Yurterre project

Building a ecological, inexpensive and healthy earth and bamboo house

Objectives:

  • Building a small house (44 sqm; 1 living-room, 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom) using as much as possible natural , locally sourced or reused, inexpensive materials
  • Integrating elements of bio-climatic design to allow passive cooling and avoid air-conditioning
  • Giving opportunity to workshop participants to learn and practise on a real project

Project designed and supervised by Alain Madec, co-founder of BaanDinDoi. Many thanks to people who has been involved in the construction: Fon (for caring people and preparing delicious meals), a group of talented local workers (Long Kwan, Pee Waeng, Peesee), as well as several workshop participants and volunteers (Damian, Sonam, Gael, Simon, Natanael, Etienne, Carole, Andrea, Israel, Irene, Cécile, Yohann, Santiago, Michaela, Samuel, Mathias, Audrey, Naro) and our friend Philippe.

Planned end of construction: October 2020. The project was slowed down during 3 months due to Covid 19 lockdown, and will be rather suspended during July and August (we expect heavy rains!).

Inexpensive

Estimated cost: 90,000 Thai bahts (2,600 euros, 2,900 USD) (Materials: 47,500; Food for volunteers & workshops participants: 29,500; Labour cost 13,000 THB).

From the design stage, we planned to limit the cost without affecting the strength, durability, reliability and maintenance, and came up with many ideas by using:

  • soil we got after digging our pond to make the walls
  • cheap local products (rice straw, rice husk, special grass for thatch roof)
  • bamboo from our land (although some canes were purchased in local shops)
  • reclaimed windows

And making ourselves most windows, door frames etc

Ecological 

We mostly used locally sources natural materials (earth and bamboo from our land, straw, rice husk, thatch from the nearby villages) to reduce the carbon foot print. Efforts were made to minimize the use of cement (gravel bags and rubble rocks for the foundations). The thatch roof of the yurt is also environmental friendly. However it will require to be changed every 4-5 years (possible damages from the weather, insects or lack of maintenance).

In some cases it is hard to avoid using materials either non-natural or with high carbon foot print:

  • lower part of exterior poles out of concrete (wood is delicious for termites!)
  • metal sheet roof aimed to be more long-lasting and maintenance-free than another natural option (leaves, thatch, bamboo etc)
  • metal structure more reliable and long-lasting that some timber and bamboo that might be damaged by termites (although teak wood could have been used).

It remains a personal choice according to the budget, time, your personal abilities to do the work instead of hiring people or ask a friend… Some people don’t mind to spend time to make a basement for a wood pole using stones and lime mortar, some people will rather buy a 200 bahts (6 USD) one-meter concrete pole instead.

In addition, unfortunately, it becomes more and more difficult to find local skillful workers who are able to complete task using natural materials and ancient building techniques. Labour cost and the need for future maintenance must be taken in to account.

Healthy

Another advantage of building with natural material is to avoid hazardous building materials, toxic paint, thinner, insulating materials etc

The construction…

The name ‘Yurterre’ is a combination of ‘yurt’ (nomad traditional Mongolian tent) and ‘terre’ (earth/soil in French).

Living room

In October 2019, we started to build a yurt out of bamboo. It was installed on a rubble rocks foundation, to limit the expenses and the use of cement.

60 bamboo canes were assembled with strong ropes, treated with non-toxic chemical (boric acid and borax) to protect them against insects.

The roof structure is made of 14 strong and treated bamboo poles, tight to the central steel crown (toono). The Toono is held by 4 vertical bamboo poles.

The roof cover is made of local thatch (‘yakaa’), light, cheap and acting as insulating and waterproof roof. Above the central toono, a gap between the roof and its top ‘hat’ helps the hot air to escape and keep the interior cool.

The walls are partially covered  with earth using a technique adapted from the ancient ‘wattle-and-daub’. Split bamboo canes are placed horizontally, waved between the yurt canes. Then a earth mix (earth, sand and straw) is put around the split bamboo.

Bedroom

It started in December 2019, as an extension of the yurt. We wanted to make strong load-bearing earth walls for a 20 sqm bedroom. We choose to make the walls by using 3 methods, in order to allow workshop participants to practise several techniques: Adobe bricks, Cob and Earth Bags.

Foundation & drainage: gravel bags and rubble trench

Walls: Adobe (earth bricks dried in the sun), Cob, Earth bags using earth/sand/straw

Roof: steel structure and metal sheet (double-roof made out of bamboo to be installed later)

Foundation and first layers

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