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Mike

When I read the article, I assumed that the guys were going to use a cobb floor. I've seen a couple in place, and done properly, there not bad!

Done well, they appear much like a concrete slab, although somewhat softer and with warmer color.

eileen

This is a nifty project. I look forward to seeing it unfold. Look-wise, it's pleasing at times. I'm not as big a fan of the "wings" as they are. I like the games with the ground plane.

I agree with Brian on the dirt floor proposition...especially in light of this quote from their web site, "Shoes will be removed in the airlock thereby sequestering incoming dirt."

I expect the dirt floors to be damp.

goose

not just damp, but muddy. i say if they want dirt floors, let them enjoy them. it's their house. of course segregating inside dirt from outside dirt seems silly....and yet, somehow practical.

Chris

Wow... Reading this at first leaves me with an image of a barn floor. I'm grossed out and want to have nothing to do with these dirty hippies who want to live in the earth.

Investigated a little further and the NYTimes describes it (with pictures) A LOT better:

NYTimes Article 'Down and Dirty' 2/8/2007

The floor — which, in addition to the basic ingredient, included lime and sand, two classic components of concrete — would take a few weeks to dry, a period when the couple would camp out in their living room. But once sealed with a mixture of linseed oil and beeswax, it would theoretically be firm and water-repellent. Fans of such floors say that soapy water will clean them without turning them to mud, and that another coat of oil can renew the shine.

All of a sudden this floor sounds pretty cool. And the pictures are gorgeous.

Do you call your pottery at home "dirtware" ? Calling this a "dirt floor" is a real disservice to what it really is, a very eco savvy earthenware floor.

I might look into this flooring for one of my spaces.

Eileen

No doubt, I think this is some cool stuff. I still wonder about dampness...a challenge for concrete floors, too. I suppose a vapor barrier could be laid below the floor.

charles

We have put earthen (much more accurate description than dirt) floors in a home at the coast and we have never had a problem with moisture, including periodic spills or rain water that get's tracked in. In addition the earthen floors have a much warmer feel than concrete or stone. Maintenance is minimal, we do a light reseal with natural wax every year or two. Both from an ecology standpoint (all very local materials and minimal processing costs) and aesthetically, we and visitors have loved the look and feel of these floors. If you are having someone else install them, they are more expensive than some other alternatives, but competitive with good quality salvaged wood floors.

eileen

"Mr. Meyer has used natural pigment to create designs in some floors, and he said some builders add the blood of oxen for maroon coloration."

Now I'm back at 'ew, yucky'.

Brian Libby

It wouldn't be my choice, but these earthenware floors at least are within reasonable possibility. Thanks for the info.

Mike O'Brien

We have lived on a "dirt" floor for a year, and hundreds of people have visited the house during that time. The floor is still looking great and has had no problems with moisture or sanitation. Because it has a hardener oil in it, it repels spills.

Clay floors are an example of rediscovering vernacular building methods that our ancestors were familiar with, but have been abandoned in our modern society. Instead we have corporate flooring products like sheet vinyl that gives off toxic phthalates, or tiles glued down using asbestos-laden adhesives, or wood composites loaded with formaldehyde. How are these superior to a safe and comfortable clay floor? Is it possible that we have been brainwashed by home porn magazines to believe that these are the only socially acceptable flooring?

Green building is about rethinking the assumptions we hold, and actually asking ourselves why we hold certain beliefs. I really encourage those who question this type of flooring to go visit a house and experience it.

By the way, we also have clay plaster (or "dirt") walls, and clay paints in our house. The colors and feel are warm and beautiful. The clay and sand in the plaster came from the ground right here in Portland, an example of building with local materials and benefiting our local economy.

really?

Self sufficient? Really? Aren't they still on City domestic water, and City sewer? Not really self sufficient. Let's not kid ourselves here. Its a neat greenish house, but let's not pretend we can all live off grid in the city. Little problems like sewage and water and 2 million people living here usually get in the way of that fantasy.

eileen

Mike,
Where are you buying asbestos laden adhesives? : )

'self-sufficiency'...I suppose one could take any argument to some point of absurdity. Should we require a poop pit in the house before we accept any claims to self-sufficiency. I'm sure these guys are using power tools to do some of the work. Are those run off the grid? Or with gasoline generators? Maybe an Oxen generator? Hey, did they raise the Ox themselves or did they buy it from Wal-Ox? (tongue in cheek)

This project seems plenty commendable to me. Their efforts to get away from industrialized products, to test the limits of one's ability to do so, is good. Lets see how it works. Some things may be unrealistic (like sewer) and others aren't.

For example, is an earthen floor a barbaric notion? Is a roll-up door, which allows a high degree of inside-out interaction, actually a nightmare for the building envelope? Is a mass-wall assembly really a mass-wall assembly when it has insulation on the exterior? How much glass can you provide in the envelope without overwhelming the mass-wall?

Mike

Hey Really?,
In the Oregonian article, they say that the brothers plan on using composting toilets and harvesting and purifying rainwater for reuse. Done correctly, they may not need city water. The only waste I can see going in the sewer is graywater, from sinks and showers. While it would be ideal to reprocess this on site, City codes do not allow it. The brothers are doing a remarkable job, and calling the project "a neat greenish house" is really rather unfair.

We could all live off grid in the city. It would require sacrifices, which these guys are making. Just because most of us aren't willing to do what they are doing doesn't mean that we should denigrate their attempt.

Ace Lamps

It isnt mentioned, but I am assuming they will be using energy efficient lightbulbs throughout the house. To be even more efficient, LED lighting could be used, saving money and the environment

kate stevens

This type of flooring is not something that I'm very partial to myself, but it is their house and they can do whatever they like. Wrought iron doors would look amazing with that type of flooring though.

[name removed - spam]

I haven't heard of a dirt floor before. But sure does sounds interesting.

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