Welcome to the dome-home site clearing, preparation, and maintenance open source hub. It will provide a tutorial for how to prepare your site before building an Earthbag or aircrete dome. It will also provide ongoing maintenance information. Once we’ve finished this tutorial and open sourced all the details for the 3-dome cluster as part of our crowdfunding campaign, we’ll do the same for the complete Earthbag Village (Pod 1) , Duplicable City Center®, and then the other 6 villages.
NOTE: THIS PAGE IS NOT CONSIDERED BY US TO BE A COMPLETE AND USABLE TUTORIAL UNTIL
WE FINISH THE CROWDFUNDING CAMPAIGN AND ADD ALL THE VIDEOS AND EXPERIENCE FROM
THAT BUILD TO THIS PAGE – IN THE MEANTIME, WE WELCOME YOUR INPUT AND FEEDBACK
Safety should always come first, no matter the existing circumstances. This includes avoiding long shifts and obtaining proper sleep for all involved. Every member of your team should be provided and required to use the following safety equipment:
With these efforts we intend to minimize and hopefully eliminate any serious workplace injuries.
This reference below is safety measures directly related to trenching and excavation. Note worthy focus points are exemplified here in this OSHA Fact Sheet Trenching and Excavation Safety document and include:
Sustainable site selection is choosing, through careful analysis, a specific location suitable for a lasting and defined purpose. Nature is a well balanced ecosystem in which creation, maintenance, and a back-to-the-earth cycle occurs in perfect harmony without the need for human intervention. Long-term negative environmental impacts can result in human interference. With sustainable planning, the goal is balance that can be maintained for a lasting and repetitive cycle when introduced at the project’s conception.
Once the purpose is established, it’s easier to make decisions based on sustainability to create an enduring project that integrates well with nature. It is best to plan what you want and then seek out a property that will allow and easily adapt to sustainable concepts. Sustainability is an important consideration for construction projects and their specific building materials, agricultural and self-sustaining projects. This could be orchards and gardens, timber harvesting, aquatics, energy efficiency, utilization of existing resources, waste management and recycling, rainwater catchment, erosion prevention, carbon footprint reduction, and minimization of heat island effects. Other influential factors are location, cost, land area and its directional orientation, natural topographical features, and proximity to commonly used communal facilities.
Construction can result in long-term detrimental effects. This includes a significant amount of waste, soil structure breakdown, drainage pattern disruption, and natural habitat destruction. Collectively, improper planning and design have a substantial negative effect on our planet. Every construction site offers a unique set of challenges and advantages, with proper implementation we can considerably save on costs, energy, etc. and greatly lessen our waste and environmental impact. With careful planning and sustainable design we can leave future generations with an environmentally sound planet that will benefit all of us now as well.
Numerous factors affect site selection and can reduce long-term maintenance costs over the life of a building. It is generally better to seek a property once you have a well-designed plan in place. Your site may not always be ideal but by understanding the nature of the site it is easier to plan the structure. Proper placement of our 3-dome cluster is critical for sustainability, maintenance, and aesthetics of the structure. Without this focus and attention, numerous problems can and will arise. Negating a considerable amount of funds and labor of the finished structure. To avoid this we will consider these factors:
Affordability is one of the most important factors that will guide site selection. Land costs vary based on the amenities, proximity to schools, hospitals, and the overall approach and development of the area. The selected place of residence determines this, with a certain purpose and intent. Elderly and children would need to access hospitals, school districts, grocery stores, etc. in close proximity; which may bump up the cost of the land. One needs to look over the budget set and how much can be afforded for land. Construction costs must also be taken into account while selecting the land. There are several factors which may increase construction costs and location is an example of this. The further you have to go to bring in construction materials and equipment the more expensive it will become due to transportation charges.
After construction has been completed, consider the benefits to the end users. Having public transport to and from the finished site to nearby offices, stores, hospitals, schools etc. is a matter of convenience and economics. Carpooling, cycling, and walking also will save energy and reduce pollution. For a community situation like ours, appropriate proximity to your most frequented locations and/or activities also saves time, energy, and resources. See the Open Source Permaculture Guide section on zones for more on this.
