How would you design your house?

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theanimal
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How would you design your house?

Post by theanimal »

You're given the ability to design your dream home. It can include components of your current home.

What features do you add? What do you avoid? What part of the design is most important to you?

bigato
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Re: How would you design your house?

Post by bigato »

Given that for the last few days I’ve been obsessing over traditional japanese house designs, my answer at the moment would be to follow the usual folk’s house design, or at least some of its principles: an entrance where you wear your shoes and have a kitchen, tools and workshop area, followed by a room with the fire pit and wood floors (maybe an iron stove instead of the traditional open fire pit? Not sure about that). And then a tatami room in the back.

But I’ll probably not design a house of my own anytime soon because I have a giant 100 square meters house in my property that I have to fix instead.

7Wannabe5
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Re: How would you design your house?

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

The sort of project I would like to do would be to buy a terrible little house, something like a dilapidated 1979 single wide mobile home, on at least a few acres, and then simultaneously improve the crappy house with natural materials found near by, while building another little house primarily from natural materials, but also scavenged bits and pieces from the terrible house.

If I do it properly, I will end up with two very unique, functional, aesthetically-pleasing-to-me little houses without having to pay for any permits or inspections etc.

Alphaville
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Re: How would you design your house?

Post by Alphaville »

“Dream”?

I would build a compact 2-story house with nontoxic/biodegradable materials.

Features: adjustable passive solar (heating, cooling), good views. Low noise/good noise abatement.

First floor, social: living room+1/2 bathroom+kitchen. Kitchen door and good vents: I create fumes.

2nd floor, private: bedroom+bathroom+home office

Small cellar for food storage/fermentation/curing/etc (I like to eat).

Attached shed for bike repair/ art projects.

Small low-maintenance garden for aesthetics/food growing (greenhouse/beds/trees)

A wall around the perimeter because please don’t come knocking.

The best models I’ve seen are in a book called... mini house style (I think). Let me look....

https://www.worldcat.org/title/mini-hou ... c/55764545

Yes. The book is now 15 years old so I’d look for updates that include new materials, vehicle chargers, solar electric, etc. The geometries there however are very good.

For a while I was interested in cob houses (see: Ianto Evans) but I actually like modern buildings. I know this can be mutually exclusive with “nontoxic materials” but you said “dream”, and so I do. Cob without the handmade look? Modular/removable glass and steel? Or perhaps a modular house that could be refitted without tearing (bolted instead of glued together)... and disassembled when no longer needed? Something...

ETA: rain collection system, grey water system, composting.

chenda
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Re: How would you design your house?

Post by chenda »

I've designed so many....the best one I ever did was a partially buried square cube atop which was a circular glass living space with a roof like a vietnamese hat. The cave and the tent as it were. I also love courtyard houses like those in the souqs of Morocco. Solid external walls concealing a hidden lush garden, a sanctuary from the world Epicurean style. And more affordable than said hat.

I also like these houses:

https://roundhouses.wordpress.com/2010/ ... a-rotonda/

https://www.makearchitects.com/projects/crescent-house/

Anything by John Launter, especially the house in Acapulco. http://majesticplumage.blogspot.com/201 ... a.html?m=1

Yes, it's all an expensive indulgence as as un-ere as you can get, but what great indulgence...

Is this a real project btw ? Do you have a site ?

daylen
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Re: How would you design your house?

Post by daylen »

I use to think about this often for fun. I even made a thread about house design principles a while ago. My primary concern was/is minimal maintenance and simple construction. Hence the following:

- no carpet; concrete floor everywhere
- partial passive solar heating (south facing windowed wall if in northern hemisphere)
- partial rocket stove heating (in winter)
- single floor
- nearly square (max volume/materials)
- single partition (thermal, sound barrier) spiting space into (dark, cool, dry) and (light, warm, humid) sections
- passive air ventilation (occasional manual filter change)
- single entrance/exit (steel door with combination lock for added security)
- in a dream it would have an underground escape hatch and secret compartment with a safe
- outdoor composting toilet
- rain water catchment system with large storage tank
- analog solar water heater
- grey water tank and pipes connecting garden
- no plumbing or embedded electric systems
- electrical system would be mobile and easily replaceable
Last edited by daylen on Sun Jan 26, 2020 11:14 pm, edited 2 times in total.

theanimal
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Re: How would you design your house?

