Friday, January 27, 2012

House Layout, Features, & Future Projects

Design Goals

Before embarking on our house project, we designed the final layout of rooms with a few criteria in mind:

  • Active living space at the south end of the house, to utilize the light & warmth from the sun.
  • Heat the entire house via passive solar with back-up wood stove.
  • Bedrooms at the north end of the house where the reduced light and cooler temperatures don't matter as much.
  • Natural daylighting in all rooms.
  • Add significant storage area for food, preferably unheated space (canned goods, fresh produce, roots, etc)
  • Integrate airlocks/mudrooms to reduce heat loss in winter and heat gain in summer, as well as contain dirt & wet clothes.

Goal Implementation

We built the sunspace at the south end of the house as one large room, suitable for a wide variety of active living uses - living room, dining room, party room, play room, study/office, etc. We "planted" our bath tubs to the south of the sunspace for extra heat & light gain in the winter. We planted a black walnut to the SW of the house, and built a grape trellis south of the sunspace for seasonal shade.

We installed an EPA certified wood stove facing the kitchen for radiant heat gain and comfort from the cheery glow. It heats the sunspace quickly. The sunspace sits 2' below the rest of the house, creating a natural convective loop of heat rising from the sunspace into the rest of the house, for fairly rapid heat distribution.

We added east windows looking onto the ecoroofs, to allow morning light into the NE bedroom, the pantry, and the sunspace. We added a wavy glass privacy window between the bathroom and the sunspace, since the bathroom had no natural light. The sunspace allows a lot of light into the kitchen and the SW bedroom (which also has a west window.)

We created a pantry with a 2' path down the middle and shelves lining the walls for efficient storage of lots of goods.

We didn't build the airlocks, but we left room to add them if desired: one in the sunspace around the back door, and one on the current front porch, enclosing the upper portion of the deck.

Other Features

The front porch makes a wonderful hang-out area in the summer, opening to the front garden to the north. Walls block the sun to the east, west, and south, and the ecoroof limits heat gain from above.

We made it easy to add a third bedroom (or office space) by constructing a single partition wall to turn the northwest portion of the house into a large closed off room.

We installed a sliding glass door between the sunspace and the kitchen, and of course the southwest bedroom has a closing door, so it's easy to isolate the sunspace for cozy temperatures in the winter without needing to heat the entire house.

We built nice big stairs from the kitchen to the sunspace, very inviting for people to sit and gather on.

When we lifted the original house and put a perimeter foundation under it, we wound up with three holes in the foundation wall so the I-beams could lower the house onto the wall. We discovered that in the summer, opening those holes creates a natural air conditioner as cool air from the crawl space flows into the sunspace.

Future Projects

If we were staying in this house, we would:

Add insulating curtains to the sunspace window wall. (And figure out insulation for the other windows in the house.)

Replace the wood stove with a rocket stove, for dramatic efficiency improvements in heating and cooking.

Remove the natural gas forced air furnace and associated ductwork in the attic, since we never use it and it wastes a lot of space (usable room space in the southwest bedroom, and insulation space in the attic).

Install the five hot water solar panels we bought, using them to heat domestic water and to run the excess heat through the radiant tubing under the original house.

Build a greenhouse on the south side of the sunspace, enclosing the bath tubs with the grapes growing on top. Move the chickens to sleep in the greenhouse.

Plant more plants on the west wall or west side of the house to create more summer shade while utilizing that growing space (without interfering with its current use as hang-out party space.) Perhaps plant akebia or scarlet runner beans against the house, and/or trees further out trained to high-branching trunks for easy human passage underneath.

Build a cold cupboard to tap into the cool crawlspace air and pull it up through a small pantry area to keep perishable foods a little cooler in the summer.

Site Plan

Here's the house in relation to the property boundaries, showing setbacks for addition of an Accessory Dwelling Unit:

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