If you have existing structures consider reusing/recycling any materials possible. Demolition is costly as is the transportation of materials to the local landfill. Plan ahead for material storage as you may need to put up a temporary storage shed or barn. Also plan for direct access to the site, portable showers, toilets, potable water, temporary shelter for meal preparation, sleeping quarters, and marking designations for all these areas. If the construction site is vacant land, retain as many native plants and trees as possible and consider additional landscaping with water-wise gardens in mind.
Understanding weather patterns plays an important role in optimizing energy conservation and utilization planning. Also it affects the overall comfort within the structure. Be aware of seasonal temperatures, snow/rainfall averages, humidity, wind speed/direction, and number of sunny days per year. This data will help with insulation requirements, design and orientation of structures and gardens, and water sources and flow rates when designing for energy conservation. Initially we will consider what direction the general weather patterns and prevailing winds originate from. We will then take advantage of these winds for air circulation and cooling within the structure by orienting the openings in that general direction. If the winds are too strong, we want to minimize their effects by securing the door and window openings so they are not problematic. Failure to do this will allow sand and dust to accumulate within the domes. Window placement should also face south to take advantage of passive solar gains.
Plants have a major impact on our environment by retaining soil moisture, reducing erosion, replenishing groundwater, and reducing air temperatures. Retaining native plants for replanting after construction, we have an immediate localized impact on the ecosystem while reducing the “heat island effect”. The temperatures at a construction site, and even more so after completing construction, vary widely. The heat island effect is the considerable variation in temperature from outside the construction area compared to the actual construction site. This is due to construction thermal mass heat absorption resulting in increased temperatures. The temperature difference will continue to remain after construction due to increased concrete, paving, and asphalt. These areas of thermal mass absorb more heat than landscaped areas. Natural rock outcroppings are utilized to soften the impact of winds and to block out the sun.
The closer the structure to the rock outcroppings the greater the impact of the geographical feature. In the northern hemisphere during the winter months and the cooler days of autumn and spring, the sun travels across the sky from the southeast to the southwest, reaching its lowest point on the horizon at the winter solstice. During these times the more direct angle of the sun provides substantial passive solar heat through any glassed surfaces (doors/windows/skylights) facing southeast, south, and southwest. Deciduous plantings, after seasonal leaf drop, influence the amount of passive solar gain on the south side by allowing the winter sun to penetrate into the structure and thereby reduce interior heating requirements. During the latter spring, throughout the summer, and into early autumn, when the sun is moving northward, deciduous and evergreen plantings on the east, north, and west sides of your construction provide shade and reduce the mechanical cooling needs by preventing excessive heating of the structure.
Rock outcroppings or hilly regions can reduce your visual profile to adjacent neighbors. You may also wish to minimize your view of neighboring buildings by reducing the physical exposure with natural or planted barriers.
Select a reasonably flat area on higher ground if possible, never in the bottom of a draw or canyon floor because low lying areas are often susceptible to flash flooding. If you are in an area prone to flash flooding be certain you are building well away from any low areas. These areas can rapidly become rushing rivers and anything in their way is washed downstream, including people. Our planned site is relatively flat and the area receives about 15” of rain/year, much of that coming in larger quantities with heavier amounts in the summer. With this in mind, we must be very conscientious of the drainage patterns so the finished landscape will drain away from the structures. Take the time to view the building site during a rainstorm to monitor the water-flow and provide for those specific cases where the runoff will negatively affect your site.
VIDEO COMING OF: SURFACE RUNOFF – THIS SHORT DEMONSTRATION WILL SHOW HOW TO AVOID FLASH FLOODING
Logistical planning is essential, resulting in time, cost, and resource savings to your project. Planning and building site preparation helps in the design process before actual construction and will let you know beforehand any site limitations/advantages; while building height, offsets, parking requirements, etc, are guided by code specifications. If your 3-dome cluster lies within an existing subdivision, you may have limited options for the building site. Examine the terrain to determine the best choice within your available building area.
