Author Topic: A Mustacian House Build  (Read 4530 times)

Heroes821

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A Mustacian House Build
« on: October 11, 2016, 02:29:13 PM »
This is a few years down the road, but the Fiancee and I are definitely wanting to get some land because of a love of outdoors and animals.  I am fairly confident we will have a hard time finding a house that meets our wants and needs and I am thinking that building might just be the way to go for a what we want.  We are expecting to have three children (2 of hers from a previous marriage) so that raises my desired house size.  My thoughts are for 4 bedroom 2 story house with roughly 1800-1900 SQFT. A full basement, but unfinished because that is pretty standard in ohio, so warm kind of humid summers and cold snowy winters.

With that in mind what are the thoughts on making this house as green as possible.  For northeast Ohio natural gas is widely available and if the land has some acres it will probably run off it's own well.  I know MMM has posted many times about certain facing windows and heat retention and geothermal heating solar energy etc.

So if you had a blank slate of land to build a house how would you do it?

rubybeth

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Re: A Mustacian House Build
« Reply #1 on: October 11, 2016, 04:28:33 PM »
My dad and mom basically did what you're talking about, back in the 1970s. It's a 4 bedroom, 2 full bath house, around 2,000 sq. feet. Two of the bedrooms are upstairs, two down, full bathroom on each level. He designed the house himself to save money. It's a bi-level with a fully finished lower level, and both levels are laid out nearly identically except for the placement of the tub in the lower level due to the placement of the closet in the larger of the lower level bedrooms (closed moved to give more space for the heat pump/water heater room).

I'm pretty sure my parents just sat down and came up with their preferences and then my dad designed it based on standard building measurements and other designs they could look at in books.

I can testify that the design worked out especially well for having teenagers, as my sister and I both had our rooms/bathroom downstairs as we got older, and the lower level "family room" was our hangout area, and my parents kept their room upstairs and the "living room" was their space.

Heroes821

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Re: A Mustacian House Build
« Reply #2 on: October 12, 2016, 06:03:11 AM »
Thanks for the reply. I was thinking a little less about how the rooms would be laid out and more about window types and sizes, facing for maximum natural light and heating exposure. Insulation to make the house the more efficient. Things like that.

ender

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Re: A Mustacian House Build
« Reply #3 on: October 12, 2016, 06:50:35 AM »
One thing to consider is the internet makes drawings/layouts really easy to find ideas now.

You can also find design programs too if you want to make really complex layouts, my parents designed their house in some 3D modeling program.

I think the biggest thing that I would consider is how many places you've lived so far. Everyone has things they "want" but often these change over time, or turn out to not to really matter, or otherwise change their minds on once they've lived in a place. It's not clear how old you and your fiancee are but something to consider. Particularly house size - do you want to design a 2k sq/ft finished house plus a 1k basement only to find out you don't want a house that big? Building a bigger than you want place will kill most of the gains you find here.

Regarding the question, I think it's fascinating because I'd love to do something like this some day.  Once you decide if you are designing it or not, the next step is compulsively researching things. Talk to your local utility companies, ours does a free energy assessment and I'd expect that those people would be more than happy to talk through ideas.

Thanks for the reply. I was thinking a little less about how the rooms would be laid out and more about window types and sizes, facing for maximum natural light and heating exposure. Insulation to make the house the more efficient. Things like that.

Room layout has a huge impact on this, though, because how your rooms are laid out in your house affects their natural lighting and heating exposure. For example, if you live in Ohio, having many north and northeast facing windows under large overhangs (a great tool for efficiency) means you can get optimal natural heating in the winter and light year round. So designing the layout of your house to face in such a way to maximize the potential means you can better optimize this.

Along those lines, if you have the ability to build in or surrounded by timber, you can get built in benefit of summer shade which can save a considerable amount of direct sunlight in the summer. This can be substantial savings in AC. You could also setup a solar array on the ground facing an ideal direction if you have an acreage, so something to consider.

I would definitely do geothermal, because I really like the idea of being more "off the grid" and since we're designing a dream home on many acres it'd be easy to do geothermal. Make sure you have a way to setup a generator or battery storage somehow (I think this is actually becoming more economically feasible, particularly if you have a solar array, though I've not looked recently).

