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March 2009     

Hello everybody!

This is our first newsletter with the latest news on Mindful Design.
What is Mindful Design? It is taking care of your home, or your business space, where in return your home (or business) will take care of you - your physical and mental well being.

If you are still interested, please keep reading. Today’s letter will show you how easy it is to build an off- grid, ecologically friendly home in this era of environmental challenges. Also, if you are in the process of thinking about building your own home, you can WIN a full set of construction documents ($25,000 value) of THIS particular house for FREE! Keep reading for your chance to WIN! I hope you enjoy our monthly dose of the latest news from Mindful Design!

Truly yours, EKATERINA KOHLWES principal / designer


A Brief History of the Industrial Revolution

Imagine that you have been given the assignment of designing the Industrial Revolution - retrospectively. With respect to its negative consequences, the assignment would have to read something like this: Design a system of production that:

• puts billions of pounds of toxic materials into the air, water, and soil every year
• produces some materials so dangerous they will require vigilance by future generations
• results in gigantic amounts of waste
• puts valuable materials in a hole all over the planet where they can never be retrieved
• requires thousand of complex regulations: not to keep people and natural systems safe, but rather to keep them from being poisoned quickly
• measures productivity by how few people are working
• creates prosperity by digging up or cutting down natural resources and then burying or burning them
• erodes the diversity of species and cultural practices

From “Cradle To Cradle” by William McDonough and Michael Braungart.

What do YOU think today’s residential houses should be like?

I truly believe our home should:

• Safeguard the mental and physical well-being of humans.
• Produce enough energy to operate ALL needed equipment.
• Convert human waste into useful resources.
• Be easily expanded or downsized.
• Be maintained with minimum effort.

Did you know that we can build this house using currently available technology, materials and resources?

Imagine a new home, ecologically friendly and comfortable to live in. It is made out of natural materials which don’t emit harmful chemicals. It utilizes from nature: sunlight, wind and rainwater; providing back cleaned wastewater, electricity, and organic fertilizers. This “machine” lives for as long as people need it. After that, unbolted metal beams will be taken out and recycled; walls will be simply leveled down to the ground and the lot returned to its origin.

For C2C competition Mindful Design proposed a rammed earth house as a solution to the problem.

Rammed Earth Walls

This home is comprised of three main parallel structural walls supporting the whole building. The rest of the assembly is very light, flexible and can be removed as needed to change the layout for different use. These walls are made of local stabilized earth and rock, the oldest construction method on the planet. The earth is waterproofed as needed on the outside but exposed on the inside so that the walls “breathe”. The thickness of the walls serves as a barrier for temperature change.

Creating rammed walls involves a process of compressing a damp mixture of earth that has suitable proportions of sand, gravel and clay (sometimes with an added stabilizer) into an externally supported frame that molds the shape of a wall section creating a solid wall of earth with beautiful natural coloration.

Each of the three walls of the house serve a different function:


1. Southern wall – retaining and water collecting wall. A water collecting system installed in front and through the wall collects rain and snow water from the hill. This water is directed into a water storage tank in the basement of the home.

2. Middle wall - heat collecting trombe wall. Large glazed openings in the southern wall direct winter sun onto this wall. The earth wall collects the sun's warmth during the day. At night the heat radiates throughout the house. This wall also hides air distributing ducts which bring cool air from outside through the water storage tank for additional cooling effect in summer.

3. Northern wall - cold protecting wall. It is water and wind proof.

The openness of the structure allows for the natural flow of air in the summer. Clerestory windows at the top of the roof can be opened to allow hot air to escape.

There is a hydronic radiant floor heating system. It is quiet and low maintenance. This form of heating was first used by the Romans. Modern technology made it possible to lay the system inside of wood panels known as thermalboards. Thermalboard is constructed out of non-virgin wood and is fully recyclable.

The basement serves as another temperature controlling air pillow for the main level, as well as a place for a water storage tank, composting toilet and other equipment.

The elongated shape of the building along east-west axis takes advantage of southern exposure in winter. In the summer, louvers positioned at a certain angle keep the sunlight out.

Solar panels are placed on the southern portion of the roof. They generate power for the house and feed excess power back onto the city power grid, reducing the use of fossil fuels. The rest of the roof is metal “cool” roofing, which can be recycled.

Eastern side of the house is an enclosed staircase. This space is an air barrier between the outside and the inside. It is a transparent/translucent transition between the inside and the neighborhood. It also lets indirect sunlight inside of the home, minimizing the use of electricity.


A flowerbed by the driveway is a “treatment plant” for vehicular waste. The sloped driveway allows water to run into the bioswale. Local plants are carefully selected for this function and for the local climate. The site around the home is barely disturbed by simply adding more plants and stepping stones marking the path into the garden. Solar lights can be added throughout the garden and on the front of the house for safely.

This best-in-class home utilizes all of the currently available collective knowledge relating to the matter of ecologically friendly construction and puts it to work for the future of humanity.




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