Archive for Infrastructure

PowerCube on LifeTrac

A universal mechanical power source is one of the key components of the Global Village Construction Set – the set of building blocks for creating resilient communities. The basic concept is that instead of using a dedicated engine on a particular powered device – which means hundreds of engines required for a complete resilient community, you need one (or a few) power unit. If this single power unit can be coupled readily to the powered device of interest, then we have the possibility of this single power unit being interchangeable between an unlimited number of devices. Our implementation of this is the hydrauilic PowerCube – whose power can be tapped simply by attaching 2 hydraulic hoses to a device of interest. A 3/4″ hydraulic hose such as this

can transfer up to 100 horsepower in the form of usable hydraulic fluid flow.

You may have seen our prior report on PowerCube as the power source for MicroTrac. The question is – how flexible can the PowerCube be? We ask this question from the standpoint of the PowerCube’s suitability as an essential component for building resilient communities – or, how radically small can your infrastructure tool-set be, if your goal is creating a modern, high quality of life?

To shed some light on this question, we mounted the PowerCube on LifeTrac, our open source tractor – to demonstrate the radical interchangeability of parts. This radical modularity is the key to what we promote as the life-size Lego set for real technology. We mounted the PowerCube on the rear receiver of LifeTrac, and ran LifeTrac with it. Here are the results:

One conclusion is clear. The PowerCube concept of power unit interchangeability is sound. Read the rest of this entry »

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Bootstrapping and Dedicated Project Visits

We are currently in the phase of fabrication optimization for the high performance, open source, Compressed Earth Brick (CEB) press. This is our route to financial bootstrapping of the research and development efforts. We are looking for people interested in Dedicated Project Visits on flexible fabrication.

Flexible fabrication is a blend of a generally-equipped workshop with the hands of a multi-skilled fabricator. Flexible fabrication in the digital age implies the assist of digital fabrication. To take full advantage of available modern technology, the skilled digital craftsperson has to gain proficiency in the entire process chain from open source design and collaboration, CAD, build, electronics, programming, and other skills as needed.

From the standpoint of resilient communities and the neosubsistence lifestyle, the technology is not the end-all but merely a step to sustainable living. Read the rest of this entry »

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Open+Pario Project Collaboration Platform

We are now officially using Open+Pario as our project management and design repository for Open Source Ecology. The most active project at present is the CEB press, and we are beginning project management of the Open Source Induction Furnace. Anybody can view any of the projects – including design files, technical discussions, etc. The content is entirely transparent and open to the greater community.

If you want to get involved in any of the projects,  you can  sign up  as a Project Member by registering and joining  a given project. Read the rest of this entry »

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Dedicated Project Visits Continued

William Cleaver will be joining us at Factor e Farm on May 1 for a Dedicated Project Visit. He’s coming from across the big pond – from the United Kingdom – and we are planning for a 3 month stay.

William is not a novice to creative dexterity – he’s involved in repair and demolition of industrial chimney stacks and natural draught cooling towers – at heights. See for yourself:

He has experience with various tools, welding brickwork, ropework, woodwork, and general shop.  He’s traveled the world, studied Romance languages, taught English in Chile, and is certified to teach high ropes courses. He is now showing great interest in the deeper message of post-scarcity, resilient community creation.

We discussed the following tentative plan, with both of us working in the shop and as needed:

May – Work on finishing or building Sawmill/LifeTrac II/MicroTrac II/ anciliary implements for construction – all in preparation for building.

June – begin building autonomous, zero energy housing with solar space. Experiment with CEB floors, CEB masonry stove and chimney, stabilized bricks, stabilized reject lime bricks, stabilized brick walkway and driveway, stabilized retaining walls, and others. We plan on winter food garden and sprouting in the solar space. If progress on the steam engine goes well, we’ll aim to install combined heat and power on the masonry stove.

July – continue building until comfortable accommodations for the winter are ready for several people.

We’re looking at building zero energy homes that look tentatively like this:

(Credits: Aigars Bruvelis in Blender)

Here is a CEB floor example from Abe at Vela Creations:

See more of his photos here.

Other than this, William is learning Kdenlive on Linux for movie editing, as well as and QCad for CAD work. These are staple tools now at Factor e Farm. William will begin preparing some of the technical drawings for the sawmill, so we can collaborate on making that happen over distance until his arrival.

We do want to consider bringing in additional help from the CEB general contractor, Floyd (see last blog post). We will consider hosting a CEB workshop if progress is good. If the CEB fabrication is going well – there could be resources generated to really get things moving forward, and continue to build more structures. I think now is the beginning of really settling into the land – and getting the place to look half-way presentable. We’re open to all kinds of ideas, such as the proposed CEB vault construction and others – but we’d need other people to get involved to push those projects forward. Otherwise, we’re sticking to basics and all types of experiments in the process.

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CEB House Tour – Missouri

It turns out that there’s a CEB contractor by Lathrop, Missouri – which is  within 30 miles from us. Meet Floyd Hagerman, who has built a couple of very interesting CEB houses. The first one shown here is a hybrid – or a combination of CEB and standard construction. It has a Trombe wall – meaning a South-facing CEB wall, painted black, and glazed over. The wall serves as a thermal collector – and its performance is impressive. Last winter, before anyone moved in, the house remained above 40 degrees Fahrenheit all winter – Zone 5 continental climate – with no supplemental heating! Here’s a look.

Here is an example of DIY concrete blocks that Floyd pressed with his machine, by adding about 2% cement. Floyd used reject lime from the quarry, mixed in the stabilizer – and made an external retaining wall:

This was only 3 shovels of cement for over 1000 pounds of reject lime. So we are seeing the feasibility of stabilized blocks for outside use, especially if we add more stabilizer. Sealing the surface with stone sealer or similar cover would finish the job for complete stabilization from the elements.

