Friday, March 10, 2006

Shelter Me

I've been waiting to put up any drawings of the house until we had something final (these are preliminary) but since things are going a little slow I am going to show a little of what we have so far. This is a cross section of the living area (the section we are building now). Now this is very, very basic; we have not clarified how the roof will be supported or anything. This mainly shows what we are trying to accomplish as far as using the sun. The formula is very simple; orient the house length-wise on an east-west axis, concentrate glass on the south side, insulate well, provide adequate overhangs on windows for the summer. It is very important not to exceed 7% of your total floor space in south-facing windows though or the house will overheat. So if you had a 1,000 sq. ft house, you should have no more than 70 sq. ft. of glass on the south side. In cooler climates, they say to limit the north and east windows to about 3% but here in the south, we can have more because they help with cooling, which is our biggest challenge. The clerestory windows will help throw sunlight onto the north side of the interior and if we have an interior wall constructed for thermal mass, they will help warm it. I have been using a number of books for reference but I really like "The Solar House" by Daniel Chiras. Its very easy to understand and he gives you lots of references. You must calculate the size overhangs you need also so that all those south-facing windows will be shaded in the summer. I went to and they have a program you can use to figure that out. It is the coolest thing. You must know your latitude and longitude and the size windows etc. and it actually animates the sun passing over the window so you can see what it will be like.
This is Allen's version of the house that he drew some time ago. Now, he could actually build the house just from this but I told him I wanted just a little more to go on. We have one more I have not put up that shows the house from the outside but it is going to change considerably. We feel that the house should "reflect the vernacular of our area" as I once heard it put. I suppose that could bring many things to mind. It will employ some old southern methods of cooling such as a dogtrot that will also give it a retro look as well as the metal roof and lap siding.


pablo said...


Okay, but why are you elevating the house? If you were earth-contact, wouldn't you get better insulation/winter warmth/summer cool? Or is that not a big consideration in Alabama? So do I understand now that the retaining wall you showed in your earlier photo is on the south side of the house?

Also, why the vernacular? Why not with whatever style or whimsy you want? Isn't that why people go to the woods?

pablo said...

Okay, another comment, this time on the hand-drawn photo.

The sun and the moon are in the sky at mid-day? I see the fellow with the hammer. And the dog. And then I see what may be a woman, as suggested by the longer hair and . . . well, what is that extra bit there supposed to be?

Did I mention that I love your blog?

edifice rex said...

Hey Pablo! Cooling in Alabama is much more of a challenge than heating in the winter and in the past few years this seems to be becoming even more so. Our winters now are so mild its like we hardly have one. Not like what I seem to remember as a child. Now your point about earth contact is a good one and if we were wanting to use geothermal heat/cooling we would probably have to be closer to the ground. Since the house will incorporate a dogtrot, elevating the house will help catch the prevailing winds (I hope) Also, where I determined I wanted the house dictated that it be a little high on one side. The underside of the house will be closed up (which the drawings don't show) so this will help with warmth in the winter. It will also be used as a storage area. Yes, you're correct about the retaining wall being the south side of the house. I probably don't explain things well so that why I try to encourage questions.
Yes, you could do whatever style you wanted; I think the dogtrot etc. could be incorporated into any type of house or aesthetic and not look out of place. But since we are using these historic devices for function, he knows that I would also like to pay some homage to the southern tradition in the aesthetics of the house also. I hope to also slip in a little Japanese sensibilities here and there too!

edifice rex said...

Well, Allen has, shall we say a "unique", view of the world. I noticed the sun and moon thing too. I don't know... And that's my cat! not a dog! she'll be so hurt. The only things that register with Allen are what he considers the essentials; the cosmos, shelter, work/play, the "extra bit" on what appears to be a woman (me). The only thing left out is food and that maybe why he put my cat in there. He's always talking about BBQing her.
I'm glad you enjoy my blog!