Soil testing, or a soil analysis, is usually required for building permits. During construction, the soil engineer may need to make further soil tests to make sure subsurface soil conditions are compatible with those observed in the initial investigation and modify the design recommendations as necessary. The soil engineer may also need to evaluate whether the construction is completed in compliance with the meaning and intent of the recommendations provided. Soil tests for construction of buildings or any structure is the first step in construction planning to understand the suitability of soil for proposed construction work. Soils form the structural foundation for almost all construction work, making soil testing very important as failure to test soils adequately and correctly would introduce high levels of financial and safety risks. Before a construction project commences, it is important to know which types of soil underlay the proposed structure. It may be possible to know whether the soil is sand, silt, clay, gravel, peat, rock or loam, without undertaking any testing.
However, it is still vitally important to understand the properties of the soil, and to use this information in the planning and design phases of the project. Test data can then be used to ensure that the soil is able to support the proposed structure in the long-term and enable the creation of technical and safety data reports to support planning permissions and license applications. Furthermore, ongoing testing checks the development of the soil throughout the construction project to ensure quality and safety. Soil testing should include an assessment of the behavior of soils under varying conditions of moisture, loading, stress, temperature etc., so that the design can accommodate both current and potential future conditions.The results of geotechnical tests enable design engineers to ensure that foundations are the appropriate type and depth, and that suitable construction materials and methods are employed. Inadequate or improper testing, or failure to implement the results of tests, can lead to costly failures which may also threaten safety and lives.
From a construction perspective, design engineers are mostly interested in the physical characteristics of soils, so a variety of field and laboratory geotechnical tests are undertaken.In the construction industry, soil failure can result in minor low cost issues such as cracking which may have only aesthetic consequences. However, history is littered with examples of failures that have resulted in disasters that have caused enormous financial cost and in some cases, the loss of lives. Most soil testing is simple and inexpensive, and they can inform decision making and planning, so a small investment in testing can protect safety and avoid the enormous costs of failure.
VIDEO COMING OF: SOIL TESTING – THIS SHORT DEMONSTRATION WILL SHOW HOW TO TEST THE SOIL
Construction sites often have obstructions in the form of old buildings, surface rock, large hazardous trees, irregular ground surface, loose soil, existing underground utilities, etc. Any undesired structures should be taken down and recycled, reused, or disposed as required.
Before any site preparation is conducted we will have all existing underground utilities marked to avoid disrupting any existing services. In the United States the first step is to call 811. 811 is the national call-before-you-dig phone number. Anyone planning to dig should call 811 or go to their state’s 811 website several business days before digging to request that the location of buried utilities be marked with paint so you don’t accidentally dig into an underground utility line. 811 protects you and your community. Hitting a buried line while digging can disrupt utility service, result in the financial burden of repairs, and/or cause serious injury or death. Always contact your 811 center, wait the required time for utilities to respond to your request, and ensure that all utilities have responded to your request before putting a shovel in the ground. Am I required to contact 811? Yes, any digging requires contacting your 811 center, either by calling 811 from anywhere in the U.S. or making your request through your state 811 center’s website. Planting a garden? Installing a fence or mailbox? You must contact 811.
When you dial 811, you will automatically be connected to a representative from your state’s 811 center who will ask you simple questions about the location and details of your digging project. If you make your request online, you will enter the same information into a form. Either way, you will receive a ticket number and instructions for how much time utilities have to respond to your request, as well as how to confirm that all utilities have responded before you can safely dig. You have now called before digging, waited for your lines to be marked, confirmed that all utilities responded to your request; now it’s time to get to work! Make sure to always dig carefully around the marks, not on them. Some utility lines may be buried at a shallow depth, and an unintended shovel thrust can bring you right back to square one — facing potentially dangerous and/or costly consequences. Don’t forget that erosion or root structure growth may shift the locations of your utility lines, so remember to call again each time you are planning any excavation.
