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Design: Solarium at Wheaton Labs: Design Conversation

 
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Hello there!

Paul's asked me to create a design for a Solarium at Wheaton Labs. This thread is intended to serve several functions:

- Design conversation between Paul and I
- Pooling Permie knowledge both to improve the design and help me make it more natural
- Probably other useful functions as yet unknown or unintended

The Solarium is intended to go here, on the South end of the Garage:






The idea is to remove the garage door, tracks, and motor from the inside and replace it with the Solarium on the outside.

The current overall design for the Solarium is this:







This project goes hand-in-hand with other improvements intended to turn the garage into livable year round sleeping quarters. Adjacent to this project is a skidded trashcan enclosure to screen the trashcans while permitting them to remain in their current location. That other work is not depicted here.

What you're seeing is:

Existing:
- Garage exterior, currently unchanged, with an eave and concrete pad both extending 2' past the outside face of the wall.
- Quick and dirty, "it's better than nothing, but damn it's bad" topography.

One Solarium. Made primarily of wood and glass.
- Wood: The large wood members are currently 2" x 6" dimensional lumber (DL). Probably not the right size, but probably close.
- Wood: The small wood members are currently 2" x 2" DL. Again, probably not the right size, but probably close.
- Glass: 1/4" Clear, Tempered Glass. Currently, attached in the method of the Solar Dehydrator, in the center-ish of the pane of glass, with Stainless Steel (SS) screws with a Silicone gasket to DL framing.
- Center Support: Something exquisitely beautiful, currently envisioned as something tree-like. Modeled crudely because making believable curves in SketchUp is too time consuming until it's known to be the desired solution.
- Door: 3' x 7'. Currently shown as one glass and wood swing door. There's nothing saying it can't be a Dutch door, or Barn door, or something else entirely.
- Door Handle: Something else exquisitely beautiful, and eminently handle-able. I chose the current place-holder to have a deliberately branded shape.
- Floor: Currently shown as Cedar decking laid above the finished elevation of the concrete pad. The issue here is the solarium encompasses what is currently both concrete pad and gravel drive. Selected because it's a PEP BB. This will likely change based on what the floor of the dormitory nee garage will eventually be.
- The Role of "Bollard" will be played by several 3-Log Benches. Selected because it's a PEP BB, and 3 log benches are already in long supply.

Design Constraints, Factors, and Assumptions:

- This structure will likely be one of the first things seen when visitors arrive at Wheaton Labs (WL). As such, it should be a signpost and indicator of the work done and values embraced here.
- The interior space could, and I think should, be some of the highest-quality indoor space at Basecamp.
- Many people will traverse the Solarium, not just residents. The door and structure must be robust; not fragile, and not require gentle handling at all.
- On the outer, southern, face of the Solarium, Hops will be grown and trained up the outside face.
- The intended location of the Solarium is currently a Car Turnout. Some of this space needs to be preserved, while vigorously defending the Solarium from ever being bumped, even a little.
- The structure must remain rigid, through sun, snow, wind, thermal expansion, and frost heave.
- The structure must not admit water.
- The Wi-Fi Dish must remain undisturbed. I currently disturb its support piece in order to get the roof higher, and door opening taller, than the original garage door opening.
- There's less than a foot of gravel in the drive before solid rock is reached.
- The construction methods and techniques required must be compatible with the tools and skills readily available at WL.
- The materials used are ideally less toxic and energy intensive than those used in the Solar Dehydrator. Must at least be no moreso.

In a post coming soon™, I will include my sketches for the Crucial Details. The locations I've identified are:

- Solarium/Ground, 2 Ground Conditions
- Solarium/Garage, 2 Corner Details
- Solarium/Solarium, 3 Corner Details
- Glass/Solarium Attachment
- Hops/Solarium Attachment
- Center Support, Top & Bottom
- Door, Sill, Head, Jambs, and Handle

No, I don't have sketch-up Paul in here. I know he exists, but sketchup Paul is incompatible with the older version of sketchup I use. I use that older version because [reasons].

I know there's items and details that I'm forgetting here. But hey, it's a forum, so it's fixable! Yay!
 
master steward
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Sweet project!!!

A few questions/thoughts for you.  What's the ceiling of the garage currently look like?  Is it open to the roof deck?  Are the soffits vented?  Is there a ridge vent?  Those questions get at ventilation when the sun is blasting into that space and the hops aren't covering the glass (Jan-June).

The curvy shape is very pretty, but probably will increase the build time significantly.  Would a simpler three facet design be worth considering?  Main surface is a plane of glass at 20-30 degrees off of vertical, with a short vertical bit at the bottom and a horizontal bit against the building.

