My Sustainable House-Building Project

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My Sustainable House-Building Project

Postby zetreque on March 19th, 2014, 8:23 pm 

Story:
I own this 1 acre piece of land that I would like to eventually build on.
East facing from road back to fense.jpg

I am looking for ideas on the most basic cheap sustainable green structure I can build.
My budget is going to be pretty close for such a structure.


Proposed Question:
Any suggestions to help me build would be appreciated.
Suggest directions to acquiring existing or new blueprints such.

Goals:
-Simple, cheap, environmentally friendly.
Something like this maybe:
LIKE WHAT I WANT TO BUILD.jpeg

-I am thinking about running the driveway along the north property line up to the treeless NE high corner.
3.jpg

-Garage with minimal residence and possibility of addition years down the line.
-I would build just a garage to live in, but county codes require a minimum residence in this zone. I am thinking just a garage with a full 1 room studio across the entire upstairs to meet minimum code.
-I want to build out of mostly rock, concrete, brick or stone. This is to feel more comfortable about forest fire danger, block highway noise, and I think it would insulate well.
-It would be cool to build strong enough to have a flat roof which would support snow load if it didn't get shoveled, and could double as a deck on-top of the second story with one hell of a view of the mountains.
Image
-Have as minimal impact on the land as possible.
-Build in synch with land and solar movements


All pictures to view: http://snowconcept.skyflux.com/feedback/
Specs:
-Sorry for the bad pictures, I have not taken any since I first bought it.
-You can see a lot from the images.
-Power is located directly across the dirt road (20 or so feet) from the south west corner of my lot.
-Neighbor 2-down from me said that to drill a water well would cost about $30,000 to go 650feet down through granite rock. I'd love an alternative water storage option if it can meet code.
-Septic could be challenging because there is only maybe 8 feet of top soil above granite, and same neighbor had to fill with sand for his.
Last edited by zetreque on April 15th, 2015, 3:08 pm, edited 3 times in total.
Reason: added info.
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Re: My Sustainable House-Building Project

Postby Athena on March 19th, 2014, 9:56 pm 

Ah yes, trees, looks like my kind of environment, so I will mention some negatives so that you can avoid problems. As much as I love trees, but it is not fun when they fall on the house or a car. Also, too many trees or trees too close to the house are a fire danger, can make a house too dark, and also too cold. I don't know if you garden, but if you do, you want to consider where the trees are and where the house goes and where the garden goes, because gardens require plenty of sun light.

For the snow issue. We lost a lot of trees this year because of snow. Our park along the river looked like a battle field where someone used explosives. As you know snow can cave in a roof and take down power lines. Perhaps you can find out the direction of the wind on snowy days and take that into consideration. A tree line could maybe decrease the snow load on your house? Or a wall on one side of the roof might block some snow, and I think a slanted roof might be a good idea, designed to channel water into a cistern, and maybe ease the snow load?

With your building materials, you might consider colored bottles. I am using dial up and it would take too long to google for a picture and even then I don't think I copy and paste it. However, people have done far out things with concrete and colored bottles, and you can get the bottles for free because people throw them out. Of course this building material is best on a wall that gets plenty of sun light, because you want to invite the sun light to shine through the bottles.

I love thinking about this kind of stuff.
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Re: My Sustainable House-Building Project

Postby zetreque on March 19th, 2014, 10:07 pm 

Athena, Thank you for the comments!

I am not worried about the trees falling down. The area does get strong winds at times, but that is another reason I am building with concrete. It will make the house more solid, and stop my fire danger concerns. It is also why I am thinking to build on the top corner of the property. It is treeless, and full of sun.

My dad was a general contractor for years so he knows how to build for snow load, but he is getting too old to do any real designing or that much work. That is one reason I might be able to pull off my project for cheap only if I get a very simple plan for him/us to follow. I would be willing to pay an eco-architect if I could ever find a good one.

Do the glass bottles serve any function other than aesthetics? I want to be simple as possible to get the building done and move-in-able so that I can raise money from another source. Then I might decorate the barren concrete wall with natural looking stone. I'd like to stay camouflaged from the highway.
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Re: My Sustainable House-Building Project

Postby Marshall on March 19th, 2014, 11:59 pm 

It reminds me of where my son was living in Colorado one summer, near Boulder. My wife and I went to visit them for a few days.
The owner had a Clive-Mulstrum fiberglass composting crapper, that didn't smell at all, She was careful with water, I forget if she collected rain/snow runoff. I think she collected from her roof.
She had us walk in from the road along a careful planned path so as not to break up the moss and lichen between the trees. She had a kind of summer shelter away from the house where she could sleep on warm nights. there were skylights in the roof. She had a fairly sophisticated wood burning stove that she explained to us but it was a long time ago and I forget the fine points.

