New England gabion house idea

Although I love straw bale houses, New England is not a big wheat producing region with lots of waste straw to bale. I'm not certain, but I think straw would have to be imported for a Connecticut house. It's a great insulating "brick" to build with, but I've been pondering what is local, and abundant and affordable to build with?

I also love earth bricks, but our soil typically needs to have clay supplemented in these parts, to make them. I have seen a Canadian rammed earth house built in a sandwich around a foam core. Rammed earth has the same needs as earth bricks and earth bags as well.

I live in Connecticut, where farms are very good at raising rocks. Literally, for centuries, New England farmers have to clear new rocks out of their fields, heaved up each winter by the freeze thaw cycle. Stone walls are everywhere around here. Like many things in these parts, glaciers get the blame. Nevertheless, stone is an abundant natural resource. Quarries are also a common site in these parts as well. Most of them are abandoned these days. There are many homes around here built from stone, both dressed (quarried) and undressed (as is), with mortar holding them together. I am really attracted to the strength of these homes.One big drawback for this climate is the lack of insulation in these stone houses. They do not resist heat flow. Nor does this climate have large temperature swings in the daytime and nighttime to that might create a temperature flywheel effect. The stone is good at retaining a constant temperature, which is a feature if it's a comfortable temperature for humans.

This is my proposal. Wire cages filled with loose stone as walls, but with spray foam on the outside. Maybe the cages are pre-filled then lifted by crane into position on the wall, like in this video.

I looks like these cages are not alternating in their vertical edges, which does not seem like a good idea to me. Regardless, the interface between the rocks and the cage seems to be an enticing habitat to creepy crawlies, both rodents and insects, as well as fungi and plant life. But a spray foam on the exterior would not only insulate, but also would deny all potential unwanted co-residents a location to move into as well as tie the structure together. The use of spray foam on the exterior is a good idea from the brilliant Corten Container advocate, Renaissance Ronin.

I think leaving the interior uncovered could be a neat look on the interior. It might be overwhelming too. Here's a link to an architect's website showing a house made of wood and gabions. The occasional internal wall of internal gabions looks really nice to me. Apparently, this house is not in climate that has to worry about winter. Wood, sheet rock, plaster, or plain are all options for interior walls. Electrical and water lines would have to stay exposed or only run through interior walls or the floor.

I have to admit that spray foam is not that environmentally friendly. It's a compromise. A short term concession for a long term payback in reduced carbon fuel usage in the long term. It also would require cladding of some sort over it. 

The interior exposed stone could help hold a steady temperature for the conditioned air space, reducing the energy requirements.

I can't help myself. I am very attracted to solid, castle-like construction. Next thing you know I will be proposing natural pools that form a moat around the house.


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