Forecast: 100% chance of Heavy & Progressive Flurries

Speeding towards the roof raising, the AltShift team has been steaming on at full tilt in order to begin the straw bale infill and plastering in the coming weeks.  With the rafters spanning the living room area, one can really get a sense of what the interior space is going to feel like.  It has been a while since we have shown some of the time lapse/ change views of the site so let's start it off with a view from the end of December to current day:

BOOM!  Having the framing sprout up from the footings is arguably one of the most exciting parts of the build as the visual change is massive.  In the bottom photo Trent can be seen soaking in the view (a picture of the vista from the future green roof to come soon, as soon as the weather is ideal) and contemplating the project he has dedicated so much of his time and energy to.   Below we have the view from the front of the house:

In the later shot above you can see the big pile(s) of earth from Cardrona Valley (the same material used for the rammed earth walls) in the bottom, which is the fill for the Super Adobe / earthbag retaining and landscaping walls on the street side of the home (pictures farther down in this post).  And here is a view from the back of the house.

In tandem with the framing and roof support developments, there has been quite a bit of landscaping happening up front. As seen in previous posts the 3 man crew of Trent, Roarke, and Travis have been churning out some curvy Super Adobe wall courses near the entrance and along the street for retaining.  Below is a picture of a small section that will run along the stairs up to the front door.

Here we are planning on embedding circular light fixtures (in PVC pipes sandwiched between courses/rows) to light the stairs.  There will be a three tiers/terraces of these earthbag/Super Adobe walls and each section will have some sort of form, fixture,  bench, or planter embedded into the wall to create even greater intrigue to the already beautifully curving forms (hopefully people's heads won't explode due to the aesthetic overload).  Below one can get a view up along the bottom tier beginnings for the front landscaping, and see the gentle curving that will continue on the two upper walls to come.

As if there could be any more progress being made concurrently along side all of the action on the site; wouldn't you know it- there is a joinery shop pumping out quality wooden window frames- WHAT?!  I know it's a lot to take in, but check out the craftsmanship below:

Above you can see the "window schedule" (aka a diagram/list with the sizing specifications of every window in the house)in the foreground and  the sills and framing for some of the large clerestory windows in the background.

Here are some of the window frames that will be going into the two front bedrooms- sweet.
Below is a detail shot of the sexy sills:

And the 5 in 1 saw table that is making it all happen:

Cramming much else into this update might push the limits of the human brain and/or attention span, so we will leave it at that - but thanks and congratulations to those of you who have made it this far.  As always, please let us know of any questions you may have (or leave us a little validating love) by writing a comment below or sending us an e-mail at altshiftnz@gmail.com.  Keep on shifting in the free world!

Chune Tuesday

With all the major beams in place for the roof, it only seems fitting that we throw this grossly groovy disco track on here for you all, along with a couple of photos from the main beam raising for the living room/kitchen area:

 The crane used to lift the solid timber & steel plate sandwich was much easier than lifting the other one by hand

Get beamed up (not with Jim Beam) and dance!


Listening to words spoken at the ecoBuild site, sets one onto a positive path. Yesterday inspiration came from: "at every step along the way things need to be- level, plumb and square." This is advice well taken whether it's building a home or reflecting on one's character. Our bottom left photo displays Brendon 'quite' plumb to the horizontal beam of the study. The top row of pictures display the sturdy rafters that will support the living green/garden roof- all level and square! Roarke continues after 5:15, to level the bags - quite pleased that the superadobe/earthbag team's rate of linear creation is ever increasing with experience - all these numbers hint at our level of energy and steadfastness. So please, be sure to follow the simple mantra of correct structural and self development: level; plumb; square- but not too square!! muah haha



Triangular units are numerous at 97 Kings. The structural stability of that shape and design is one to applaud. A triangle is the simplest figure that will not change shape when the lengths of the sides are fixed. Our trusses are becoming a community of triangles.

Today's blog highlights Pablo Neruda (1904-1973), who was a Chilean Poet and awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971. He is the most widely read South American poet and Pablo throughout his life favored books which make you think the most. "The hardest way of learning is that of easy reading; but a great book that comes from a great thinker is a ship of thought, deep freighted with truth and beauty."
Neruda wrote a nature poem called: Triangles.
The 33 line poem talks about the trembling triangles of migratory birds- fantastic, powerful ideas are offered about their wings which frantically flap and how in triangles, these iron birds, cross over enormous oceans.
Tucked away in the timber of our ecoBuild were the iron birds of the day's construction. The middle row of photos gives one awesome views and we catch sight of Johnny, on the saw; JJ doing a measurement in the future-kitchen-zone; and Doug in full perch on top of the ensuite's study. In the 'Johnny' photo, one can see how all the beams are up and create an extensive rectangular crown over the 'great room' of the home.
The bottom left photo shows the continuation of the earth-bag building. This wall grew 160mm taller today! However, tomorrow- it will launch further out of its low profile nest as a mixer arrives on the scene. Also, 4 truck loads of Cardrona earth arrived this morning and now the "immovable spiral" will gather height and strength. Final word is that the earth-fills are 'no match' to the invincible triangles!


