Archive for Construction

Progress on the MicroHouse

Open Source Ecology’s two-module MicroHouse

MicroHouse Construction Manager Chris Reinhart is moving forward on the OSE Microhouse design. The Microhouse is a modular, low-cost, simple-but-comfortable, Compressed Earth Brick (CEB) house design. It is designed such that the different parts of the house can be build in parallel – walls, utility modules, roof sections, windows and doors, and others. We are approaching this design from a “Housing Construction Set” approach – where we are developing basic, interoperable, scalable, modifiable building modules. We are experimenting with the limits of earth housing as a building method comparable in cost and build time to standard stick-frame construction – while allowing for much longer building lifetime.

A two-module design has emerged, featuring a courtyard in between. One 12′ x 12′ unit will be devoted to work and sleeping space (possibly a sleeping loft), while the other will house a kitchen, bath, and dining space.

The Microhouse’s passive solar design for direct solar gain can be built using compressed earth bricks produced by our CEB Press.  The building collects heat from its southern exposure without losing it on the other three sides.

Design for direct solar gain—See Chris Reinhart’s blog, linked below, for larger image.

The bricks will be configured to create thick, insulating walls which will keep the MicroHouse cool in summer and will keep heat from escaping in winter:

Possible brick stacking patterns for MicroHouse walls

A reverse shed roof will allow for easy mounting of solar panels, and high windows are an option to vent warm air out of the building. In an innovative departure from conventional construction techniques, a modular roof design is being considered, with each module weighing no more than 200 lbs., so that a small team of builders can lift a module into position without the help of a crane. Compressed straw packed into each module serves as insulation. Chris plans to test and refine the roof module design concept before the actual build, as there is little information be be found on such modular roof design.

Proposed MicroHouse modular roof design

For evolving design details and planning, follow Chris Reinhart’s working design log here. Here at Factor e Farm, the Microhouse build, scheduled for September 28, will likely involve 24-28 people working in crews on various aspects of the building process so that build time can be minimized. The OSE team will be making continuing improvement to the CEB Press + Tractor + Pulverizer + Power Cubes to make it all happen.

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Factor e Farm Update: June to July

Hello everyone, sorry for the delay between blog posts lately. I’m Parker Bonnell, one of OSE’s newer staff members, working primarily with Marcin and Aaron on organizational development.

The last month has been a busy one at the Factor E Farm. Our population is now in the double digits, fluctuating at around 14 people on-site. This boom has been a doubled edged blade though. While it has led to greater progress on multiple fronts, (GVCS tools, agriculture, organizational development, and construction) it has also caused some issues with infrastructure breakdowns due to the rapid increase in population, and subsequent demand.

GVCS Tools

As some have seen from YouTube updates, Brianna (with CAD help from Emmanuel Carvajal and thanks to Roger Olson for fabricating a shear blade) has completed the Ironworker. It can shear up to 1”x10” steel flats with 100+ tons of force at the linkage, and roughly triple that for the angle shear. A more detailed blog post about it should be forthcoming.

Great strides have been made with the cold saw, which is nearly complete, and should be running by the end of the week. The torch table is also moving along nicely, and is slated to be finished within 3 weeks. Lastly, the sawmill while completed awhile back, has yet to be tested. This will hopefully change sometime in the next few weeks. We’ll keep you posted as things develop.


Gabi, our Agricultural Director, has been busy since she arrived last month. Working with other interested individuals on the farm, she has begun charting a long-term livestock/agricultural management and development plan that will navigate the farm as we move forward. In order to inform this process, land surveying has also begun.

Contour map of FeF

On the more material side of things, we have bee receiving a steady stream of raw milk (about two gallons a day) from our newly acquired bovine friend, aptly named “Good Cow.” We have also been using the excess milk, with progressively greater success, to make butter, with plans for cheese and yogurt. Our goal of meeting all dairy needs in-house is well on it’s way. Poultry-wise, less so. While we have ten or so laying hens, and more roosters than we need, they are laying few eggs in the heat of the summer. This should pick up by next Spring with our new generation of chickens—currently chicks that are still in their adorable stage of life.

