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Publication Title | Building the Bathhouse

Organic Rankine Cycle

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\Joe Schwartz & Ben Root ©1998 Joe Schwartz and Ben Root

or over twenty years Home Power has served as a test bed for renewable energy (RE) system hardware. The sheer volume of RE components living up on Agate Flat is a testament to this. Ancient PVs are still contributing to daily power

production, worn out wind generators and electronics inhabit scrap piles and are up for grabs as spare parts, and untested gear waits its turn in outbuildings or under numerous blue tarps. While this scene would be expected by Home Power readers, another look around the property reveals experimentation in a wholly different direction.

In 1970, Richard, Karen, and friends built a 26 foot diameter wooden, two frequency, octahedral dome based on designs from Stewart Brand’s original Dome Book. It was built with hand tools and took only thirteen days to complete. The dome had a dirt floor, no foundation, no insulation, and a roof that kept the rain out more often than not. It was also the first structure on the Flat where hay bales were used for something other than livestock feed–furniture! In 1973, The Pod, a 15 foot 8 inch diameter, twelve-sided stressed plywood structure on a six foot high platform was built. The dome became the hay barn, which isn’t the most efficient space in which to buck and stack hay! An old tipi platform in the pine grove is now a nice place to sit

46 Home Power #64 • April / May 1998

and stretch. Currently, Home Power Central is housed in the Plywood Palace, which utilizes rough sawn fir in its more conventional construction.

When word came ‘round that Richard and Karen were ready to build a bathing facility, we were stoked to try some low-impact building systems including straw bale wall construction, now experiencing a revival. Since we weren’t the ones dropping the cash on the project, we approached them somewhat tentatively with our ideas. Richard was grinning when he said, “Take a look at this place! It’s always been experimental.”

Right off the bat we’d like to share two insights after working on the bath house project for a little over a

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