Two above ground stories strikes me as likely to be less efficient. Can you do a ranch with a walkout instead of another above ground story? This will be more efficient but only you can answer how important an unfinished basement is for your plans.

How far will you be from a town? What do you plan on doing as far as gardening goes? One thing to consider is if you end up wanting to store lots of stuff in extra refrigerators or freezers to have a place for them. My wife and I love doing this and our current house doesn't have a great spot to put extra chest freezers/etc. Consider the lifestyle you want to live and make sure you can do so in your house. But also realistically consider it.

When building you should do a ICF house (insulating concrete form). Bad if you want to start taking out exterior walls and changing the layout of your house but great if you want to build it from scratch to be more efficient. Huge perks from an efficiency perspective. As well as offering some security against inclement weather, bugs/pests, and kids punching holes in the wall ;-) ICF by design has a ton better efficiency than wood framed, because wood is a poor insulator (take a thermal camera sometime in the dead of winter throughout your house, you will trivially see studs because of how much cooler they will be than the insulation between them) and because it's a much more airtight setup.

You may consider building either a drainage pond or capture system for rainwater off your roof, depending on whether you care about this.

There are lots of insulation tips and tricks. When designing from scratch you can do a lot along these lines. ICF helps with this but you can obviously insulate a lot of things still. Likewise you can get decent windows, which range all over spectrums from junk to super-ridiculous.

Consider how your doorways work. Do you have a frontdoor which opens into a great room? It'll be more prone to letting out heat in the winter and cool air in summer. A more typical mudroom setup, particularly if it has doors on the other side, can be helpful here.

Build ceiling fans into your rooms. Consider putting a whole house attic fan in your house.

Make sure your HVAC is appropriate. Don't overbuild it (particularly if you get ICF, which will reduce the needs of it). Don't under build it. Make sure your HVAC is setup right and you will save a ton of energy. Most houses have rooms which are +/- 10 degrees from the rest of the house, which means if anyone is in them, it's a pain. Try to make your HVAC work well (which isn't easy).

You might even want a woodburning stove or fireplace if you are going to be living on an acreage with timber. As long as you can efficiently insulate this if you are not using it, you can trade your sweat equity for free heating.

With ICF you can find a lot of related efficiency tips online, particularly as this matures.

Really, don't underestimate the effect that intelligent layouts and how the house faces factoring into this.


I guess I've thought about this a lot over the years. Can you tell? :-)

Heroes821

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Re: A Mustacian House Build
« Reply #4 on: October 12, 2016, 07:08:16 AM »
Thanks Ender, that is definitely a lot of good ideas for me to work with.  The reasoning for a full basement is that in Ohio growing up that's what we had. The kids used it as a quiet place to explore and play games, the adults used it for freezers, extra fridges "man cave" or wood working shop things. They didn't count towards square footage for resale, but it was just a thing that we always had. Since then I've moved to Colorado, Texas, and South Carolina and I really miss having a good basement for dry, warm winter and cool summer storage and hobbies.

As far as our Ages we are both 29, she has a 7 and 3 year old, so a ranch could definitely work.  They are horse people and her parent's own horses so the likely hood that we will end up with one is unavoidable no matter how much I try to get her to read MMM.  The idea would be to find a location we would live in for 20 years because I'm tired of moving all over the country when most of my work is remote from home.  Ideally I was looking at 10-20 acres, but 5 could be plenty big if I'm friendly with neighbors so there should be space for solar, and gardening which we definitely want to work on with the kids.

I really like what you said about the foyer/mudroom. I've never thought about it from a heat leakage perspective but I think that makes a lot of sense. Back home (North east ohio) a large majority of those houses are ranch style with full basements 1500+ sq ft easily, but they then have full sets of steps leading to unfinished attics that are usually big enough to walk in. I definitely don't need to build a 2 story house I just thought it might be easier to heat/cool that way because it's more compact.  Really I'm open to any kind of layout.  My cousin had 80 acres and built his house with a huge brick wall in the middle that would take and absorb the heat from his wood burning so well he only turned his gas furnace on twice in 30 years.