Will you get much sun through the bottom-most panels?  Might be cheaper or more durable if that section was solid.  Snow will likely cover it all winter and the sun's pretty high in the summer.

Is the plan to build a door?  Getting a used one may avoid a lot of frustration with creating one.  Ask me how I know...

Could you make it bigger?  Extend to the south another 10'?  The flattish roof would have to hold snow but it would give much more room for interior activities.

 
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I believe there is a lot of sand there. People have been making windows since antiquity, so if they can do it, so can we today on a DIY basis.

Could you make your own glazing for this? Maybe do a weekend glass retreat by an expert glass maker to:

1. Make glass for this project
2. Teach how to make glass to others
3. Prove that one of the most expensive bought items for a home or WOFATI could be DIY'ed.

Kind of a crazy idea, but I am filled with them.
 
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I've been living with and loving attached solar greenhouses for many years. I have a couple of suggestions:
1) Make the vertical south wall a bit taller if you get a lot of snow there, which I think you do. Also it makes it easier to move around inside the greenhouse near the south wall. Especially if any tall people will be using it...
2) Add large openable windows in the west wall. Even with shading of a deciduous vine in summer, you'll want extreme cross ventilation if the glazing remains on through the summer. We remove our greenhouse glazing entirely for the summer, leaving just the frame. We'd bake if we left the glazing on, and the plants would die. Even with cross ventilation. But we are further south and much higher than you. In the shoulder season, for a month or two in the spring and fall, I open the window and the door at both ends through the midday, and close them at night. Otherwise the plants would be harmed. If I'm out all day and unable to open them, I come back to wilted plants, which leads to dead seedlings, premature bolting, aphids, overly spicy arugula, and other problems.
3) I'm not sure how I feel about having a perennial deciduous vine for summer shading. Deciduous plants actually cast quite a bit of shade in winter. In my situation, I depend on the greenhouse as the main source of heat for the attached house, so I really want to maximumize heat gain in winter. In summer I find a shade cloth and/or annual vines work well for controlling the temperature. That said, I'm scheming on a grape vine or an arctic kiwi, but I will plant that inside the greenhouse because they are marginal in our climate.
 
Lee Jenkins
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Firstly, thank you all three for taking a look at this, and for taking the time to add your questions and ideas to the mixer:

Mike Haasl wrote:Sweet project!!!  A few questions/thoughts for you.  What's the ceiling of the garage currently look like?  Is it open to the roof deck?  Are the soffits vented?  Is there a ridge vent?  Those questions get at ventilation when the sun is blasting into that space and the hops aren't covering the glass (Jan-June).


Thanks, Mike. Good thoughts on controlling the other side of the temperature extreme. There is no soffit/ridge venting in the garage that I could see. When you're in the garage and you look up, you see some burly wood joists/trusses that are open up to the underside of the roof deck. It's as "unfinished" as it comes.

Mike Haasl wrote:The curvy shape is very pretty, but probably will increase the build time significantly.  Would a simpler three facet design be worth considering?  Main surface is a plane of glass at 20-30 degrees off of vertical, with a short vertical bit at the bottom and a horizontal bit against the building.


Yes, it already has been. This post was preceded by a round of design concepts I sent to Paul. What you describe was the other of two initial design concepts; what you see is what he selected to move forward.

Mike Haasl wrote:Will you get much sun through the bottom-most panels?  Might be cheaper or more durable if that section was solid.  Snow will likely cover it all winter and the sun's pretty high in the summer.


Good call. This may depend on the availability of materials; and it may depend on other design objectives Paul has. There have been comments in passing about how the solarium will serve as another RMH statement piece.

Mike Haasl wrote:Is the plan to build a door?  Getting a used one may avoid a lot of frustration with creating one.  Ask me how I know...


How do you know? (Haha). We've not yet discussed in detail the strategy for sourcing/building the components. Building a door might be part of the plan, it might not be.

Mike Haasl wrote:Could you make it bigger?  Extend to the south another 10'?  The flattish roof would have to hold snow but it would give much more room for interior activities.


Extending further south, as you already grasp, is problematic.
- First, I'm trying to be thoughtful of the spans, and how well what can be constructed will behave in the wind and snow.
- Secondly, it begins to infringe on the car-turnout space that needs to be preserved.
- Third, as you indicate, to keep a sensible roof slope, the already possibly-too-tall roof would need to be higher.
So yes it's possible, though unless some of the other design constraints change, it's probably about as big as it'll be (and is already much bigger than was initially discussed).

Travis Johnson wrote:I believe there is a lot of sand there. People have been making windows since antiquity, so if they can do it, so can we today on a DIY basis.

Could you make your own glazing for this?