Some garden beds have also started development, both behind the HabLab and alongside the old workshop. While it’s a bit late to plant much for harvest this year, we hope to enrich them for next Spring with compost and manure. We also have a newly constructed horto domi, built by Will Bratton and Samuel Bagot, which serves as a mini self-regulating greenhouse. We also just got some rabbits, which can  produce more than 100 lbs of meat per year.

Organizational Development

In this department, a number of balls are rolling in different directions, with the current focus on recruiting, flash mobs, team development, and documentation. In the last few months, Marcin stepped up recruiting to bring in the current group of folks now at the farm. A second round of recruiting is on its way, and we’ve been working to streamline the process, as well as reach a somewhat wider audience. In tandem with this, a database is being pieced together in order to organize applicants, and serve as a storehouse of contacts when we start utilizing the flash mob system on a regular basis.

Along with recruiting and flash mobs, everyone at FeF has also been working out how best to live together; what responsibilities everyone has and how to communicate most effectively when making group decisions and in general. This is an ongoing process, and if there’s interest from our readers, can be expanded upon as things progress.

In terms of documentation, we recently hired our first documenter, Tristan Smith. A talented videographer (formerly at WikiLeaks), Tristan has started by focusing on production of a short film that summarizes the essence of Open Source Ecology–slated for completion around late August. After that, he’ll be putting together high-caliber weekly updates about the goings-on of FeF, and other videos as needed.

Short video mood board proposal for OSE


On this front, the most notable developments consist of resumption of work on the HabLab, infrastructure/agricultural development plans, and completion of Vann’s hexayurt (which will be detailed in an upcoming post). While the HabLab is mostly complete, we’ve begun the final stage, consisting of finishing the four side-rooms on the east side of the house, wiring the unfinished outlets throughout the house, and stuccoing the unfinished walls. Once those are complete, all that will be left is setting up a heating system in time for winter. Moving forward from there, plans are being developed for a number of infrastructure and agricultural projects. Some notable potential projects include a cistern for rainwater catchment and well-water storage; burying water, power, and internet lines; a pond for additional water storage and irrigation; a possible secondary greenhouse, and keyline design with strategically placed berms and swales for efficient irrigation of crops.


As mentioned, our rapid population increase has caused some problems, which has slowed development in other areas as various folks work to troubleshoot the issues.  Water has been the primary trouble, as our well, dug 4 years ago with a submersible DC pump, hasn’t been able to produce enough water to meet demand. Our water storage tanks, exposed to sunlight, also began developing some algae, which led to two people getting sick. We have installed a reverse osmosis filter, but because of our water demand, not everyone was using it. It’s use has mostly remedied the potable water issue, and we plan on installing an ozonator or UV filter to further treat the water. As for supply, plans are in motion to dig another well – we  got Mark Finch to drill test holes and identified a 1 gallon per minute location. We will start rain catchment from the HabLab, and store water in an underground gravel cistern. Furthermore, we plan on linking up with the town water system, which will serve as an emergency backup.

Aside from water, there have also been some power and internet hiccups, but these are relatively minor problems, and will be detailed further another time. We are still electrically off-grid, and we are considering a biogas digester cooking gas/electrical system.
That about sums up the recent progress at FeF. Stay tuned for more frequent updates. Part of my role is to produce a weekly blog post, since Marcin has less time for this due to his schedule. Things are settling down as we regroup and reorganize.

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Practical Post Scarcity – Video

This is a well-made explanation of artificial material scarcity and how it can be addressed by open source economic development:

Practical Post-Scarcity from Open Source Ecology on Vimeo.

Practical Post Scarcity from Open Source Ecology on Vimeo.

