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A new and self-sufficient house for half a million? It works. But you have to forget about prejudices

Petr Skořepa built mobile, low-energy and self-sufficient housing for himself and his family from tires, straw and clay. It produces electricity with solar panels, has water from a well and uses a trombe wall as air conditioning. The entire construction cost him approximately half a million crowns, and according to him, his house, which he named Yurt Harmonie, has been working perfectly for 14 years.

Petr Skořepa, built a mobile, low-energy and self-sufficient building from tires, straw and clay.

| Photo: Courtesy of Petr Skořepá

In the past, Petr Skořepa participated in a course devoted to the construction of a straw house.

“The person who ran the course built a house for 30,000 crowns back then. That shocked me about as much as when I say today that I will build a self-sufficient house for half a million,” he smiles and adds: “I learned to work with clay and straw on the course. That was just the beginning. Above all, I understood that the world can work a little differently.”

At that time he had already completed a trip to India and the Himalayas.

“At 3,500 meters above sea level, I saw with my own eyes the temples that still stand there today. They are built of sticks, stones and mud. I was so interested that I started going to various courses dealing with how to build unconventionally. Things weren’t very good in our country at the time, so I went to Austria or France to find out. There I learned to build houses from natural materials,” Petr Skořepa describes his journey to non-traditional living.

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“Always, when a person wants to achieve something, he must be properly set up to act and think,” says Petr Skořepa.

“I learned everything only when I was really motivated. My dad was handy, but you can understand that as a child and teenager I wasn’t keen on it. I acquired some knowledge out of compulsion. However, it was certainly not enough for me to build a house,” laughs Petr Skořepa, who is also the vice-chairman of the Eko-osada association

He built the first low-energy house for 150,000 crowns. It had 40 square meters of usable space. He melted roughly 3 cubic meters of wood in it per year. He later ventured into a larger straw and mud mobile home.

House construction.House construction.Source: Courtesy of Petr Skořepá

How Yurt Harmony was created

“We call it Yurt Harmony because it was originally created on the principle of canvas yurts. It is actually a circular straw-clay low-energy house. We were expecting a baby, so I had to come up with something. First, I chose a mobile home, so I built a house that is 50 m² and can be disassembled into panels,” smiles builder and lecturer Petr Skořepa.

The construction was originally based on earth screws.

“When I moved, I extended it by the lower floor. It is built from yard tires filled with dirt. The foundations do not stand on the ground, but the tires lead to the unfrozen depth. It’s surprisingly solid,” says Petr Skořepa.

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He made the base wreath from the old prisms from wreckers.

“People often throw away material because they have no imagination. We only had a lot of material to transport. In fact, the entire substructure is made of it. We used new KVH prisms on the upper floor,” explains Petr Skořepa, adding that this is also why the budget was half a million crowns. He would do it differently today. It was then that he decided to use new and expensive materials. This applies not only to prisms, but also to windows and doors.

“The floor is made like a wooden structure, the ceiling panels are triangular and I used tetrapak boards. This is recycled material from milk or juice packaging. The floor and ceiling are insulated with sheep’s wool. Straw with clay is only in the walls,” says Petr Skořepa.

But, according to him, you cannot use just any soil for construction. “You have to use clay. When you remove topsoil, you will find gooey light brown clay. This is it. It sticks together and can be used to make, for example, bricks or ceramics,” says Petr Skořepa.

He has already moved the folding house twice

You can build the straw and clay structure itself in two ways.

“Either a wooden structure is made and filled with straw bales, or a wooden structure is made from a panel into which you insert straw. The panels are then simply screwed together. This is how I did it too. When you disassemble them again, you can take each wall side panel or panel with a window or door and move it,” explains Petr Skořepa.

According to him, windows are always an expensive item. But they didn’t want to buy them, so Petr Skořepa went to the glass manufacturer.

“I asked if they had any glass to throw away. I was interested in 50 identical pieces with dimensions of 120×140 centimeters. They were triple-glazed windows, when one cost 2,000 kroner at the time, I only paid two hundred for one,” says Petr Skořepa.

He had the double glass doors custom-made by a carpenter and is one of the most expensive items in the house. He paid approximately 50 thousand crowns for two.

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He has already moved the building twice. “We carried everything by hand, I only used a five-meter cart, which carried about two tons. I think I turned about five times. The floor and roof panel weigh about 150 kilograms,” says Petr Skořepa.

The only thing he would do differently today is the roof. “I also use clay for outdoor plastering. However, if there is not enough overlap of the roof, then the plaster suffers. If I want to achieve a lifespan of around 80 years, I need to have a roof overhang of at least 50 or 60 centimeters. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out for me here and the roof sheet was short,” builder Petr Skořepa thinks aloud.

A self-sufficient house that people come to see

In his new house, they draw water from a well and generate electricity from spring to autumn from a solar system.

“I bought the entire complete system with a 300-liter boiler in an online bazaar for 13,000 crowns. It works without a pump because we use a physical principle: the panels are lower than the boiler. We accumulate electricity in a small battery, in winter we produce it thanks to stoves with thermocouples that generate electricity from the heat of the stove,” smiles Petr Skořepa.

They have a tank for rainwater and a prepared aquaponic system, which should also be used for breeding fish and growing plants. According to Petr Skořepá, the house is thus self-sufficient. In addition to the solar system for air heating or cooling, they use a trombe wall.

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“I would still improve something. However, I am quite satisfied with Yurt Harmonia. It’s been 14 years and the house works perfectly, people come to see and can even rent a stay with us. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t build again in the same way, I would like to try something else again,” explains Petr Skořepa.

Petr Skořepa passes on his knowledge

He summarized all his rich experiences and procedures in an e-book. In addition, Petr organizes courses where he not only explains the philosophy of construction, but people can also try the construction in practice.

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