Sunday, 20 February 2011

To cast or not to cast


To cast concrete or not to cast concrete, that is the question. 'Tis undoubtedly nobler not to. Cast concrete requires a huge amount of energy, and so inevitably has a high carbon cost. On the other hand, provided it's done right, it will stand and be useful for hundreds of years, so that energy cost is ammortised - potentially - over a very long time. But here's the rub. I don't need a dwelling that will stand for a very long time. I need a dwelling which will be reliably warm and weathertight for thirty years. After that, it's someone else's problem, and someone else may not choose to live underground.

The wood/epoxy alternative is probably but not certainly good for thirty years. If it starts to fail in twenty years, when I'm in my mid seventies and probably pretty broke, that's going to be bad news. I don't think it would, but it might. Also, the cast concrete structure is remarkably cheaper, and remarkably easier to insulate, than the wooden one. Given how tight I am for money, that's a very significant consideration.

Casting on-site is definitely out. I can't get a readimix truck to site, and I can't quality-control the concrete I can mix for myself on site. Also, the shuttering cost of casting on site is high because it would be necessary to cast a whole dome in one go. I had ruled out my original idea of casting off-site because I had thought that I could not afford the heavy equipment to move stuff on site. But Boy Alex's Unimog can do exactly that. Casting off-site is once again an option.

If anyone thinks that, like Hamlet, I'm labouring this decision, well, I am. This is almost certainly the biggest decision of the rest of my life.


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