Quail Springs Natural Building Update

Quail Springs Community, Natural Building, The Land Leave a Comment

Written by John Orcutt

Greetings, and thanks to all of you who joined us at Quail Springs this fall to help us move forward on a few natural building projects.  We accomplished so much!  We have just posted a new job opportunity at Quail Springs for a Hosting and Volunteer Director.  This individual will be creating and inviting you all to a number of volunteer opportunities next year.  We're also planning a few off site cob oven workshops for next year.

Most of you who follow Quail Springs on social media probably saw that Living Big in a Tiny House aired an episode featuring Quail Springs and Sasha and my house.  If you haven't seen it, it's full of beautiful shots and gorgeous drone footage.  You can watch the episode below.  I've enjoyed being able to share it with friends and family who haven't been out to Quail Springs to give them an idea of what we're up to.

In other exciting news, this fall we set out to raise $100,000 this season to further our work toward legalizing earthen building and with your help, we've exceeded that goal and raised over $140,000! The year's not over yet, and we still have a few days left to meet our stretch goal of $150,000. We're beyond grateful for the support that we've received, and for your belief in the work that we're doing.

Last spring we partnered with Cal-Poly SLO, Art Ludwig of Oasis Design, and Anthony Dente of Verdant Engineering to perform five official seismic tests on cob walls (more than doubling prior official testing data in the US).  Data from these tests was used in the latest version of the Monolithic Adobe Building Code (cob code) which passed the first round of testing by a vote of 93-6!  We'll find out on Dec 20th if it passed the full ICC voting that ended this week.

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Cob walls built for testing

We've also hired Art Ludwig to work with Sasha on policy changes we are working with local building officials to make in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties (Art lead Santa Barbara County to become the first county in the US to legalize greywater).  Our primary goal is to make earthen housing permits more accessible, while also encouraging progress on codes for fire safety and tiny houses.

Building codes should be given a lot of credit for protecting us from various disasters like earthquakes over the last century, but we feel it's time to update the list of potential threats and give more weight to the increasing threat of firestorms, and the health risks of toxic building materials in all stages (manufacture, installation, use, demolition, and disposal).

It will take time to implement these changes on a larger scale, but we are pleased with how supportive our local building departments have been and look forward to collaborating with them to design pre-approved plans for fire-safe, non-toxic, low carbon footprint earthen buildings.  Potential home owners would still have to purchase a building permit, but the plans would be free, and they would not have to invest the years it currently takes to obtain permits for earthen buildings.

The next step in our process is an official ASTM e119 fire test, for which we are currently raising money.  Of course, we all know earth doesn't burn, people have been building ovens with earth for centuries.  We did our own unofficial fire test on on of the earthquake test walls, burning a fire against one side of a 12" thick wall at 1800 - 2000 degrees (F) for over four hours.  The other side never exceeded 65!  Testing of materials used by the building industry (which is responsible for 39% of US CO2 emissions) are usually paid for by the manufacturer of the material.  We hope no one will be making a profit off of mud, so we are crowdfunding the 40-50K this test will cost.  We're also fundraising to cover costs of the coalition we're assembling to create Earthen Building policy.

Thanks for being a part of Quail Springs, and please let me know if you have other ideas of how you can support these efforts, or other ways you'd like to be involved.  We're also happy to connect with investors, building officials, engineers, architects, researchers -- anyone who can help us progress.  And again, please share the Patagonia fundraiser with those in your network who may be able to support.  Every bit matters (especially while it's being doubled).

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