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"Every child should have mud pies, grasshoppers, waterbugs, tadpoles, frogs & turtles, elderberries, wild strawberries, acorns, hickory nuts, trees to climb, animals to pet, hayfields, pine cones, rocks to roll, sand, snakes, huckleberries and hornets – and any child who has been deprived of these has been deprived of the best part of his education." -Luther Burbank 1849 - 1926
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Solutions For Green We also publish California Green Solutions and a series of blogs about healthy living solutions.

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california native plants are poppies for wildflowers and native plant ecosystem

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Concrete Blocks

BOOK: greywater recycling systems

Create An Oasis with Greywater by Art Ludwig
The revised and expanded fourth edition of this heavily illustrated book outlines numerous basic greywater recycling systems and serves as an excellent primer for anyone interested in building their own "septic" system. Discussions include greywater filtration, pumps, leach fields, plant selection, soils, and basic plumbing.

Branched Drain Greywater Systems by Art Ludwig
Written as a supplement to Create and Oasis with Greywater, this book outlines the most reliable, sanitary, low maintenance distribution of household greywater to downhill plants without filtration or pumping. Build your own branched greywater system with all off-the-shelf components.

Sustainable design, passive solar, high thermal mass (HTM™), do-it-yourself solar house plans are featured along with septic system parts and consultation; Infiltrator chamber leach fields; ("graywater") greywater recycling systems; ("waterless") composting toilets; non-electric appliances; LP gas refrigerators; flood alarms drywells for storm water drainage and sediment control; Kobe stainless steel hoods; and energy saving products like shade cloth and heat storage tubes

Greywater Recycling Parts & Design

passive settling tanks - NO moving parts greywater disposal & graywater reuse kits Clivus® LPF20 pressurized greywater filter

Septic System Parts & Design

septic tank, septic filter & septic filter basin Infiltrator® (gravel-less) chamber leach field with owner-builder septic system consultation

Sustainable Design Home Products

heat storage tubes for passive solar collection flood alarms & home garbage composters ,
Servel RGE 400 LP gas refrigerator (Propane - $1099* plus freight OR Kerosene - $1549* plus freight)


The most common earth home construction and design error is leaving a home's foundation uninsulated and the surrounding earth not waterproofed. Wet earth in contact with your foundation will act as a giant heat sink, constantly pulling energy away from the home. This single design error can be extremely costly in terms of losing heat or cooling potential. Believe me, there's a lot more to proper foundation design than just installing a French drain. Shallow footer design, such as this monolithic slab foundation, is much improved with as little as two feet of perimeter wing insulation.


Interior planterbeds are a central element of our HTM earth home design. Sloped glass is the only natural way to grow crops in the winter. We have tomatoes producing inside this HTM twelve months of the year at an 8700 foot elevation in the Rockies! Indoor planterbeds (heat storage) and the ability to grow crops year-round in extreme climates is the hallmark of our sustainable design. The 2800 square footer pictured throughout this web site sets high atop the continental divide in Colorado and maintains comfortable year-round growing temperatures. As a side note, fig trees are excellent plants for interior planterbeds. They are insect resistant, prune and grow easily, and produce delicious specialty fruit year-round. Interior planterbeds perform many functions besides being just a great hobby. The staggering volume of wet earth in these planterbeds holds an amazing amount of heat! This is the heart of high thermal mass housing: heat storage. Please note that we have gone to above ground planterbeds (the one in this picture is below grade) to store even more heat in our newest designs. Above grade planterbeds are much more economical to build and a lot easier to maintain from a kneeling postion or wheel chair.

The most do-it-yourself friendly and economically sensible, wall building method we've found is concrete block dry-stacking, wherein you surface bond concrete masonary units ("CMU"s) for the home's walls. Dry-stack is a high thermal mass construction technique wherein CMU walls are assembled without mortar (only the first course is bedded in grout to establish plumb and level for the wall). These CMU blocks need not be of any special design; they don't interlock. You simply stack the concrete blocks in a running bond pattern and then parge both sides with a single layer of fiber reinforced, surface bonding cement ("structural stucco"). Applied 1/8" thick (minimum) to both sides, surface bonding cements have strengths that are superior to conventionally mortared block walls and they look a lot better too (no grout lines)! Grout between blocks is NOT an adhesive. Grout between mortarted blocks is a weakness - it is only done to keep a wall plumb and level. This easy to apply, water resistant, one coat structural stucco comes in tintable white or gray, making a finish coat or painting optional. It may help to think of surface bonding cement as a "fiberglass" reinforced coating. The surface bonding cement's polyester fibers interlock to form a VERY strong wall. Once your concrete block walls have been bonded, one hollow vertical core every four feet (or less, if specified by the engineer) is filled with ready-mix concrete and a #5 rebar for an exceptionally strong heat storage mass at a low cost.

