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Sustainability has become an increasingly important focus for new construction. The high environmental cost of energy production, the “carbon footprint” of a product or process throughout its life-cycle, the fragility of existing ecosystems, and the impact of human life on the planet and society in general, are urgent issues, which must be addressed, in any new endeavor that we wish to undertake. In most areas of the world, living at a comfortable temperature, with good air and a healthy local ecosystem, are costing society and the planet more and more. Traditional construction systems which once seemed reasonable and good, are being revalued and dissected in order to provide a real picture of their sustainability in our changing world. Everything must be taken into consideration; from the availability and ecological cost extracting the raw materials, the energy required to process and move them to the building site, through the cost of heating or cooling of a particular building, to the ultimate energy cost of maintenance and repairs or replacement of a particular building type. Other factors which are increasingly crucial are a buildings contribution to the local ecology, its interaction with the air and water surrounding it, and the protection it may offer from other undesirable outside effects, including noise, weather disruptions, and social instability.
The use of earth as a building material, in adobe, rammed earth, and earth-sheltered construction is gaining renewed acceptance because of all the aforementioned reasons. In particular the idea of covering a structure with living earth and plants, and using the thermal stability and security provided by the proximity to the ground, is very appealing. However, this type of construction has always been difficult and expensive to achieve, with questionable results. Achieving adequate ventilation and adequate waterproofing in this type of construction has never been easy with traditional methods, and often the result is overbuilt, requiring an extremely strong structure that does not collaborate with the earth surrounding it. The Green-Magic-Homes System has addressed these problems in an entirely new way, using the age old methods of building with earth in conjunction with the space-age technology of composite materials. The inner shell of the buildings is very strong, light, waterproof, and modular, and the earth covering is constructed in such a way that it collaborates structurally with the shell because of its layered construction and the vaulted geometry of the system.
In comparison to other traditional materials such as concrete, brickwork, metals or wood, the total lifecycle assessment of fiberglass composites (FRP) contributes to its viability as a green building product. When consideration is taken for the energy consumed in production and installation, FRP composites generate a much smaller impact than other traditional materials and can be used in ways that are less energy or carbon intensive. The light weight of FRP contributes to overall savings, starting with lower transportation costs. There is no need for heavy lifting equipment and installation is faster which results in less disruption to the environment. The rigidity and structural integrity of FRP as used in the Green-MagicHomes System means there is less dead weight and less material is required, eliminating unnecessary resource consumption and bringing down costs. By contrast, a similar product made of concrete could require up to 200% more material to produce than FRP and would weigh far more. The process of refining cement, from extraction to fabrication, or firing brick and terracotta in high temperature ovens, generates a large amount of carbon dioxide and other gases.
FRP has a life cycle that exceeds other building materials by remaining resistant to rust, rot and corrosion. By increasing the useful lifespan compared to other products, FRP’s durability reduces the need for replacement, repair or repainting. Its durability, low maintenance, and low heat transfer index, mark it as environmentally sustainable on its own. In addition to this, the Green-Magic-Homes System is based on a lamination process that is formulated with certified green resins, containing up to 80% recycled PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate). Coupled with the multiple benefits provided by the organic earth covering, in terms of thermal inertia, well as carbon cycling and oxygen production, and airborne pollutant removal, the Green-Magic-Homes System has the lowest possible carbon footprint through its life-cycle and the highest sustainability of any industrialized system that we know of.
The biggest challenge to any building system is posed by the temperate and seasonal environment, (generally above 35 degrees North and 35 degrees South latitude) in which annual temperatures can fluctuate from below freezing in the winter to very hot in summer, and living spaces must be designed for comfort in a constantly changing environment. The Green-Magic-Homes System of earth sheltered construction, coupled with passive solar principles, will provide energy saving solutions in this (as in other) environments. All facts and figures given in this section will apply to other climates, as they include the extremes of hot and cold conditions and their relationship to the built environment.
The concept of passive annual heat storage system (PAHS), a method of collecting heat in the summertime, by cooling the home naturally, storing it in the earth’s soil naturally and then afterwards returning that heat to the contact structure (earth home) in the winter was originally introduced by Hait in his book published in 1983. It includes extensive use of natural heat flow methods, and the arrangement of building materials to direct this passive energy from the earth to the building, all without using machinery. According to this concept, there is a cooling action when one climbs down into basement structures or caves.
This cooling action experienced in these enclosed environments is a result of the heat being drawn away from the body to the surrounding air, which then transfers this thermal energy into the surrounding structures whose heat content is less than that of the adjacent air mass. The dynamics behind this concept is that heat always flows from a warmer system to a cooler system (as in the case mentioned above with the human body as the warm system and the surrounding air and walls as the cooler system). By this action if you are warmer than the surrounding air, the heat of the body will escape to the surrounding air until temperature equilibrium is attained. Likewise, in the case the air inside the room is warmer than the surrounding walls, heat will be drawn out of the air into the walls, thus cooling the air and warming the walls. On the other hand, if the air temperature inside the room is cooler that the surrounding walls, heat will be drawn out of the walls into the air by this warming the air and cooling the walls. Passive annual heat storage (PAHS) uses this thermodynamic principle in conjunction with bare earth to aid control of the micro-climate within the building.
In the case of the earth sheltered dwelling, it utilizes the surrounding earth to regulate its temperature throughout the year. Globally, the earth receives electromagnetic radiation from the sun, which is typically defined as short-wave radiation and emits it at longer wavelengths known typically as long-wave radiation. This absorption and re-emission of radiation at the earth’s surface level, which forms a part of the heat, transfer in the earth’s planetary domain yields the idea for the principle of PAHS. When averaged globally and annually, about 49% of the solar radiation striking the earth and its atmosphere is absorbed at the surface (meaning that the atmosphere absorbs 20% of the incoming radiation and the remaining 31% is reflected back to space
The use of the earth’s relatively stable temperature can provide occupant comfort at minimal energy costs. The earth moderates the temperature swings that occur on a daily basis and it has been determined that a time lag of approximately 133 hours occurs at a two-foot depth. The time lag occurs proportionately so that an eight or ten foot depth has a time lag of 2100 to 2200 hours or about 90 days. A reduction of 50 to 75 percent of the normal heating and cooling load requirements can be achieved due to the temperature moderation and time lag of the earth.
Green-Magic-Homes Technology buildings are ideal for areas of high seismic risk since they are basically one-story constructions, intimately linked to the land, and laterally confined by the terrain itself and berms, which provide optimal lateral stability. They are designed to support the top layer of soil (7.87 inch = 20 centimeters) plus 200 kg/m2 live load, which allows for the installation of lightweight structures (such as wooden pergolas), all this supported by structural studies (as well as actual tests) that ensure structural stability. For the necessary documentation for obtaining building permits and approvals, we provide the reports of structural calculations and all other necessary support.