Bioconstruyendo: Argentinian Natural Building Festival

We are really excited about this video. It documents the events leading up to and during the natural building festival: Bioconstruyendo 2010 in El Bolson, Patagonia, Argentina. Both Eva and Max were lead instructors for the event which was extremely successful. So many great things were accomplished and so much fun was had!

Visit Bioconstruyendo’s website for updates and news of upcoming festivals!

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Firespeaking wins two awards at this year’s Masonry Heater Association annual gathering!

We won 1st place in the masonry heater design/build contest with the heater that we recently built in Patagonia, Argentina and 3rd place with the oven that we built in Berkeley, California. We will link to the contest results on the Masonry Heater Association page when they have published them.

This is the second year that Max has attended the annual gathering and the second time he has led a project. Every year, each of the projects is very well documented…. Max led a building project/workshop called: Experimental Stove Design – Combining Elements of the Rocket Stove and Contraflow Heaters.

Regarding the event, Max says: “The Masonry Heater Association annual gathering reminds me of what I imagine guild meetings were like during the Rennaissance times. Many skilled people who share in their commitment to a craft coming together to exchange experiences and have a good time together. Besides all the good fun and the incredible amount of projects that were accomplished, there was quite a bit of focus on preparing us for stricter federal-level regulations on wood-burning appliances that the EPA is preparing. Masonry heaters have the good fortune of being very clean burning so the MHA as a professional organization is rallying to make sure that masonry heaters are included in the acceptable appliances in the legislature.

Two special guests at this year meeting were Lars Helsbro from Denmark and Heikki Hyytiainen of Finland. It was really gratifying to see how both of them showed that cutting-edge, beatiful and modern stoves in Europe are being faced with unfired clay brick and clay-based mortars. This has great potential to reduce both real and environmental costs by using locally available materials.

Another very revealing part of the gathering was learning about different air systems in and around the firebox. It became clear to me that how the air is supplied to the fire is one of the most important things in clean, strong combustion. It is very interesting how the more one looks into these matters, the more similar one finds wood combustion to be to any other kind of combustion. Essentially, there is a process in which the solids in the wood turn into gases which then, and only then burn. Good efficient combustion has to do with how completely you can turn that wood into gases and then how completely you can burn those gases and thereby get heat. Parts of the wood that do not completely gasify or do not receive sufficient oxygen to burn end up as creosote in chimneys or particulates in the air as smoke. As several of my mentors have pointed out, the goal is to burn wood so that only wator vapor and small amounts of carbon dioxide are coming out of the chimney. If you combine this with a low stack temperature by transferring all the produced heat into a heat exchanger like a series of masonry channels then you are really using this sacred resource efficiently and respectfully.”

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Sacred Grove Retreat Center Oven

Sacred Grove owners Ellen Whiteside and Tim Beebe

Eva was invited to participate in a wonderful project in a beautiful place, The Sacred Grove Retreat Center in Gold Hill, NC. Ellen and Tim wanted to create an outdoor kitchen and learn about natural building. Eva led a four day workshop where we built the oven and learned about how to cook in it. The oven clay is from the retreat center’s 11 acres of verdant forest and provides the oven with it’s gorgeous golden plaster. Tim constructed the roof structure and used a recycled billboard for the roof. The base, with it’s lovely place for wood storage, was constructed by Steven Pettingil all from stones found on-site.

The Sacred Grove outdoor kitchen will continue to develop with the additions of adjacent countertops, storage and a grill and will be used by the retreat center for it’s guests and numerous gatherings. Thank you to all the friends and neighbors that helped to make this possible and thanks to my mom for the photo documentation of this project!

Click on photos to enlarge them.

Adobe Pump House

This adobe pump house was built to reduce the sound coming from a generator at Spirit Pine Sanctuary. Betty Seaman made the bricks and together with her apprentice, Natalie Spears, they built this structure in December of 2009. Max led the construction of the roof which included milled lumber and cement- “ceramic” roof tiles.

Five Oaks Farm Oven

Five Oaks Farm is a small family farm located on the Henry Wilhelm Estate that was built in 1865 and is a historic landmark. The farm is located just off the Oregon Trail and was originally 160 acres with a house, chicken coop, sheep barn, stable, and black smith. The original outhouse is still hidden in the blackberries. The apple orchard, walnut tree and grape vines continue to fruit like gifts from the pioneers who settled here over 150 years ago.

Carol and Barry knew at first sight that the wonderful and historic Victorian house with a homestead apple orchard, original barns and five towering oak trees was where they wanted to live, grow their pesto business and raise their four boys.

They hired Eva to design and build this wood fired earth oven to establish and outdoor kitchen/gathering place near the vegetable garden. The oven was created almost completely from on-site materials and by family and neighbors during a workshop Eva led in June 2009. In addition to general baking and pizza parties, they wanted this oven to bake fresh bread that they could serve along with their delicious pesto at weekly farmer’s markets: Dante’s Pesto.

Future plans for this gathering place include benches and counter tops that attach to the oven.

Thanks so much to all of the neighbors and friends that helped! The roof structure was built by Mark Lakeman.

For more photos of this project, check out Eva’s blog post….