She had a tripod-mounted refracting telescope on the wood deck on the side overlooking the valley below. We observed the moons of jupiter. The whole place smelled good or had good ions because of the evergreen trees and because it was up on the side of a mountain. It looked a bit like your pictures of the land.

I see you are at around 7000 feet. So more than a mile high above sea level.
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Re: My Sustainable House-Building Project

Postby Gregorygregg1 on March 20th, 2014, 12:29 am 

What is the subsurface soil like? Could you excavate from one side of a sunken driveway? The walls would be earthen, the floor granite, and the only sign of disturbance would be the driveway. With the slope of your hill, the septic can be located below you on the property. It might be hard to level the floor.
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Re: My Sustainable House-Building Project

Postby zetreque on March 20th, 2014, 12:33 am 

Marshall,

It sounds like she had a really nice property and more than an acre. I am thinking of the same kind of dream. In the future I will play around with some more pictures and graphical blueprints but so far I am thinking of putting a light fence along the road and protect the meadowy area at the lower tree spot of the property. There are a lot of deer that come through there, and I don't really want to disturb their migrations. Then I will have a skinny driveway up the north property line that comes over into the garage of that building I have a picture posted of. The garage will be facing northwest. I will have a garden yard on the east, north east side of the house, and the south side hopefully a biodome/greenhouse.

I have always wanted to make a solar heater. A black enclosed box pointing into the sun that recirculates air from inside the house, but have never lived anywhere with enough sun. The property gets a good amount of sun.

This is all a dream at this point. The only way I will get it done is if I do the simplest cheapest thing possible. My biggest challenges that I will research this summer is water and septic.
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Re: My Sustainable House-Building Project

Postby zetreque on March 20th, 2014, 12:35 am 

Gregorygregg1 » Wed Mar 19, 2014 11:29 pm wrote:What is the subsurface like? Could you excavate from one side of a sunken driveway? The walls would be earthen, and the only sign of disturbance would be the driveway.


Subsurface is granite slab as far as I know. The neighbor said about 8 feet or less down in spots is solid granite. It is a really good idea to combine septic with the driveway if possible. In my other thread on here I talked about impervious coverage, and it would be possible to have a driveway that still retains noncompacted soil.
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Re: My Sustainable House-Building Project

Postby Starmetal on March 22nd, 2014, 5:13 pm 

You never want to drive on your septic, you'll crush the pipes. You don't even really want it near the driveway for this same reason.
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Re: My Sustainable House-Building Project

Postby zetreque on March 22nd, 2014, 5:35 pm 

Starmetal » Sat Mar 22, 2014 4:13 pm wrote:You never want to drive on your septic, you'll crush the pipes. You don't even really want it near the driveway for this same reason.


I agree, which is why I was imagining a new kind of driveway system of metal grating that distributes the weight over just certain parts of the ground.

Here is a quick example
http://www.invisible-deer-fence.com/ima ... -grate.jpg
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Re: My Sustainable House-Building Project

Postby Athena on March 28th, 2014, 1:17 am 

You got to check this page out, it has pictures of how to use bottles and also gets you explanations of making earth bag homes. https://www.google.com/search?q=glass+b ... 24&bih=694

By the way, I checked out roofing in snow areas and the biggest problem is the snow melting and running to eves and gutters where it freezes and then dams up the melting snow water. This can cause all kinds of problems.

Cob housing fascinates me https://www.google.com/search?q=cob+hou ... 24&bih=694

Here is lots of really cob housing cool stuff! http://www.pinterest.com/pin/207165651582060788/

Here is a cob house that cost only $250. http://planetsave.com/2013/12/31/beauti ... 0-dollars/

http://www.motherearthnews.com/green-ho ... nzrob.aspx

A nice video http://www.cobworks.com/articles-videos/

For the sewage, this might cost more up front, but the benefits may be worth it, and plants can be used to camouflage anything. http://www.avenamlinks.com/index.php/pr ... as-system/

Things to think about when putting in a septic system. http://www.carrollhealthdepartment.dhmh ... anual.html I think I would want to be sure this is all worked out before investing any money in housing.

