Well we only 3 short weeks ago were planning to buy the house we have been renting for over a year now and then save to build a nicer home, that plan fell through though so now our plan is to buy some nice vacant land in the country and hopefully build something like I have designed right here. The plan is for a 450sqft (15x30) solargreenhouse abutting a 360sqft (12x30) + an 80ft sleeping loft home for a total of 890sqft on a 810sqft footprint. Most of the living area has high ceilings both to take advantage of the light collection ability of windows over the roofline of the greenhouse but also to make the space feel less claustrophobic. I went back and forth about the idea but i'd like to combine the greenhouse and house after talking to a few people who have solar greenhouses. The consensus would be all through the cold season here, 6+ months in zone 5 upstate NY, we would have to use very little heat and should be able to get by on sunny days with none at all during the day just from venting excess heat from the greenhouse. For the summertime, which can get quite warm, reaching at least 90 a couple days a year here, there may be some excess heat buildup but this should be mostly mitigated by a well insulated wall separating the two spaces and proper venting in the greenhouse. The other advantage is it will be easy to heat the greenhouse when it is needed to to its proximity to where we are living, I really don't want to trudge across the yard to fire up a rocket stove on one of our -10*f evenings here. Not to mention all of the mental health benefits with being in close proximity to plant life year round. The plan isnt to be living in this house here forever, I would mostly like something straightforward enough to build myself that I wouldn't need to go into much, or any debt to build. In the meantime while living here my girlfriend and I could save money towards a dwelling more suited for a family. It would be nice to keep afterwards as a studio or apartment along with having a large solar greenhouse.
Here are some pictures of the design, I have filled it with a possible trial layout just to get a feel for some of the ways the space could flow potentially.
Pretend that the opaque white is triple-wall poly board, I am limited with the program I designed it in.
I think depending on the site we decide on I would like to sink the floor level of the greenhouse a foot or two below grade to increase the thermal mass of the floor and get a greater moderating effect from the earth. The house windows also serve a couple puposes, facing south they illuminate the entire house all day and also add a small passive solar effect. Being at the top of the ceiling they also can be used to create a solar chimney effect if opened along with the 2 windows on the north side of the house.
You can see in this picture I would like to go with a metal roof.
And here are some of the interior. As far as utilities I would put the well pump pressure tank in the kitchens utility closet and the hot water heater most likely in the greenhouse area along the back wall along with a washer, dryer and slop sink. The bare L shaped area along the wall in the living room would be the place for a rocket mass heater bench which will be our only heat source besides a small propane heater in the greenhouse (Which could heat the whole structure if need be) in case we go away or for some reason don't want a fire. The loft bedroom has a 8ft ceiling tapering to ~4 over its 8 foot width with the space further over being a low closet space. We also would have a large coat and clothes rack in the entry hallway, a small pantry/utility closet in the kitchen and the bathroom ceiling will be possibly capped off leaving a large open space to put objects above, possibly more food storage or valuable things I wouldn't want to stick in a shed outside.
So this is basically the general idea. The only addon I can think of would be that I would like to include a sunken root cellar built up against the north wall of the house with an entrance from outside, the storage space for food in the kitchen is somewhat limited with the only space being cabinets and the utility closet.
Anyone have any feedback on the design? Ill probably be starting in the early spring as long as we have found a suitable piece of property and obviously I may to tailor the design slightly to the space. I estimated a total construction cost of about $50,000 which includes me doing nearly all of the labor and assuming the septic and well already exists. That would be about 8-10 for the greenhouse, and at least 35-40 for the house in order to buy good quality materials.
This is great for cleaning and allows you to shower even if your partner is bathing - don't forget to put the toilet paper outside first
Do you really need a bathtub?
I'm just asking because I only shower because I'm to big for being comfortably in a bathtub anyway.
What about this huge flowerpot in between the toilet and the sink?
If you get rid of the pot and the bathtub you could add a separate second toilet or some other thing.
If you can't remove the bathtub and don't want a smaller bathroom, how about replacing the pot with a bidet - no more toilet paper needed.
There even exists designs that are integrated into the toilet or the toilet seat. Be sure to post instructions for your guests!
I'm a fan of cooling with earth pipes and maybe you should think about installing some to cool you in the winter and to have a cooled shaft in the kitchen to put wire baskets filled with vegetables.
