Eco-Home Evolution in Fast Forward

Today is a special and long awaited day in the life of this website and the AltShift movement, as we are able to share the first time lapse videos from the construction process of the first AltShiftNZ eco home. Watching the progression of 8 months worth of labor elapse within a few minutes allows one to gain a perspective on the scale of the build that has previously been unattainable with solitary photographs. It also gives the deceptive impression that the process was simple and swift! Assembling and registering the hundreds of images (shot on a near daily frequency) from various orientations around the AltShiftNZ eco-home site has been a time intensive process, but we are fired up to present all you readers with the front/northern aspect of the time lapse sequences.

Taken from the roof of Holloway Construction's shipping container (that serves as an on-site tactical briefing room and tool shed), the point of view of the videos below looks south, capturing the north facing side of the home. Below there are three different speeds to view the evolution of the home: 1st up is the mid-speed in which each still (out of the 103 total) appears for 1 second, followed by the fast-speed at .2 second per frame exposure, and the slow-speed (for those of you who want to study each step) at 2 seconds per shot.
As always we would love to hear from you in some form or another, so please feel free to ask questions, or if you're feeling extra kind- comments are especially gratifying!! Thanks for reading / watching, and look to hear and see more from us in the near future with new time lapse spectacles from different view points around the lot. Until next time,
The AltShiftNZ Team


Is anyone there?

Heh-loooo!??  Anybody?! As an avid reader, you may have began to think that the AltShift NZ sites were recently abandoned; but there are still a few stragglers around, sculpting some Superadobe walls for retaining during the fast approaching winter months.  That group of committed individuals consists of the earth alchemist Jared Fone, the intense Douglas Meyers, the steadfast Trent Laughton, & the ever indecisive Travis Jennings.  Each has shown great problem solving skills over the past week, and the stabilization of landscape is almost complete due to advancements in mixing and earth-bagging technique and process streamlining.  
Until they are completely done and have more free time (and consistent internet accessibility), we will have to keep this update a bit on the short side, but rest assured you will be seeing some BIG things on this site in the week to come (+ a new AltShiftNZ website designed by the acclaimed designer Loren Polster!).   Here are a few pictures from the past week and a half to hold you over, but with work soon to be completed there will be no excuse not to spend a lot of time creating new posts for you all.  Here are some are some visual morsels for the time.

Starting Looking East(ish) from Kings Drive this is the view of the evolving entry and landscaping of the street side of the property (2 more levels of Earthbag walls to come on the left and right)

The foundational/base courses for the Superadobe/Earthbag walls and steps to the front door.

This is the glorious North facing, solar gaining, green roof chilling (you can see Trent working on a window up there) section.   

A preview of a rammed earth floor/radiant heating post coming soon to a screen near you

Above is the view to the West/NW, the snow-capped Black Peak perchs on the roof of the 'belvedere'.

Jared creating caves in the earth pile while mixing the ingredients (1 part water, 10 parts Cardrona clay-rich earth, 1 part cement) for the contents of the Superadobe bag fill.

The earth-bagging sprites emerge from their earthen home for breakfast and another day of Superadobe wall construction.

BONUS: A sculpture from a NZ artist showcased at the local Rippon vineyard

That is all for now!  Enjoy the last week of May and talk to you soon!


Tune 2sday + and new content forecasting.

After working @ a break-neck pace over the past few weeks to button up the house for winter, the AltShiftNZ team is getting ready to take a bit of a breather.  Seeking warmer temps, greener pastures, and resetting visa and NZ visiting allotments, the Jennings are migrating back to the Northern hemisphere while the rest of the crew looks forward to a winter in Wanaka.  With the upcoming increase in free time, you readers can look forward to a lot of new posts and material coming to this site - get ready for a Time Lapse sequence of the build (from the foundations to current state) which just might cause a minor mind blow.  But for now here are a couple of audio treats.  The first is an old intermission jingle from sampled by Wu-Tang's GZA, and the second is a song called "La Pause" (not to be confused with the Peruvian capital), both songs relating to the upcoming interlude.  See you soon, and get excited for the time-lapse and a bunch of new pictures of the sealed home!!

P.S. / BONUS = If you're still not satiated  from these tunes head over here to see computer renderings of the Kings Drive project on Elite Design's website.  Big thanks and props to Glen Allen who did all of the technical draughting and put up with our (multiple) last second revisions.


