The B.E.L.L. (Biogenic
Ecodesic Living Lighthouse)
The design of the B.E.L.L. offers one an
opportunity to live in harmony with nature, rather than being insulated
and shut away from it. The original design featured 24equal sides,
each 2’ –0” wide so that windows could be placed all around, providing adequate
lighting and airflow Szekely suggested building the B.E.L.L. using
a 12"square post in the center for supporting the roof . We used a 12" diameter log from a fallen pine
tree and modified the basic design to an eight‑sided structure, approximately
20'‑0" in diameter and provided a wider door.
building can easily be constructed with standard building materials,
providing 309 square feet of living area, enough room for a kitchen
sink and counter, queen‑size day bed and storage area, shelves for
books and entertainment system or TV. There is also enough room
to grow indoor greens and sprouts in the windows. It is ideal for
a couple choosing to live a simple and modest lifestyle.
Why a BELL?
rightful place is to live in partnership with nature. His body,
mind and emotions are gratified only when he is in harmony with the
natural world, when fresh air, organic food and simple shelter are
available to him. These basics are the natural formula for happiness,
offering freedom from the dissatisfaction of enormous debt, and
a life of anxiety or
mental desperation. Our intent has been to promote the idea of the
B.E.L.L. as a workable, realistic solution for modem day homelessness
and anyone wisely unwilling to go deeply into debt with thirty-year
As we have stated before, the key to living
in a B.E.L.L. is the skill of natural diet. It would be almost impossible
to live in this type of dwelling without a radical change in one's
diet. There is no extra space in the B.E.L.L. to accommodate the necessary
equipment, appliances and storage space needed for the traditional
cooked‑food American diet, such as large refrigerators, stoves, microwave
ovens, bread machines, food processors, freezers, pots of every size
and shape and numerous gadgets.
The following is an inspirational excerpt
from Szekely's pamphlet on the B.E.L.L.
Szekely goes on to describe how the windows
in the B.E.L.L. can easily be opened or closed, depending upon weather
conditions, to allow one the opportunity to live as close to nature
as possible. The amount of heat, light and ventilation can be
There is little doubt that the B.E.L.L.
is one of the most viable, easily constructed small dwelling designs
we have ever seen. It is unfortunate that this incredible knowledge
has not been widely available to the thousands of people who struggle
daily in cities, trying to maintain a roof over their heads, paying
outrageous fuel costs just to stay comfortable in standard box-shaped
houses or apartment buildings.
Szekely made it clear in his pamphlet that
people should adapt the B.E.L.L. design to their own needs and environmental
conditions. He didn't believe there was only one right way. So for
those of us who start off without any kind of carpentry skills, it
is overwhelming to know what to do. We were one such couple.
Before attempting to build a B.E.L.L., we
decided to construct a tiny cabin at EarthStar. We needed the building
practice, and it has served as storage for tools, a bathhouse and
a place to use for weekend camping.
We worked on the cabin each weekend for
about 6 months. It is a 10' x 12' building with a ½ story sleeping
loft and 8' x 15' porch. We used rough-sawn, 1” X 10"
boards for siding, added an aluminum roof, installed a 70‑gallon water
tank in the loft and built in a gravity fed shower, sink and toilet.
The total cost was $3,600.00. It provides tool storage, collects rainwater
from the roof to an underground 850‑gallon cement cistern (see Plate
1) and the loft is roomy enough for a queen size bed, small table,
bookshelf and clothes storage. Building this small cabin gave us
the confidence we needed to begin the construction of the B.E.L.L.
We decided to modify Szekely's original
idea of the B.E.L.L. Instead of a 24 sided polygonal structure, we
opted for an eight‑sided, gazebo style building. Each wall, being
eight feet wide, makes the building diameter.
The total square footage
is approximately 309 sq. ft. The roof is insulated on the topside
so we didn't have to provide a drop ceiling. Since we sheathed the
open ceiling with rough sawn 1" x 8" boards, from rafter to rafter,
the look and feel of the building is very rustic.
Each wall contains (3) 2’x3’ insulated aluminum
windows, except for the wall that contains the door, which has only
one window. There is storage space beneath the windows either in
the form of shelves or cabinets. We built a kitchen cabinet along
one wall where we store our few cooking utensils as well as the alcohol
stove. The cabinet has a kitchen sink with running water supplied
by rainwater collected off the porch roof. At
the end of the book are detailed drawings illustrating how we constructed
our biogenic dwelling. See Plates 2 & 3.
Eventually we plan to add a bathroom, water
storage tower, and a screened porch. For sleeping, there is a queen‑size
bed that is built similar to a day bed, providing storage underneath.
One wall is lined with shelves (below the windows) where we store
books, a small TV and short‑wave radio. Above the windows, over the
kitchen cabinet, are shelves for storing our jars of sprouting seeds,
grains, dried herbs, spices, etc.
The B.E.L.L. is wired both AC and DC. Lights
and fans are strictly DC and a small inverter is used to run the TV,
computer, and low watt appliances. Two 6 volt, deep cycle golf cart
batteries and one 75 waft solar panel provide enough power capacity
to run everything except the small refrigerator, which is powered
by AC. Our monthly electric bill seldom exceeds $10.00 a month.
In this kind of set-up, using modem insulation
material, one propane heater or a small, electric radiant heater can
provide adequate warmth at a fraction of the cost of maintaining comfort
in a traditional box‑style home. Also, a simple wood stove/heater
can be installed and used for simple cooking and supplying hot water
as long as wood is available.
General List of Lumber & Building Materials
The following is a general list of standard
building materials. This should serve to help one estimate the cost
of construction. Whenever possible take advantage of utility grade
(#3) lumber. This allowed us to save up to 7% on materials for framing.
Utility grade is generally a poorer quality lumber, containing more
knots or slightly less straight boards. But since the B.E.L.L. uses
smaller lengths, one can minimize wasted lumber and money without
much hassle using lesser grade boards. Also, if a sawmill is accessible,
consider using rough sawn (1 x) pine or fir boards for siding, roof
decking, trim, etc. Generally, these can
be purchased for around .50 cents per board foot.
(12) Foundation block