Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Designing a house

We are getting closer to building John's house. I have been putting a ton of thought into how to do it relatively cheaply and how to make it very energy efficient.

Here are some drawings (scribbles) I've done.

First I was trying to figure out how to "Innie" windows. Innie windows are windows that are applied to the exterior sheathing then exterior insulation added on outside of them. The details of air sealing around the windows and framing the trim are somewhat difficult. Here are some notes that I took (and modified) from GBA (Green Building Advisor). I am thinking about using both foam and mineral wool as the exterior insulation. Probably crazy, I know. I have not calculated prices yet. That will likely alter my plan.

This window is an innie. Innie windows need careful flashing details to prevent water entry at the jambs and sill.
Courtesy of Green Building Advisor

The reason I like Innie windows is that the window is protected from the elements better and the temperature is moderated better, more energy efficient. Disadvantage - harder to detail around it. Still have to think about it more.

Now for my plans for the house. I wish I had downloaded and learned SketchUp before Google sold it.

Trying to figure out the layout. John wants the stairs to bisect the downstairs space because he wants to use it as a music room. 
Better drawing. I can't figure out how to layout the bathroom and the laundry room.  Should we put a shower downstairs? 
I signed up for an online class called "Zero Net Energy Homes" taught by Marc Rosenbaum to help me understand how everything goes together when you are building a superinsulated home. Now, I do not think we can get to a zero net energy home based on the financial constraints, but I will at least entertain the possibility. John is so cheap - if anyone in my family could achieve a net zero home it would be John.

It feels good to get something down on the blog again. Thank you for listening. Lucy


  1. Perhaps it's worthwhile to build it "as-if" you would go net zero one day. For instance, use 2x6 or 2x8 wall depth even if you don't fill them with insulation right this moment. Down the road you might have extra funds and can fill the bays. Or design a roof where you can have ample space for south-facing photovoltaics or solar thermal water tanks, even if you don't buy those items right now. No reason not to build with net-zero in mind even if you can't afford specific components just at this moment.

  2. Designing a home from scratch is like an artist having a blank canvas on an easel. Carefully designed, constructed, and positioned buildings can use the power of the sun's energy to provide natural light as well as solar heat. There are no boundaries and the ideas are endless as far as the design concept is concerned.

  3. I am planning on designing with the eventual goal of getting to net zero. Right now the main priority is the shell. My goal is R40 walls and R60 roof with a very well sealed building envelope. This house is for my brother who just lives around the corner. So the house is also designed to be comfortable even if the power is out. We tend to have ice storms every few years. I will go to his house should that occur.

    I really hadn't planned on solar power, but I think we can get a 3kW system included that will supply a 30% of the power. My brother is, let me diplomatic and try to say this nicely, very cheap. He will be very thrifty with the power especially if he is comfortable. He doesn't have a big plug-in load, no plasma TVs (though he does have 2 TVs), no computer systems (an iPad mainly) so I do think it is realistic to hope to approach net zero.

    Thank you for your encouragement. I will try to keep you informed on the planning stages.

  4. I loved your post. Nice info.! I didn't realise there was a way get ideas and plans about designing a house. Thanks for the excellent post.