Metric Mouse

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Re: A Mustacian House Build
« Reply #5 on: October 13, 2016, 12:58:26 AM »
Lay it out so the driveway faces south.  This will reduce the work of clearing the snow and eliminate ice build up during the winter. Huge advantage.

kmb501

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Re: A Mustacian House Build
« Reply #6 on: October 13, 2016, 02:37:05 AM »
This is a few years down the road, but the Fiancee and I are definitely wanting to get some land because of a love of outdoors and animals.  I am fairly confident we will have a hard time finding a house that meets our wants and needs and I am thinking that building might just be the way to go for a what we want.  We are expecting to have three children (2 of hers from a previous marriage) so that raises my desired house size.  My thoughts are for 4 bedroom 2 story house with roughly 1800-1900 SQFT. A full basement, but unfinished because that is pretty standard in ohio, so warm kind of humid summers and cold snowy winters.

With that in mind what are the thoughts on making this house as green as possible.  For northeast Ohio natural gas is widely available and if the land has some acres it will probably run off it's own well.  I know MMM has posted many times about certain facing windows and heat retention and geothermal heating solar energy etc.

So if you had a blank slate of land to build a house how would you do it?

Personally, I think I would go for a non-conventional house build, if I had the option, like an off-grid underground mound house. You could build it as a series of smaller houses with chambers leading to the additional rooms. I think you would save LOTS on heating and cooling, and, depending on where you put it, you might not even have to hook up to city utilities. I don't know if it's an option where you are planning to live, though, or if you would even want to try it, but my understanding is after you buy the solar panel and emergency generator, you're set for utilities, and the temperature stays pretty constant underground. Plus, you would be mostly safe from tornadoes. I think I would definitely try that option if it were available to me.

If not, maybe you should just cut out the middle man? Don't hire a contractor maybe, maybe just find out what work needs to be done, find your own people, hire a licensed inspector who will make sure everything is up to code, and get to work. You could try doing a rehab on a foreclosed home, perhaps? I could be wrong, but I think it would cheaper to rebuild something than to build it from scratch, but that may be depending upon how much work needs to be done and how much sweat equity goes into it. It also might depend on how many friends you have who are willing and able to help out. Perhaps it's definitely worth looking around at least.

These are a few articles on the subject:
http://www.stretcher.com/stories/00/001218a.cfm
http://www.eplans.com/community/15-Ways-to-Save-Big-When-Building-a-House
http://www.earthshelteredhome.com/cost.htm


Heroes821

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Re: A Mustacian House Build
« Reply #7 on: October 13, 2016, 06:08:35 AM »
Thanks KMB, I'll check out those links, but as much as I would totally love a hidden mainly underground compound...pretty sure I'd lose that argument with the soon to be misses. Sunshine will win.  Since we aren't looking to build this house for 1 to 2 years I was definitely going to look into options outside of professional builders, out of the basement. Too many issues in my personal experience and with my family having basements that leak and flood to not want that done.

bacchi

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Re: A Mustacian House Build
« Reply #8 on: October 13, 2016, 07:52:45 AM »
Room layout has a huge impact on this, though, because how your rooms are laid out in your house affects their natural lighting and heating exposure. For example, if you live in Ohio, having many north and northeast facing windows under large overhangs (a great tool for efficiency) means you can get optimal natural heating in the winter and light year round. So designing the layout of your house to face in such a way to maximize the potential means you can better optimize this.

Surely you meant south facing windows? North facing windows in the northern hemisphere allow indirect lighting and little solar gain.

http://www.fsec.ucf.edu/En/consumer/buildings/homes/windows/shading.htm

lthenderson

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Re: A Mustacian House Build
« Reply #9 on: October 13, 2016, 01:21:38 PM »
Having looked into this route of buying land for a house, I can say that it was much harder than I expected. The most desirable areas for sale already had older houses on site along with many of the accompaniments like barns and outbuildings. To find raw land suitable to build a house that didn't look like a house built in the middle of a field is much harder than it looked. This means you are often buying land with a house you don't really want and is thus more expensive than you considered. However... it does have the great advantage of having an already built place to live in while you build your new home nearby. You also have a place to house animals and such without having to build outbuildings from scratch which speeds up the timeline. Once I wrapped my head around that, it opened up my eyes to lots of properties that I didn't consider at first because they had really old or rundown farmhouses on them that I wasn't interested in fixing up.

