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Thread: Carol's House Build Thread

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Escondido, CA
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    4,823

    Carol's House Build Thread

    Since it is official, I will begin this thread and see how it goes.

    The septic system has been approved. It will be a Presby System. http://presbyeco.com/ if you are interested. My lot is only ~5100 sqft, so a special system was required. To my knowledge, this will be the second of these systems to go in in San Diego county. The county is quite interested as are 8 of my neighbors with sub-standard lots size-wise. The company is eager to break into San Diego county because of the scarcity of land and the lack of sewer systems. So an engineer from the company, my civil engineer, and the county health department all got together via Skype and got my systems designed and approved. 21st century technology. You gotta love it!

    The normal setback on my lot would have left me with ~110 sqft of legal building space - hardly enough for a pup tent! That was the observation of the county planner when I came in to apply for the variance. He was for the variance from the git-go but bureaucratic paperwork grinds out slowly here. They of course, are setting a precedent for the neighborhood and they know it. Speed is not on their agenda.

    While the paperwork is not yet physically in my hand, the planner did give me the green light to 'proceed with the permitting process.' Get the plans done and in and we'll go from there. This will not be a speedy process either.

    The house will be small ~700 sqft on two levels. The first level will be a walk out with garage entry and naturally be the shop area. The second story will be the living area, pretty much all open spaces with the only interior walls defining the bathroom and bedroom. As the design is drawn, I will post my drawings and you all can chime in. I am sure you will have a lot to teach me!

    I want to build a passive energy, aging in place, cost-contained house. Other new' systems will be incorporated. The first is the house will be built of SIPS panels, rather than the customary 2x4 stick construction. My panel company also had to be on the approved list for the county. They consider this construction as prefabbed (which is stretching it) and their concerns include seismic stressing and wildfire safe materials. I am going with Premier Panels (http://premiersips.com/about-premier-sips/). They have built houses and commercial buildings in San Diego county and there are local contractors that are approved to put these things up.

    The Premier company does all the engineered drawings for both the county and the manufacturing plant. No need for an architect. I have designed it. I may need some foundation drawings, but I can probably do those myself. I was given the name of a architectural draftsman if I didn't want to do them.

    One other feature that I got a green light from the county on is the earth tube air system. (http://www.phius.org/NAPHC2012/Moros...thAirTubes.pdf) This will also incorporate a solar chimney and computer operated clerestory windows. The air temperature here at 5-6' down is estimated at a stable 50-55º year-round. I only need to heat/cool air from that temperature and I have a constant air exchange rate in the house, so no radon issues.

    So now the ball in my court. When I return from vacation, I will send my drawings and lists to the structural engineer. Then my job will be to find all the money necessary!

    I do have a septic installer contractor who will also dig the foundation and the trench for the earth tube system. I will find other subs as I need them.

    This is a complex, exciting project. Come along for the ride.

    The goal is to be completed before the end of the first quarter next year (Easter). I would love for it to be sooner but there still is a lot of waiting before the first dirt gets moved. Tentatively planning the 2017 FWW Gathering at my new place next summer. Start saving your shekels.

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    ++++++

    Some say the land of milk and honey; others say the land of fruits and nuts. All together my sort of heaven.

    Power is not taken. It is given. Who have you given yours to? Hmmmm?

    Carol Reed

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Kansas City, Missouri
    Posts
    12,418
    Very cool, looking forward to the build and glad to hear things are moving along. I'll have to look more into that air system to see if it's being used around here, even as an air exchanger system since we do have high radon levels. I had looked at the sips system a while back looking at a steel framed house covered with them (at least on the roof). I never got to the pricing stage, still interested in them for a retirement home project.

    Darren

    To a small child, the perfect granddad is unafraid of big dogs and fierce storms but absolutely terrified of the word “boo.” – Robert Brault

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Location
    The Gorge Area, Oregon
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    4,389
    Just leaving this popcorn here in case I run out later.

    I love the idea of the earth tube system. We recently picked up a book on a similar idea (mostly the same idea I guess) but for greenhouses:
    http://www.chelseagreen.com/the-fore...den-greenhouse
    Fascinating stuff.

    The solar chimney design has been used since ancient times in parts of southern europe and the middle east:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_chimney
    I'm really at a loss why they aren't more commonly used, its a brilliant design as well!

    My overly complicated hypothetical perfect greenhouse design uses both plus a partially subterranean pond/waterfall as an air moderation system partially designed after some southern european designs that used the cistern for moderating the air quality.

    Our last house was a real education on the importance of properly designed roof lines and overhangs in how much it changed the livability of a house. Probably slightly less important where you are than it is further north as you don't have as much variance in the sunlight angle. It could certainly have been improved and some "green wall" designs around the outside would also have made a significant difference but even the nod in that direction was hugely beneficial.