Are you worried about earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, fire, and termites? When you compare dry stack block to other materials, remember the three little pigs!
Dry stack block walls are worlds stronger and more durable than any stick framed or strawbale home. In addition to being fireproof, surface bonded walls are waterproof and they resist air and sound penetration better than other types of construction materials. Plus, the walls are absolutely termite and rot proof! One coat application of surface bonding cement provides both structural strength and textured finish with integral color capability that can even eliminate painting. The economic strengths of dry laid block begin with the inherent properties of concrete block and the fact that block can be dry stacked 70% faster than laid in mortar. Surface bonded cement block walls have greater flexural and racking strengths than conventional mortar construction, too!
HTM design counsultation packages are perfect for homeowner/builders because we include toll-free telephone, fax, and e-mail advice and links to help you before, during, and after construction.
The most economical route to owning a new home is to build it yourself. Since HTM passive solar home designs require no prior drywall, bricklaying, framing, or siding skills, the average person can build their own walls without the assistance of these expensive subcontractors. Throughout design and construction, we are here to answer questions and offer creative advice. Please note that solid, poured in place, concrete or mortared block walls are just as effective, but the cost of hiring contractors to build the forms, pour the walls, and then return to strip the forms can be prohibitively expensive for most people.
We are well versed in helping clients build in a very economical way, specializing in a "low-tech" approach which is both simple and effective.
We have experimented with a great many techniques and know all too well what doesn't work. This knowledge is what sets us apart from the competition. We are builders, not just architects with a theoretical "dream" and we're not some large, impersonal, mail order company either. We are family owned and operated, taking great pride in offering a level of service our competitors simply cannot deliver. We are here for you after the sale.
The true beauty of an HTM passive solar home lies in its simplicity of form working with function: what a concept! Please note that an HTM is not always bermed: buried into a hillside (walkout basement). Underground house designs are always an option with an HTM, but most people opt for the conventional, above ground appearance. The same choice applies to sloped glass, but bear in mind that vertical glass does not supply nearly as much solar gain.

Architerra's HTM design model is basically "adobe" architecture that has withstood the test of time because it works, simply and naturally.

We substitute concrete block for adobe since block is more readily available throughout the country and are better suited to local building codes and engineering needs. Once the first row is set in mortar on the footers, the walls take shape pretty fast since the rest of the blocks are dry-stacked (no mortar between the blocks). Surface bonding cement is trowled onto both sides of the concrete block walls, tooled into various stucco textures, and often left as the one-coat, finished product on the inside (no drywall here). Exterior walls are insulated and given a cosmetic coat of stucco, siding, or whatever treatment is necessary to allow an HTM to blend into its neighborhood. If you want to use conventional mortared block walls or poured-in-place concrete, go right ahead, we're with you all the way. It's just that dry stack is worlds easier for the unskilled homeowner-builder. You don't have to have any experience with laying block to dry stack!

Log roof beams

You can build any type of roof you wish, even truss, but logs have a very softening effect on rectangular structures. A lot of attention has been given to our choice of log roof beams ("purlins"). Please note that you can use dimensional lumber (beams) in your roof details if you wish. The main advantages to log purlins are availability (raw logs are more often used for firewood) and cost.

(look into untreated telephone poles - ones which did not meet stringent specs are a good buy). But what you notice after the home is finished is the way the round logs greatly soften the angular nature of an HTM.