historienne

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Re: A Mustacian House Build
« Reply #10 on: October 13, 2016, 01:26:18 PM »
We have talked a lot about this.  We would get a semi-prefab house from either Go Logic or Unity Homes.  Both are designed to maximize energy efficiency, particularly in cold climates.

ender

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Re: A Mustacian House Build
« Reply #11 on: October 13, 2016, 05:37:26 PM »
Room layout has a huge impact on this, though, because how your rooms are laid out in your house affects their natural lighting and heating exposure. For example, if you live in Ohio, having many north and northeast facing windows under large overhangs (a great tool for efficiency) means you can get optimal natural heating in the winter and light year round. So designing the layout of your house to face in such a way to maximize the potential means you can better optimize this.

Surely you meant south facing windows? North facing windows in the northern hemisphere allow indirect lighting and little solar gain.

http://www.fsec.ucf.edu/En/consumer/buildings/homes/windows/shading.htm

Oops, yeah :-)

I guess someone read that wall of text ;-)

Metric Mouse

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Re: A Mustacian House Build
« Reply #12 on: October 13, 2016, 11:30:26 PM »
Having looked into this route of buying land for a house, I can say that it was much harder than I expected. The most desirable areas for sale already had older houses on site along with many of the accompaniments like barns and outbuildings. To find raw land suitable to build a house that didn't look like a house built in the middle of a field is much harder than it looked. This means you are often buying land with a house you don't really want and is thus more expensive than you considered. However... it does have the great advantage of having an already built place to live in while you build your new home nearby. You also have a place to house animals and such without having to build outbuildings from scratch which speeds up the timeline. Once I wrapped my head around that, it opened up my eyes to lots of properties that I didn't consider at first because they had really old or rundown farmhouses on them that I wasn't interested in fixing up.

You could always park a trailer on the lot for a few years while you tear down the old buildings and re-build.  My family did this. No sense living in a decript farmhouse when a nice used trailer can be had, and sold at the end for minimal loss.

lthenderson

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Re: A Mustacian House Build
« Reply #13 on: October 16, 2016, 03:46:30 PM »
Having looked into this route of buying land for a house, I can say that it was much harder than I expected. The most desirable areas for sale already had older houses on site along with many of the accompaniments like barns and outbuildings. To find raw land suitable to build a house that didn't look like a house built in the middle of a field is much harder than it looked. This means you are often buying land with a house you don't really want and is thus more expensive than you considered. However... it does have the great advantage of having an already built place to live in while you build your new home nearby. You also have a place to house animals and such without having to build outbuildings from scratch which speeds up the timeline. Once I wrapped my head around that, it opened up my eyes to lots of properties that I didn't consider at first because they had really old or rundown farmhouses on them that I wasn't interested in fixing up.

You could always park a trailer on the lot for a few years while you tear down the old buildings and re-build.  My family did this. No sense living in a decript farmhouse when a nice used trailer can be had, and sold at the end for minimal loss.

I've actually known a few people that did this. One build a pole building to serve as building material storage and to house their pull behind RV where they lived. It had the advantage of a larger out of the weather space while maintaining a small portion that had a comfortable temperature. Another guy built a shop and his family lived out there until the house was built. He then had plumbing and electrical out in his gigantic shop. I am still envious when I go out there. A third fellow bought a nice trailer house and lived in it for many years while slowly building his dream home after work.

Metric Mouse

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Re: A Mustacian House Build
« Reply #14 on: October 17, 2016, 07:05:19 PM »
Having looked into this route of buying land for a house, I can say that it was much harder than I expected. The most desirable areas for sale already had older houses on site along with many of the accompaniments like barns and outbuildings. To find raw land suitable to build a house that didn't look like a house built in the middle of a field is much harder than it looked. This means you are often buying land with a house you don't really want and is thus more expensive than you considered. However... it does have the great advantage of having an already built place to live in while you build your new home nearby. You also have a place to house animals and such without having to build outbuildings from scratch which speeds up the timeline. Once I wrapped my head around that, it opened up my eyes to lots of properties that I didn't consider at first because they had really old or rundown farmhouses on them that I wasn't interested in fixing up.

