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A Perspective on Building 
The Ranch at the Whiterocks
The 21st Century House


At the Ranch at the Whiterocks we have a simple no-nonsense approach to living. Our buildings use nature as a co-partner instead of standing against it to supply electricity, minimal maintenance and a healthy environment. Using inexhaustible resources, the weather, sun and earthen building materials automatically heat, cool  and provide water and electricity. This housing is a demonstration that can help to solve the problem of high utility costs, depleting natural resources and global warming. 

By using our inborn intelligence and a little common sense, we have constructed elegant housing that doesn't require constant feeding and attention. If you like this prospect, we'll show you how and we can even hold your hand throughout the process. There are systems we can implement which offer such a savings to our resources that we cannot help but urge their consideration. The costs are negligible. The rewards are many. The concepts and philosophies are simple and easy to implement. 

We can all live producing resources instead of depleting them. It is only fear and lack of knowledge that keeps our society from lifting the burden of these problems. 

As a society, we have used and wasted natural resources in ways we can no longer afford. We know problems of diminishing forests, water and oil exist. These problems are not out of our hands. We can do something about them. 


First, we must educate ourselves to the things we are doing as a routine which automatically contribute to these problems. As informed members of society we can carefully make decisions as to how we, personally, will proceed.

PROBLEM - Wood as a Primary Building Material is the culprit

The most conventional housing material used in our society is lumber. Lumber is flimsy and expensive. It cannot insulate well against nature.

The machinery it takes to heat and cool a conventional house is expensive requiring ongoing maintenance during its relatively short-lived life cycle. 

The complexity of these machines requires attention for service and replacement if something breaks down. This is service usually performed by a professional. "Professional" equals expensive.


If lumber is our standard building material we are using up our precious forests and fossil fuels. 
Lumber as a building material is terribly expensive and requires fuel to heat and cool it. As we all know, fuel has never been cheap. 

With a lumber house we are required by necessity to use more oil and natural gases to heat and cool these houses. The problem is that it is predicted that these resources will be extinct by the middle of this very century. Some say it will only be 30 years.

Even with the most efficient and sophisticated insulating materials, a building made of wood requires materials and systems that cause this excessive use of utilities to heat and cool it. 

There is no way around incurring a costly utility bill with a house made of lumber. A house built of lumber is naturally cold in the winter and hot in the summer. We try to save heat by raising and lowering the thermostat, not realizing that the material the house is made of is causing this expense. In summer with a wood building we use electricity to air condition. 

During the life of this building there is a continuous need for attention and maintenance. Maintenance and machinery automatically demand costly and exhaustible fuels.  With a wood building, we work continuously for the never-ceasing outflow of hard-earned cash to the local utility companies. 

We don't have to do this. We could be saving this cash instead of spending it.

SOLUTIONS 

Use the sun and adobe mass to build. It will heat and it will cool automatically. Solar adobe does the work all by itself. A building made of this material maintains a 68-72 degree temperature inside summer or winter. The temperature always feels right when you walk into a solar adobe house. It is automatically warming in winter and automatically cooling in summer. There is no effort. 

That means we don't have to  pay the electric, air conditioning or heat bill. With solar electricity added you won't even have an electric bill. There are no air conditioning costs. Earth is dirt cheap and it is a highly effective insulating building material. There is no additional insulation needed on top of adobe. 

The sun is ever present and inexhaustible and it is free and non-polluting. It provides free heat and solar electricity all year long. It is never depleted by our use. Doesn't it make sense? If we expand our knowledge and use of solar technology as much as we can we could alter the direction toward global warming.

Even tires packed with earth cost only one's labor. The thermal mass is a natural property of adobe. Earthen building materials absorb the free heat of the sun. It takes the sun about three months to penetrate a 20" thick adobe wall. The thick mass of adobe captures heat. 

Adobe requires little maintenance to protect it against the elements.

Placement of windows to use heat from the sun is another way to automatically lower heating demands. Place windows 15 degrees east of true south with sunlight for heat in mind. At the Ranch at the Whiterocks we place windows facing that direction so they automatically pull in this free source of heat.

