What the house isn’t:

Not a luxury house.

Not a mansion.

Not a personal extravagance.

Not a statement of personal wealth.

Working outdoors is our primary interest, not entertaining.  

What the house is:

Our current thinking:  small footprint, but build up in a rectangular shape that minimizes expense on foundations and roof.  We don’t mind stairs, but...

This is our last house, so plan for our old age.

Build with “A Pattern Language” in mind.

Focused on sustainability, durability, security and practicality.

Inspired by Susanka’s “Not So Big House” concepts.

Centered around an outdoor, vigorous life, not retirement.

Easy to get outside and go places on connecting trails with access to the barn, gardens and greenhouses.

Plan for muddy boots most of the time, formal guests 1% of the time.

The house is part of an outdoor and work oriented activities.

A LEED certified residence.

Connected to a future farm.

Plan for a lot now and then figure out expansion later as finances allow:  examples are a swimming pool, pickleball court, shops and etc.

The House site:

At the juncture of several small roads.

On a hillside overlooking a spring, natural bridge and the lake.

Below grade are cave formations, so the foundation is an issue that needs research.

Dick is worried about nutrient buildup in the lake that could cause odors in the summer.

The house site could be moved closer to the spring, but the slope/cost increases.

The House Hydrox Wall concept:

The Hydrox Wall concept is unique as far as we know and it could be very cool.  It involves tubes embedded in the outside and inside concrete surfaces to collect and distribute energy.  The walls could be collecting energy for thermal solar preheat on the South side and the North surfaces could be rejecting heat at night during the cooling season.  This will require careful design and the selection of appropriate outside wall colors and textures for the solar gain.  We will have to decide which surfaces to glaze for example, for higher temperature solar DHW performance, for example and how to work around window openings. 

We would like to ask Prestressed Concrete in Springfield to bid the construction, delivery and erection of custom-made wall sections to be placed on concrete walls.

See an illustrated concept view here.

Outside and inside walls are finished when they arrive.  We will have to decide how to deal with concrete walls inside.  I assume they meet fire code as they are, so do we use wall hangings or other means to soften the surface?

The manifolding for outside and inside surfaces will be at the bottom of the wall, I assume and so concealing and getting access to these manifolds has to be taken into account.

The Hydrox walls provide the primary insulation, but look for high performance low-e, argon filled windows.  The rough openings for these windows can be done at PreStressed. 

Consider gypsum floor toppings for the radiant floors over super insulated flooring to minimize noise transmission. 

I hope that using Prestressed wall structures can provide for taller ceiling heights at modest cost.  For example, I’ve proposed a standard size basement walls, but 12’ wall heights for both the main and second floors.  I assume that 24’ high sandwich wall sections can be mounted on top of a basement wall.   Should the main floor walls be tall, but the bedroom floor walls be shorter?

Regarding the Prestressed walls:  They should include features built into the panels to do the following:

a.  Support the roof.

b.  Support the second floor.

c.  Support the main floor.

d.  Provide cut-outs for the windows and doors.

e.  Provide support for glazing on the outside over the tube/walls for solar DHW preheat.

Basement walls to be waterproofed, drained and insulated with one door to the lake side forming a walk-out.

All windows are operable.

See somewhat similar idea from University of Arkansas.


House Energy and Mechanical:

Showcase for our favorite technologies:  radiant floors, solar, indoor air quality, rainwater collection, snowmelting/turf warming, fire sprinklers, irrigation for growing things.

Primary HVAC could be supplied by ground source heat pumps.

The goals are these:  Provide extremely pure drinking water, extremely clean indoor air quality, fire protection, warm floors. solid state cooling, low energy bills, natural lighting and irrigation for all the household and outside plantings.

Photovoltaic energy source:  For cost reasons, think about putting PV’s on the barn where there is plenty of solar access and run an electric line to the house, which is in the woods.  This could wait until PV’s are more affordable.

This house will feature sophisticated plumbing and mechanical systems, so we will have to plan for mechanical chases up the walls and through thicker than average flooring structures.

This house features a larger than average mechanical room as it will be a showcase for cool technologies.

Use the Energy Recovery Ventilator to provide filtered fresh air to all rooms, paying special attention to removing odors and humidity from kitchen and baths.

Think about a BIM system to monitor and control all functions of the house.  Remote monitoring.

Water source heat pumps by Mike Jones with Hyrdotemp.

Are whole house vacuums a sensible solution?

House Plumbing and Waste:

PEX pipe and polysulfone fittings for plumbing.  Hot water domestic recirculation to all hot water taps through super insulated lines. 

RO water taps in the kitchen.  Whole house water filtration with ultraviolet and filtration.

A tempering valve system for all hot water supply.  This is probably located at the hot water heater and supplies the whole house.

Septic will probably be routed uphill to the field where the barn is.  Try to plan for future uses for septic and think about other sources of waste in the future.  Look for the best septic technology and see the WCO and JRBP about this.    Think about composting toilets if they are practical.

