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Facing a House East, Not South

 
pollinator
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The top of the hill and the north- southcounty road are on the West. My view and privacy are East. I will put my shipping container tiny house part way down the hill and berm up on the west side of it to protect it some from the late afternoon sun.  I'm in the northern hemisphere at latitude 35. Summers are brutally hot. My question is: Is the southeast side of the hill going to protect me the most from the hot afternoon summer sun, as opposed to the due east side of the hill?
 
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I have to ask about plans for porches  and awnings.  Also, your location raises another question.  I live in a tornado area, and the person who built the house I live in put it on the east side of a hill just below the Crest.  Tornados have skipped over my house.  My  house faces southwest. Not the best direction for the sun. But the porch is genius.  In the summer the sun is above the porch roof. In the winter the sun dips under the level of the porch roof.
 
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Great question, Denise.  My house faces west with the back patio on the east.  I have in the past wished it was the other way around.  I never see the wonderful star that can be seen from the back patio.

I hate the south side because of the heat and the north side stay shady though it is not useful because that is where we park the cars and has the driveway.

I am mostly on the top of the mountain so I know nothing about protection.  We do have trees on the south side though they do not offer any shade.
 
denise ra
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Where the point of the red arrow is is where I think I should put the house. According to the contour map I am already 20 feet down from the top of the hill on my side of the N-S road. If I berm above the house from southwest to northeast, or perhaps even north to south, I think I will be shaded from the June-September late afternoon sun. Can anyone confirm that? Any porches or awnings will not be attached to the roof because tornadoes love to use large overhangs as leverage to take the whole roof off. I also have to put in a plug for CalTopo free map program - it's so much fun to play with!
CalTopo-contour-map-with-slope-shading.png
[Thumbnail for CalTopo-contour-map-with-slope-shading.png]
 
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Out in southwest Navajos face their houses east to greet the sun.By midday the sun is above your house by evening it's behind you.Earthen shelters earthbermed even just an earthen roof will be much cooler in your climate.A Shade house porch our also a nice addition built very cheaply.
 
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What are you winter temperatures like?
How much will you miss some winter solar gain?
I admit if I had a choice I would try for facing south-east as a compromise, and count on using a hugel berm with trees on top near the road to help with the sun. A "metal" house tends to heat up more than a proper attic would, but if you earth berm the west wall +/- the roof as well, designed sort of like a WOFATI it might actually moderate the temps by absorbing and giving off the heat in a slow cycle. From my past experiences, it is the definitely the west wall and west windows the crank up the temperature.

I totally approve of thinking in terms of tornado risk in designing your home. Something like an arbor with a vine growing over it shading the south side from the summer sun but not risking the building if/when a tornado comes through would appeal to me.
 
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An exact south-facing wall naturally receives less sun in summer and more in winter. An east-facing wall, like a west-facing wall, receives a lot of sun in summer, as the sun rises and sets far to the north of east or west, and spends a lot of time shining on the east wall in the morning and the west wall in afternoon. But a porch would help a lot, it's true.
 
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In summer, the sun will be so high that it will shine on the north wall in early morning and late afternoon, as well as on the east or west wall. You will have no need to protect from the southwest sun; that will only be prominent in winter when you want the warmth. Porches and overhangs are your friends, when tailored to your specific circumstances. A north-south berm would probably give the best combination of road screening and late afternoon summer sun protection. I would arrange it to not block winter late afternoon sun from hitting your house. There is nothing like your house suddenly getting cold and dark while the hills are still in bright sun.
 
Glenn Herbert
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You mention shading from the "June - September afternoon sun"; as that is asymmetric to the solar seasons, I think you would get better results from relying more on trees planted to the west and northwest. They will be in leaf from late May or early June depending on species and climate, until September or October, better matching the shading desires.
 
denise ra
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It concerns me to face the container south as tornadoes come from the southwest. Trees don't grow quickly on the plains, if at all, but I will try. I like Glenn's idea of the N-S berm but not blocking winter late afternoon sun. I can't berm up against the container as I'm sensitive to mold. Winter temps can be in the 20s or 30s in December or January. But the wind blows constantly so today 51 is cold. I will have no openings on the west side for heat gain, just french doors on the long east side and a door/window on the short south end. For tornadoes I would like to be on the north side of the hill but that's too cold.
 
