates placing rainsheeting on the bales Nearing wall completion, bales and earthbags strawbale wall n window strawbales n frame initial roundhouse mockup mixing cob earth mix early hybrid skeleton cob hybrid wood roof roundhouse exposed hybrid roundhouse installing electric service wall switch in cob installing electric service green building interior


The Roundhouse is an example of a rough application of green building methods, perhaps not appropriate stylewise for side-by-side inclusion with normal suburban dwellings in the West, but the resulting oval interior space is nevertheless cozy, comfortable, and resource-efficient.

suitable as a lodging or gathering space for rural communities, this structure is designed for a superior thermal and accoustic performance overall, as compared to normal code-approved* residences in North America for example, just by the simpl application of materials as outlined.

summers are cool and an adequate heat retention allows for lowered heating fuel needs in winters. an existing greenhouse has been integrated to the back end of the roundhouse which also provides thermic advantages;

with a small woodstove or earth oven planted inside the greenhouse, greenhouse flora and ambient air are heated in the cold months, thereby extending the growing season. the roundhouse interior can thus be gifted occasionally with a welcome wafting of warm, moist air as an opened door to the greenhouse allows this nearly closed-system exchange.

*Green Rant: building codes have been a real pain in the butt for natural and conventional builders alike, around the planet. as Big Construction hustles to throttle green building practices in favor of industry-profiting methods which only allow materials purchased from code-approved vendors- alas many of us will never experience the benefits that simpl earth has to offer.

unless of course, one plays away-games and jumps on a flight to a reasonable country.

having said that, the official opinion of SimPL is that all natural builders and “artectural” practitioners everywhere have the expressed responsibility to keep their respective technologies and lives in trade meaningful and vibrant, by investigating all possible inroads to natural-building engagment. in other words, do an end-around to every non-sensible construction law, or anal regulation & code- EVERY CHANCE YOU GET.

after all, the Universe favors the bold.

…where to from here, St. Peter?

All About The Straw!
green or natural building with

How Green Is My Mud?
why build with mud

How To Sculpt Your Own Earth Oven.      
a SimPLife online course.

Live Activist Adventures
on-site, hands-on Design
Professional course.