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Living Homes: Thomas J. Elpel's Field Guide to Integrated Design and Construction Paperback – May 1, 2001

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Tom Elpel's ground work in slipform stone masonry was clear, concise, and very helpful. -- Dani G. Hotchkiss, Colorado

About the Author

Thomas J. Elpel had the rare opportunity as a child to spend hundreds of hours with his grandmother exploring the hills and meadows of southwest Montana. She taught him about wild edible and medicinal plants and wilderness survival skills, igniting a passion for nature that has inspired him ever since. Tom’s desire to live close to nature logically developed into an equal passion for resource-efficient construction with natural materials and sustainable paths to economic prosperity.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 220 pages
  • Publisher: Hops Pr; 4th edition (May 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1892784092
  • ISBN-13: 978-1892784094
  • Product Dimensions: 10.8 x 8.3 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,344,350 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Thomas J. Elpel had the rare opportunity as a child to spend hundreds of hours with his grandmother Josie Jewett. Together they explored the hills and meadows near Virginia City, Montana, collecting herbs, looking for arrowheads and watching wildlife. Grandma Josie helped Tom to learn about native plants and their uses, igniting a passion for nature that has inspired him ever since. She also sparked his interest in survival skills.

"All I ever wanted to do as a kid was to go to Grandma's house," Tom said. "When she moved from Virginia City to Pony, I followed her. I eventually bought land just a couple blocks from her place."

Tom's first serious exposure to wilderness survival skills began at the age of 16, when he went on a 26-day, 250-mile walkabout in the desert canyons of southern Utah with Boulder Outdoor Survival School. The following year he and Grandma Josie went together to Tom Brown's Tracker School in New Jersey. From there Tom spent thousands of hours practicing and developing survival skills in his "backyard" in the Rocky Mountains.

Tom's desire to make a positive difference in the world started early, partly the result from watching too much news with Walter Chronkite as a child. By the time he entered junior high he was on a mission to change the world. Friends in high school said he would grow out of his idealism and learn to accept the world as it was, but so far that hasn't happened. (He hasn't exactly changed the world either, but he insists he is still working on it.)

Tom married his girlfriend from high school, and the couple bought a five-acre parcel in Pony, just two blocks distance from Grandma Josie's house. They moved into a tent and started building their dream home of stone and log. They both worked with troubled teens in wilderness therapy programs, so they commuted to Idaho, Utah, or Arizona for three-week trips, then came home to spend their money on building materials.

The Elpel's built a passive solar stone and log home for approximately what most people spend on a new car. They successfully avoided the need for a mortgage, a regular job, or an expensive college education. Instead, Tom pursued his interests - learning, practicing, teaching, and writing about botany, wilderness survival, consciousness, and sustainable living. He is the author of numerous books, and the director of Outdoor Wilderness Living School (OWLS) and Green University®, LLC in Pony, Montana.

Tom's basic philosophy is that the wilderness survival skills are useful to connect with nature, but we shouldn't run away from the problems of modern society. Instead, we need to apply the lessons and spirit of living close to nature towards the quest to solve our worldly problems.

"Experts and lay persons alike bemoan the difficulty of creating a sustainable lifestyle, but it really isn't that hard." Tom said. "We had less money and less skills than a lot of people, but we built an energy-efficient passive solar home, and we now generate our own electricity with solar panels. Sustainability isn't that difficult, you just have to stay focused on the goal."

Tom's grandmother died in 2004 at the age of 89. Her love for nature continues to inspire Tom every day. Although he is crazy busy, getting out into nature remains a high priority, and he continues to hone his wilderness survival and awareness skills.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By C. Taylor on August 17, 2001
Format: Paperback
I was really excited to see this book appear. A classic "Build Your Own Stone House" is now out of print, and I thought there was nothing to replace it. Since I am a bookerseller of alternative housebuilding books I was looking for another resource on stone building. Elpel does a very good job of covering all the bases for the prospective owner builder. He allows the reader to envision how home siting, use of passive solar, water needs and energy use will affect the final home for years to come. He covers plumbing, electric, septic, even making a solar hot water heater. But the best part for me was the description of the "terra Tiles" earthen floor method. This is good stuff! Chapters on straw bale and log home building allow the reader to compare various methods. Also coverage of masonry stove building, overall Elpel provides a real understanding of "how to", and an easy to read book.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Laurie J. Neverman on October 28, 2004
Format: Paperback
This book has a lot of big ideas, but is very weak on technical details. The author repeatedly uses phrases like, "We tried this, but it didn't work very well" without offering a follow up of something that DOES work. Maybe some of the suggestions would work better in an arid climate, but around here many of his suggestions are recipes for mold growth, rot and indoor air quality problems. Also, much of what is suggested is in violation of building codes, such as using a single wall heat exchanger in a solar water heating system where the heat exchange takes place between glycol-based antifreeze and potable water. Use the book for ideas, but please get your technical information somewhere else.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Greg C on November 2, 2005
Format: Paperback
While the author is a knowledgeable on the subject, if you are looking for a book that covers the slipform (slip form) stone masonry in greater detail then check out Tomm Stanley's book "Stone House: A Guide to Self-Building With Slipforms". The material is covered in greater detail and in a well thought out manner.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on January 31, 2011
Format: Paperback
I had expected with a title like Living Holmes: Thomas J. Elpel's Guide to Integrated Design and Construction a scholarly and practical book. Instead it strikes me as someone who put this together to make a quick buck.
The review by Charlamaine Taylor, you should realize that they are in business together (see my review of their video on slipform walls).
I cannot speculate on a persons motivations for writing, you can get some good information from the book, but my best recommendation is to view this book and his distributer Charlamaine Taylor with caution. We need less hastily produced books and more informative professionally produced books
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3 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on November 11, 2001
Format: Paperback
Thomas Elpel's Living Homes is an invaluable reference on the concept of integrated design and construction that will appeal to anyone remodeling their home as well as to new home builders, though the latter group will be more interested in the ground-up building approach offered her. From the planning process to designing an energy-efficient result, Living Homes provides construction and how-to tips the home do-it-yourselfer will appreciate.
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