Solar DHW preheat from the Hydrox Wall system.

Green plumbing for use of rainwater in clothes washing and flushing toilets (see the Roof).

Grey water disposal system to the landscaping.   Equipment for that in the mechanical room.

Fire Prevention:

Be aware of the increased potential for fires from the increased fuel load on the nearby forest floors.

Provide a residential fire sprinkler with service to every room.  Do we need standing water in case the electricity is out and the well pump is not working?  Research with Conneley Plumbing.

Adapt and adopt tough California fire prevention codes on ventilation, roofing, decks and etc.

The Roof:

The roof will be asked to do a lot more than most roofs including insulation, daylighting, rainwater collection, and observation.

Provide a green roof for most of the surface area.  Provide for a water line to the roof for occasional, dry weather irrigation for the plants.  This will have to be freeze tolerant, but we don’t want to be hauling water up the stairs.

An observatory area with chairs for viewing the lake and stars.

A rainwater collection system with piping down to a buried tank in the yard.   Use the rainwater for a green plumbing system for close washing and toilet flushing. 

Skylights to the second floors rooms below.  Is it possible to direct eastern light to the western master bedroom below?

Provide for ladder or stair access from the second floor to the roof through a portal that seals out the weather.

Emergency, Security and Power outages:

It’s a weird world out there, so plan for the wiring for security cameras and a solar powered gate.

Use our Macintosh computers to monitor strategic camera locations and motion detectors or IR or whatever Federal Protection suggests.   If the budget doesn’t allow for elaborate system, at least we can run the wiring for one to come later.

Locate a vault for guns and valuables.

Think about ways out of the house in case of fire or other emergency. 

Shutters for the doors and windows in case of a tornado?

Carport and driveway issues:

We like the idea of a carport instead of a garage.  Access to the house with a drive through access that keeps people dry when they are carrying groceries makes sense.

Can it be located away from the house and still be convenient?

We need access for Margy carrying groceries to the house and into the kitchen.

Do we use a circle drive to get people to the house?  How does that integrate with walking trails and service lines?

Our lifestyle inside:

Main floor:  We spend a lot of time in the kitchen.  We move around with laptops and wi-fi from place to place.  Mix up kitchen, dining and living into one general area, if that is practical.  Higher ceilings from the tilt up concrete design so we don’t feel compelled to create a great room.

Second floor:  Small bedrooms with a bath off the master and bath/hall access to the other bedroom.   Small laundry.

Basement:  Projector room which also doubles as a bedroom when needed.  Also holds the mechanical equipment.  Full bathroom and a small workshop.

Kitchen/living room issues:

We hope the prestressed walls can provide tall ceilings for the main floor, which is a busy place with the kitchen, dining, living, entry, 1/2 bath and a small computer table for Margy.

Where is the recycling station?  Find places to stage the trash & recycling stuff.  How does this stuff get out of the house and into the appropriate collection site?

Optional:  window greenhouse for herbs. 

Landscaping around the house:

Outdoor cooking feature:  grill and maybe a sink.  Water and irrigation service.

Plan on very little mowed grass.  Think about native grasses, flowers, plantings and etc.

Irrigation throughout.  Both automated watering with moisture sensors and distributed hydrants.

Lots of container planting with automated watering and planning ahead with buried water lines.

Install a permeable system that minimizes water run-off.:  probably tiles designed for that purpose. 

Think about a summer kitchen?

Flower gardens and planting areas.

Plan for a future with fish ponds.   Sophisticated filtering system in place.

Find an appropriate place to store wood for the kitchen 360 fireplace. This should be right by the door. 

Where does the bike rack go?

Plan on PV garden lights.

Shading benches for reflection.

Plan for cats:

They stay inside at night.

Stage their food, pooper and water in the mudroom area, I suppose.

Flapper door?

Misc thoughts:

I’d like to carry a visual motif throughout the project: This could be a symbol for the project that reappears and is repeated in a Wright manner around the project, ie trail signs, stone work and etc.

Internet access:  price a broadband service through Sprint for a 3G cell provider.

Television:  We’ll need a antenna I suppose for service unless we decide on a dish.

Wire in a generator for a backup system.  Figure out the critical electrical functions and wire then into a separate system that can be energized in an emergency.  This would include the water pump, overhead lights, selected outlets in the kitchen. 

Thats where the propane and wood 360 would come in handy.  maybe circulators for the circulating system.

We could also depend on batteries from a pv array.  But not necessarily in stage one.

Snowmelting system on the north?  Maybe.

Dan & Margy’s house:  an outline

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A Pattern Language selectionA_Pattern_Language.html
House DoodlesHouse_doodles.html
Prestressed wall conceptsPrestressed_walls.html
HydroElectric concept

Note: This document dates from the summer of 2010 when we were trying to give the Architects a concept.  Many things have changed since then, but the basic concepts are now set in concrete... dc