Thanks, Travis! I bet that's possible. We've not discussed in detail the sourcing of the materials, but I agree it would be cool if it could go that way. I suspect we'd need to devise/remember a way to create muntins for those smaller and less regular shapes of home-made glass; lead (and other soft, lead-containing alloys) is the only one I know off the top of my head.

Paul's also requested the design be able to adjust should a particular size of glass become available.


Rebecca Norman wrote:Add large openable windows in the west wall. Otherwise the plants would be harmed. If I'm out all day and unable to open them, I come back to wilted plants, which leads to dead seedlings, premature bolting, aphids, overly spicy arugula, and other problems.
3) I'm not sure how I feel about having a perennial deciduous vine for summer shading. Deciduous plants actually cast quite a bit of shade in winter. In my situation, I depend on the greenhouse as the main source of heat for the attached house, so I really want to maximumize heat gain in winter. In summer I find a shade cloth and/or annual vines work well for controlling the temperature.


Thanks for sharing your experience with your own attached greenhouse. Operable windows are a good idea for getting the ventilation it'll likely need. Hops are Paul's selection; and there wont' be any plants on the inside of the structure, just the outside


 
Lee Jenkins
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Here's what I'm looking at from our good friend the Solar Dehydrator.

I'm assuming it is a likely reasonable baseline for the solarium regarding:
- acceptable levels of "refined" materials: milled wood (milled by whom, though?), medium-sized panes of glass, metal screws, silicone sealant
- acceptable method/style of joinery: screws and butt joints. It doesn't have to be greenwood joinery mortise and tenon.
- acceptable difficulty of construction techniques: complex angles yes; no toe-nailing or hidden joinery needed.


The bit at the very top of this picture is quite instructive regarding the solarium.


The kinds of wood, how it's joined:

Milled wood. I wonder if WL has a stamp for the wood they mill?

The kinds of glass, and how they're joined:

Silicone, washers, screws.
 
pollinator
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Travis, I love the idea of producing glass on-site, but it's really, enormously energy-intensive, especially if any glazing at all can be sourced from waste streams, like sliding glass doors and such.

It's still a great idea in the long-term, but I would be focusing on glass recycling at that point rather than making glass from raw materials. We have enough recyclable glass around, and all that's needed to get the glass chemistry right is the ability to distinguish between different grades and types of glass, to do them in separate batches, rather than mineralogy and chemistry degrees as is necessary to source the raw materials reliably.

But were I to build such a glass recycler, I think I would want to power it with a rockety incinerator hot and controlled enough to use plastic as a feedstock without the risk of dioxins or other harmful combustion byproducts, especially in areas that are losing their plastic recycling due to the economics of the day.

Lee, I suggest building a planter knee wall around the outer perimeter of the greenhouse. Hell, you could have a knee wall two feet tall forming the foundation of the structure with inner and outer perimeter planters as long as there was a thermal break between the wall and the outer planter. I am sure that damage could still be done to such a structure, but someone would have to really try, or get really unlucky.

I wonder if excavating the whole area to some extent would be a good idea? Specifically, I wonder what would happen if the material to bedrock were removed and an insulative skirting were applied, or if enough material were removed to account for insulative skirting and enough reapplied material overtop to protect it from foot and vehicle traffic, such that a layer of insulation extended down from the top of the knee wall, under the outer planters, and out around the solarium for four to six feet?

Would there exist a heat trapping effect that would stave off localised ground freezing, making it even easier to keep the solarium heated in the winter?

I also wonder if you might be able, within the footprint of the solarium, go down to bedrock, even in trenches, for weeping tile as part of an air-based heat pump. The simplest iteration would have you put in a perimeter trench and a manifold to lateral weeping tile lines spanning the space. The manifold would be connected to a duct running to the top of the solarium, with a ducted fan on a temperature sensor, so whenever it exceeded the acceptable temperature inside, instead of opening a vent and losing all that heat and moisture, both get pumped underground, where there is an induced phase-change in the water vapour, which gives its energy to the thermal mass of the soil. The heat is trapped in the thermal battery of the soil, and you do less work to heat the space.

An earthship approach would suggest that you consider if it would be advantageous to see if there are clean and simple ways to use the solarium to operate a greywater system, as I am guessing there will be plants in the solarium to some degree. I could see the use of such a space as people space, but even then, I would fill it with greenery, especially in a climate where there's so much stark whiteness so much of the year. Realistically, any big window in any dwelling I live in is filled to crowding with plants already, so I know how I would design a solarium based on my proclivities.

I hope some of this ramble applies to your thoughts, Lee. I look forward to seeing this come to fruition. A solarium that meets Paul's criteria for non-suckiness will be a thing to behold, and possibly stuff for a future book collaboration.

