Whimsical Home Building with Lightweight Concrete

| 6/15/2020 10:11:00 AM

Outside view of the house. What will someday be the front door is presently bricked up forming a niche inside. The studio is in the background. Note the re-bar sticking out to add on the second floor later.

The following is an excerpted from Home Work: Hand Built Shelter (Shelter Publications, 2004) by long-time MOTHER EARTH NEWS contributor Lloyd Kahn. The book features more than 1,500 photos illustrate various innovative architectural styles and natural building materials that have gained popularity in the last two decades, such as cob, papercrete, bamboo, adobe, strawbale, timber framing and earthbags. If you love fine, fun or funky buildings, you will want to own this splendid book.

Author’s note: I ran across Steve Kornher’s work on the web. Steve has been building for 30 years, 15 of those in Mexico. He’s worked with adobe and rammed earth as well as various types of concrete masonry construction. He is now “completely in love with lightweight volcanic aggregate.” Here is his account and photos of his latest work.

My wife, Emilia, and I live on a 2-acre ranchito about 25 minutes from San Miguel de Allende, in the mountains of central Mexico (6,200 feet elevation). Our home is a work in progress: built Mexican style, pay as you go, and leave the re-bar sticking out for future additions. We built the house and large warehouse over a period of two years, using two (sometimes three) masons at a time. Building slowly is a lot more enjoyable and you can be more creative, since you can think things over and make changes.

The house presently has about 1,200 square feet (110 square meters) of interior space with plenty of terraces for outdoor living. Most of the first floor is of adobe construction. Later, additions and roofs were added made of lightweight volcanic aggregate. South-facing windows and an overhang provide passive solar heat in the wintertime. All roofs are masonry vaults with shell motifs. Mexico has some great masons, and I owe a lot to the knowledgeable maestros who have helped me figure out how to do this wild and crazy stuff.

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