How we learned to make our house much stronger, without an increase in costs.
As those who are familiar with our building system know, we use a unique system that combines a wooden frame and a special type of compressed earth blocks that we then tie to the frame. Basically, compressed earth blocks are made from just the soil that we excavate from the site (basement, foundations), mixed with some additives and put in a press under extreme pressure (100 tons of pressure) and what comes out is a block that has a similar compressive strength as concrete, yet is completely natural. This combination of frame and these blocks creates a wall that has a 30 times higher mass (which means 30 times better soundproofing and inside temperature stability, so no AC required during summer), blocks almost all EMF fields, and has a lot of other amazing properties.
It basically allows us to build a house that has a higher quality of life than anything else ever built before, but at a 20% lower cost. See video on our homepage.
Obviously, once the bricks are there, a typical house that would normally have 4-5 tons of building materials will now have 150 tons with our system, and more mass requires more energy to displace that mass (put a house from folded paper in front of an air fan vs a bag of sand). So that will make our houses a lot stronger to resist strong winds by themselves. . We found something else, however, that will make it far stronger still, potentially even strong enough to resist earthquakes, tornadoes or hurricanes.
When we build the frames for our exterior walls, we originally designed them to have a hollow column on each corner (made from 4 2×8″ lumber boards)
So if this is the exterior wall frame of the house we were building.
The columns on the corner look like this (top plate removed)
We asked ourselves a question: “what if we place fiberglass rebar inside the columns, then fill them up with concrete, and then remove the wood to make the columns later on?
And what if we then place an additional diagonal fiberglass rebar on each side of the column to tie them directly to the foundation. Since we use a unique structure for our frameworks, where we build prefab 2-story frameworks with double 2×4 studs that are spaced apart with a gap in between (to break the thermal bridge from wood and get improved insulation value) sticking a diagonal rebar through these studs there is very easy.
In the end the concrete columns will then look like this (3D drawing without the wooden frame structure)
And here’s a closeup 3d drawing with the wooden frame back on, you can see how the rebar reinforcement is going through the double 2-story wall studs, while leaving the windows free.
Basically, this design allows us to translate shear forces (from wind or earthquakes) into tensile forces that act on the diagonal fiberglass rebars, and each of the diagonal fiberglass rebars has a tensile strength of 16,000 pounds. (we have 16 for this house design)
On top the 4 corner concrete pillars have a diagonal that measures 18″. (so in terms of a diagonal wind load, it has an equivalent strength of an 18″ concrete beam, while in practice we use a lot less concrete).
The costs? About 2.5 cubic yards of concrete, so about $400, and roughly $200 worth of fiberglass, but we save $800 from the wooden columns that we can recover once the concrete is poured. So no real increase in costs.
We’re currently having an engineer calculate how strong this will make our building, but it should be pretty insanely strong, probably strong enough to withstand some serious forces of Nature.