Good luck, and keep us posted.

-CK
 
Chris Kott
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And I just had a crazy question I had to ask. Is there a reason you're not building out to the surrounding berms? It would need to be approved by the owner, but what if it were essentially a pole structure with glazing on top built into the sides of the terrain features?

-CK
 
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Rebecca Norman wrote:I've been living with and loving attached solar greenhouses for many years. I have a couple of suggestions:
2) Add large openable windows in the west wall. Even with shading of a deciduous vine in summer, you'll want extreme cross ventilation if the glazing remains on through the summer. We remove our greenhouse glazing entirely for the summer, leaving just the frame. We'd bake if we left the glazing on, and the plants would die. Even with cross ventilation. But we are further south and much higher than you. In the shoulder season, for a month or two in the spring and fall, I open the window and the door at both ends through the midday, and close them at night. Otherwise the plants would be harmed. If I'm out all day and unable to open them, I come back to wilted plants, which leads to dead seedlings, premature bolting, aphids, overly spicy arugula, and other problems.




This is REALLY important! Moat of the glassed spaces I have encountered underestimate the need for summer venting.

Plant killing temps are no fun for people either.

I would think another door opposite the existing one, plus openable top panels, would be a good minimum target..
 
D Nikolls
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Tempered glass secured by center screws? I did not think drilling(?) holes in tempered glass was an option?
 
Mike Haasl
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I believe bedrock is very close to the surface in this area.  Perhaps a few inches down.

Chris, as to extending it to the surrounding hill, I believe the answer will be the same as the one I got above for extending the building 10 more feet.  They need the extra space for a car turnaround.  

The cooling needs in the spring will be very interesting.  In a solarium with a wall right where the garage door is now, it would get unbearably hot on a sunny March day.  But with the whole volume of the garage to moderate/average the temperature, I'm not sure what would happen.  What about putting a large vent at the peak of the North wall of the garage?  Then with a door on the solarium open, the heat would travel through the garage (heating it more evenly) and rise out that exhaust vent.  

Long story short, I wouldn't count on the hops vines providing enough shade for all the times when you may need cooling.  My greenhouse has a huge southern aspect and it never gets over 105F with decent passive vents high and low.
 
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Lee Jenkins wrote:
- Wood: The large wood members are currently 2" x 6" dimensional lumber (DL). Probably not the right size, but probably close.
- Wood: The small wood members are currently 2" x 2" DL. Again, probably not the right size, but probably close.



I'm not an engineer, but I was a carpenter for 20 years.  2" X 4" is typical for walls. I have never seen a roof on any permanent building that was constructed with 2" x 2" lumber. Especially in Montana, I would expect the collapse of a roof made with such tiny lumber. The vast number of joints in the current design? Very tough to measure, cut, and attach with any accuracy, especially if using inexperienced labor. The price of hardware to make so many joints has gotta really add up compared to long, straight boards.

That near horizontal glazing on the highest part of the solarium is very likely to collect large amounts of snow with it's corresponding weight.

- The structure must not admit water.



I expect the inside surface of the glazing to shed lots of water as warm, humid inside air condenses onto the frigid glass.

As a general construction observation, lots of tiny glazing panels have much more potential to have lots of leaks than a few larger glazing panels.

Perhaps a more appropriate design criteria would be a way of handling the water that will invariably be dripping from the solarium whether from condensation or leaks.

I echo Rebecca's concern about ventilation, and suggest way more ventilation than you would ever consider necessary. I sure love the auto-opening windows on my greenhouse. Sometimes, they even open during the middle of winter.

You might also consider a partition of some kind or other between the solarium, and the interior of the garage. Temperature swings both low and high can be quite dramatic in a solarium. It's typical, for example, for the night-time temperatures in greenhouses to be colder than outside temperatures, because they concentrate radiant cooling, as well as radiant heating.

Doors typically have "headers" over them.

Vertical walls are typically made with one piece of board from top to bottom, not with lots of short boards as drawn.

Long-term maintenance tends to be easier if the glazing panels are all the same size.


 
Lee Jenkins
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Wow! Thank you all for your new round of comments and attentions to this.

Chris, you're right, excavation/ground prep is important. The goal is to work from a stable strata.

Your comments plus Paul's recent videos has me thinking the primary structure could be roundwood, with the glazing structure being milled wood. I will model that concept to see where the inherent issues are. Geometry may be tricky.

Joseph: thank you for your very detail-level review. You're correct on many points, of course. At this phase, I'm trying to get the concept ready. I think once the concept is nailed down, I'd very much like your help in making sure the connections are sound.

DK, the dehydrator looked like tempered glass to me, though I may be mistaken. The center screw seems an easier detail than WL making wood window jambs and stops.

