17 November 2007

Vaulted roofs for housing

If you look on the right at my profile and links you will note I am interested in building, which has been the case all my life. Recently I am interested in vaulted roofs, like the roof above.

I designed and built the A-Frame house we live in now, pictured below. I didn't do most of the brick work or the cement floors but I did all the wood work structure, floors, wood walls, windows and doors. It has taken 20 years of off and on building and there still remains some ceilings to finish. This is a picture of the front of the house,

From the inside:

The biggest reason for building with an A frame plan was to save money. The walls can be any material as they are not load bearing saving money. There is no expensive steel/concrete ring beam, instead the horizontal wood of the A and the floor joists act like a ring beam. The space above the ground floor ceiling is use able so I got an extra floor for little extra cost.

But this house is still plenty expensive, especially as burnt bricks are expensive.

As my company AFAM sells fired clay bricks and have been building underground water tanks with brick domes for years, I tried a few years ago building small buildings with domes for roofs. I was concerned they would develop cracks because of earth tremors. They have faired very well and are waterproof, but they have an echo/reverberation phenomenom.

I need to build another house to live in (long storey).

From a local architect , Thomas Caspary, I learned about brick vaults, and started reading.

Auroville in India and this article were my biggest inspiration. Also the buildings of Gaudi in Spain and Hassan Fathy of Egypt. What Gaudi did with catenary arches and vaults and columns in churches and large homes makes my spirit soar. Fathy was more down to earth and wanted to build cheaply for the masses.

Originally I was going to have domed roofs on this new house until i began researching vaults. Now I want vaulted roofs.

To prepare for building on the new house we just now built a store for the overflow junk from the town office. Once the roof was finished it was obvious it was too "maridadi" for a store and it is almost ready for Diana, our trusted home manager to use as her two room apartment.

This is the finished building with some cardboard on top so it stays wet. As you can see there is some landscaping work to be done. First we build a kitchen waste biogas tank in her front yard, then the pile of rubble goes around that.

This is the inside of the vaulted room.
The door became a bit ostenacious but kind of cool.
In the picture is Fundi Robson, the brick mason.

This is how the vault started. It took several attempts to get to this stage. We tore it all down several times and it fell partially several times. Robson finally figured it out. Experimenting how much he could build in a day, the consistency of the mud mortar, and issues like that. Initially I had him leaning and stepping the bricks.

Once Robson had some experience he did less stepping and more one line at a time. Also the leaning doesn't seem to be necessary. Next building he will not lean the bricks and try to build whole arches at a time.

The arched doors and windows was also a learning experience as they need to interlock with the roof arch, they depend upon each other for support, and they tended to become a big huge.

I can afford to plaster the roof with cement and waterproof cement, but i want to figure a way to do it cheaper and with less cement. Or at least know the options. It appears it will involve a layer of plastic, then layers of mud and cow dung.

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