Posts Tagged ‘floorplans’

House Version 1.0

October 10, 2009

Here are some pictures of Version 1.0 of our future house. This first picture has the south side of the house at the bottom of the picture. As you can see, the south side is all windows. This is part of passive solar design, taking advantage of the low-lying southern winter sun (in the southern hemisphere it would be opposite, of course!). To the left/west is the great room and you can see the Lego table and chairs in that room. The living area would be to the south, with the dining in the middle and the kitchen at the northern part of the house. I thought it would be a good idea to have the kitchen to the north to warm up that part of the house. The right/east half is the greenhouse area. Mo added the bush thing and the white blocks are the outline of the pool. There are clear Lego pieces to the right to let in the morning sun, as well as tall windows between the greenhouse and the great room.

South side of house; great room to west and greenhouse/pool to east

South side of house; great room to west and greenhouse/pool to east

In this next picture, the view is from the west side of the house. This is another view of the great room and you can see the tall windows dividing the great room from the greenhouse, along with a few windows and the front door on the west wall.

view of house from west side

view of house from west side

This is just a close up of the great room. I’m not sure it’s big enough, but I’m pretty sure that table is too big. 🙂 Imagine couches near the south-facing windows and a kitchen near the north of the room. And lots of sunlight streaming in from the greenhouse in the morning.


close up of great room

This picture is a closer view of the greenhouse. The dead horse is not part of the plan, I assure you.


close up of greenhouse/pool

This is another view from the east side of the house. You can see the big windows that divide the great room and greenhouse, along with the door (black framing).

View from the east side of the house

View from the east side of the house

This view is from the east side again, but you can see the greenhouse to the south and the sleeping area to the north. Directly to the north of the greenhouse is a largish hallway, which I thought could be a pantry. That design idea didn’t make it past Tom, but more on that later. I had planned that the area to the north of the kitchen would be the laundry room, then the room north of that would be the bathroom. The reason for that was to make all the drainage and greywater systems easier. All water draining from the kitchen, laundry, and bath would basically be in one place. How convenient! It’s a good idea and I tried to do that in Version 2.0, but it’s a little different.


view of the sleeping area from the east side

This is the sleeping area, to the north of the greenhouse and great room. At the top of the picture (which is west) you can see the laundry room and bathroom. To the right/north of that is the master bedroom. Yes, it has a barrel in it. No, there is no reason other than it’s a Lego rain barrel and I needed somewhere to keep it. 🙂 At the bottom/east of the picture are the kids bedrooms. The big white piece is part of the roof as Mo insists the house needs a roof, even if it is just made out of Lego. I made a big hallway between the bedrooms so we could put bookshelves on every wall in the hallway and keep books there. That’s better than a room devoted just to books, I think.

view of bedrooms from east side

view of bedrooms from east side

This is a closer view of the kitchen, laundry, bathroom area (from the east side again). The thicker Lego bricks are about the right size to represent straw bales. I have those thicker bricks as an interior wall because most likely we will be building this house in sections. First would probably be the great room, so it would have straw bale walls that would eventually end up as interior walls. The thinner bricks are interior walls and will probably be made just like the interior walls of many earthships, that is, out of old bottles because bottle walls are beautiful!

kitchen, laundry, bathroom from left to right

kitchen, laundry, bathroom from left to right

So, what was good about this design? The passive solar, south facing windows definitely stay in Version 2.0, just with a lot more. The greenhouse is still on the east side of the house and is still next to the great room, with big, tall windows dividing the two rooms. I also tried to keep the laundry, bath, and kitchen drainage near each other, partly by combining the full bathroom with the laundry room. Our current house has the laundry in the full bathroom and it works quite well. I kept the kitchen near the north side of the house because I think that makes a lot of sense.