Questions for the collected esteemed Permies:
How would a beeswax sealant (like in the recent video) behave outdoors?

How do you anchor an 8" timber when you're 4" above bedrock? (To this, in my head I just keep hearing the answer, "you don't")
 
Mike Haasl
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Anchoring a timber on bedrock is easy (I believe).  Hammer drill a hole in the rock and use a cement anchor (epoxy or expansion) to pin the timber to the rock.

I'd imagine that beeswax touching hot glass on a sunny day won't stay solid for long.  And maybe the neighborhood bees will want to scavenge it?

I agree fully with everything Joseph said.  Lots of joints lead to sketchy looking final products.  Condensation will likely get all over everything on the inside of the glass.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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If it were my project, I would disturb the Wi-Fi Dish and remount it in order to get the solarium roof higher.
 
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I like this project! Thanks for the Sketchup images, it makes discussion much easier, having them to look at. (I use CAD daily at work, and admit to trying to rotate the views in the post...ha ha! joke's on me.)

I agree with Joseph, Mike, Rebecca about some details... simpler roof, anchoring to earth, ventilation!!, keeping the antenna but a new mount that doesn't compromise other design decisions.

I'd be most concerned about overheating in the warm/hot seasons. Even better than windows (I'd still put in windows!), a peak/ridge vent that could be operated to allow excess heat to escape. This could be a narrow panel(s) across the width of the roof where it meets the garage, operated by those thermal vent openers. It would be somewhat protected by the overhang of the existing garage roof. The glazing would begin just below the vent.

I'd go for a construction, like Joseph suggests (and much like the solar dryer), with long rafters, straight from garage wall to the knee-wall (which like Mike suggests, could be solid, possibly all the way around?)  I'd also push the top of the roof as high up the wall as the garage roof overhang allows. This puts the vents in a more sheltered position, and increases the headroom in the solarium, for more useful floor plan.

IIRC, glazed greenhouses use a shingled (rather than butted as in the solar dryer) for glazing on the roof, and not much (if any, by close spacing of rafters) horizontal support of the panes to get in the way of condensation flow.

A new antenna bracket to suit (welding project?), considering that access will be from on the garage roof in the future...

 
Mike Haasl
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Kenneth Elwell wrote:A new antenna bracket to suit (welding project?), considering that access will be from on the garage roof in the future...


Very good point.  Getting at that antenna in the future needs to be from the roof...
 
Lee Jenkins
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The wi-fi dish is a tricky constraint, to be sure. As far as I can tell, re-mounting it isn't part of Paul's plan; thus many design decisions were made in response to that.
 
Kenneth Elwell
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Yeah, design constraints. Ugh. I deal with this all the time, and sometimes the constraints are elevated to a status they don't deserve; or the results of the constraints persist, even after the constraints are removed.

I totally understand the importance of the continuity of service to the operation there, and "if it ain't broke, don't fix it!".
Looking at the photo again, it looks as if roof access to the antenna is possible already, and therefore any reworking the lower end of the mast wouldn't change that. (as in your mod of bending" it to land higher up on the wall)

I'd also add that with the solarium in place, IF the antenna were to fall, it will land on glass (maybe into snow on glass?).
I might add on a cable or chain lanyard (nylon rope or webbing if metal causes interference) for safety.
Anchored to the building directly, not to the mast.

I also noticed a light fixture tucked in behind the mast. I'd check to make sure that's still a good location, for providing useful light, and if it ever needs service/repair how that is accessed?
A placement closer to the East/driveway might be better all around, and could still be above the solarium roof if within arm's reach from the edge.
 
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I'd honestly try to figure a way to move/remount that dish so you can get more height on that portion of your roof.  A different type mast, similar to a typical "dish tv" type mast may work.  While what you have drawn up is good looking it will be more difficult to construct.  My recommendation would be a simple shed roof with straight walls.  That way you could use recycled sliding glass doors for the long wall which would speed up and simplify construction along with the added benefit of providing more ventilation when the sliding doors were opened.  If sliding doors aren't available then a suggestion would be to build a typical solid wall about 24-36 inches tall and use windows for the glazing along its length.  That may be the better approach due to snowfall accumulation in the winter.  Hope this makes sense.
 
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I just now spotted this thread!  I added this thread to the wheaton labs forum - hopefully it will get even more attention!

Lee Jenkins wrote:The wi-fi dish is a tricky constraint, to be sure. As far as I can tell, re-mounting it isn't part of Paul's plan; thus many design decisions were made in response to that.



Remounting the wifi is fine.   I thought it was going to be mounted to the roof - but there are lots of possible options.  

 
paul wheaton
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I like the door mounted on the solarium.  Much bigger than what i originally thought!