It is my understanding only toilet water is dangerous. Dish and laundry water is grey water and can be cycled through a garden. And dishes can be washed in pond with carp that eat the food scraps.
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Re: My Sustainable House-Building Project

Postby Athena on March 31st, 2014, 2:43 am 

https://www.google.com/search?q=cob+mas ... 24&bih=694

The is a link with pictures of cob heaters. The one that is interesting to me would be a wall with three levels of air space, for hot air from a fire place to circulate. I can imagine the fireplace opening in the living room and a bedroom on the other side.
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Re: My Sustainable House-Building Project

Postby zetreque on June 24th, 2014, 6:29 pm 

New photosynth of my property.

http://photosynth.net/view.aspx?cid=4dc3208e-1ce5-4290-8b6d-8bf7b374a8e0

Markers on the right side of the picture.
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Re: My Sustainable House-Building Project

Postby zetreque on July 1st, 2016, 6:28 pm 

Here is a great sustainable building project that is getting close to release.

Open Building Institute - Introductory Video
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Re: My Sustainable House-Building Project

Postby Braininvat on July 1st, 2016, 10:56 pm 

I've gone a little farther towards an off-grid cottage since following this thread in 2014. This group I want to learn more about, especially as to the range of designs and bioregions. Glad you revived this topic!
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Re: My Sustainable House-Building Project

Postby vivian maxine on July 2nd, 2016, 7:11 am 

Beautiful acreage. I've wondered where your "Paradise" was. Now I see it.

Save the trees. Unless it gets "St Louis Hot & Humid", those trees will earn their keep - if public utilities people don't get to them.

There is the log cabin idea, too. That's what my father did on his Ozark property. Nice, thick walls insulate. I see why you'd want concrete but isn't a log cabin appropriate in that setting?

Just dreaming.
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Re: My Sustainable House-Building Project

Postby Braininvat on July 2nd, 2016, 10:29 am 

I'm starting to look at lots this year, but in the 10 acre range. The reason for that is that wooded 10 acres, out here, is what you need if you want to sustainably harvest firewood for supplemental heat. I could go with 1-3 acres, but then I'd have to buy firewood and not every supplier is harvesting responsibly.

One way to steer clear of building codes is to keep your square footage down (under 650 sf, many places) so that any structure can be legally reported as a "potting shed" or whatever. But you have to like cozy for that to work, and the crapper will be a freestanding exterior compost toilet, aka outhouse. Compost toilet is generally the way to go (as the late great Marshall mentioned) -- septic systems, at a rural retreat, are a giant PITA. And expensive to build and maintain. I strongly recommend a simple greywater system plus compost crapper. I stayed at a cottage with that setup, and it worked quite well. Just make sure you use biofriendly soaps in the greywater system.
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Re: My Sustainable House-Building Project

Postby zetreque on July 2nd, 2016, 1:16 pm 

Braininvat » Sat Jul 02, 2016 7:29 am wrote:I'm starting to look at lots this year, but in the 10 acre range. The reason for that is that wooded 10 acres, out here, is what you need if you want to sustainably harvest firewood for supplemental heat.



look up on youtube DIY firebrick.
Apparently we get enough junk mail these days to heat a home off of. lol
I can't find the good one on youtube, but a guy makes fire logs and has a nifty bucket system.

Your other suggestions would not work where I am at because of expense and legal coding. :(
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Re: My Sustainable House-Building Project

Postby Braininvat on July 2nd, 2016, 1:39 pm 

Yeah, building codes can really be annoying. I may be fortunate in living in a fairly unregulated part of the country where there is land for sale without much in the way of covenants or restrictions. Especially if the nearby town is unincorporated. I know some lots, sold by developers, are sold with requirements that you do build a full-sized house and a specific ban against "primitive" cabins. The Black Hills area has a history of people building primitive cabins or cabins with only partial amenities, so county governments tend to be pretty lax, even about the codes they do have.

But the "only a shed" loophole might be possible, even where you are. Like I said, you would have to be okay with a smaller interior square footage and make sure you don't have neighbors on adjacent properties that would make trouble for you. Most codes are not enforced actively, but rather passively, meaning that the county only comes calling if someone has actually contacted them and ratted you out. And that does happen, in some places. And if the lot comes with a covenant that requires, say, full indoor plumbing, then you have no choice but to put in septic....the only loophole there is to do paperwork that shows your place is work in progress and never actually finish it. Again, some covenants/codes set a deadline for completion, precisely to snag people trying for that loophole.