Post by theanimal »

Thanks to all so far for sharing! Just as I hoped and imagined the responses would be. Very practical yet very diverse.

@chenda- Unique concepts. Are all those designs just for fun or have they been built out as well? That Acapulco is ridiculous and stunning. I love the look of that pool.
chenda wrote:
Sun Jan 26, 2020 5:25 pm
Is this a real project btw ? Do you have a site ?
Yes. I recently bought 2 acres of land and am planning on building a house this summer.

theanimal
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Re: How would you design your house?

Post by theanimal »

daylen wrote:
Sun Jan 26, 2020 5:43 pm
- no plumbing or embedded electric systems
- electrical system would be mobile and easily replaceable
As in a battery setup? Or do you have something else in mind?

daylen
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Re: How would you design your house?

Post by daylen »

A battery bank, inverter, solar panels, and backup generator along with any other required components. Basically, I prefer everything to be out in the open even if this is not aesthetically pleasing. Encourages and simplifies DIY repair and upgrading.

sky
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Re: How would you design your house?

Post by sky »

For desert living, I like David Omick's designs:

http://www.omick.net/index.html

For the north woods, a small one room cabin with an efficient wood stove, insulation and an outhouse.

More realistically, for a Midwestern city, an older small bungalow which is cheap to maintain in a city with low taxes.

chenda
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Re: How would you design your house?

Post by chenda »

@theanimal - Just for fun but I want to publish them at some point in the hope someone might build them. Launter was amazing.

Nice, if you're minded to you could post some pictures of the site and we could give you some ideas 😃

ertyu
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Re: How would you design your house?

Post by ertyu »

I am the type to want a tiny tiny studio or attic room. I am fascinated by tiny flats and tiny houses, and the combination between minimalism and clever uses of space (NOT folding and transforming furniture. Folding and transforming furniture is cheating and also a pain in the butt.) Also, if somehow that attic room or tiny tiny studio had a nice terrace or small balcony with a bar railing not glass or brick where I could sit with my laptop and have coffee, I would be about the happiest cucumber ever. I am a city person who, in addition to having coffee on my balcony, likes having coffee at coffee shops. So I would like to live somewhere closer to where all the downtown hipster cafes are. I would like to be walking distance from everywhere. I would like a small solar panel for charging electronics/a nighlight and some very clever way to grow herbs. Not too sure how this would square with diy hobbies which generally take space, but as I am very very unlikely to actually be able to find my dream attic place, I guess I'll cross that bridge when I get to it.

Also a cat. I am a cat person. It can wander round the roof.

chenda
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Re: How would you design your house?

Post by chenda »

ertyu wrote:
Mon Jan 27, 2020 3:41 am
I am a city person who, in addition to having coffee on my balcony, likes having coffee at coffee shops. So I would like to live somewhere closer to where all the downtown hipster cafes are. I would like to be walking distance from everywhere.
This is my set up in about 37 square metres. Does that count as anywhere near tiny ? It's great for 1 person but tbh a second bedroom would be useful, as I have so many books which have to be scattered about the place.

I also love cats, but it's a bit small for one unless you have some outdoor space.

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fiby41
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Re: How would you design your house?

Post by fiby41 »


theanimal
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Re: How would you design your house?

Post by theanimal »

@Chenda- Nice, please share if you do. I'd be interested in seeing them. The site is covered in a lot of snow right now so I'm not sure how much use a picture would serve.