I very much like this passive convection driven designs.
Even with your entry/hall, I'd add an unheated mudroom/entry shed. That space is cheap to build, make it 6x6 or more, enough room for 2-3 people to disgorge from boots and coats. We live in basically a one room plan and homestead stuff accumulates as we go in and out all day. And it will buffer your heat losses as you enter/exit in the winter, a place to shake off snow, keep firewood at hand, etc. That narrow entry is a bottleneck. If it were me, I'd put the mudroom on the north side with a simple door, recover the hallway as storage space. Think of the mudroom as enclosed porch, so the expensive foundation is still the same rectangular shape, with an additional porch pour.
Would you like a summer porch on the north side? A sleeping porch sounds delicious in your climate. We live on our porch for much of the summer. I wish it were on the north side. Sometimes I think of screening it in and the mosquitoes aren't even bad here. Integrate this suggestion with mudroom ideas.
I'm not so sure about the washing machine hook-up in the greenhouse. One accidental freeze and any water inside the pump, kablooey. Is there room in the bathroom? You can put the hook up in and hide it behind the shrubbery if you don't have the machine.
We are in the same situation as far as building the guesthouse first and building the dream house later. If this structure is likely at any point to be vacant later, install an easy to access whole house water supply turn-off so you can drain down the place in the winter. It's cheap to do up front. Ours is right next to the porch. The greenhouse water needs add complexity, but valves are cheap compared to repairing frozen pipes.
Ventilation, ceiling fans, and the ability to install a range hood. Can't have too much, esp with passive cooling in the summer in NY. With an attached greenhouse, you need to be able to control humidity in the living space or your stuff will get moldy and rot. Ventilation in winter is equally important.
Since you don't have land yet, you can "shop" the county permit process too. I'd take my plans to every municipality I was interested in living in and show them the plans before I looked at any real estate to keep from wasting time. RMH as a sole source of heat might be hard in some places to get permitted, but perfectly fine across some imaginary boundary line.
We don't have land yet but there is a parcel we have been looking at that I am very likely to purchase. Ill have a decision in a few days on that front.
I liked most of the ideas proposed here so far so I tried implementing all of them to some degree. First was the addition of an unheated mud room, I kept the door where it was and added a vestibule, it is 5x7.5. It looks like it fits well enough with the design also:
And looks even better yet with the addition of some landscaping:
I also added a arbor/patio to the north or this could also be a screen porch in the same footprint, I forgot to take a picture of that though, i'm sure you can imagine what it looks like.
And I also thought about the bathtub, I have never lived in a house without one, and I also have not taken a bath since I was like 12 years old so I don't see why I would need a bathtub. I took it out and added a bit more space to the living room this slightly shrinks the storage loft above the bathroom but it makes up for it in having about 15sqft more floor space in the living room.
And you can see this adds enough space to add a chair and reduce the crowding on the desk.
As far as the washing machine, I have ours in an unheated basement now which regularly gets below freezing in the winter, the machine has frozen a number of times and while it is extremely inconvenient, it hasn't harmed it at all. The house will most likely be vacant at some point although it will probably still get tons of traffic all year being that I don't plan on building another greenhouse, this will probably be our only one.
I also like the idea of the geothermal cooling, once we get to construction I will look into it, otherwise our only options for cooling are like window units and some passive airflow. Plus whatever we can do to get our electric usage down would be nice, at some point i'd like to have the house completely off the grid, that becomes much cheaper and easier when you don't have to run high draw ac units.
As far as the building permit process, I don't see an issue since at first anyways I think I will have it permitted as a cabin, or non year round structure and worry about meeting the code minutia for "approval" for year round residence later. Plus about the rmh, i'm not getting code approval for it, it is built entirely in the house, kind of like how I would never bother getting code approval to add an interior wall or build a small fence even though you technically need to. It also wont be the only heat source on paper, ill probably have a couple electric baseboard heaters.
I'd like to build something like this for the rmh, maybe adding some cushions or something though:
The property I am looking at has a beautiful and very large pond which I want to add a Japanese pagoda to the waterline at some point maybe, the picture only shows like 3/4th of it even, it goes around the corner also. There is already a concrete foundation along the waterline from what I think was a big pier or boathouse or something:
Having lived in a cold-winter climate with attached greenhouses as our only source of heat for some 20 years, I'll only comment on that aspect of things. Knox NY is 42 degrees north, so to me your greenhouse glazing looks too horizontal. There's the snow load issue -- snow might not slide off the top adequately. And also, the more horizontal your glazing is, the less sunlight it grabs in winter, and the more it grabs in summer. With New York State's sultry summers, you really want to think about ways to remove substantial portions of the glazing in summer, and or open up whole large sections of the greenhouse.