VIDEO COMING OF: UTILITY MARKING – THIS SHORT DEMONSTRATION WILL SHOW HOW TO UTILITY MARK
After the completed utility marking, we will conduct an on site walkthrough of the property with our engineer/architect and, in our case, all key decision making personnel. This is a methodical step-by-step planning procedure and logistics meeting to reaffirm previous decisions finalizing all our agreements on the sequential and locational aspects of the project. This involves confirmation and designation of the driveway, temporary housing, 3-dome cluster building site, bathrooms, temporary disposal site, sewage waste management, composting, hugelkultur, recycling, burning, and the community landfill (as a last resort). If a local waste-to-energy plant exists, or our own waste-to-energy infrastructure is ready, we’ll use that. Sewage is handled by vermi-composted technology and will be explained in detail in a different section. We already have existing infrastructure on the site that currently supports a primary residence and will run either extensions or separate services with a dedicated septic system and electric meter for the 3-dome cluster.
The surveying crew can now perform their necessary work to set proper grade and elevations for precise determination of the driveway, temporary housing, building site, surface drainage, and rooftop runoff.
VIDEO COMING OF: SURVEYING VIDEO – THIS SHORT DEMONSTRATION WILL SHOW HOW TO PROPERLY SURVEY
The latter two mentioned here are highly instrumental in preserving all structures on the site by minimizing erosion and maintaining integral foundations.
Before delineating the actual building site we must designate and erect our temporary housing quarters. We will require a sheltered space that includes our sleeping quarters and all kitchen related activities, providing protection from wind, rain, and sun for the approximate 4-month on-site stay. There is a wide range of options for temporary and portable structures, in our case we are considering a hexayurt shelter. It can be built of any construction material conveniently available and suitable. Our hexayurt shelter has a reflective exterior and we will cut out areas within the framework to accommodate our needs for cross ventilation. If you have shelter via natural barriers or a tree line, set up on the east side of those barriers to minimize the impact of the late afternoon sun. Avoid setting up near snags as they can be toppled in high wind conditions, especially if the trees have a shallow, lateral root system. When the shelter site has been determined, we will open up and clear an area for our hexayurt. This may include temporarily transplanting some of the vegetation as we may have native clump grasses and other smaller plants on our site. If the site is prolific with vegetation, we will temporarily remove some transplants and after our project we will relocate those plantings back to their original environment along with the aid of our normal rehabilitation work. Any existing trees will remain untouched.
Note: Even if you are out of reach of a flash flood area you may still want to dig a small trench around your shelter to divert water away; making certain the shelter is periodically monitored for stability should adverse weather occur. Upon completing the site preparation, and running the power and water lines, the hexayurt can now be erected. Face the opening away from the prevailing wind direction (if the site tends to get strong winds) and orient the narrowest side of your structure perpendicular to the prevailing winds to lessen resistance. With gentle and consistent mild breezes, you may want those breezes blowing directly into your tent in the summer for ventilation and removable during windy, dusty monsoon conditions. Each morning, evening, and whenever you have gusty winds, check the holding stakes so they are positioned deeply into the ground and the ropes are tight and secure. Occasionally give the structure an overall inspection to determine any possible maintenance issues or minor repairs that may be required.
The total area of our structure will be just under 1800 sq. ft.
VIDEO COMING OF: HEXAYURT INSTALL – THIS SHORT DEMONSTRATION WILL SHOW HOW TO PROPERLY INSTALL HEXAYURT
VIDEO COMING OF: TEMP FACILITIES AND REFUSE DISPOSAL METHODS – THIS SHORT DEMONSTRATION WILL SHOW HOW TO TEMP FACILITIES AND REFUSE DISPOSAL METHODS
With a clearly stated consensus on the overall plot plan and after setting up our hexayurt, we begin by transplanting native plants. If there exists an overabundance of native plants we will remove the topsoil, composting the plants and stockpiling the topsoil for relocation back to its former site as needed once the build is complete. If there is a scarcity of native species, we will transplant them to a holding area and later replant into the general landscape. Any rocks, downfall, or stumps will be removed as necessary and placed into hugelkultur beds (raised garden beds made of organic matter), burned in a campfire/cooking setting, or spread about the landscape to provide a natural appearance and habitat for small animals. Any disturbed soil will be leveled and raked out as required. These efforts provide enrichment of the soil and an increase is soil nutrition.