You could always park a trailer on the lot for a few years while you tear down the old buildings and re-build.  My family did this. No sense living in a decript farmhouse when a nice used trailer can be had, and sold at the end for minimal loss.

I've actually known a few people that did this. One build a pole building to serve as building material storage and to house their pull behind RV where they lived. It had the advantage of a larger out of the weather space while maintaining a small portion that had a comfortable temperature. Another guy built a shop and his family lived out there until the house was built. He then had plumbing and electrical out in his gigantic shop. I am still envious when I go out there. A third fellow bought a nice trailer house and lived in it for many years while slowly building his dream home after work.

Nice - all sorts of good ideas.

Papa bear

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Re: A Mustacian House Build
« Reply #15 on: October 17, 2016, 07:38:03 PM »
Look up permaculture design ideas.  There will be some specific design ideas on passive heating and cooling as well as window placement, size of eave overhangs, etc.

For a closer to home anecdotal response:

You definitely can heat your house with only passive solar gain in Ohio if designed for it. A good friend of mine's dad (who writes and trains code internationally, is a civil engineer, and designed his suburban home from scratch) has a home that is heated and cooled only using passive methods in central Ohio. I got a tour once and was amazed, and I'll my best to describe his home, but I won't be able to do it justice. By code in the early 80's, he was forced to have a positive heating source (which he has never used) which with his design was ridiculous.  This is what drove him into working in writing code to make changes. Anyway, his home, while unique, does fit in aesthetically to his suburban neighborhood.  Basically he has a lot of south facing windows 2 stories tall, with a 2 story trombe wall (glass block as his original designed water system held too much heat).  He set thermostats to auto open roof vents if the air temp got too hot in the front solar room.  He also set it up to circulate the air down to a crawl space that has a limestone rubble floor.  Plenty of thermal mass to hold heat.  It can hold the temp for 3 days without any sun in the winter.  For cooling, he has roof windows from velux that act as a chimney to draw out hot air.  The house also recirculates the air from the crawl space in the summer through the rest of the house.  For the south facing windows, he has reflective blinds to keep out the summer sun.  The house does has a partial basement, if you were wondering, as I was only talking about the crawl space.

Anyway, moral of the story, totally doable, with standard construction methods, with technology from the early 80's, to do this in Ohio.


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Dusty Dog Ranch

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Re: A Mustacian House Build
« Reply #16 on: October 17, 2016, 08:51:55 PM »
We did a number of things already mentioned, but I'll make a little list. We started with raw land, aside from the driveway and the well (both required some rehabbing).

Passive solar design
Half underground (earth bermed)
Extremely well insulated
very simple roofline
wood and propane heat since passive solar heating only works on sunny days
off grid 3kw solar electricity with propane generator backup
925 square feet, plus attic storage space. just two of us and pets.
stick built (concrete for the underground parts).
a couple of outbuildings- a guest cabin (10x12) and a 10x16 storage/studio space

we found a number of designs online that we liked, tweaked them to our liking, and took them to the passive solar designer for the technical stuff.

paid it all off when we sold our city house.

Heroes821

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Re: A Mustacian House Build
« Reply #17 on: October 18, 2016, 06:03:24 AM »
These responses have  been amazing, thank you guys.

Fishindude

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Re: A Mustacian House Build
« Reply #18 on: October 18, 2016, 06:20:16 AM »
It would be much "greener" to repair, remodel and re-use an existing home, and definitely a whole lot cheaper.
There is no shortage of fixer upper country homes in the midwest, you just have to be ready to jump on it when they come up for sale.

Even if an existing home requires extensive remodeling to nearly the price of new construction you will have things like; the driveway, electrical service, well, septic system, etc. already in place that you wouldn't have when building from scratch.   These items alone could easily total $50K.

J_Stache

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Re: A Mustacian House Build
« Reply #19 on: October 18, 2016, 07:42:20 AM »
Check out www.greenbuildingadvisor.com for information on what works and what doesn't.  Also, find a builder that specializes in energy efficiency as opposed to finding any builder and asking them to do energy efficient.