With LifeTrac, we could throw a bag of cement in front of the soil pulverizer as we work the soil (80 lb for a 1000 lb load of soil, for 8% stabilization), and we would mix and load the soil in one step – ready to be used in The Liberator. We plan on using stabilized brick for walkways, base courses in buildings, and we are considering the possibility for building a driveway paved with brick.

Here is Floyd’s machine – a Powell and Sons version at $15k for up to 6 brick per minute pressing rates:

Here Floyd discusses the feasibility of building with CEB as a contractor – based on his experience. The big question is, does it work? How much would a CEB house end up costing? Here are some interesting insights:

On the open enterprise front, the field is rich for incubating a number of open source CEB entrepreneurs. Anybody out there considering CEB contracting?

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Open Source Manual CEB Press and Open Source Prefab Strawbale House

Hats off to our collaborators from Poland for open-sourcing a manual, dual-block CEB press. It is in the pre-alpha v0.1 release stage.

Open Source MANUAL CEB PRESS beta I from Cohabitat Platform on Vimeo.

You can download the existing CAD files here. The files are in Polish, so they still need to be translated for the broader audience.

Meet your developers from the Co-Habitat Platform: Pawel Sroczynski and Remik Karbowiak. These guys are pretty good. They also developed a model open source, prefab, straw-bale house design, and they will be buildng it this year at a budget of $7k. I always thought that straw bale is too exotic in practice because of the huge labor requirements, but these guys are showing otherwise with OpenSTRAW:

Here is the building sequence. Click on the following images to enlarge:

Both the manual CEB press and the straw bale work are a major contribution to open source economic development – and to humanity. See their website for more information.  Congratulations to the Co-Habitat team. We’d like to add the manual CEB press to the Factor e Farm product line as soon as the machine is tested in the field, and we may end up building some straw bale here after all.

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Dear True Fans

I would like to share today’s letter to our True Fans with the greater world. It provides the latest insights on the Factor e Farm experiment.

Dear True Fans and Supporters,

First of all, thank you all for your unwavering support. You have all demonstrated commitment to our work by putting your money and your time into moving us forward. Your support is essential to a baseline level of funding for our work at Factor e Farm.

I’d like to announce a conference call for this Friday, 11 AM GMT -6 (Chicago and Kansas City – USA time). If you’d like to participate, please refer to the conference call procedure and policy – . This will be a weekly call, and it is our second to date.

The topics are several, focusing around the exciting prospects of perhaps the most important day of Factor e Farm to date on Nov, 1, 2009 – product release of the modular, high performance, open source CEB Press – The Liberator. Here are the items for discussion.

Initial product release – a Beta Version 1.0 – will include a manual machine, with a large, tractor-loaded hopper and grate, that can produce between 5-7 bricks per minute. The power source is external and modular, and so it the Arduino-based controller for automatic control. Both are not included in the initial release, but will be offered as modules in further releases. Product Release means formulating the hardware license, and associated enterprise, PR, and marketing strategies. This also provides a chance to refine OSE Specifications – for branding our products in a groundbreaking way. We are prividing thought leadership and practice on the creation of post-scarcity economics. Read the rest of this entry »

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Soil Pulverizer Annihilates Soil Handling Limits

We are glad to report that the LifeTrac-mounted, open source soil pulverizer has annihilated soil-handling limits from our compressed earth brick (CEB) pressing ability. Initial testing achieved 5 ton per hour soil throughput, while The Liberator CEB press requires about 2 tons of soil per hour.

We have shown the pulverizer rotor development in a previous post. See the build and testing of the machine after the addition of the bucket and lift cylinder:

Soil Pulverizer Prototype 1 Complete from Marcin Jakubowski on Vimeo.

The tractor-mounted pulverizer is used to dig soil and load it directly into the CEB machine. Other CEB pressing industry standards may involve a tractor loader, stationary soil pulverizer, conveyor, and then the CEB machine. See this example from Powell and Sons. We’re replacing the stationary soil pulverizer and conveyor with LifeTrac. This simplifies the equipment costs significantly – and our initial tests show that our strategy works well.

Stationary soil pulverizers comparable in throughput to ours cost over $20k. Ours cost $200 in materials – which is not bad in terms of 100-fold price reduction. The trick to this feat is modular design. We are using components that are already part of our LifeTrac infrastructure. Read the rest of this entry »

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CEB Vault Construction Workshop

Here is our formal initial announcement of the 10-day Compressed Earth Block (CEB) Vault Construction Workshop. It will be held at Factor e Farm, in the Kansas City area, Missouri, USA, at the end of September, 2009.

Examples: Modern, earth-sheltered vault homes made of compressed earth have been built in Germany and other countries, but we know of no precedent in America. This is an example from Germany:


Here is another vault home as seen from the inside:


Workshop Description: This is North America’s first workshop on the construction of vaults from CEBs. This is a hands-on, immersion workshop in which participants will work on the construction of a vaulted house with a living roof and solar design. In this workshop, you will get hands-on experience in the entire process of building a CEB vault with a structural, arched roof made of the same material. We will be building a triple-vault structure similar to the one shown in a previous post. We are calling it Inga’s House. We will use wooden forms as guides for the vault to make this accessible to entry-level builders. There is a limit of 25 participants for each session of this workshop, so reserve your space early by filling out the 2009 pplication. Preference will be given to those with experience in building. Read the rest of this entry »

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OSE Interview with Gernot Minke

I took many hours of video at the workshop in Kassel, Germany – 11 hours total, I think.  Some of them I commented in English, some are in German.  The videos  tell the story in either language but if you have questions, just ask me.


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