I wonder though ....     Do we get enough space to back a car in there to be able to get out?    

If the door went back to the being in the old garage door space, the the solarium might end up about three feet smaller - but we would gain about three feet to turn cars around.

I feel quite flip-floppy on this topic.   Any other thoughts?
 
Mike Haasl
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Are you turning around cars to the south of the solarium or to the east of it?  Can you dig out the hill further to the south to give a bigger turn around area?  Can you erect barricades to pretend there is a solarium there today and practice backing out and keep playing with the size of the fake solarium until you're comfortable with your turning room?  With imaginary snow piles, of course...

If you can dig out the hill to the south, might you want to build a root cellar into that north facing hillside so it's a short walk from the solarium and it has a vertical wall (door).
 
paul wheaton
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what i am proposing
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[Thumbnail for solarium-2.png]
 
Mike Haasl
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So where do the cars back up into in those arrangements?
 
paul wheaton
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I prefer to back up next to the garage - where a car is currently parked.   That happens a lot during events or other times when a lot of stuff is being moved in and out of the fisher price house.   Normally, a person just parks there with the thought of being there for two or three minutes.   And then when a half hour passes they think "I guess I can just leave it here - it's fine."   And then somebody also parks where the solarium will be - even when we had a sign there that said "parking for loading and unloading only."   So then the only way to get out is to back out all the way to the red cabin.

So, I'm thinking that with the solarium, plan A is to back into the area near the library.   And plan B is to back into the area near the solarium.  

Of course, with the primary solarium design, there would be no plan B.   And maybe that is best.    Or maybe the slight change is best.   ??

 
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Ok, so to rephrase for my own (and other's) understanding...

Ideally you'd park two cars on the right and back up to the north where the upper most car is shown.  Second option would be to have the solarium be narrower with the door in the garage and back up against the solarium with the left back bumper of the car near that person door into the garage.  Room is not needed to the South of the solarium for cars.

 
paul wheaton
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It might be good to fire up the drone and get a good pic.  

To the right (east), we can park 3, sometimes 4, rigs.  And then usually we back up to the north (top).  But sometimes somebody chooses to park there.

The question is  ....   the thing I am quite flip-floppy on ....   is should the solarium be smaller so that direction could be a plan B car turnaround.   Or maybe it is wisest to eliminate that option all-together.


 
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I usually go with "bigger is better".  If it's clear that there isn't a turn around spot, and you put a sign on a post where a person parking by the library should know better, than the issue should be manageable.  Plus the amount of work to make a 15' wide solarium isn't 50% more than the work to build a 10' wide one.

I'm also hearing that the wifi doohickey can be roof mounted which could allow the roof of the solarium to be higher where it hits the garage.  Yay!
 
Lee Jenkins
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Thanks for crossposting, Paul; sorry I didn't get this in the right subforum(s) on the first go.

Thanks, too, for clarifying the wi-fi dish. I'll quit dancing around it quite so much.

When I'm home, I'll post the dimensions I took of the garage turnout area.  

The berm south of the garage was constructed, and demo is not desirable, as I recall. Furthermore, it hosts a utility pole.

With pushing the envelope size-wise, I'm (among other things) deliberately trying to preclude someone from driving _past_ the solarium for extra parking, while still trying to permit the area East of the solarium to be part of the space to allow a 3-5-7-or-9 point turnaround.
 
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I think the northern “spot” as turnaround, and loading zone, combined with larger solarium is best.
Having a plan B for turning by the solarium invites a collision with glass, and encourages parkkng in the northern spot, since there’s an alternative for turning.
Additionally, with the door on the solarium wall, a certain amount of space is lost to it being a vestibule, leaving less space for plants or people or solar gain if shortened for car turning.
It’s a bit of a social experiment... “We can have more of this nice thing over here, if only we can stop doing this frustrating thing over there.”
 
paul wheaton
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Lots of good points.  

Another thing that is inching back into my memory is the idea that if the door is mounted on the side of the solarium, it can be a full size door.  But if it is mounted in the garage door frame, then it ends up being a bit small.

 
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paul wheaton wrote:Lots of good points.  

Another thing that is inching back into my memory is the idea that if the door is mounted on the side of the solarium, it can be a full size door.  But if it is mounted in the garage door frame, then it ends up being a bit small.



That shouldn't be an issue. Most garage doors are 7 feet tall, so 84 inches, and a standard man door is 80 inches.

My only suggestion is to not overlook parking areas. It takes a bit of room to park a car, and is also very important from a safety standpoint.