Heat all hot water with the sun, stored in a tank for use any time of the day or night. If only half the people in the United States used solar hot water to fulfill only half their hot water needs, we would meet the emission standards set by the Kyoto conference.

Our last suggestion: use a solar oven to cook. The sun actually cooks food perfectly and never burns it.


PROBLEM - Overuse of Water


In many parts of the United States shortage of drinkable water is becoming a problem today. For many years our society has gone through billions of gallons of water needlessly. Extravagant use of water has depleted the Ogallala aquifer in the Midwest and the water reserves in the United States. We have depleted 80% of this water reserve in the 20th Century. This natural aquifer will take millions of years to recover. 

As a society, we have gotten used to using an excessive amount of water to flush toilets and water lawns. The conventional mode of water use in the world is only one single time use. 

At Grand Canyon National Park they have posted in each room the following examples of extravagant use of water: if we leave the water running while shaving we use 20 gallons as opposed to 1 gallon by filling the basin. If we leave the water running while brushing our teeth we use 2-5 gallons, as opposed to 1/2 gallon by brushing in a conservative way. If we leave the water running while we wash our hands we use 2 gallons as opposed to 1 gallon by filling the basin. 

Normally, as a society, we do not appreciate rainwater as the great natural resource that it is, to be stored for later use. The tendency is to think of ground water as superior to rainwater; therefore, by social demand, we have commonly pumped water from the ground. Today ground water is being contaminated with chemicals and other forms of pollution.


SOLUTIONS

Rainwater catchments are an ever-present and inexhaustible resource. If we depend upon rainwater, we are no longer pumping water out of the ever-shrinking natural reserves.


Harvesting and use of rainwater would stop the enormous depletion of water reserves pumped and it would be a healthier source of drinking water. 
At the Ranch non-toxic roofing material catches rainwater. 

Water can be used several times within the house before turning it outside to water the gardens.

It first passes through an extensive filtration system. Its initial use is for drinking, cooking and washing at our kitchen sinks. It's first use can also be at the bathroom sink and the washing machine. The water going out from here is now called gray water. Then it goes directly into a gray water treatment garden where it feeds plants and vegetables. The plants and vegetable roots clean the water through transpiration. At the same time they get their necessary nutrients and water. Plants love the extra nutrients of water that has been used on dishes. After the roots have cleaned the water, it is used to flush the toilet. The toilet utilizes the gray water and then it goes into a regular septic system. When the water is too full in the garden, it is used yet another time when it is pumped to feed plants in the yard outdoors. 


PROBLEM - Toxins and Contamination of Water


Society commonly uses toxic materials such as bleaches, soaps and cleaners to wash clothes and for routine cleaning procedures. These cleaners are pollutants to our oceans and contaminants of our food chain.


SOLUTION

Use biocompatible soaps and cleaners that are food for plants. Biodegradable can be toxic to plants. Do not mistake these with "biodegradable." Biodegradable eventually does break down but it is not necessarily plant food. 


PROBLEM - Toxic Building Materials

Many of the materials used in conventional building procedures are physically unhealthy for the builder and for the occupant. Toxic building materials have caused illness which is called "invisible illness."  They have made people sick without even knowing the source. 

Unfortunately, these materials make up almost all of the customary American building. Common toxic materials to be cautious of are fiberglass, glues, chipboard, paint and various plastics.  They are found most commonly in walls and carpeting and they will out-gas toxins forever.

SOLUTION


Wherever possible use building materials that do not out-gas. No carpeting with toxic glues. No chipboard. There is an insulation that is not fiberglass; however, at this time it is very expensive. Earthen walls do not outgas poisonous glues.

Fortunately, the building trade, as it is today is a relatively short-lived custom and tradition. The idea of being in partnership with nature rather than standing against it offers great possibility for the 21st Century. This idea offers the possibility of limiting the ever presence of global warming and fuel dependence. 

We do not have to deplete our water, oil and gas reserves. It is easy for anyone to create new building systems and philosophies and still live with all the comforts every American is used to. These new systems offer such a savings that we cannot help but urge their consideration and investigation.



 

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Copyright 2000-2002 International Step Foundation
Last modified: April 25, 2002