Some of the changes in Version 2.0 include a bigger pantry to the north of the kitchen, the sleeping area to the west of the great room, and a half bath. I added a half bath after talking to Tom. He just didn’t think one bathroom would be enough for a family of 4. He values his privacy while, um, doing his business in the bathroom. The kids and I don’t care, but that will probably change for them as they get older. The sleeping area of the house is long and narrow, to take advantage of the south-facing windows. In Version 1.0 the sleeping area is on the north part of the house. Even if that area is bermed with earth at the north side, it will still get cold in the winter. So, I took the sleeping area and put it west of the great room and made it long and narrow. I promise I will post pictures of Version 2.0 as soon as I take them.


House of our future

October 4, 2009

Finally, a post about building a green home. I admit I haven’t thought about our future home much over the summer and spring. Now that it is autumn and the oats will soon be taken care of, it will be time to explore our property some more and look for that south-facing hill that will serve as a building site. I am sure that our future home will be many years in the making, as we plan to do much of the work ourselves. Since the kids are still little (shhh don’t tell them they are little) it would be very difficult to start building. So right now we are in the planning stage, where we are thinking about materials, foundations, layout, and building sites.

One thing I have been able to build is a Lego house. I built Version 1.0 (and Version 2.0 after discussing things with Tom) and I wanted to post a bunch of pictures, but I think that I need to give some background before I rush into the pictures. Some of my readers are probably very familiar with alternative or “green” building ideas, but some might not be. If anyone is interested in an introduction, I recommend The Good House Book. This book has chapters on foundations, walls, roofs and shows traditional, modern, and alternative materials to use, as well as explaining what a good foundation or roof should do. As far as websites, I recommend Green Home Building as a place to start (this link is in the sidebar to the right, by the way).

I first learned about green house building after a friend, Heather, posted a link to pictures of her mother’s earthship. I had no idea what an earthship was. I remember looking at the pictures and not understanding what I was looking at as it mostly looked like a regular house, but a very cool one. So my next step, of course, was to ask Heather what the hell an earthship was. That, and Google, of course. Those two things sparked my interest and I read and learned a ton about earthships and other alternative building methods, including cordwood, straw bale, earthbags, cob, etc. Before hearing of earthships, I had an inkling in the back of my head that houses throughout the world were not all built the way modern houses in the US are built. I had heard of houses built out of straw bales, but didn’t know much other than the fact that you can build out of straw.

I’m not sure I am up for building an earthship as it seems like a ton of work, but I like the idea a lot. They are not just houses built of out old tires filled with rammed earth, but are supposed to be self-sufficient, zero waste systems. So it’s not a house, but a system. People who build earthships often live off-grid, which means they are not tied to power lines (or water or public sewage treatment or anything like that). The houses have solar and/or wind power, rain catchment and treatment, and greywater systems (the greywater is used to water the indoor plants and to flush toilets, assuming the toilets are not compostable). Blackwater, or water with fecal matter, is piped outdoors into landscaped areas. This way the landscaping gets watered while the water gets filtered through the plants.

If you want to learn more, here are a couple of videos you can watch:

Anyway, you can see how these ideas are really interesting and how building an earthship is really a lifestyle choice, not just a building choice. Anyone can build a log home or a straw bale home that is just like a regular home, with a furnace and air conditioning, public water and sewage or septic tank, and is tied to the power grid. You can build an earthship that way, too (and in some areas building code require a septic tank). You can build a straw bale house that is more like an earthship, too. So since I am not really into using a sledgehammer to ram earth into old tires, I figured straw bale is our best bet (though I’m not sure that is the best option since we are surrounded by woods!), but I want a lot of the same features as an earthship.