    One thing to be aware of with the earth tube system is getting an engineer who can design the thing so you don't end up with condensation issues - this is surprisingly easy even in dry climates to end up with some areas cold enough for moisture to drop out and the accompanying problems.

    A few articles in increasing scienciness, the last one in particular is pretty interesting.
    http://buildingscience.com/documents...rocket-science
    http://www.powerknot.com/how-to-read...ric-chart.html
    http://ijlct.oxfordjournals.org/cont...3/150.full.pdf

    I was hoping BSI would have something more useful but all I could find was this rather interesting article about an engineer almost killing his parents by not understanding airflow and then creating a mold hazard in two houses after he "figured it out".
    http://buildingscience.com/documents...ilding-science
    Love thy neighbor, yet pull down not thy hedge.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Escondido, CA
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    Thanks for the links, Ryan. I will design the earth tube system. Engineers go deer in the headlights when you mention it. I know enough to provide slope for drainage and filtration on the intake J-pipe. Same principle as getting fresh air below decks of a ship. I once found a link to calculate the length and diameter of the tube. Will have to find that again.

    The cliff dweller Indians in the Four Corners area of the US used solar chimneys to lift cool valley air through their cliff dwellings and then up though a hand cut chimney to the mesa above. It all works on the 'hot air rises' concept.

    I did forget to mention the interior water feature which will provide evaporative cooling, humidity adjustment, and maybe even a few fish. Thanks for the reminder. I need a water source and pump power in that are. A floor drain is probably also a good idea. Greenery growing around the water feature will be pretty and provide air freshening elements. Maybe an indoor herb garden.
    Last edited by Carol Reed; 08-17-2016 at 03:24 AM.
    ++++++

    Some say the land of milk and honey; others say the land of fruits and nuts. All together my sort of heaven.

    Power is not taken. It is given. Who have you given yours to? Hmmmm?

    Carol Reed

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Location
    Amherst, New Hampshire
    Posts
    10,426
    Wow, this is incredibly interesting already.
    I've never heard of these systems before except for the sip system. My fasteners used to be incorporated in some of the applications.
    Faith, Hope & Charity

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Location
    The Gorge Area, Oregon
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    Yeah, my main concern with the earth tube is the hot air entering the tube, then cooling and condensing inside the tube, that's the "moisture goes from warm to cold" part of the first BSI link. There may well be other concerns, but that seems like the obvious one The risk there would be mold formation inside the tubes and the airflow bringing that into the house (when you go back into the house you're going from cold->hot and small->large mostly and so it should dissipate pretty well). I'm quite sure a well designed system can still work really well, but its a fairly challenging bit of hydrodynamics.

    I fully admit its past my pay grade to try and figure most of that out on my own, so any other sources you come up with I'd be really interested in seeing.

    The oxfordjournals link has a bunch of information on the tube sizing and design, I'm not sure how good it is because I lack the math to prove them correct or not . Its the best I've been able to find so far though - the greenhouse book was pretty decent albeit a bit on the hippy dippy side and somewhat lighter on the engineering details. He seemed to mostly be dealing with it by maintaining sufficient airflow using fans, and admittedly greenhouses have somewhat different moisture issues than a house

    And a water feature! I'm going to need more for sure!

    Our vastly oversized pond pump takes close to 19kwh/m to push water up about 8' (based on an average cost increase of $10/mo at 5.3c/kw; electricity is really cheap here!) That pump is around 3x the size it needs to be though, I replaced it when the original burned itself up and kind of "went big". I haven't measured the flow rate but its well above 10g/m which is likely a lot higher than you'll need.
    Love thy neighbor, yet pull down not thy hedge.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Carthage,Mo
    Posts
    576
    Carol this going to the top of the list to follow. You are going into an area most of us don't understand but would like to learn. I'm sure your learning curve is going to skyrocket. Best of luck.
    David

  8. #8
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    Constantine, MI
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    “We all die. The goal isn't to live forever; the goal is to create something that will.” - Chuck Palahniuk

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Escondido, CA
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    If you are interested in earth tube systems, here is the site that got me started.

    http://www.builditsolar.com/Projects...ling.htm#Other

    Now gathering all the criteria for my lot to consider. Likely, I will not complete the system when I complete the house. I will have to phase in some of this because of the cash outlay issues. First comes the basic house. But I will design the infrastructure to readily install it later. Same with the roof solar system. That means window placement and attachment points in the roof and walls.

    Its kind of interesting. The more people I talk to about this to get information, the more interested they become to help. Also kinda cool! Guess everyone likes to be challenged once in a while.
    ++++++

    Some say the land of milk and honey; others say the land of fruits and nuts. All together my sort of heaven.

    Power is not taken. It is given. Who have you given yours to? Hmmmm?

    Carol Reed

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    Los Angeles, CA
    Posts
    2,614
    I will be following this thread with great interest.

    Might even be there for the 2017 FWW gathering.
    Chinese Proverb: Man who eats many prunes gets good run for the money.

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