I think I have a pretty good idea of what I'm interested in. Right now I'm thinking something like 24 x 16 with a small loft for sleeping. The lot is south facing so I plan on having a lot of windows on the front of the house and some on the west with not many elsewhere. Style wise think of a passive house with a slanted roof from front to back with a deck out front. I 'd like to have radiant floor heating. I know I can do that if I have a wood cookstove or a woodstove but a rocket mass heater bench could be nice too. I'm not sure I could do a radiant floor setup that is heated with a rocket mass heater. Perhaps, someone can tell me otherwise. Toilet will be an outhouse and as of now I'm leaning towards a 100 gal or so tank in the loft with gravity fed water to sink and shower. Graywater draining outside. I'm not sure if I want to be connected to the grid or not. Material wise I've been considering either stick frame or structural insulated panels. Initially I was interested in log but the logs that are most commonly milled in this area and that I'd be able to use without machinery are small (8 in) so the insulative properties would be very poor. Those are my major thoughts at the moment.

Edit: I think I figured out a way to do rocket mass heater with radiant flooring. It would entail including a copper coil inside the heat chamber that exits out to piping.
Last edited by theanimal on Mon Jan 27, 2020 2:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.

George the original one
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Re: How would you design your house?

Post by George the original one »

It would not be split-level.
Attached garage/workshop, but not a snout house.
No carpet.
Plenty of windows for natural light, yet proper eaves that block the hot summer sun.
Individual rooms would be on the large side to fit the desired furnishings without being cluttered.
All rooms are large enough to swing a cat around without hitting anything.
Countertops have no sharp edges.
Patio/outdoor space is on the NE corner with shade cover to the west.
I want a turret!

Kriegsspiel
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Re: How would you design your house?

Post by Kriegsspiel »

For a 2 acre place in Alaska, here are some thoughts:

I would rather have a small, single story or 1.5 story house. I've read a couple books with designs, both by Rowan (Compact Cabins and Compact Houses) that had various layouts. I would look at something with a loft, like you said, or a more conventional 1 or 2 bedrooms, bathroom, and a big space with a kitchen (sharing a wall with the bathroom) where you could have a couch, desk, table or whatever else. I'd have a vestibule at the front door for taking off muddy/wet/dirty shoes and clothes that was easy to clean. Or maybe I'd just have a large entryway where you could do that outside... I'd excavate a small root cellar for storage. I'd build a fair-sized patio off the side of the house for grilling and outdoor workouts and chillin.

I think the composting toilet/outhouse is a cool idea. I'd attach the composting toilet room to the main house with a breezeway or short hallway or something, on the opposite side of the house as the patio. Then have your shower/tub and sink in a separate room inside the main house, like the way the Japanese set up their bathrooms.

I like stone or masonry houses, but maybe in Alaska you'd go with wood. Whatever the material, I'd insulate it as much as I could. Regular rectangle or square house, with either a shed roof or a regular central ridge roof of standing seam metal. I'm thinking something like this. I'd have separate buildings for doing dirty/messy hobbies like the trades or agricultural processing, with space for a gym inside. I'd just make these simple structures with no plumbing, and minimal heating abilities, if anything. I'd also build a small sauna like you'd see in Russia and Finland, both for hot/cold therapy (boil in the sauna, then roll around in the snow), and also to not freeze to death if your house caught on fire or some other kind of emergency. Another thing I'd think about building is some kind of in-ground greenhouse with geothermal, like profiled here. I'd have to look more into whether that would be a workable feature in Alaska like it is in Nebraska.

As far as utilities, I'd try to implement schemes that work with the seasons of Alaska as much as I could. The utilities I'm concerned with are electricity, space heating, cooking, water heating & water pumping.

Winter
For general heating, I'd go with a modern wood burning stove. I've never used a wood stove but from what I've read they are very effective at heating up small areas. Furthermore, you could use the top of it to cook/boil water on. In addition, I'd rig it up to the hot water tank as described by Falk in The Resilient Farm And Homestead; when his wood stove was burning, it was also heating up water for a shower, so his gas would not kick on. The water tank is inside, of course, so that extra thermal mass would help your place stay toasty. You could probably run a radiant floor heat with the same idea. For electricity, aside from being on the electrical grid, I'd look at installing a thermoelectric generator into one of the walls, so that it would take advantage of the extreme Alaskan winter cold, and the high heat from a wood stove in a small cottage. I also wonder whether a turbine would be effective with high wind speeds in winter. I believe both the thermoelectric and wind power generation were discussed in Green Wizardry by John Michael Greer. A gas oven could be used for baking.