Open House #1

Saturday we had our first quasi 'Open House' in which a group of us all worked on putting a first 'priming coat' of earth plaster onto the East wall of the house.  Here are some pictures from all the muddy goodness of the day:

 Leveling out the spontaneous nature of the bales as well as working in a thin priming coat, the team joins the forces and natural simplicity of clay and straw.
 Trent and Diane Laughton work on replenishing the supply of clay slip for the interfacing 'glue' substance between bale and cob + plaster.  A couple that makes mud together, stays together.
The Clay Slip Monster (Roarke) terrorized the site, splattering unsuspecting participants with the earthen glue, and plaster-globs.   
Applying plaster with the high-pressure massaging 'wax on, wax off' technique the team had to rest their palms and shoulders- who knew plastering would be such a workout?



Coinciding with Good Friday, Earth Day was a great Friday down here in New Zealand as everyone had the day off and Amber Brovelli organized an educational and informative Earth Day event for the Wanaka community.  Along with movie screenings at the beloved Paradiso theater, there was a handful of local individuals and companies that set up stands to talk about various earth related topics such as composting, gardening, tree sponsoring, alternative/sustainable home construction, and a bangin' recycled drum circle.  The AltShiftNZ crew set up a 'desk' composed of 4 straw bales, brought a few examples of materials + visual aids, and staged a small demonstration on superadobe/earthbag construction.  Below are a few pictures from the day's event:

With film showings of the classic "Fern Gully" and a recent deforestation documentary entitled "The Burning Season", many people from the local community participated in the festivities.

Here the beautiful and talented AltShiftNZ (Tom, Diana, Trent, Diane, & Roarke), crew stood on the superadobe/earthbag arch that was created on site with un-stabilized (aka no cement) clay-earth.  People were stoked!  Great gratitude is owed to Nader Khalili and Cal Earth for creating and spreading the method of Superadobe.  We look forward to a community 'Open-house'/hands-on workday next weekend (April 30th), and wish you all (and most importantly, the Earth) a very happy and progressive Earthday!


Tuner Tuesday

With the weather beginning to turn fall-ish and the hours of sunlight are shrinking- but that is the beauty of the earth.  Speaking of which Happy Earthday coming up this Friday- make sure to do something to appreciate the one that provides for us all.  Here is Earth, Wind, & Fire with "Thats the Way of the World"...enjoy!


MO' Strawbale Goodness! + Sneak Peeks

Holy Cannoli!! As fall bears down on the southern hemisphere, the race to close in the home is on and free time is at a minimum-hence the lack in updates here on ye olde blog/website. This post is going to be rather picture heavy and a skim of words/description, so please do write us with any questions you may have on anything from this entry that you would like to hear/know more about (as with any other posting on this site).
This past weekend we were fortunate enough to go and work on a straw bale family home out in Hawea Flat. The owners Nicky and James are very in-tune progressives, and their children Ella and Louis are the site pixies with boundless energy. They have a very detailed and informative blog that you can go check out here. At their awesome and inspiring home we took notes and listened carefully to builder and plastering pro, Greg Tumpy. He is the expert who is describing the process in the video and is pictured below- many thanks to you Tumpy!

Showcasing two different application methods, Trent and Tumpy coat the raw straw with a thin film of clay slip (simply water and clay of cream thickness). Trent uses a brush to apply a slightly heavier more localized area, while Tumpy breaks out the heavy artillery with texture gun for quick, large swathe spraying.

As we haven't had a video for sometime we are quite excited to put another one out there for those of us who are visual learners.   Here is a quick video sum-up of ideas that we absorbed over the weekend with the Nicky, Tumpy, and crew:

There are 3 concurrent components being worked on right now, and all of them deserve their own posting, but until then here is a sneak peak:

1st, we are putting the finishing touches on the pair of massive sliding doors that will provide an incredible amount of solar gain. Here are two shots to give you an idea of their scale.

  A great visual analogy for Doug as a hurtling nugget of power,
centered in his new found interest of woodworking

Up on the roof we have great minds working out the structure and 'foundation' for the living roof.  Engineered beyond to support a mini forest, this roof is a jewel of the home.  As it develops we will point the spotlight in its direction.

Another area where progress is being made, is the layering and leveling of the rammed earth floor.  Over the past week and a half, the master bedroom has had the insulation, radiant heating piping, and base stratum laid for its floor.  Below a layer of earth is being spread over the 100 mm thick (4") XPS insulation.  Again, we will do a 'special' on this aspect in the near future. 

As a parting spark for thinking, we give you some before and after shots of the master bedroom straw bale infill.  All of this happened within an 8 day period!  Well, thanks for your interest and get excited for some more alternative construction action in the not so distant future!


Tune Tuesday.

OOooo boy, looks like we have been working too much on the build site and not enough on the website. Don't choo worry though friends, we got some tasty updates heading your way soon, but first priority is getting the home sealed up! We were listening to this song at the site today and thought that it was good inspiration for everyone. Enjoy!!


Choon Chewsday.