Jay Angler
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May I ask a question about the risks of a tornado on a container house - how are you going to anchor it to the ground?  I know where I live we get some bad winds but nothing like the risk from tornadoes and hurricanes, but there are still modern code requirements related to how we attach the roof to the walls, and ensuring that the house itself is firmly attached to the foundation. I say "modern" but I think the new codes are a couple of decades old - our local risk is earthquakes and I'm still not impressed by what I would consider inadequate standards in too many places where the risk is high. In many cases, I feel it's important to look at what the "codes" are intended to protect you from, and plan your building accordingly. You may want to build something that the code doesn't cover because it's experimental or uncommon (for example: cob homes may be rare in North America, but have been around for hundreds of years if not longer in Britain) so our codes may not cover best practices, but I'm sure it is possible to do the engineering to determine how to build them safely. To me, part of permaculture is building to last generations so that the embodied energy of the material and building process is extended over a long time. I personally believe that the current trend for houses that are only intended to last about 70 years is wrong on way too many levels, and people who practice permaculture will hopefully lead a shift in attitude.
 
denise ra
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Jay, I am going to build concrete piers which have a wide foot in the ground and weld the container to imbedded steel plates which have 4 bent hooks sticking in the concrete.  What I haven't found is how deep to bury the piers. I chose container over RV because of wind.

Current building codes and practices in tornado areas are shameful. So much wasted resources when buildings don't hold up to small tornadoes. It costs $500 to make a house tornado- resistant.
 
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The answer to how deep to bury the piers is... IT DEPENDS.

The amount of uplift they can withstand depends on the specific soil around them.

To get the best uplift value for the least concrete, you want to use a bell auger after the regular post hole auger.  That creates a wider hole at the bottom than the top with disturbing the native soil (better strength from undisturbed soil than backfill.) That way the piers are locked in the ground and wedge themselves tighter if they get pulled on.

 
pollinator
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Denise

> wind resistance

Some thoughts based on what I learned seismic retrofitting a 100yr/old house south of San Francisco - I am not a pro about this stuff. If I were looking, I'd be sure to check codes and "better than" designs for Florida and Kansas(!).

There is good science on connecting building structures. I wouldn't be surprised if you find a direct answer to you Q with a little google time - otherwise, the general principles would help know which next Q's to pursue.  If you haven't already, finding what others have done with containers already, specifically, viz connecting the container to the pylon, might be a good idea, also; good practice might involve bridging several structural members in the container so the load from a single attachment is spread. Containers are not dime-a-dozen as "buildings", but they're not uncommon either - so there may be some explicit on point info out there.

Are you going to place the container directly on the ground? Compacted sand/gravel for drainage? If raised, will it be on grade beams (beams on top of pylons)?

Again, just thoughts on general directions to look...  R-Scott said it - Depends. Particularly on the soil. There are specific calculations which use the building size, weight, soil type, spacing of connectors and wind strength to calculate the uplift and type of below ground installation needed to control it. Those calculations should be available and usable for a container, even though they would be over-kill since they're created for much larger structures. There are also roof structure calculations for determining how best to keep a roof attached to the building in strong winds. These might matter if you install a "roof-over" on top the container and/or a porch.

An even better bang/buck approach might well involve protecting the container with sloped berms to direct winds over/around the structure instead of exposing it directly.  Again, there is existing science/engineering for this.

> building orientation
I had occasion a few years ago to look up relative solar input east vs. west. Surprisingly, tests show that eastern solar is just as hot as western solar, sometimes more so. However, since we experience western solar after a full day of warming, it's much more noticeable comfortwise. Peak temps are higher because they're "starting" higher.


Regards,
Rufus
 
denise ra
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Great leads Rufus Laggren! Today would be a good day to have a berm on the south, winds 25 and gusting to 35.

That bell auger sounds just right, I didn't know there was such a thing, but it a lot of sense. I'll have to look up how to get rebar down in there.

It's not unheard of in the northern hemisphere to face a House North if Cooling is more crucial than warming. That was my first idea in part to protect from tornadoes on a northward facing slope of some sort. Of course the winds also come straight out of the North and are very cold in the winter when they do.
 