I'm a big fan of having our attached greenhouses heat the houses in winter, and I love your phrase about the mental health benefits of having an attached green space. Yeah!
But I've also suffered through some New York State summers and would hate to make that even hotter with an inflexible attached greenhouse.
We find humidity in the attached greenhouse can be an issue in shoulder season and probably worse in summer but we remove the whole greenhouses in summer (we roll up the plastic film). The humidity isn't a problem where the growing beds are limited in size and don't fill the whole greenhouse, and they are also tempered in that our location is extremely dry desert, and the houses are made of earth, that absorbs and releases humidity.
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More thoughts: you want a wide door and straight shot down the entry to bring in items like sofas and refrigerators. We learned this the hard way trying to get a sofa bed into our tiny guest room. It is staying in there for the duration. And luckily I had the presence of mind during the framing to ask if the washer would really fit through the door into the super tiny laundry/pantry. What good is a laundry room if you can't get a washer into it? Door reframed, 2" added, change order absorbed. Our best door is 36" wide with no obstructions into the main room and a straight trip down the hall to the bedroom.
Second the idea for floor drains. I should have insisted on one in the kitchen, do have one in the laundry area.
If you make the desk area into an alcove you can keep the overhead storage and simplify the build a little. Can even put closet doors on it to hide the mess if paperwork tends to accumulate on your desk as it does mine. Sliders could stack behind the chair.
Our rural electric coop sells these wall heaters. No fans, quiet, extremely efficient. We put toe-kick heaters in the bathroom to save wall space, but they run for 15 minutes a day, max. I can't say enough how much I like the convectair heaters. People are shocked to hear how low our power bill is when we are using electric for heat and hot water. Now that we have a wood stove, it's substantially less, but the first winter without it was a pleasant surprise. They get hard wired in, so plan for it during the roughing in phase, but have integral thermostats so there's one less wire to run.
Suntubes! Our neighbor put them in their bathrooms and over their north-facing kitchen. I wish we had them in a couple spots.
Do you need/want room for a chest freezer? Could it go into a slightly larger mudroom? I could shut down our refrigerator sooner than our freezer, but we buy/raise our meat in annual/semi-annual quantities and do a couple big shops at Costco each year. Of course, I live 150 miles to the Costco, so I'm not going every week.
Pets? Feeding/watering station? Litter box? Storage for feed bags? These are the nuisances that you get to solve when you DIY your design.
I like your design. I would not do this roof on the mudroom you added, stay in the modern design and make one slope maybe away from the house, like this it looks awkward.
If you plan a tiny house I would always plan to allow extension. Were is your rainwater collection?
Ian Taylor : not much to add here, make sure that you can expand your mudroom, or you will be building a 2nd structure for future growth !
Commonly around here mud rooms are as much as 1.5 feet lower than the height of the finished floor in your house, this is to create a
cold sink, for the coldest outside air to settle into when you come in from outside. With a good sized mud room you save the heat in your
house twice, the short time you spend taking off your mud boots, and hanging up a coat allow the coldest air that you brought in with you
to settle down to the floor, or will naturally settle there because this is unheated space.
the second person coming inane pausing long enuf to take off mud boots and hang up a coat will transfer much less of the outside cold in.
With young kids running in and out all the time this is still about the best you can do, Good luck ! Big AL
Success has a Thousand Fathers , Failure is an Orphan
Make sure you have plenty of ventilation for the bedroom. That is the hottest part of the house, and I don't mean in a good way.
I would put a cool porch on the north side, including a fall/winter cold storage pantry and outdoor kitchen for canning and BBQ.
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Ian, youve done some impressive preliminary design work. I want to echo Rebecca's comments and add even more caution. You seem pretty attached to the attached greenhouse but be ready for disappointment and/or denial if you go through with it. If you do, you will probably need to follow Rebecca's advice with removable or coverable glazing otherwise you will cook yourself to death in the summer.