Our local school, designed by architect's; had beautiful lawns and landscaping, but woefully inadequate parking because of that landscaping. When there is a function at school, it is not only dangerous up there as a pedestrian, cars are parked all over the lawn to boot! And that was a 52 MILLION dollar school. The architectural firm filed for bankruptcy as soon as the state signed off on the school.
 
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Chris Kott wrote:Travis, I love the idea of producing glass on-site, but it's really, enormously energy-intensive, especially if any glazing at all can be sourced from waste streams, like sliding glass doors and such.

It's still a great idea in the long-term, but I would be focusing on glass recycling at that point rather than making glass from raw materials. We have enough recyclable glass around, and all that's needed to get the glass chemistry right is the ability to distinguish between different grades and types of glass, to do them in separate batches, rather than mineralogy and chemistry degrees as is necessary to source the raw materials reliably.



Be that as it may, I was thinking more in terms of it being a double win in that Paul could do a week-long class on making homemade windows, and thus get some funding for the solarium project. I cannot think of anywhere a homesteader would go to learn how to make their own windows out of sand. Yet in the old days, they did it here, some churches we have, have the wavy glass to prove it was homemade. So I know it is possible to do. If they did something in the 1800's here in Maine as settlers, it is possible to replicate today.

But how?

That would give the Window-Builder-Class some serious skills for their hard earned money. They pay for the Window Class, and then in the end can go back to their homesteads and make their own windows. Windows in a home costs THOUSANDS of dollars new, so to be able to make them homemade would be huge money-saver.

Paul would get the glass he needs for the project, the class tuition paid in would help fund other parts of the build that have materials costs, and the class participants get a life-long building skill that would reap thousands in window buying savings. That is a win-win-win the way I see it.

As for recycling, I always agree with recycling instead of making new, except when it comes to education. There is never anything wrong with teaching people to be able to do more for themselves.

Myself I am not a huge fan of store bought windows. Even the very, very, very best triple E, triple paned, inert gas filled windows have a R-factor of a very dismal R3. I say disgustingly again, thousands of dollars paid for a factor of R3. With that kind of performance, a homebuilder would be better to put in homemade single pane windows, install a rocket mass heater, and be well ahead of the McMansion's with loads of R3 windows that cost tens of thousands of dollars for.
 
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Dumb question,  but why not just Glaze the garage door opening and keep the existing "parking, turnaround, whatever" space . Would be a lot quicker, easier cheaper build. The garage becomes the solarium space. Then build another greenhouse in another place.
 
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I think the idea is an eye-catching first impression statement piece as well as more usable space. And it's not intended for greenhouse use, at least not primarily.
 
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Lee,

If this design was wrapped up in the next week, it might make the cut for a track at the ATC.

(This year's ATC will have at least 7 tracks)
 
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In the interest of making this possible for the ATC, what about simplifying it a bit?  Making it so that this contraption could be put on any garage door could be a draw.

The idea is to work it around standard sliding glass doors.  I have "normal" and "8 foot" doors in my greenhouse (cheap from the Habitat ReStore).  If they could be acquired, they could provide the bulk of the glazing.

My very crude sketch shows my thinking.  Put a person door on the face of the garage (thin brown lines show it in the open position).  Pick a slope for the glazing that incorporates a solid insulated roof (dark brown) that transitions to sliding glass doors (light blue) and sits on a 2' high stem wall (opaque but with vent doors).  The thin horizontal black line on the right is about how far up on the building you can go before you hit the overhang of the roof.  The rafters for the design could be roundwood with the surfaces hewn to the same flat plane for the sliding glass doors.

I showed two slopes, one for a standard sliding glass door, the other (preferred) for 8' doors is flatter.  The steeper slope gives a floor space about 4' from the current garage door, the better one is about 7' wide (per my graph paper).  The opaque roof part is partially to hold insulation and because the sun would be blocked by the wall above the garage door anyway so why waste glass on that area.

This would give plenty of light to that end of the garage and has room for a pretty deep planting bed under the glass.  It may interfere with venting though if it's very tall.  Maybe a taller stem wall would help to give more planting bed height, more head room and a flatter slope which gives more floor space.  I bet someone adept at SketchUp could really have fun with this...  
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Just found this.  Question. Which is more important esthetics or being permaculture valid?  The current design unless it is used differently than it sounds will be an energy pig.  It can be helped if the garage door is kept where it can be closed at night.  But as it is you are working to defeat nearly every major principle of solar design in it.  The footing can't be insulated because the materials, location and design make it impossible.  The floor of the solarium has a low mass insulator put over it so it can't store heat.  The floor needs to be thermal mass of some sort be it brick, tile or concrete rather than wood.The glazing for heat loss is huge with no storage.  The design will be hard to implement.  Because of lack of footing heaving will happen.  There are basically 2 valid ways to stop this.  1. is standard foundation that extends below the frost line.  2 Rubble foundation with good drain and long overhangs to try and keep moisture away from the wall.  Neither is directly possible here.

