The Hobbit house located a short ride from Greenville, South Carolina up Highway 9 is a great example of several green building techniques. They can be seen up close in the ecovillage called Earthaven. It is about a forty-five minute drive north of Greenville and southwest of Black Mountain, North Carolina. On certain Sundays they have tours for the public where you can actually go inside some of the homes and the social areas for ten dollars or a donation. View the website for the schedule and to make reservations.
Attached is a slide show of the exterior of Hobbit house, one of the first houses in the village built there by a wise man who now lives in Belize and educates youth. If you look at the round iron front door, you will understand why they call it a Hobbit house. It tucks back into the side of a hill in the forest and is sheltered with more constant interior temperatures by being built into that hillside. As an experimental building, it is a conglomerate of various techniques.
Part of the house is cordwood which is a wall built with firewood. Firewood is measured in cords; one cord is a stack 4 feet tall and 4 feet wide and 8 feet long. Cordwood mortared with cob or cement can make load-bearing walls called monolithic walls. It is a great building material but not a very good insulator. Light airy materials like straw bales and cellulose materials like cotton and newspaper are better for insulation than dense materials such as cordwood, cob and concrete.The cost of building with cordwood can be considerably less than standard home construction. Note the cordwood flooring where the Hobbit door opens into the entry.
Another part of the house is adobe bricks which are visible all across the front. The roof overhang is wide enough to make the best use of solar energy, blocking the sun’s rays in the heat of summer and gathering heat from the sun in the winter. The flooring mass and the south facing windows help with passive solar heat, but there are also solar panels on the part of the roof where the upper deck is. Another section of the roof is a living roof with grass thatching on the sides. Food is grown there, it increases the energy efficiency of the building and it absorbs rain water. You can see a rain water collection system fed from the roof gutter.
In the pictures some of the straw used in the mortar is visible between the bricks. The windows and sliding glass door are regular salvaged units mortared in with mud. A second building has a bathtub with shower inside the greenhouse area, using the moisture to grow large tomato plants and other vegetables. There are more greens, strawberry plants and flowers growing in a retaining wall of tires and dirt which help keep the hillside intact. There is some tall fencing because the deer like to eat the garden plants too.
This is just a small taste of the uniqueness of Earthaven. Another article will have pictures of the inside of the Hobbit house and its green and artistic features, followed by an article on an earthship house, the Village Terraces Cohousing and other scenes in the ecovillage. Greenville is fortunate to have a place like this that opens its doors to the public and provides education on green building and living. The next step is to modify the building codes to allow some of these techniques to be used in Greenville and Spartanburg counties.