I guess that's why Ted Kazinski built his little house in remotest Montana, someplace where no building codes could bother him. Not that I'm citing the Unabomber as a shining example of how best to live, heh.
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Re: My Sustainable House-Building Project

Postby zetreque on July 2nd, 2016, 7:13 pm 

Neighbors pose a problem. Both the current ones, and potential future ones. People these days feel like they can move in and are entitled to start bossing people around telling them what to do and how unsustainable they should live and be rich like they are with their monster homes. It is not easy to live sustainable around people who have no concept of it.

It's possible, but risky putting out the money and time when people could complain and make problems for you.

Legally I need an engineered septic system because of granite slab and lack of drainage in wet months. One I will probably never use since I'd like to use a compost one anyway.
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Re: My Sustainable House-Building Project

Postby vivian maxine on July 3rd, 2016, 6:31 am 

zetreque » July 2nd, 2016, 6:13 pm wrote:Neighbors pose a problem. Both the current ones, and potential future ones. People these days feel like they can move in and are entitled to start bossing people around telling them what to do and how unsustainable they should live and be rich like they are with their monster homes. It is not easy to live sustainable around people who have no concept of it..


You noticed! This seems to have become the age of "mind your neighbor's business". Buy 500 acres. Put your cabin in the center spot. Don't build a driveway.

Good luck following your own plans.
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Re: My Sustainable House-Building Project

Postby Athena on July 31st, 2016, 11:31 am 

Here is a heart touching movie about a man who learned build from his father, and lived in a time when our property was ours to do with as we please, and government did not interfere with our lives. Yes, folks, there was such a time.

His wife has Alzheimer's disease and breaks her hip and he really has to have a one story home for her, so he attempts to build one on his land with his own trees. The building code people are anal, like the property managers where I live. In the end he wins, but it was a horrible fight for him and his wife. This is also a super good love story and based on a true story. At this site, you can see a sample of the movie.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2073086/
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Re: My Sustainable House-Building Project

Postby Paul Anthony on August 7th, 2016, 6:37 pm 

My first house in Phoenix had a flat roof.

Don't build a flat roof.

Of course there was no snow, but it did rain occasionally, and after a few years the roof sagged a little in the middle. Swimming pools are popular in Phx, but it's never a good idea to have one on your roof. :)

A-frames are popular in northern AZ (similar to your property). The steeper the incline the more rain and snow will run off the roof. Also, if you consider adding solar, an A-frame provides more sq ft of roof surface.

My flat-roofed house did have a few good features. One entire wall was 8" thick block. It absorbed the heat during the day and released it at night. Also, all the windows were mounted high up on the walls and the roof extended out 3'. In the summer when the sun was high in the sky, the windows were shaded but in the winter the sun hit them directly. Unfortunately, it felt a little like living in a basement. A few skylights helped.
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Re: My Sustainable House-Building Project

Postby dragslaye on October 31st, 2016, 1:11 pm 

A couple of questions, what are the weather conditions in your area, how much does your building code ask for snow allowance? I notice your property is in a hill, in that case there are a couple of thing you can do for septic tank using the hill, but this would depending in the position of the hill in relation with the sun movement
and access to road

Image
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Re: My Sustainable House-Building Project

Postby Serpent on October 31st, 2016, 4:48 pm 

If you want a composting toilet, be very fussy in the selection. Get lots of user feedback.
We bought one 15 years ago for $1400 - serious money, when we were still repairing the house. The company went out of business shortly after, so there was no support and no recourse. It worked so poorly that we finally tossed it out and reconnected the regular plumbing.

I see you can get solar roof-tiles now. Prices coming down, batteries improving.
O, brave new world! I wish we were building our first house now, instead of 40 years ago. We couldn't afford any of the cool tech then, and the building codes were positively medieval.
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Re: My Sustainable House-Building Project

Postby Paul Anthony on October 31st, 2016, 5:15 pm 

Code compliance can be unreasonable. And I'm ashamed to say I was in City Planning.

