The cob (i.e. "monolithic adobe") cottage, approx. 400 "round" feet, was begun in 2003, finished and lived in from the end of 2004. It it located in a wooded area; has 24"-thick walls; radiant heat under the earthen floor; unique bamboo ceiling; artistic design with wall niches, many bas-relief sculptures on both interior and exterior walls, and other features. Besides the passive solar south/s.e./s.w. windows, two skylights make it unnecessary to burn electric lights during most days. A read-out panel inside the cottage helps monitor the amount of electricity available from the solar system. The cottage "breathes," with no toxic materials used, and feels very cozy and quiet.
The KITCHEN has custom cabinets with bamboo trim on the doors, a counter of recycled marble, and a small desk area with handmade sycamore top. The range is half wood-burning/half electric. There is a custom Dutch door (top & bottom open separately) which also sports the bamboo motif. Kitchen windows have sheer strength from cob pillars which have been artistically designed as "trees." This room is surrounded by large windows facing south, southeast and southwest, for optimum passive solar gain.
The BATHROOM has a whirlpool tub with mosaic enclosure. A colored bottle-glass window adds colorful charm, and is even visible by starlight when the house is dark. A bas-relief sculpture of a mermaid accents the bathroom wall, along with two niches for candles.
The UTILITY ROOM has access to the sleeping loft; space and hookups for a washing machine; and the propane water heater which also heats the radiant system under the earthen floor, the thermostat of which is easily operable on the opposite wall.
The second unit, a 2 1/2-story straw bale house, is unfinished on the inside. Further plans include: A connection to the cob cottage via an enclosed "breezeway," the radiant heat system to be extended from the cottage, and/or a Kiva/Rumford hybrid fireplace. The full basement is made with Faswall blocks (made of 85% recycled wood chips and 15% cement), the holes of which were filled with re-bar and cement. Both structures are covered with earthen plaster, then lime plaster over than, and have recycled clay tile roofs. Environmental principles were applied during the entire building process.
The solar system is an MX-60 inverter charge controller; a 72 volt nominal array charging a 48 volt nominal battery with strings of 4 in series, totaling 16 batteries, all located in a separate storage building which is also cob, with rammed-earth tire foundation. There are 24 solar panels on the prairie where they get full sun year round.