This is the core of Open Source Ecology’s work on the Global Village Construction Set. Scenes from hay baling onwards are developments taking place at Factor e Farm in Missouri, USA. This is part of going the last mile on the construction toolkit part of the Global Village construction set.

We are busy preparing the Civilization Starter Kit DVD. The latest need is professional fabrication drawings – the step beyond documenting the complete fabrication procedure. See sample fabrication drawing - a compact, information-packed format. Compare this to a sample fabrication procedure on the CEB press, which is much more expanded. We currently have complete 3D CAD of the CEB Press, and most of the Tractor and Pulverizer. The Power Cube is primarily in Sketchup.

If you can help us on the fabrication drawings, starting with the CEB press – let us know. We would like this to be done by Dec. 25. 2011.  We are looking for volunteers or paid professionals. The Kickstarter funding can be allocated for this purpose as needed. The timing is tight. While we will have full fabrication procedures, we don’t know if professional fabrication drawings will be done by Christmas. In that case, they will be added as soon as they are generated – as we would like to make replication as straightforward as possible. The professional fabrication drawings are what one can hand over to a metal fabricator to produce a machine anywhere in the world where fabrication shops exist. This capacity is worth millions, so help us share that with the world. Email me at opensourceecology at gmail dot com to help.

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Dear True Fans and Supporters: Emergence

Dear True Fans Backers, and Supporters,

I finally have a chance to emerge from full construction duty – 17,000 bricks pressed and countdown in our last week of brick pressing with cold weather producing diminishing returns. With Floyd recruited as our new construction manager, the building program is now in good hands, and I can focus on documentation and delivery of the OSE Christmas Gift to the World.

On the construction front, the roofs will go on first on both the workshop and living units. We will then build CEB columns around temporary posts. Then we can fill walls and work free from rain – and upon external walls being laid – we will do finishing work free from the cold. Read the rest of this entry »

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Construction Update – November 2, 2011

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Groundbreaking for Construction 2011

Dear True Fans and Supporters, the emergency construction crowd funding is a major success – $19.7k of $20k as of 2 PM, Sep. 15, 2011, a little under 7 days from emergency campaign start (the ChipIn at $5,209 as of this time reflects only a part of the donations)


We hired for bulldozing and excavation for next Thursday, as our open source bulldozer is not developed yet. The dimensional sawmill, two soil pulverizers, plus tractor loader-mounted cement mixer are being built. Power Cubes are being finished. Roof trusses and a sample stringers for the workshop have been built. The site is partly cleared with a LifeTrac box blade, and corners are marked. See OSE Shop 2011 for more.


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Hello everyone. I’m Chris Fornof, the newest member of Factor e Farm.

We’ve been busy with the May production run. I’m writing to you from inside the Cordwood Hut. The day is young, but there’s so much amazing stuff going down here, that I needed to blog some of it. A lot of you may be wondering “What is life like at Factor E Farm?”

Well, here was my first 4 days.

Day 1:

Read the rest of this entry »

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Workshop Addition

We have just built a 750 square foot workshop addition:

Workshop Addition from Open Source Ecology on Vimeo.

Rosa from Los Angeles is an early adopter who invested in our Tractor-Soil Pulverizer-Compressed Eearth Brick (CEB) Press package – to start a construction business. We will be producing one of the equipment packages for her in our workshop addition. Read the rest of this entry »

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Cohabitat Gathering 2011 Report

Here is a report from the Cohabitat Gathering 2011, the first international natural building conference in Poland:

Cohabitat Gathering 2011 from dobraidea on Vimeo.

Here are some interviews, including Pawel Sroczynski, the lead organizer of the Cohabitat Group.

You can see more pictures from the event at my Flickr. Here is another report from the event videographer. The full presentation videos will go online in 2 weeks. You can read my presentation here.

Read the rest of this entry »


Cohabitat Gathering Trailer

Greetings from Poland. Here is a trailer for tomorrow’s Cohabitat Gathering conference:


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