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/17/us/in-miami-a-woman-is-fighting-to-keep-her-treehouse-a-home.html?_r=0
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Re: My Sustainable House-Building Project

Postby zetreque on October 31st, 2016, 10:16 pm 

A severe winter could be up to 20 feet of snow. I don't know the exact snow load structural requirements without looking them up. Codes require all new construction have a garage (aesthetics garbage) and I will be forced to have a regular engineered septic system.

This week actually I have been thinking about a ground level where the soil is put up against the walls like a bunker, and the 2nd floor to be lots of windows and solar gain. Perhaps the south side of the lower floor would be windows for solar gain too. Just where my head is at this week.
Good property orientation and sun exposure is pretty good too.
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Re: My Sustainable House-Building Project

Postby Paul Anthony on October 31st, 2016, 10:55 pm 

zetreque » Mon Oct 31, 2016 7:16 pm wrote:This week actually I have been thinking about a ground level where the soil is put up against the walls like a bunker, and the 2nd floor to be lots of windows and solar gain. Perhaps the south side of the lower floor would be windows for solar gain too. Just where my head is at this week.
Good property orientation and sun exposure is pretty good too.


If you're thinking of sunlight for passive heating, lots of south-facing windows will help but realize much of the heat will dissipate at night. But if you build a stone wall inside, behind those windows, the heat gained will be retained.

If you really want a temperature controlled environment, build the entire house underground. Temperature fluctuations would be minimal, removing the need for heating and cooling. Unless you're claustrophobic. :)
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Re: My Sustainable House-Building Project

Postby zetreque on October 31st, 2016, 11:25 pm 

Paul Anthony » Mon Oct 31, 2016 7:55 pm wrote:
zetreque » Mon Oct 31, 2016 7:16 pm wrote:This week actually I have been thinking about a ground level where the soil is put up against the walls like a bunker, and the 2nd floor to be lots of windows and solar gain. Perhaps the south side of the lower floor would be windows for solar gain too. Just where my head is at this week.
Good property orientation and sun exposure is pretty good too.


If you're thinking of sunlight for passive heating, lots of south-facing windows will help but realize much of the heat will dissipate at night. But if you build a stone wall inside, behind those windows, the heat gained will be retained.

If you really want a temperature controlled environment, build the entire house underground. Temperature fluctuations would be minimal, removing the need for heating and cooling. Unless you're claustrophobic. :)


Yes exactly, when I really get into the design phase I am going to be trying to come up with some sort of adjustable shutters that insulate the windows at night to retain the thermal mass captured from the sun during the day. And yes, I'm trying to stay out of the ground, I like to see my surroundings. Not claustrophobic but if I become a home body working on projects I don't want to be spending it in a cave.

I was thinking that insulating or building the ground level in the Earth would be good because since heat rises, any heater around the ground level would rise up to the upstairs where I have the heat loss from windows.
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Re: My Sustainable House-Building Project

Postby Serpent on October 31st, 2016, 11:33 pm 

We wanted to build that first one mostly underground. We had good, steep south-east facing hill at one end of the property, but were not allowed to build there, because the little stretch of road alongside was unassumed - no snow clearance or road maintenance. Anyway, with all the regulations regarding materials and construction methods, it would have cost too much.
We had to build at the lower, flat end, and bermed up the ground floor on three sides, rather than dig a basement. The advantage of this location was that we could orient the house to front south-west, put in huge windows on that side and faced the opposite wall with bricks. Cheap and attractive, saved a lot of drywall taping, keeps even heat and is safe for the wood-stove.
You can also keep water-containers in the windows, or as room dividers - like a vertical hydroponic garden, for example. That holds in heat and freshens the air while making food.

So what if you must have a garage? Nobody can make you keep a car in it. Berm up three sides, put large glass doors on the fourth and use it for anything you want. http://www.etogaragedoors.com/contemporary-full-view-glass-garage-doors.html
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Re: My Sustainable House-Building Project

Postby vivian maxine on November 1st, 2016, 6:26 am 

serpent wrote:So what if you must have a garage? Nobody can make you keep a car in it. Berm up three sides, put large glass doors on the fourth and use it for anything you want.


Exactly what I was thinking. But, please, why do they require that you have a garage? Perhaps to keep your car off the street? That is all I can think of.

As for those big windows on the south to allow good solar heating in winter, I suppose you are remembering all that solar heating in summer. Or, are you where that is not an issue? I have solar heating all winter. Very nice. In summer, my shades never get opened and it's still hot. Big AC bill.
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