VIDEO COMING OF: TRANSPLANTING AND CLEARING – THIS SHORT DEMONSTRATION WILL SHOW HOW TO TRANSPLANT AND CLEAR GENERAL LANDSCAPES
When materials arrive on site, place them conveniently so they will not be relocated. This helps preserve plant materials and topsoil for later use.
A dozer is used to contour the land to proper grade while establishing adequate drainage patterns for surface runoff. The driveway will be crowned in the center and require a base material and gravel. We may use a washed gravel/stone on the floor areas of the temporary housing and kitchen areas to moderate the dust, utilizing the site for approximately four months.
VIDEO COMING: OBSTACLE REMOVAL, CLEARING AND GRADING VIDEO – THIS SHORT DEMONSTRATION WILL SHOW HOW TO REMOVE, CLEAR AND GRADE YOUR SITE
Once the general site has been prepared, bring in the water and power sources. For the sake of efficiency and cost, run the straightest lines possible from the source and be certain they are below the frostline. Instead of running temporary lines, we will run permanent extension lines of power and water to the final destination of our 3-dome cluster build site and temporary lines from that point to our hexayurt for the duration of the build. Those trenches will be filled and raked out to the finish grade. When filling the trenches, place bright colored construction tape the length of the ditch, about 6-8” above the pipe or wire as a cautionary warning to anyone in the future if they are excavating in the area.
VIDEO COMING OF: POWER AND WATER INSTALLATION – THIS SHORT DEMONSTRATION WILL SHOW HOW TO PROPERLY INSTALL WATER AND POWER
Compaction is the process of mechanically increasing the density of soil. It is the simple way of increasing the stability and supporting capacity of the soil. Compaction is one kind of densification that is realized by rearrangement of soil particles without a flow of water.
Major reasons for compaction of soil:
There are two principal types of compaction force :
The different types of compaction equipment used in compaction projects depend on the scope of work. The compaction equipment to be used can either be used for some situations or can be a special type which meets the requirements of the particular project. Following are examples of compaction equipment:
Smooth Wheeled Roller–It consists of a large steel drum in front and one or two wheels on the rear end.
Sheepsfoot Roller–Sheepsfoot rollers are also known as tamping rollers. Steel drums of the sheepsfoot roller consist of many rectangular shaped boots of equal sizes fixed in a hexagonal pattern.
Pneumatic Roller–Pneumatic rollers are also called rubber tire rollers. A pneumatic roller has multiple tires at the front and rear ends.
Vibratory Roller–Vibratory rollers consist of two smooth drums with the vibrator. One is fixed at the front and the other on the rear side of the vibratory roller. Both drums are of the same diameter, length, and weight.
Rammer–Rammer compactors are used for compacting small areas and providing impact load to soil. This equipment is lightweight and can be hand or machine operated.
Vibratory Plate Compactor–Vibratory plate compactors are used for compacting different types of soils in narrow and congested areas where it is not possible to use large equipment. The selection of compaction equipment for building projects depends upon the nature of the mechanical, job size, construction time assigned, volume and depth of soil to be compacted, type of soil, loads on compacted surface, etc.
For Site Selection and Planning we do not require any tools, materials, and equipment but for site preparation we do. Here’s what we suggest:
This list of personal protective equipment is further detailed in the safety first section. It is important to follow the safety plan throughout the duration of construction.
Extensive research was done to complete the engineering details on this page. So others can replicate our work, here are the resources we found helpful. Use this page (click here) if you have a resource you’d like to suggest be added here.
Site selection plays an important role in building a sustainable structure. Careful analysis of the site for energy resources and alternatives, solar energy access, proximity to necessities, transportation facilities, waste management, geographical features, and weather conditions helps design in the best possible way to have the lowest impact on the environment. This saves time, expenditures, and effort later. We cannot emphasize enough the importance of logistical planning as this provides an initial guide for starting the project efficiently. As well, a fully stocked first aid kit and adherence to a safety plan and emergency plan are paramount.
Q: Am I required to contact 811?
Yes, any digging requires contacting your 811 center, either by calling 811 from anywhere in the U.S. or making your request through your state 811 center’s website.