Arising from our Roots

Rumi, a Persian mystic poet, created inspirational verses which focused on the wisdom he had for humanity and the elements of earth, water, air and fire.

"All the precious words you and I have exchanged have found their way into the heart of the universe . . . . one day they will pour on us like rain helping us arise from our roots again."

As one moves around the site, one can only feel the roots of the builders, the materials, the methods. Brendon from wine country Bannockburn; JJ from bilingual Quebec; Doug from hot Redlands, California; Macrocarpa wood from the beautiful South Island; wool insulation from the infamous New Zealand sheep; earth bagged from the soil of the Cardrona Valley - all these elements seem to be finding their genuine pathway into this home build. This site truly has heart!
The photo (below-left) is taken from the SE corner of the lot and will be the straw-baled bathroom and wardrobe of the ensuite. On the right side, we have an interior view, taken from the small straw-baled bedrooms at the west side of the home. These rooms are graced by the rammed earth keystone wall.

Looking at the insulation sacks -brings a huge smile to our faces because we've seen the lovely sheep on the many hillsides and at the numerous shearing stations. We are always amazed and thankful on how these sweet animals are so 'giving' of their wool which has so many uses in our lives.

Also above find Trent (Reno roots!) and the Jennings brothers (Wasatch Front, Utah) engaged in the earth-bag building. Thanks to Cal-Earth and the innovative spirit of Nader Khalili (1936-2008), we are using his earth architecture techniques in Wanaka. This building method is an extremely strong and organic means of construction that can be used to create a variety of forms and structures. Building with earth-bags goes quickly and is very adaptable to site conditions. Our 3 strong young men can produce 60 linear feet per day! This ethically-based type of constructing acts in harmony with nature and one only needs the bags, an approximate 30% mixture of each of the following: aggregate; clay; sand; and a 10% dash of concrete, along with some water that acts as a catalyst for the earth-mix to bond and set. Tamping is essential to the process and is important when compacting the bags once they are in place. Barbed wire is used to make sure that the earth-bags are properly secured against slipping, and leaning the bags, at a slight angle toward the earth bank, provides added stability. Of course, we are not the first to make retaining walls this way; there is the Columbian community of Gaviotas that has created ponds and retaining walls using this environmental process.
Thanks to all of you, who are exchanging precious words on all that is sustainable; we are feeling the heart of the universe and are beginning to arise from our roots!



As the Friday closing bell rang, the ecoBuild site was standing proud and bold in the full summer sunshine. Holloway and young men sprang for cold ones and shade. Paula, the most intelligent structural engineer on this side of the planet, came to Kings Drive to cheer and applaud, as music was turned low and the tidying-up came to a close. What a week of growing walls, earth-bag beginnings and major beam placement.


Dense as Trees

The air was relatively 'cooler' and the wind blew gently through the dense timbers today. Continuing on the big columns and beams, Holloway and men worked hard and the viewer was dazzled by the spatial areas and gracious complexity of the interior.

The view on the left is taken from Kings Drive and this 'to be front of the home' will receive most of the turbulent weather systems and long hours of the western sun.
As the beams go up and vertical, horizontal and straight notions represent the home's durability and balance - - the entry will begin to have curves. These exterior, hillside swirls will add a dimension of mutability and change. This western terrace will contain earth-bag-areas that will have parabolic sections and show Gaudi-like twists and flexes.


Tree Rings and Framing

"Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life." Rachel Carson

The reclaimed lumber, which is the nucleus of this ecobuild, is powerful. How lucky are we to live in a world where seedlings grow strong and become building blocks of our homes?
Brendon Holloway, builder extraordinaire, has a gift in selecting materials.

The master suite (above) has one of those vibrant, recycled beams spanning the width of its overhead space, its wood-patterns adding to the 'hidden' structure.
Framing continues on toward the living room. The two bedrooms behind large rammed earth keystone will have deep exterior walls of straw bale. Its superior heat retaining qualities will increase interior warmth at dwelling's colder south side.
Mount Roy (without ear protection gear) and Brendon both with their chiseled profiles and wisdom faces on. Doug, Trent, JJ continuing to put daily heart and soul into the lengthy process. One thing more to note: the music onsite is electric and upbeat. For an even better selection of tunes check-out Wanaka Beats 107.3 - this Friday from 4PM (NZ time). Travis Jennings will be doing his fourth live broadcast and will keep your feet moving!

Tomorrow's post: Beam me Up and Gaudi
"Creation works ceaselessly through man. But man does not create, he discovers. Those who seek out the laws of Nature as support for their new work collaborate with the Creator."Antoni Gaudi