Greenhouse style, sloped glazing brings in the solar heat and plenty of free natural light with it. Ask any gardener, you just can't grow crops behind vertical glass! Sloped glass gives an HTM its unconventional look, but vertical glass simply does not produce as much solar heat gain. It is one of the main function or fashion decisions you will be faced with. Take plenty of time to carefully consider this all-important sustainable home heating decision. Losing heat through the glass at night is of little concern when thermal mass is so BIG and your windows have been sloped to allow at least 30% more energy in. And there is absolutely no need to use movable or expensive "specialty" glass either! After all, the whole concept of Low-E glass is to keep energy out! Let all the solar energy in you can - the excess gain will allow you to ventilate more agressively in the winter.

Too much south facing glass is a design problem for earthships, strawbale, and log homes because of their relatively low thermal masses.

Soil compacted into a tire (earthships) simply does not absorb and release heat fast enough to avoid uncomfortable temperature swings, and be assured that those "solar absorbent" floor tiles in your strawbale or log home won't help much when the structure itself fails to store any heat! HTM passive solar home designs allow you to have LOTS of south facing glass for growing crops without the harmful temperature swings common in other types of construction.

Concrete walls are extremely fast to absorb excess solar gain and release it later, when needed to moderate indoor temperatures. The enormous thermal mass under and around the home eventually "charges" over the course of the summer, allowing this stored energy to keep the home comfortable all winter. Insulated drapes are a common addition in cold, cloudy winter climates, but keep in mind that even on a cloudy day your home gets some solar gain, otherwise it would be dark. In hot climates, you cool your thermal mass by installing sun shade materials along the exposed glass front. For details on creating a cooler micro-climate outside the home with a shaded trellis, take this link: shade cloth chapter.


We advocate the use of earthtubes. Earthtubing is nothing more than plastic "sewer" pipes encircling your foundation: cooling or preheating fresh air as it is naturally drafted inside the home. Earthtubing functions as the "path of least resistance": earthtubes allow outside ventilation air to naturally temper as it flows along a series of plastic "sewer" pipes, warming or cooling as the season may require. In homes that must have a dust\allergen-free environment, fresh ventilation air can be filtered and the pipes periodically cleaned.

Please note that earthtube technology is not geothermal heat pumping. Earthtubes are sustainable, non-electric, passive heating and cooling systems. Unlike geothermal heat pumps, earthtubes do not involve any exotic machinery or special type of pipe that we are trying to sell you. The technique is decidedly low-tech: cleaning, for instance, simply involves pulling a bleach soaked towel through the plastic pipes. Knowing how much and which type of earthtubing pipe to use and how to install, space, maintain, and filter them is an excellent example of the practical knowledge we supply with every HTM consultation package.


Premium grade, knitted lockstitch 75% shade factor 6 foot wide only - $2.50 per lineal foot - FREE shipping Smoke Blue, Jade, Saddle Tan, Spring Green & Black

Custom size shade panels made to order! Available plain or with reinforced hem & grommet Black 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80 & 90% shade factors 6, 8, 10, 12, 20, 26 and 32 foot stock widths (or we cut) NEW! - Green 60% and White 50% are also available

You can develop unique 'micro-climates' using this knitted shade fabric as shadecloth, playground shading, and/or windscreen. Please note that these are higher quality, knitted shade fabrics and not some cheap woven, agricultural (greenhouse) grade shadecloth. Woven shadecloth just don't stand up to the weather and abuse like our fully lockstitched, knitted sun screen material. A knitted shade panel does not ravel when cut unlike cheaper woven shadecloth which can unravel like a screen door when cut or torn. Additionally, knitted shade fabric has a very high tensile strength, so you can stretch it very tight without affecting its appearance. And tight shade tarp are key to protecting the material in high wind situations. Shade canopies not only provide sun screening to block excess solar heat gain, they create a micro-climate next to the glass. Outside temperature can be dropped more than fifteen degrees with effective shading and ventilation. Keep in mind that shade netting allows heated, rising air to pass through the open knit.

Patio shade cover: 80 percent or 90 percent depending upon heat reduction desired
Greenhouse cover: 30 percent to 70 percent depending upon crop and heat reduction A permanent shade panel over a trellis with lattice boards, posts and vegas.

For more articles about NATURE EXPLORATION

Leaves of 3 Leave them be
Think Global - Act Local!
Certify Your Backyard Wildlife Habitat
Last Child in the Woods: Saving our children from nature-deficit disorder
Favorite Quotes about Nature
Bio-Diesel solving energy shortages