Some of our goals for our future home are:

  • to use solar and wind energy, and possibly micro-hydroelectric and be off-grid, if possible
  • to have a home that does not require a furnace or air conditioning
  • to reduce our energy use overall so that living off-grid doesn’t cost a fortune in solar panels and batteries or become a hardship
  • to use well water, but to also capture and store rainwater for gardening and landscaping and maybe to eventually use well water as backup from filtered rainwater
  • to not have a septic tank, but instead use graywater and blackwater for landscaping
  • use recycled, reclaimed, and natural materials to build the house, such as straw, dirt, aluminum cans and mortar for interior walls
  • to use materials that are local and abundant, as much as possible
  • to build into a south-facing hillside to take advantage of the thermal mass of the earth
  • to use passive solar building methods
  • to have a masonry oven heater

Now, we do live in a cold climate, so the idea of no heating might sound crazy. However, that is the reason we want to

  1. build into a south-facing hill, to take advantage of the thermal mass of the earth on the north side of the house
  2. have flooring that absorbs heat and lets it out later (another thermal mass), such as wood or tile,
  3. have a masonry oven heater
  4. have super insulation in the form of earthbags or straw bales, and
  5. design with passive solar methods, such as south facing windows to catch winter sun, which will in turn warm the earth to the north side of the house and warm the flooring and northern walls of the house, as well.

In cold northern climates, rooms should not be too deep, otherwise the northern side can get cold. Of course, it seems that if the northern side is also bermed by the earth this will be less of a problem. The straw bale walls also serve to keep heat in the house during the winter, and heat outside during summer.

A masonry oven heater is usually totally indoors and is made of materials that absorb heat and release it slowly (thermal mass again!). It has a chimney of course, but it looks like this on the inside. I really like the look of this one as well as the fact that it is in the middle of a great room. That is exactly what I want, a great room with a masonry oven heater in it.

So, here is one picture of the house I built out of Lego. I’ll post more pictures next time, as well as explaining why this was Version 1.0 and why I had to scrap it to make Version 2.0, which looks more like the Long House on the Prairie that was part of what inspired me to started the blog in the first place.

Version 1.0 layout (south is to the left)

Version 1.0 layout (south is to the left)


February 21, 2009

I find this Long House on the Prairie inspiring. What I like most about it is the layout. I like the fact that it is all one floor. I don’t really want stairs because it seems like they are a place for clutter. They are the resting place for things that are not where they belong. Also, I have never cared for basements. They are usually dark, sometimes damp, and always have scary machinery in them. Maybe I’ve seen too many movies where something scary happens in a boiler room of a school or some industrial setting. I’m not sure. I have been in some basements that are nice, but not one that is open and airy. While I’m sure that it is possible to build a basement that I would enjoy, I think it would require work that I’m not willing to do.

So, I like that there is only one floor. I like that it is long and narrow. When I try to imagine our house in my head, I try to figure out a way to have the bedrooms be warm, while also being separated from the living space. I don’t want the bedrooms at the north end of the house because they will be too cold in winter. So the Long House is ideal because all the rooms have a southern exposure and have warmth in the winter.

I also like the openness of the floor plan. I envision our living room, dining room, and kitchen as essentially one big room. That will be where we spend the bulk of our time when we are inside, I’m sure. I like the big louvered doors that can make a big open space, or can be closed to make a bedroom. I also like the breezeway. That would be great in summer! Although my dream house has a courtyard/indoor pool/greenhouse, which would be better than an breezeway. The combined greenhouse/pool/courtyard is a luxury that will probably have to be added on later, but it is definitely a part of my vision.

The things I do not like about this house are the exterior and some of the interior design elements. The house uses limestone for the exterior; I believe the article states it is locally harvested limestone. I appreciate the “greenness” of that, but do not care for the look. I like the idea of straw bales with earth plaster (something like this home in Tucson). That is a much warmer look to a house. Since we live in west central Illinois, I am sure we can get straw bales locally. Also, while I can appreciate the modern aesthetics of the freestanding steel lavatories but it is also not as warm as I would like. Maybe I’m old fashioned when it comes to bathrooms. I don’t really want or need to see all the plumbing, even if it is nice looking.

I like the concrete floors, but again would warm those up with some color and some nice area rugs, particularly in winter. However, I’m sure the cool concrete would be lovely on a hot summery day. There are many other things I like and dislike about this house. I think what I like most is the layout of the house. It gives me ideas, which is exactly what I need.