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Basics of Compound Organics Construction

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Compound Organics
Clay combined with organic fillers has been a basic building method for thousands of years. From the American Southwest to the northern German forests, the binding ingredient of clay along with insulating elements like straw or wood chips has been used to keep homes warm, or cool, and contribute to the structural integrity of the building. When formed into small, stackable, clay-straw bricks, the method is called adobe. When used in a wall formed by laths, the method is wattle-and-daub. And there are dozens of variations on each of these themes, from rammed-earth methods to giant pottery-like approaches. The use of compound organic homebuilding techniques is rooted in a desire to reduce dependence on manufactured wood products and thereby help preserve forests. In some areas, the appropriate clay and fillers are significantly less expensive than manufactured wood products, adding a financial incentive. And since building with these materials releases you from the carpenter's dictates of everything being plumb, flush and level, more unskilled labor can be used, including beginner, do-it-yourself adherents. Some methods allow for molded artistic touches that are impossible to achieve by just about any other building method. As with straw-bale construction, simply building a wall using these methods is only the beginning of the project. If indoor plumbing, electricity, windows and doors are desired, appropriate allowances (pipe holes, raceways, wooden frames, etc.) must be made as construction progresses. Also, gauging the exact R-value of these methods is inexact at best, since standardization isn't required. It's important to keep the walls of these buildings dry. A stuccoed exterior and plastered interior again contribute to reducing the dampness. Also, extended roof overhangs keep rainwater under control. Roofs in general must be built of materials other than compound organics, ranging from traditional thatched roofs to trusses decked and covered with modern materials. All building is best done in the warm, dry season, making areas with cool, rainy climates poor candidates for most compound-organic approaches.

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