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Tips for Building in Remote Locations

January 18, 2004

by David B. South

Fire Safety - Keep everything as fire safe as possible. Remote locations usually means there are no fire trucks readily accessible.

Proper Planning - Remote locations equal off-grid living. Off-grid living is not hard, in fact it is fun, but it needs to be properly planned or sorrow will follow.

Construction & Generators - Remote locations are usually a great distance from a Redi-Mix plant. Consider mixing on location -- especially for the dome shell. You may want to dry pack and bring Redi-Mix trucks out to the location for the floors and footings. It is possible to load a mixer truck so concrete doesn't actually start mixing until it gets near the job site. This can be more expensive but so are most other alternatives. It is not usually a big burden to haul the sand and the cement to the job site. At times we have actually hauled all the water as well. You can load a trailer with empty fifty gallon drums and economically haul it out at a pretty good speed. Another alternative is to rent a water wagon from a rental shop.

Generators - The construction of Monolithic Domes take a lot of energy. Generally, we use one of our large generators. You can also rent one at the nearby town. We like to use a 35 kilowatt or larger generator. It is possible to build a dome with as small as a 15kw or 20kw, if it is a heavy duty generator. If you get much smaller units you won't have enough power to start the foam machine.

Contract Workers - Once the dome is built the hard part of building the house is still a head of you -- choosing plumbers, electricians and other contractors. Many times this is a good place to hire a lone craftsman or one with a helper that works by himself and gets the job done. It will take him a little longer, but when he makes a trip to town he can get everything he needs for all kinds of reasons.

Considerations for the Residents- Since you are willing to reside in a remote location and most likely be living off grid you need to determine what you want for amenities. One consideration is to get an adequate generator that will run most appliances at one time. In my estimation, a 20-25 kilowatts diesel-powered or propane-powered generator is sufficient.

You also want to be able to store a significant amount of fuel. The best fuels to store are either diesel or propane. If you put your generator in a well-insulated building (Monolithic Dome --- hint, hint) you can also store with it, a good-sized, insulated water tank. You are going to use the generator to heat the water in the tank. In turn, the water will be used to heat the house and to heat the hot water for the house. You simply pump the water from the tank through the floor of the house to heat the house. You have a copper coil in the tank to exchange heat with the culinary water for hot water in the house. Now, this hot water may not be quite as hot as you want. You may have to boost it either with a gas booster or some other method. It is really simple to have an on-demand water heater at the point of use to boost the temperature whenever the water flows. These propane on-demand water heaters are simple, inexpensive and very effective. When the generator is running it will generate power into the batteries. The batteries will provide electricity for the house during the off-peak use.

What does all this mean? It means you can run the generator for a few hours in the evening. While it is running we pump water to the water tank, do the ironing, run the washing machine, and do whatever requires large amounts of power. That includes refilling the batteries and providing hot water. When done, shut it off. We run on propane and electricity from the batteries until the next evening then run the generator again.

We also can hook up solar collectors to help charge batteries. Meaning, the generators is used less often.

A note to survivalists: Remember that electricity from solar cells or wind power is subject to damage from high winds or natural disasters. It is wise to have two or three methods of electricity production.

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