As the AltShift team says goodbye to 2 day weekends in order to get the home wrapped by winter, this week's song (as requested) is Rush's "Working Man".   Here's to a late summer down here in the Southern hemisphere and a pleasant spring in the North!


Full Moon Party at Kings

The full moon was illuminating our spirits on the 20th of March and giving some of the AltShiftNZ group a good reason to celebrate. Standing tall from left to right we find Tom and Travis Jennings, the lovely Laughtons (Trent and Diane), Jared Fone - chugging apple cider vinegar, Loren Polster and Dozzie. Up close and personal are the charming Doug Meyer, Bronie, Teddy, Diana and Roarke Jennings. The event was also a temporary-farewell to Loren, who was a straw bale and earth bag enthusiast, soon to be a resident of Dunedin, NZ.
As the evening unfolded, the lunar display became quite magical and its visionary quality set the tone for the very first party at 97 Kings. This March equinox celebration marked the ongoing learning curve of the EcoBuild and we toasted to the 5 months and 10 days of creativity since the ground breaking ceremony of 10/10/10.
This final photo is one of sweet athleticism and inner calmness. Jared Fone, pictured above, hangs upside down in the suite on the east side of the home. Looking like a bat, Jared certainly displayed his nocturnal characteristics at the evening event.


Working Man

Yes! the tunes were on at 97 Kings and "Working Man" was sending out strong, lyrical messages; wondering if the song, might be 'the hit' of a future Tune Tuesday.
So check it out . . . windows are in the clerestories, bale pile is smaller as straw finds its resting place and sunshine bathes the site on a windy Friday. Tom, designer and project manager, discusses final thoughts with the roofer and is pleased with the end products of a good week- much thanks to friends and dedicated workers, who have become family!

Fine young men on the east side, are putting some finishing touches on the straw bale wall. Doug Meyer is holding a handmade hammer called Thor and is standing beside what has been affectionately called the 'Bethlehem manger crib.' It was made by Doug, to create the width of the perfect bale, which sped up the measuring/cutting process. The boys are applying a wet straw clay slip to better prepare the straw bale for its finishing plaster. Their hands and clothes speak of endless hours in muddy pleasure.
Take time to study this unbelievable craftsman and human being: Simon! He is the TALENT! behind our joinery shop and the best looking windows of the southern hemisphere. Simon is very skilled and humble; he tells the best stories and produces wood work that unveils the nature of the material. One of the favorites on the project, he has been a major player as master and teacher.

The last two photos might give the viewer a 'surround' feeling. The top print exhibits the south side of the home, which will profit from the insulating qualities of the straw bale. The picture above is a shot of the master suite's interior and shows how the sunlight will filter in and warm the rammed earth wall.
As the final bell rang on TGIF, all were ecstatic. There is an incredible synergy on this site and we are appreciative of this good fortune. It is a blessing to work along side of great people and to stand on the shoulders of giants. Thinking of how we all carry a load and offer helping hands, this spirit is truly felt.


Beginnings of Serious Straw Bale

. . . . the 16th of March, the eve of St. Patty's Day, was a very memorable, laborious day at 97 Kings Drive. The energy was high and friend/family united in dream, imagination and creation. Sven Johnston of Sol Design was the straw bale master. With measuring tape on pocket, he instructed with respect and kindness on the process of measuring and restructuring bales, so that they fit perfectly into the buck and beam system. In the image above you can see a beautiful bale needle (a wedding present of Sven's) poking out at a sixty degree angle - its handle pointing to Trent Laughton- design builder extraordinaire!

Our beautiful straw, a rye/corn hybrid wheat, was everywhere. Jared (image below- center) was the king of straw bale cuts with the trustworthy chain-saw. Treble Cone, the central peak in photo, is some of the base artwork of our new T-shirts that will be off the press and on our backs by Friday. In fact, Loren and Roarke, the other fine men pictured below, are responsible for putting together the shirt design.
Hopefully, the earth will have a small, sweet dream tonight, as it reflects on synergies that it has with its people. The remainder of us- let us dream for miraculous, successful endings to a very difficult situation in Japan. There is no better action than for us to unite with the energy of nature, so that the perils of our global family are diminished and safety is restored to their lives.


THANKS! & TUNE Tuesday.

