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2007-05-23 18:51:47.871493+00 by Dan Lyke 8 comments

Last Sunday, Charlene and I signed up for a "build it green" house tour, and went to the homes of several people who opened up their recently constructed homes to show ways in which they'd used interesting design, materials and construction techniques. We really enjoyed one place, still being built, but with straw bale walls and a living roof, and some neat curving walls and shapes inside, although the construction ran $240/square foot with a lot of sweat equity. And we were... well... we've been ogling things like the Deltec round homes, but after seeing the... cough... uh... attention to detail in the Glidehouse prefab ($140/sq.ft., and both of us came out used the phrase "Ikea house"), we'd be really really leery of anything prefab.

But here's an article from today's SFGate on kitchen design that I've read through and stuffed into my subconscious for a few years hence.

[ related topics: Food Fabrication Real Estate ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2007-05-24 12:25:25.323266+00 by: meuon

I've often thought of custom building a house, with myself as G.C. and a lot of the labor. Pre-fab is an excellent idea, but for some reason, most of the executions I've seen, like the one you saw, leave me underwhelmed. My other thought, for energy efficiency and ease of construction is: AAC (Autoclaved Aerated Concrete). And while most implementation are squarish, it can be easily formed into curved walls, corners, etc. Like you, I like the natural-ish rounder shapes like you get in dome's, straw bales, and other alternative houses.

My only advice: Stay away from things that can rot: wood exteriors, etc..

#Comment Re: made: 2007-05-24 14:15:50.223611+00 by: Dan Lyke

Yeah, if I don't act as the G.C., there's very little point to building. I've got some preferences on layout and such, but really it's about enforcing the quality, and I've seen some absolutely shockingly bad stuff come out of professional builders.

One of the problems I have is that I've been doing some woodworking, so I've become hyper-critical of cabinetry and such, but what is it with these disposable built-ins and kitchens? Yes, I can even be convinced that MDF or a particle board core is okay for cabinetry (more consistent thickness than plywood, bla bla bla), but there should be no outside edges where two veneers meet, any horizontal MDF needs facing to prevent sagging, and, especially since the kitchen is likely to be humid, designs shouldn't just be itching to show off the swelling that even a good baltic birch is going to show in high moisture areas.

Charlene likes round and curved, but isn't too hot on domes, mostly for the exterior look. I'll have to work on selling her on that. I'm definitely a fan of the concrete siding for sided houses, and the idea of concrete walls appeals.

Still trying to come to grips with floors. Lots of reasons for real wood, lots of reasons for engineered hardwood (less water susceptible, would work better with radiant heat flooring), even a few reasons for polished concrete (although in practice it hurts my feet if I stand on it a lot). But a kitchen with sloped polished concrete floors and mats to stand on would be heaven.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-05-24 17:49:57.61063+00 by: ziffle

I am thinking poured concrete. If you hire the concrete portion out it's not too bad. You get a hurricane - err this is California - earthqake proof building.

The maintenance issue is one I would like to avoid. Avoid wood houses.

There is even a styrofoam block construction where you stack up the styrofoam blocks and fill them with concrete.

You will never look back if you use concrete. Also allows for some interesting designs.

Do they have fires in California? :)

#Comment Re: made: 2007-05-24 17:58:18.050889+00 by: jeff [edit history]

For the first time, I've actually been giving some serious thought of building a home in the country somewhat away from suburban life.

From a midwestern-tornado-bent, I like the idea of "reinforced concrete" for a shell surrounding my bedroom. That, or a spare bedroom in the basement for those "stormy nights." ;^)

#Comment Re: made: 2007-05-24 18:10:52.43189+00 by: Dan Lyke [edit history]

Jeff, if you can handle the aesthetic of 'em, the sprayed concrete domes (ala Monolithic Domes look awesome and as close to bombproof as you might want to get. Tornado-wise, you'd have to do something for storm shutters, but if money were no object a curved shell that slid over the window like some of the larger sliding doors they've got would probably get ya impermeable to almost everything.

The styrofoam block construction looks kind of interesting, and I think I've seen a variant where you use an expanded cell foam core inside your concrete forms, so you have both the air current control of concrete with the actual physical R-values of the good insulation.

And, yeah, we've got fires out here, but up in Northern California they have a long enough time between incidents that people tend to forget. For instance, the valley I live in has a 2.5 million gallon tank, the water district wants to put in a 10 million gallon tank, but there's been huge opposition to it.

The residents of the valley use about 1.5 million gallons a day. Last year we had a heat related power outage that lasted for tens of hours. I walked by the pump station a few hours after the power came back on and they had all the doors open, supplementary fans running, and all the extras out so that they could refill the tank.

I cringe at what might have happened had, say, a tourist pulled over to take a picture on to the grassy shoulder of Sir Francis Drake Blvd in a car with an overheated catalytic converter, while the water reserve was pulled low.

Yeah, concrete siding good, concrete walls better.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-05-24 18:38:58.248473+00 by: jeff

Dan--if I could ever afford to integrate a "much-larger-than-average" home telescope to form the basis for the entire housing structure, I could become completely sold on the aesthetics! <grin>

#Comment Re: made: 2007-05-24 18:48:04.907225+00 by: ziffle [edit history]

Maybe this should be in another thread but - I don't like wireless. Phones, computers, routers - the lot.

A friend said that if we could see all the EMF around us it would look like it was snowing - we are bathed in it night and day. I don't have the time to expand that right now but I wonder how much longer our lives might extend if we were not bathed in radiation all day and night long. (including from the 120 volt lines in our walls)

And to that end, for new construction I introduce: http://www.lessemf.com/fabric.html

Someday it will be obligatory or at least highly advisable but so far we have not had our consciousness raised.

As cave men our ancestors we had no EMF - I wonder if they were more relaxed - can our bodies feel it?

Of course we would have to go outside to use a radio or cell phone....


#Comment Re: made: 2007-05-25 16:05:41.048174+00 by: petronius

The cavemen may have been more relaxed--- right up to the moment the sabretooth tiger chomped on them.