The Gathering Circle, the “welcoming entrance” to the Highlands Center Discovery Garden, is the most recent project using the Form Free Building system! The Highlands Center, located deep in the pine forest just 15 minutes from downtown Prescott, is a non-profit...read more
The FORM FREE BUILDING technology makes POURED EARTH less expensive ….even rivaling the cost of frame construction! How does it accomplish that?
- The Form Free Building technology reduces time and labor which reduces the cost of construction. With the introduction of the patent-pending Form Free Building system, there is no longer a need for the heavy, labor-intensive aluminum or wood forms generally used for the construction of high-mass walls. Specifically, this means that the labor required to erect, remove, clean, load, stock and store forms is totally eliminated. Instead, because the “forms” used in the Form Free Building process are a fraction of the weight of other forming systems, they can easily be created, transported and erected on site. Moreover, because they are internal, there are no residual cleaning, transporting or storage issues! The result? EASE of CONSTRUCTION and AFFORDABILITY.
- Passive heating & cooling is “free” …. saving energy and money today… and over time! Because Form Free high mass PE walls also provide passive heating and cooling, the cost for construction now absolutely rivals that of SIP, ICF and other alternative high mass wall building materials available today. For an in-depth explanation of how high mass walls work to heat and cool a building, see the FAQ page on High Mass. It is important to remember that this is a savings on energy that will continue into the future making the choice to build high mass walls over frame an even better decision as energy costs continue to climb! These walls are also non-flammable!!!
- Thoughtful architectural design reduces building costs by up to 20%. Living Systems excels in architectural design. Its goal is to design only the amount of space necessary to achieve the client’s needs and aesthetic. The result is a more efficient use of space that does not compromise the overall sense of spaciousness normally associated with larger homes. This process easily reduces building costs by 10-20%. Living Systems’ goal is to improve building quality, provide maximum energy efficiency and reduce future maintenance without expanding the budget.
- The cost of a long-term investment is priceless!! While we have been trained to think of cost within the context of a short-term return on investment (often 12 months or less), this way of thinking fails to look at the long-term return on investment that often produces the better profit. A quality, energy-efficient home that is healthy and comfortable will last for generations. As the ad says: the price of health, comfort and energy savings……PRICELESS.”
- Form Free Poured Earth walls require little to no maintenance! We will say it again!…. Form Free Poured Earth walls require little to NO maintenance! Because the cost of maintenance can amount to a considerable amount of money over time, its elimination must be considered when determining value. Frame, as well as other forms of wall construction, often need maintenance within the first few years as well as into the future. We all know that wood is abused by the sun in the southwest while rain in other parts of the country can lead to deterioration of other kinds of walls. Form Free Poured Earth walls, on the other hand, are not bothered by sun or rain! They are made to last for generations.
Why build with Poured Earth high mass wall?
HIGH MASS and PASSIVE HEATING & COOLING
Why build with Poured Earth high mass wall? Because they:
- Reduce or eliminate energy costs.
- Require little or no maintenance.
- Provide quiet, comfort and health.
- Endure for many generations.
- Make use of on-site or local soils.
- Create walls that are non-flammable.
How do high-mass walls actually provide heating and cooling?
Mass refers to a materials’ capacity to store energy (or heat). Different materials have different capacities to store this energy. A pound of water, for example, stores three times as much energy as a pound of wood, twice the amount of energy as concrete and over 3000 times the energy of a pound of air.
The key to understanding how high mass works is to realize that all materials (the mass of a building or of our body) are constantly trying to achieve a balance in temperature. For example, if you are sitting in front of a sunny window your body mass receives the comfort of collecting and storing the sun’s energy. However, if you then walk into a cool room, you feel chilled as your stored body heat is radiated back to the materials around you.
The interior of a building behaves similarly. In the winter, the collective building mass – the walls, floors, wood, wallboard, etc. – are heated up by the sun during the day. As night comes on and the room begins to naturally cool down all these sources of stored energy radiate their heat back “into” the room in an attempt to achieve a balanced temperature in the space. The effect, however, is of added “free” heat. In the summer, if a house is vented at night to capture the cool of the evening, the collective mass will store “cool” which is then radiated back into the home during the day in order to find a balanced temperature. The effect is one of “natural” air conditioning …..that is free!
Obviously, all homes are to some degree passively heated by the sun during the day or able to be cooled by night time venting of cool air. However, when the walls and floors are made of materials that are able to store more heat (or cool), as they are in buildings made of high mass walls (and concrete or tile floors), they become much more efficient at storing the heat or cool. In a sense, they are like a battery that efficiently stores heat or cool for later long-term use. The result is a home that provides vast sources of “free” heating and cooling.
Another feature of a passively heated and cooled home is that there are no drafts created by moving air. Unlike forced air heating and cooling, this process happens almost without our being aware of it. All we feel is the comfort of the room as it accommodates to our needs to be heated or cooled.
KEYS to how to optimize the efficiency of Poured Earth high mass walls:
- Correct orientation to the south. First, the home must be properly oriented toward the south to allow for the maximum amount of sun to enter the building during the winter months but not during the summer months. By balancing the amount and distribution of the sun’s energy that enters the windows in the winter with shading during the summer, the building mass now becomes the primary heating and cooling system.
- Excellent insulation from top to bottom. Next, a passively heated and cooled home depends on a very well insulated building envelope. In order to effectively reduce heating and cooling loads, insulation must be installed properly throughout the building.
- Deflection of light into the building to maximize heating/cooling. Through the placement of a well-designed inside and outside “light shelves” (designed by Michael Frerking) on the south side of a home, light (which is heat) is bounced from the outside through upper clerestory windows and then diffused onto the ceiling of the building. The result is an evenly distributed, warm, indirect light that helps avoid both the uncomfortable glare of direct sunlight and the overheating that is common in way too many homes.