R Scott
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If you can't find a bell auger, you can do a trench footing, a 3-4 foot wide 10-12 foot long trench that is the footing for both piers on that end of the box.  Easy work with a backhoe or trackhoe but takes 2-3x more concrete.  I think you need like 12 inches of weld per corner, that that it's my sketchy memory and not code.  I know with that much weld the weak link would probably be how the plates are attached to the concrete and rebar.  

I can tell you what it takes to upgrade a stick framed house to 140 mph wind rating and the foundation and walls don't really change--mostly it's how you attach the walls to the foundation. $500 for materials for a fairly big house
 
Rufus Laggren
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Here's a short study of tornado mitigation. It includes berms.

https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/cda1/38bfc44ea41cefe565a0ed4f2944884f16ad.pdf


Rufus
 
Jay Angler
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Rufus Laggren wrote:

Here's a short study of tornado mitigation. It includes berms.

That is an excellent PDF, Rufus! Much of what the fellow says makes so much sense to me, although I recognize he's writing for typical North Americans who think they need 3 bathrooms for 3 people! At least he's also writing for people who want to build once and have the house survive what nature can throw at it.

Of course there are things I'd like to find a more natural solution for:
1. I suspect that the reason that the SIP panels get a good rating is the same reason they use solid foam in bike helmets - they work because the force is absorbed by crushing the foam. However, that made me wonder if SIP panel shutters wouldn't be a cheaper solution to the window problem. It sounds as if he's only concerned with the windows on the side of the house facing the storm. I understand that tornadoes can't be as reliably predicted as hurricanes, but I would think that the same weather that produced tornadoes, would be the same weather when one would benefit from closing the shutters on the at-risk sides of the house to keep the sun and heat out?
2. I liked his studies that showed the benefits of berms, but I picture them as hugels!
3. denise ra mentioned that getting trees to grow in her area is difficult, but I've seen that technique of supporting larger trees, by getting wind-tolerant shrubs established first, and that made me wonder if she were to build a hugel and get the trees established on the lee slope, would that work - eventually they would grow taller than the hugel and provide more slowing of the wind?
4. I've read elsewhere in the past that wind is slowed more by a "leaky" barrier (fences with gaps or plants) than a solid one, but that a solid one could be better at diverting the wind. It sounds as if for a tornado a solid one is important because you're not only worried about the wind, but about all the things it's picked up and happy to throw at you!
5. I wonder how a WOFATI would work in tornado country?
6. I did notice that neither cob, nor earthbag building were mentioned. So long as they were designed with windows and doors situated appropriately, I wonder how they would fair. The walls are much thicker and more massive, so I suspect they'd do much better than conventional "stick built".
 
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Denise,

Lots of great information here.  I did build my house facing south, but I did intentionally have some Easter exposure as well.  

I like having morning light.  If your home gets too hot in the morning I suggest that you get creative with shading.  We do have a couple of west facing sliding glass doors and they used to get hot, but we recently installed a retractable awning and that does wonders to block hot, direct sunlight while still letting in ambient lighting.

I would second the notion about strategically planting some shade trees.  We are even thinking about planting a small shade tree in a half whisky barrel just to provide some mobile shade.

For my part, I think that Southern orientation is best, but if you cannot get Southern orientation, I think eastern orientation is next best.  Western exposure is terribly hot in summer afternoons, something I learned from our last house.

Eric
 
Rufus Laggren
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> ...wind... things picked to throw at you...

That's my understanding as well. In fact as I recall, that is THE most dangerous part of high wind storms. Anything the comes loose becomes a javelin or canon ball fired downwind that penetrates walls and trivially blows threw most doors and windows, even with shutters. When winds get above 100 mph, that becomes thought provoking.

Which means that what's upwind of your shelter needs careful evaluation indeed. I like trees, but I'm not sure if I'd have them upwind in places known for winds over 40-50mph. But been 30 years, since I spent time to research wind vs. structure and I don't retain the details -  maybe there are methods or types of vegetation which _could_ be planted upwind to help provide a safe shadow.

> morning sun..

YEAH! Dig that golden wake-up shaft! <g>


Cheers,
Rufus
 
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