Friday, January 4, 2013

Talking To An Architect

I spent all day yesterday working on our little house's design.  This is what I came up with.

I downloaded furniture and appliances from SketchUp's warehouse.  I like the space.  The open kitchen/living area makes the room look bigger than it is.  It is also much like our boat, with the galley right in the main living area.

I decided to find a local Fulton County architect, someone  I could work with and who could help oversee the project.  I google searched and came up with a short list (Fulton County is pretty rural) and right at the top was a fella named John that I sold a computer to years ago.  I called and identified myself.  He remembered me, of course, and said that the computer I sold him ten years ago is still working fine.

Hmmm....  if I made crappy computers that broke regularly instead of the best quality that I possibly could, I'd probably still be in business.

I emailed John my SketchUp house.  He's going to look at it, look at the land, and send me a proposal.

I also may have found someone to cut up and take away an old mobile home with a caved in roof from the property.  TJ is going to look at it and get back to me.

It feels good to be getting things organized and underway.


  1. I couldn't quite get the drawing until I went to Driftaway blog. That angle shows the central area.

    I think(you're looking for critique, right?), the stairway and the 2 rooms that are closet or mudroom could be re-thought Dave. The stairs cut into the main living area just enough(to my eye) to make a constriction. That open area, a foot or two either way, will make or break your house design.

    I think you could move the stairs out of that area and consolidate some of the boxes in the middle. And remember a chimney for your wood heat. Don't be tempted to put that on an outside wall, they never work well in NE and are grossly inefficient compared to the mass inside.

    Everyone is different but I like to start(and finish) in 2D floor plans. 3D can be tricky for rendering accuracy where as on 2D, you can feel the inches creeping in. Plus it may be an easier channel for your arc in Fulton to work back and forth with you on the web. I convert CAD files to pdfs to send to clients that are clean and easy to read and we can make changes that I put on the CAD file.

    Take a tape measure wherever you go(a 25'er) and start measuring spaces you like. There's a world of difference between 12 and 14 feet, etc.

  2. You only get one shot at home design -- everything else flows from that. Since you've indicated you want a small, efficient solar home, the most IMPORTANT thing I'd be concerned about would be that the initial house plan include all of the passive/solar/efficient features possible.

    You've said you've chosen someone you googled and had sold a computer to years ago to draw your plans. Well and good, but you didn't mention whether John is versed in solar design and planning. What types of solar has he designed for, passive and/or active? Have you located a solar installer yet? The four of you might put heads together before John starts his clock to make your $$ go farther.

    I admit to being a plan-a-holic as opposed to shoot from the hip, so your casual choice before you've determined what features you NEED give me the willies. We just proceed differently.

    Your heat source will affect plans, as Tom said. A masonry heater, e.g., would be a primary factor early in design. [Masonry stove with radiant heat is what I'd be looking into; there's a nice plan for that at at a home featured in Homepower -].

    Also you'll need to know where your panels will go and solar hot water as well (if you'll include); your roof load will reflect that choice. I looked at a new home built nearby recently that used super-thick walls and high-tech thermal windows and radiant heat wood-fired boiler. Even without solar, that home as sited will use little wood.

    I must admit that your project has kindled thoughts I've long-since shelved for myself. We'll never build at this point, but I still dream (e.g., my dream home would have a garage/pole barn with solar roof to charge my electric vehicle). Carry on!

    1. Hi Katrinka,

      I guess I'm a casual kind of guy. I just take things as they come. But as for passive and active solar heating systems, I've been studying them for decades. Not to sound smug, but I probably know more about them than most architects. I've studied Brownell's heat energy batteries, experimented with different liquids for heat absorbption (dirty motor oil works best), etc.

      If you look at the pic in today's blog, you'll see my basic first floor design. One window on the north, two on the east, four to the south, and six on the west. I may do that a little differently, but I'm solar powered myself. I need daylight in the winter and I'm willing to sacrifice some passive energy savings to get it.

      The solar array will go on the ground for easy cleaning and servicing.

      The house will be energy efficient. Triple pane windows, six inch walls, 16" in the attic. But believe it or not, I don't want the house too tight. I like fresh air, and indoor pollution can be a problem. But I do want the heat to stay where I put it.

      For heat, we'll use a wood stove with propane backup. I'm looking for a used Vermont Castings Defiant. It's what I heated my Saratoga house with for 12 years. Loved it.

  3. OMG, Dave, a Defiant would heat a HUGE house (2400 sq ft). Did you mean Vigilant or Resolute? They are made a stone's throw from where I live. We recently gave up our old Intrepid II Castings stove in favor of a Morso. (We also have an old Klondike wood-furnace that gives us hot water as well).

    1. Ooops. You're right. I was reading Craig's List and saw a Defiant. Yes, we heated with a Vigilant.

  4. "The four of you might put heads together before John starts his clock to make your $$ go farther." That's good advice Dave. A huge amount of time can be burned with your designer just getting on the same page. All the stuff you amass before he starts the clock, the less $ you'll burn.

    But don't get too locked into the general building design, you may have missed a few forks in the road that will improve the overall concept significantly.

    You do have the experience with efficient design and solar so you've got a good jump. With the size of the space, you may have to get into a heat exchanger to keep the place healthy.

    This will be fun to armchair quarterback!

    Katrinka, where in Vermont are you? We're from the there and sailed on Champlain for more than a decade.

  5. We're about 30 miles south of Montpelier (Randolph) on a quiet dirt road.
    Where were you in Vermont, Tom and where are you now?

    Since his retirement, my husband sails a fair amount with a good friend who has a sailboat he keeps at Charlotte. I am 100% land-based; I like to dig in the dirt and hike (and have no sea legs).

  6. Randolph, that's a beautiful area. I spent a few decades growing up and going to school in Brandon. Later, moving into the sticks(further,...) and mountains along the Pittsford, Chittenden area. We loved it there several miles out a dirt road, and both our kids were eventually born there.

    My wife(native Vermonter, prone to seasickness, but just loves to be sailing), and I sailed for many years on Lake Champlain(out of the Charlotte Sailing Center,small world).

    We decided to head down the Hudson one fall, sailed down the coast and through the Bahamas, and came back to VT for a few more years.

    But the sea had pull on us by then, and we headed down the Hudson again(this time, with 2 babies). From there we kept our boat on the east coast eventually moving it to Maine and traveling from Vermont(weekends, vacation), for a few years. Vt was still home, me a design/builder, things were good in my work.

    Then we sailed into this area of Maine, and a year or so later, decided to move here. We still miss VT and return often(just came back from Xmas). I love the topography of VT and there is no prettier place to sail than Lake Champlain.

    It's a lot like VT here on the midcoast, just with the ocean nearby. We often joke(especially with our new gov'ner..), that one day, we may head back up the Hudson, and close the loop. You never know.

  7. Small world it IS, Tom. The limited sailing I have done has been on the mid-coast of Maine out of Harpswell near the Dolphin Marina and an overnite to Monhegan (which required a scopalomine patch). We've caught a lot of bluefish over the years. My MIL lives in a Brunswick nursing home now.

    Did you know any Claghorns?