It seems your main reasoning for combining the planthouse with the human house is to not have to walk far to stoke the RMH? For this I would suggest building a detached green house not far from your humanhouse. The other reason is to live closer with your plants? For this I would suggest a reasonable amount of houseplants or preferably closed terrariums.
If energy performance and comfort are in your considerations, be aware that greenhouses have extreme temperatures and humidity. Neither of which will be easily handled by thermal mass. Excessive humidity is uncomfortable in the summer and in the winter will rot your house as it condenses on cold surfaces.
If you do go through with it, I suggest sticking to international code minimum insulation in your separating wall and build the wall as airtight as possible. I would also suggest making the attached greenhouse portion with as much user control and easily removability as possible. I think you will get better performance separating greenhouse from humanhouse and sticking to more mainstream passive solar design principles.
"If you want to save the environment, build a city worth living in." - Wendell Berry
Location: Grafton NY, 25 Miles east of Albany
posted 5 years ago
The whole upper area of the house should have a bunch of windows to vent all the heat from the highest point. The bedrrom I agree will be fairly warm year round but the few really hot days we get I can sleep somewhere else. We dont live in a very hot area.
As far as adding on, I thought of that and if I decide to just not build another house someday when I need it I can add on to the north side of the house. The location I am looking at putting in the house slopes down after that side to the north so it could be a few steps down which also fixes the issue of the roof being too short or not sloped.
And as far as insulation, I want to hyper insulate the south wall with the greenhouse so there should be minimal heat transfer when I don't want it, but I can still open up the windows and door when I do. I agree with the concerns you raised but I think I mitigated them to the point where the advantages of attaching the two outweight the negatives. The heat issue is much reduced when a couple things are taken into account, one is that the area we live pretty much never gets over even 90*, less than 3 days a year average, we are at over 1800ft asl in what is already a cold climate. I know a gentleman in a warmer part of our area with nearly the exact same greenhouse design and with just good passive ventilation keeps the interior temperature no more than 10* over exterior pretty much all summer. I think having removable soft poly sheet glazing would provide too poor of an insulation value in winter to justify its use in our not that hot and not that sunny summer. I would however probably have removable floor to ceiling side window panes which nearly open the area up completely in summer. Or I can buy just the tall windows which crank open sideways giving me a large amount of airflow.
As far as humidity, in winter the addition of humidity to the dwelling is a positive, natural humidity here indoors in winter is like only 10%. In summer it is a concern although the greenhouse is going to be made out of wood so detaching it would be irrelevant, the house and greenhouse will be built out of the same materials. Also there is the ability to seal the two structures off completely not allowing for any airflow between the two. Furthermore the greenhouse will have open sides making the humidity difference between indoors and out minimal.
Location: Grafton NY, 25 Miles east of Albany
posted 5 years ago
I made some changes and this is, or is very close to the final layout. I'm about to start making construction drawings, I just ordered a few older edition college textbooks about construction drawing from Amazon and have a few example blueprints to look at.
After a lot of thought I found some shortcomings with the original and some areas for a large improvement without adding a lot to the cost. I also read a few issues of Dwell magazine and got some interesting ideas there too.
Firstly I added a whole 2.5 feet to the width of the house, making its total width 15ft, now bringing the total footprint of the house to 15x30 with the greenhouse being also 15x30. The exterior otherwise was left unchanged. The total square footage for the house portion with the revised upstairs is 650sq/ft on a 450sq/ft footprint. The greenhouse will be attached but not on the same slab foundation as the house because I will be building a block frost wall and sinking the floor level of it about 2 feet below grade, filling the floor space with pebbles to allow for natural drainage into the ground.
I completely changed the upstairs layout and added a small 5ft wide balcony/hallway connecting what was originally just a small storage loft above the bathroom to the bedroom and creating a new usable room. I have it laid out in this design as a small library but could be used as another bedroom with little modification. There are bookshelves that will be built into a knee wall, on the bedroom side I will be building a dresser into the knee wall (unable to model however).
I also completely re-arranged the kitchen and living room. I noticed a preponderance of wasted wall space so I got rid of it and added a bar area between the kitchen and lr. There is space for 3 stools on either side and now gives me potential dining seating for 6 while also nearly doubling my usable counter space for prep/cooking work. I will also probably have a dining area in one corner of the greenhouse for seasonal (Winter) use.