So what if we changed it.  First question is the door necessary there or is a convenience.  The problem is that if the garage door is closed to keep the heat in at night then is if the door is necessary.  Assuming that is true can a door be placed in the end wall of the garage instead?  Same space taken if you count your outdoor wooden sidewalk in the plan.   But increased glazed area.   Night time entry vestibule created and done correctly more sun into garage during the day because of greater glazing.  At the same time shrink the front wall back to a straight vertical wall of glass roughly 4 feet out from the building.  Next piece of this build a new satellite bracket so you can go high with it.   This isn't something you should build around.  Now you have room to run a sloped normal roof down from the wall high.  You may have to dub its high corners off a bit.  If the solarium is 4 feet wide and the desired max sun angle is 45 degrees that means the glazing will need to go 2.8 feet higher than that and if the roof was also a 45 angled the other way to mount solar panels that would give a total height above the garage door of 5.6 ft  That means you would have a 3 angle roof.  The nice thing about doing it this way is construction other than the ground area is pretty standard.  A strong vertical wall is far easier to make.

If you are going with curved construction DON'T go 2x2.  It is nowhere near heavy enough.  Likely need 2x4 minimum and personally I would not go less than 2x6 with your greater snow loads there.  If done in wood you have options but none of them meet your requirements in the short term.  You can steam bend strips and glue them in to arched boards.  Advantage strength and size.  disadvantage glue.   you can built nailer beams laminating the boards the other direction and then sawing to a curve.  Meets healthy standards but the beams will need to be far larger.  Probably about 6 x 8 to compensate for the lack of glue and poorer construction.  Another answer is to plan ahead like and english shipwright of about 500 years ago.  They went into the forest and bent trees while young to the desired shape and then let them grow up bent in shape.  Probably you are looking at a decade or more till you can harvest trees for this project if you go that route.  Advantage strong, healthy and very holistic looking design.  Disadvantages are lots of work to make the beams fit glass and time to grow the tree to the desired shape and strength.

Now for the glass you are doing overhead glass in your design.  For safety reasons overhead glass at the very least needs to be tempered and ideally it is also laminated.  Why?  Because if it is plain plate glass over head and a bird or ball or something hit is a knife like shard can fall.  You have some permie peacefully resting in a chair under it when it happens and you could end up with permanently peaceful permie.  So tempering causes it to break into lots of little shards.  Risk reduced by not eliminated.  That is why the preferred answer for skylights etc is both tempered and laminated like a windshield.  PS here there is a green house in the midwest that they made out of mini van windshields.  Bit ugly and it is tinted glass are its downside.  But they got the windshield for the labor of removing them and the other windows in the car before recycling.

As for ventilation the greenhouse books are suggesting for natural ventilation that 1/3 of the area of the floor is needed in ventilation to cool naturally.   So for every 100 square feet of floor space you will need 15 square feet air in and 15 square feet air out with a good design for stack effect to pull from one to the other. I will second whoever said that perennials will block a lot more light than you think in winter.  Now I had wondered if it is possible to build a trellis that would let you fold them down or accordion them down so they didn't block the light.  It would take careful wrapping and tying for that to work.

Now here is a suggestion for a possible ground level construction.  It uses double layer membrane to try and generate a dry dirt insulating layer that also provides some mass for heat storage.  It creates a step up in the solarium floor so planters outside the wall will shield less of the floor from sunlight.  It puts a mass surface in the solarium that is dark in color for heat absorption The glass is vertical so it can be about any glass.  It leaves the garage door so you can close it at night in winter.  Putting most of the mass inside the insulated building.  If you can salvage a bunch of windows you can open that would give you ventilation.
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Mike Haasl
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Hi C, good post!  A couple details that I think could influence your design...  

I believe they want to have this as extra bunk space if a big event is happening during the colder seasons.  So I'm guessing the garage door can't close in those circumstances.  They'll probably put in a RMH so that should add some heating capability and mass.

I believe the bedrock is a couple inches underground so frost heaving shouldn't be a problem.  Just scrape away the gravel and you have your 275,000,000 lb footing ready to go.  Insulating it is a different problem...

For a curve, taking thin strips of wood and bending them around a form and screwing them together works and is low cost.  I did the same with four thin strips of wood and chunks of 2x6.  I did use glue but extra screws could have done the trick.

For ventilation space, I don't really know how much they'll need.  The whole volume of the garage is helping to average out the overheating.  It will be interesting to see how much vent area they need.  Better to err on the side of extra.
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