We have just gone over the 5,000 page views mark here on the Alt Shift NZ website.  With visits from over 20 countries around the globe, it is exciting and encouraging to see such interest in Alternative construction!!  Get pumped for some great new material on here as we begin to dive into the straw bale walls, more Superadobe, living roofs, and rammed earth floors!  For this week's tune we turn to an absolute disco beauty that will warm up your soul and put a grin on your face.   Enjoy,

Ascension & Bales

Those of you who have fabricated a set of stairs, know that is not a walk in the park.  Surveying elevations of each step to the millimeter, this flight of stairs is exact and has a quality rhythm to them.  In the pictures below one can see the stack of untreated recycled Jarrah (Eucalyptus!) railroad ties (sleepers).  With a bit of finagling, and much deliberation, the hardwood sleepers where finally put to bed yesterday and here is what the transformation looked like:


As seen above the steps are overhanging and seemingly not lined up, but the next superadobe/earthbag walls will envelope the ends of the sleepers to integrate the steps into the landscaping.  

In even more exciting news, the first shipment of straw bale arrived on site today and have taken up temporary residence in the master bedroom until tomorrow's first wall placing under the guidance of straw bale and alternative construction guru, Sven Johnston from Sol Design. 

To prep the base plates to receive the bales, the Alt Shift crew had a hammering marathon and nailed in approximately 300 nails in order to create a mechanical/key connection so that the straw will 'velcro' to the sills.  Here is a shot down the line:

 Well, get excited for some serious straw bale action coming in the near future and keep smiling!


Tune Tuesday/Wednesday

Working on the stairs up to the front door this week (pictures coming to a weekend near you) is a great change from painting and coating all of the windows and cladding for the home.  For this week's track we present a tune from a group by the name of People Under the Stairs.  Hoping for no relation between the group's name and our set of stairs (unmarked grave), we listen to this song and are soothed by its mellow nature- try it out!



This beauty of a pic was taken by on-site "chippy" (New Zealand lingo for carpenter/framer), wood sculptor, and photographer (-the list goes on): Douglas Meyer.   While Doug may not have reacted as intensely as the Double Rainbow dude (those unfamiliar with the video can view the epitome of emotional reaction: here ), he did take advantage of the week's rainy weather and snap some fantastic pics.  With this hopeful photo, we are all reminded of the beauty and scale of this build, and ponder its relation to the earthly cycles that provide for such endeavors.
Despite the abnormally rainy summer, the crews on site and in the joinery site are chugging along and nearing the milestone of enclosing the interior space.  With Fall starting to drop hints at it's coming arrival, primal instincts for shelter completion are kicking in and upping the pace.  With all hands on deck, Tom Jennings was found working in precarious perches & exemplifying 'sweat equity':

Tom in the 'power-drill' stance!

Jonny on the Study roof ridge
 Meanwhile, over at the Bat Cave (aka the Joinery shop), Simon and his minions have been prepping up timber components and the beautiful windows that will provide solar access to the home.  Here is a peak inside the workshop:

Cedar planks marked for various doors

A near completed door & its frame

Trent and Simon with the master bedroom door

In this sequence one can get a quick idea of the fabrication process of the interior doors made of cedar planks.  In the top photo is the stack of planed down cedar with correlating letters and numbers for the correct alignment.  Held together by wood glue and "biscuits" (which are mini peg like 'key' connections sandwiched on the narrow side of the boards), the timber is also precisely drilled through width-wise for a threaded metal rod to 'clamp' the pieces together (the holes in the sides in the 'stack'/top photo show the viewer that there are 3 threaded rods in each door).  Another exciting experiment taking place in the Bat Cave, is the scaled model of mad architectural scientist Trent Laughton's abstract front door.  Below he can be seen manning the chop saw-cutting down pieces for his top-secret masterpiece.

 Before the straw-bale walls can be placed and packed, the custom wooden joinery windows must be put into the framework so that they can be built around.  Coating these pieces of fine craftsmanship with protective varnishes and stains has been a mission which has been a multi week undertaking, reveled in by Roarke, Jared, Travis, Loren, and Trent.  But the light at the end of the tunnel is growing brighter, and the boys will soon be back on site working on the entry and earth-bagging.  Here is a small sample of some of there tasks:


 Up and to the left is a frame and it's sash awaiting a final coat.  To the right we have a picture of all of the beads which will help to hold the glass in place, applying coats to them was rather awkward.  And to our left are a few more of the frames and sashes laid out for drying underneath some of the Cyprus weatherboard/siding for the home.  Well, as they say down here in New Zealand (and apparently Charlie Sheen as well), 'we are winning' and going 'full-out'.  As we head towards the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, we savor the sights and events of the undertaking and (try to) recognize that without rain, such brilliant ribbons of spectral light wouldn't occur.  Here's to the quest!  


Tune Tuesday (+ Bonus Recipie!!)

Like good music?!  Enjoy good food?  Well hot DIGGITY do we have a winning combo for y'all right hea!  Cook yourself up a tasty garlicky treat from a cookbook we stumbled upon recently, and then let the band Redbone provide your dinner entertainment with their classic feel-good song "Come and get your Love".  Mmmm mmmm!!