‘My wife and I are putting on the finishing touches on our Zero-Energy home. Here are some pictures, and some background. I acted as General Contractor for this home. I had some fantastic contractors working with me. The home is in Colorado Springs. The views are tremendous, so we wanted to take advantage of this, as you can see, from the front hallway.
The home’s design utilizes passive solar through the angled front glass to heat the incredible amount of thermal mass, consisting of the etched acid concrete floor, adobe walls, 5′ thick support walls, etc.
We started with the basic building block, which is the pictured tire bale. There are between 80 and 120 compressed tires in one of these bales, and it weighs about a ton. The rough dimension is 5’x5’x2.5′. An important point is that the “R” value is between 45 and 60.
The tire bales were stacked like bricks, using a design plan and a skid steer. I estimate that there are approximately 20,000 tires in our walls.
Later, a rebar reinforced concrete bond beam is poured all around the tire bale structure. This holds everything in place. It’s about 12″ thick. Also, shotcrete (pumped/sprayed concrete) was put over the tire bales. The bond beam and shotcrete will later become thermal mass for heat and cooling retention. It’s important to note here that, if a standard reinforced concrete wall was used, without the tire bales, our Regional Building Department would have required that it be insulated, and we would have lost all this thermal mass. This is the true advantage of the tire bale structure for this style of home.
“J” bolts are installed in the concrete. From this point onward, conventional construction is used to frame to the “J” bolts.
The finished project from the outside:
We were able to get our Occupancy Permit with plywood interior walls, as long as all electrical, insulation, plumbing, etc were operational and covered. We wanted to avoid any more rental payments, while we did the time-consuming adobe and tile walls (more thermal mass).
The guest bedroom shows the adobe finish on the tire bale wall. A friend of mine, who also built a similar structure, furred out the walls, for a more conventional look. We preferred the organic cave-like ambiance.
The area above the tire bale wall is still plywood. My carpenter is building custom cabinets, with some left-over beetle-kill T&G. Unfortunately, he tore his rotator cuff, but I will wait til he is healed. He has done such beautiful work for me.
The guest bathroom is in the door beyond. It has a walk-in shower, with acrylic stucco covering the tire-bale wall.
Work continues on the interior walls. We are about 60% with the adobe and tile work. This discussion wouldn’t be complete without showing the power generation for the home. It’s a fairly distant photo, and old (before glass installation). I need to take some others. We installed an Engineered Wind Turbine (2.4 kW) and PV System (2.8kW), with Netmetering. The house is incredibly efficient, and we run a surplus every month. It is all-electric. We have no natural gas or propane.
My wife and I love this home. It is an entirely refreshing way to live. There is no forced air. It’s incredibly quiet. There is always a view. And most of all, we feel like we are one with nature and the earth.