Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Earthen Igloo

Hand-built environmental friendly earthen igloo

PAHANG: An organic vegetable farmer came with an idea of creating a home away from hubbub for his beloved wife and children one day. He then spent six months to do research online before building an "earthen igloo" with natural raw materials like red mud, wood, bamboo and thatch.
He also planned to hand make his own furniture with natural materials.

The earthen building that looked very much like an igloo with the structure of a Fujian Tulou, was 10-feet high. The diameter of its living room was 15 feet and its bedroom, 10 feet in diameter, accommodated a bed and two pieces of furniture. It was comfortable for a family of three.
An artistic bamboo-made roof in the living room.
Huang Tian Huan, 40, was from Parit Buntar, Perak. He stayed in Cameron Highlands with his wife and children and made a living by operating an organic vegetable farm about 4 acres.

During an interview with the Guang Ming Daily, Huang said that the earthen igloo, with a living room, a bed room, a wash room, a basement and an outdoor kitchen, was built on his vegetable farm. He got most of the materials for the building from his farm and nearby woods.
Flush toilet in the earthen building
An outdoor kitchen

A cozy living room
"The building is entirely hand-made with mostly natural materials and thus, the payment for the five workers accounted the largest sum of the total cost of RM25,000," Huang said.

Huang said that after searching for information online, he had a doubt about the steadiness of a vine roof. He tried on chopsticks and found that the approach was actually feasible.

Add 5% of cement for a stronger structure

Huang said that since the round building was not supported by bricks and steels, he mixed 5% of cement and cow dung into red mud for a stronger foundation.

"Waterproof cement was added to stabilise the structure while cow dung was rich in fiber and made the red mud more solid. As for the walls, I filled hemp bags with soil and a steel wire to fix their positions. I covered them with red mud by hand after the internal structure of the walls was completed for a smooth surface," Huang explained.

He continued that bamboos were used to create an artistic roof in the living room and a hole was left in the middle for sunlight penetration. The last step would be covering it with dried thatch.

Safe and environmental friendly

When being asked why he chose a round building instead of a square one, Huang said that a round building was safer for children.

In addition, he supported environmental protection movements and hoped to build a dream house with ancient methods.

As for the cooling ssytem, Huang made a 2-feet thick wall to stabilise the indoor temperature to minimise the temperature difference between day and night.

With the pleasant weather on the highlands, it would be comfortable inside the building even without a fan or an air-conditioner.

Huang said that tiny gaps on the walls which were not visible to the naked eye enabled good air circulation inside the building.

He also mentioned about a glass roof in the bed room that enabled them to lie down beneath it at night for stargazing.

An outdoor bread kiln for organic bread
An outdoor bread kiln is on the way
After the first building was completed, Huang planned to build another two or three more earthen buildings to serve as guest houses. He also planned to to build a playground for his four children.
There will be more earthen buildings to serve as guest houses
A bread kiln was built outside the building as Huang wanted to make naturally fermented organic bread and yogurt for sale. In addition to taste the home-made organic bread and yogurt, visitors might also bake pizza and meat.

As for the basement, Huang said he would use it to store wine and tea leaves. If the condition permitted, he would also make cheese and leave them at the basement for fermentation.
Staircase to the basement.
Huang, who has run an organic vegetable farm for nearly five years, was originally majored in Mechanical Engineering. He later transferred to study Physics. After finishing his master degree course, he became a photographer, lecturer and then vegetable farmer.

Huang' s wife said that she took it as a gift of love from her husband since they just had their 9th wedding anniversary not long ago.

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