The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Shade houses

Lathe houseOne of my favorite chapters in Bill Mollison's Introduction to Permaculture was the one on housing.  In addition to all of the mainstream information on passive solar (with or without an attached greenhouse), closing and opening windows to manage air temperature, thermal mass, and shade trees, he introduced a concept I'd never heard of --- the shade house.

A search of the internet suggestions that Mollison's shadehouse may sometimes be known as a lathe house.  Regardless of the name, the structure is placed on the north side of the home in our hemisphere, has a partially covered top to provide shade, and is coated with vegetation inside and out.  Vines are often trellised up the sides, and the top may be made of trellis material to allow the vines to continue their growth there, or it might consist of multiple layers of snow fencing or one layer of reflective shade cloth.  Water tanks inside or around the structure can provide extra thermal mass.

The shade house produces a very cool environment to feed air into the house in the summer.  Opening a high window on the opposite side of the house (or a vent in the top of an attached greenhouse) lets hot air escape, then a vent low in the wall attached to the shade house pulls in cool air from that structure to replace the warm air.

Propagation at the porch edgeA shade house also provides other much-needed uses on the summer homestead as well.  You can add an outdoor bathing station, and should definitely consider raising mushrooms there and rooting cuttings in the shade.  We've yet to find the best environment for mushroom logs in the summer, and although my cuttings do pretty well in the semi-shade of the porch edge, I can see how a shade house would make propagation even easier.

The one thing I'm unsure of is whether a shade house would make the main house too moist in our wet climate.  Constant rain during summers like this one mean that fabrics left to dry over chairs in the house often mold before the water leaves them, and swamp coolers definitely won't work on our humid farm.  Part of the benefit of shade houses is supposed to be adding humidity to the air, so maybe they're not compatible with our area after all?

Trailersteading gives tips on turning a free or cheap singlewide into a passive solar home.

This post is part of our Mollison's Introduction to Permaculture lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I'd be very curious to see how this works in a humid climate. Like you said - swamp coolers don't work here. Our current house is in the forest, and pretty good about not taking on solar gain in the summer, but I want it to be a good 10 degrees cooler outside if I'm going to let more humidity in, too. On rare non-humid evenings, I'll open the windows even if it's a degree or two warmer outside, just to get the air moving. But humidity? that's the choker.
Comment by Emily Tue Jul 9 16:47:51 2013
Interesting, especially with the addition of water tanks. That leads me to wonder: will opening the windows & pulling air in all day from the water-tank-cooled air keep my tiny house cooler than keeping windows closed against heat & opening in evening? Of course, by waiting till evening the water tanks will have absorbed some heat, thus being not as effective. I'm about to add big water tanks, so I'll definitely position them to try this design. Thanks so much!
Comment by Terry Mon Mar 16 09:33:41 2015
Terry --- I suspect it will have a lot to do with your humidity. For example, if you live in the arid southwest and can use a swamp cooler instead of an air conditioner, this method might be like building your own external swamp cooler! If you live in the humid southeast like us, though, I doubt it would be worth opening the windows to the shade room during the heat of the day.
Comment by anna Mon Mar 16 16:34:56 2015

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