Note that the ladder pictured is not going to be a ladder but a steeper than normal staircase, it will scale the 8ft rise in a length of 4 ft, bringing the first step to about a foot before the sliding door half of the sliding glass door to the greenhouse, it will cut off part of the window although that is ok. I can build some useful storage into the space below the stairs as well. Similar to this picture but about half as steep still.
Also as efficient tiny house design dictates multiple uses as much as possible, the rmh (stand in for furnace in a traditional house) will be doubling as a bench which can be used if a number of people would like to watch a movie or television program on the large computer screen across the room. I also could add a TV on an arm where the picture above the desk is now possibly.
Also in order to waste less space I made the rmh straight rather than turning a corner, the space it takes up is about 2x10. I also plan to put a stone veneer on the walls near it for a couple reasons, one is fire safety, another is heat storage and another is just to visually break up the room. My new property is so rich in stones of all sizes I could realistically gather this if I cant find a decent looking cheap stone veneer.
Also less importantly I added a bathtub back into the bathroom however the bathroom is still the same size.
Lastly I added some more windows and a new door to the mudroom in order to make better use of it as a sunroom as well.
So I had a figure in my head as far as cost, about 50-60K which seems to be pretty realistic assuming I do the framing, roofing, finish work, plumbing, some of the wiring and the drywall myself. From my reading the going rate on new medium quality residential building is about $150 a sq/ft, although that includes labor, I figured at about 90 a square foot for materials and the labor I cant do myself and I also figured it at 450sq/ft (without the upstairs bit) because the upstairs is only 200sq/ft of flooring, some drywall and paint away from being an attic, the space has to be there regardless. The septic and well already exists and I plan to use mostly conventional materials, and the roofing I planned on is about as cheap as it gets (Standing Seam Tin), and I priced out the roof square footage costing me about $5,000 for good quality materials. I also might get all the wood flooring for free, there is a fairly large structure with a beautiful narrow plank maple floor on my property but I haven't decided whether to fix it up or knock it down yet. This greenhouse I have priced out exhaustively before and every last item needed to build it should run me about 8-10k. By that estimate I should be getting started with construction in the spring of 2016. I have plenty of work planned I need to get done as far as establishing gardens and swales in 2015 anyways.
Though the house is built out of conventional materials it is still very environmentally friendly, mostly because it uses very little materials. Even more so because of the fact that it should require no outside heating energy and hopefully someday no outside electric either. I plan to have a 8" heavily insulated wall between the greenhouse and reg house to keep summer heat from there out but the rest just regularly insulated 6" walls. I think the house should use very little energy considering it has an immense passive solar ability and is really small. The greenhouse I think I will heat separately with a woodstove or separate rmh out there.
Also I don't see how anything in the design currently couldn't pass building code. The rmh obviously wouldn't although I can just install that afterwards. I would need another heat source to get a cert of occupancy but I can just install a few electric baseboard heaters, it would be nice to have as a backup in case I go away and its cloudy out. I also think a dwelling technically needs 2 points of ingress and egress although I can put a door in the greenhouse too and that's solved.
I would multi-task more spaces. For example, get rid of the desk and build storage under the bar to use it as a desk when not eating. Get rid of the huge bookcase and put a bigger couch there (could fold out for guests/larger family), move the sliding door over and build a real set of stairs incorporating built in bookcase and storage underneath. I would view the insides of boats and tiny houses for things you could do with more efficiency.
Also, if you want to be able to watch movies or TV, incorporate a retractable projector screen over the bathroom door and with the couch where the bookshelves were, you could add a projector shelf. We put a cornice board over the projector screen to hide it when not in use.
One other idea is since I don't see any closet space, I would make sure your bed is the type that is built on drawers and I might put a small amount of hanging space in a cupboard under the stairs. Also, since we don't have a front coat closet, we incorporated a double row of coat hooks on the wall behind the door (so you can't see them when you first walk in.)
I must admit that I think you will need more storage space . I would cover every available surface with shelves cupboards both for storage and insulation . Have you thought of building an out side food storage place , a lean too on the north facing wall plus you can house your fridge/freezer there . Many people forget that food storage takes up lots of space and that freezers work more efficiently in a cold/cool enviorment . I would have a small fridge in the house and a large one in the store . Plus the store acts as extra insolation on the northside of the house .
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