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Dave Pennington

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since Jan 02, 2021
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Former model maker/machinist, tech writer, mechanic
Current inventor and aquaponic systems designer
Currently training folks to build dome homes and other useful things out of a structural insulation I invented in 2010
"EPIC" (EPS + Paper Infused with Cement) a papercrete variant which should have been invented 50 years ago.
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Dallas TX and Southern Illinois
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Recent posts by Dave Pennington

There's a very thorough webinar on passive solar greenhouse design that just went down on youtube

4 months ago
I located the page which lists the accommodations:

it took a little digging because the "accommodations" link in the FAQ titled "If I really love it at Wheaton Labs, can I stick around?" is busted.

4 months ago
Your email says "Spend the two weeks camping or rent a bunk to sleep in. "
How much extra does a bunk cost?
Can it be right next to someone who snores like a bear all night or do I have to sleep somewhere quiet? Are the bunks anywhere near the composting toilet and can I meet actual bears getting to it?
Some pictures of the bunk accommodations would be awesome.

PS your "weather" section in the FAQ is for June. I'm hoping July is warmer.
"average temperatures in June range from 46°F to 77°F (or 8°C to 25°C) and June can be our rainiest month!"
4 months ago

George Tyler wrote:
Has anyone tried making something like this?  See any pitfalls?

I would use IBC totes.
You could cut them in half, flip the open sides downward, then attach the steel cages together to form the main structure of a rectangular floating platform.
This should be much easier than trying to get round plastic barrels attached together.

This is a design I have been working on for a while now, but haven't built yet. I plan to use rebar to attach the cages (welding it all together). The top surface of the "ark" platform will be covered with bamboo reinforced EPIC (styrofoam+papercrete).

Wire feed welders are cheap and easy to use once you get the hang of it.
1 year ago

Steve Zoma wrote:All I can think of is to use the waterproofing they used to waterproof boats. They have been making boats for 9000 years so maybe use pine tar which is what they used right up to1920 for waterproofing.

But here is the problem. It is not so much that people are not willing to try something beyond asphalt tar or plastic for waterproofing, it is that the cost of failure of experimental materials is going to be devastating. Redigging the earth, then reapplying something else to waterproof, and then reapplying the soil is all really hard work. That is not counting the destruction done to the interior of the home or its contents.

I think it is one of those things that while plastic is bad, maybe by getting something to recycling at least, in an underground home it can be a one and done thing.

Good luck finding and fixing the inevitable roof leak without causing more leaks.

The plastic membrane will fail eventually, tree roots or animals will penetrate it.

I went looking for old underground houses which never needed roof repair. There don't seem to be any.
1 year ago

Gerald Smith wrote:Learned that this was indeed a 5,000 square foot home with 8 bedrooms. Here are some more photos of this home, but have not yet figured out who's home it is. I would love to know the history of this home, especially since the roof was poorly (wrongly) engineered to be flat and it was predicted to have leaks:

Good luck finding and fixing those leaks without creating more!

Sonja Draven wrote:I had planned on putting in a fire pit next year since I don't need it until then (actually, I hoped to do it this year but *everything* is taking longer this year than expected and I expected it to take a long time...), but I have family visiting next month and I thought it would be a fun project to do together rain or shine.

I have a mix of big and small rocks and I plan to use the big ones as primary construction and thought I'd fill in the gaps with the smaller rocks and old concrete chunks. I thought I better ask the collective permies mind if it's safe to heat concrete that way, if it's a bad idea for practical reasons, etc.

Basically is there anything I need to know before I just jump right in?

Concrete can suffer "explosive spalling" if it is heated rapidly.
1 year ago

Bryant RedHawk wrote:Standard texture spray guns want air pressure in the range of 60-90 psi for spraying clay slips or lime base earthen plasters because of the density of the material.

You will want a compressor with at least a 20 gal. reserve tank for the air so you don't have to stop and wait for pressure build up many, many times during the spraying.
(I have used 80 gal. tank two stage, 5 hp., 230v compressors for plaster spraying and I have also used 6 gal. pancake compressors, believe me, the more air available the happier you will be with the end results).

Any time you stop spraying plasters (as in you ran out of air supply due to too small a tank) you need to watch the consistency in the hopper or you might end up with a clogged gun and that means stopping to clean out the gun then put is all back together and starting again.

I currently use a 6 HP gas "wheelbarrow" compressor and hopper guns to spray papercrete and EPIC (papercrete combined with EPS beads) For continuous spraying I find the horsepower to be way more important than the tank capacity. Anything less than 5 HP (gasoline) or 2 HP electric is very slow going. You can rent gas powered air compressors for about $100/day, that is usually what I recommend.
1 year ago

Trace Oswald wrote:

Where do I find out the specifics on how to do this?  I'm fascinated.

I am working on an instructional video and book, an initial draft will be available soon for those who wish to try this method. A few small projects are underway and they are helping with the simplification process.
1 year ago

Cécile Stelzer Johnson wrote:

Amy Gardener wrote:This inspiring article is from BBC's Heritage Architecture series: "Spain's ingenious fairy-tale houses".
Any permies working on round buildings or organizing a circular space? Please share your progress, challenges and/or experience. I for one would love to hear and see more about what's happening in circular building and organizing round living spaces.

The main difficulty, I think is that everything is made to fit in square buildings: shelves, furniture, closet space, appliances...Placing a flat furniture along a curved wall wastes space. IMHO, one can make straight walls in the center of the building and place furniture there.
I wish that folks who live in tornado alleys would consider rebuilding in round buildings: a shorter, squat, round building is wonderful to resist high winds!

You have expressed a common concern, luckily Monolithic Dome Institute has a lot of pictures and floor plans showing how that issue has been dealt with over the years. One of their designs (The Orion) has flat panel walls arranged into a circle (with a dome roof of course). Flat panels are MUCH easier to mount windows and doors into, a far more difficult challenge than furniture placement. Countertops and cabinetry are equally important considerations, making curved ones is "SPENDY" as they say here in Texas.
1 year ago