Summer
Since you won't want to have the wood stove burning when it's warm, you'll need a separate cooking method. I'd get a propane camp grill and use it outside on the patio (or inside if it was raining, of course). I'd also try to use a solar oven as much as possible. For electricity I'd have a small solar setup, like 3k or 5k or thereabouts. In addition to the solar electricity, I'd install a solar water heating tank on the roof to take advantage of all the sunlight, with a small solar panel operating a pump to get the water up there (with a hand pump as backup). AFAIK AC is unnecessary in Alaska; in the summer I'd just run a fan or two, in addition to having transom windows at a high point in the house that could be opened so that heat could escape.

NOTE: A few of the systems are multiply redundant, like the water heating/pumping and the space heating. Between the solar water heater, woodstove tie-in, and propane water heater, you'd need some kind of automated switching system with a thermostat to cycle the water around or whatever. There might be an analog system I'm not aware of, or you could run it with a Raspberry Pi. Having multiple ways to beat freezing to death (woodstove, sauna, outdoor fire pit) is also probably smart in an extreme environment like Alaska.

For electricity, being able to use mainly renewables in a cost effective way is obviously about using less electricity in the first place. I think it would be feasible to
  • illuminate with LED lamps & batteries, like described here
  • charge laptop/phone/power tools
  • an internet connection?
  • water pumps and other simple home automation
  • run a dorm-size fridge that fits under the kitchen counter, and/or a
  • chest freezer (Sun Danzer super insulated one, probably). I know you hunt so this would be how you could store the meat.
  • run some fans if it's hot.
In the wintertime, when your PV panels aren't kicking out electricity and you're relying more on your other methods, you probably don't need to be running the fridge, freezer, fans, so the other methods like thermoelectric or wind might be enough. Or if you're going to be grid tied, all the renewables would just be peak-shaving, but hey, you did say dream home.

I'd use some kind of hand operated apparatus for clothes washing, and dry them outside in the sun in the summer, or inside in the winter when the fire is putting out a lot of dry heat.

Anyways, that's all I can think of.

theanimal
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Re: How would you design your house?

Post by theanimal »

@kriegsspiel-Wow thanks for the detailed post. Your thoughts mirror many of my own.

I've settled on wood heating idea, its just a matter of figuring out what type. I've spent 2 winters in a cabin using only a wood stove for heat. Cooking wasn't as great of an experience on a traditional stove. It works, but its not ideal. I have a friend who uses a wood cook stove as his sole source for heat and cooking. He has a water reservoir on the back of that where he gets all of his hot water and it also connects to tubing that goes under his floor providing him with radiant heating.

The utility I'm most concerned about is electricity. The only major concern is the freezer during the summer. As I've mentioned elsewhere it's off from early October-late April. It's a newer unit so the efficiency is about as high as you can get but nonetheless it would still be my greatest draw of power. That being said, it also coincides with the 2nd highest period of the year for solar. So an adequate solar setup could make it work and I've witnessed such a setup with former neighbors. I just don't want to be held hostage by a freezer because I don't have enough power.

I've had a solar setup as my only system in the past and it worked out fine. 3k-5k solar array is quite massive! My previous setup was 300 kw. That powered all electrical devices without issue but of course was on the very small side.

I've looked heavily into thermoelctric generation before and have not found anything of value. Interior Alaska has almost 0 wind all year round. So solar is the only alternative energy source.

I do plan on building a sauna. Geothermal is not a viable option in most of the state. Much of the area I'm surrounded by contains permafrost so much of the ground is cold or frozen year round.

Thanks again. I'll look into the resources you mentioned.

bigato
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Re: How would you design your house?

Post by bigato »

> much of the ground is cold or frozen year round

Can you exploit this somehow in order to decrease your dependence of a freezer?

theanimal
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Re: How would you design your house?

Post by theanimal »

Good idea. I could possibly dig an ice cellar. They were common with natives in the past. Apparently there has been some issues with thawing recently. I'll look into it more.

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