• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

Best type of building for New Hampshire?  RSS feed

 
Judy Saunders
Posts: 5
Location: Sullivan County, NH
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hello, please pardon my newbie-ness and if this has already been answered somewhere, please direct me there. I live in western NH and we are trying to determine the best building method for a home. We need a lot of space with 6 kids, and I have a basic floor plan in mind, but we don't know whether we should go for straw bale, earth bag, rammed earth, poured concrete, etc. We do want to finish it up as an earth-bermed house, with a turf roof. I really like the aesthetics of the hobbit house in Wales. We have no experience with alternative building, and very little experience with traditional timber framing, though my husband has put on asphalt shingle roofs. What factors should we take into consideration? We currently expect to be able to purchase a property in the spring, so ideas on what features we should look for would be appreciated, too. We will most likely be buying in either Sullivan or Cheshire Counties. Thank you.

Judy
 
Jay C. White Cloud
Posts: 2413
46
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Judy,

Well, for all practical necessities, we are "neighbors," I live in Thetford, Vermont. So I would be glad to answer all your question and give you whatever guidance I can. I make my living building and consulting on historical restoration, and traditional (natural) building methods. A good 1/4 of my time is dedicated to educating the next generation and writing about the subject.

What factors should we take into consideration?
Well...all of them, as that is what our ancestors did, and I might add they did it much better than we seem to be doing, perhaps because they live by their wits and relationship to the land around them.

Your question about building is very nebulous, but a good question to ask none the less. I will extend you the advice to give me a call so we might narrow down the field of options and your interests. Look forward to talking with you. (just look at the bottom for my contact info or Google my full name.)

Regards,

jay
 
Miles Flansburg
steward
Posts: 4068
Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
186
bee books forest garden fungi greening the desert hugelkultur
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Howdy Judy, welcome to permies.
I think you just got very lucky with having Jay nearby !
 
Judy Saunders
Posts: 5
Location: Sullivan County, NH
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thank you Jay. More specifically, we currently live in Lempster, which is half an hour southeast of Claremont, so we are about an hour or so apart.

For factors to take into consideration, I know we should consider sun exposure, but I guess I want to know what we should look for in terms of bedrock (considering it just sticks up out of the ground around here) pr anything else like that. Will strawbales be warm enough with New England winters? Is thermal mass or R-value more important? Solar heating is definitely on our list of desired features.

I'm just new enough that I don't know how much I don't know. Are we in over our heads? We have strong backs and are willing to put in the work, but we need direction.
 
Jay C. White Cloud
Posts: 2413
46
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Judy,

Passive solar is great when it works well, most often (after ten years of services life) window often are more of a heat loss the gain. I am not saying don't design for it, just know to do it well, will cost money, especially on a large home. Fenestration to any architecture is important for not only natural light but general anesthetics as well. I tend to design in the vernacular for a region or climate, and if I what to "catch sun" will build a sun room or green house on or near the architecture.

I love bed rock in general as I try to use no concrete of very little as possible. In most cases it can be avoided. You are getting ahead of yourself if you have not got the land yet or, if you do, where you plan on building and what other infrastructure you will have/need. I love the enthusiasm of folks trying to "do there own thing" and move "back to the land" but so often I see an over romanticizing of it, and not good planing, projecting and logistics. SB is good where there is a good source of straw, and we really don't have that in general, so I find SB not that an environmentally responsible material if you are trucking it more that 20 miles (10 even). Slip formed clay chip and other earth based architecture is grand and has global roots, but is extremely labor intensive.

We need to get you ducks lined up before you start running around looking at everything. You should look, and read as much as you want for educational and recreational purposes, but for the logistical planning of your homestead, you need to get this done succinctly and efficiently. We are all in over our heads, so don't worry about that so much, just try slowing down a bit and organize your thoughts. The more you plan the better the design, the better the design of everything the more efficiently it will function. Here are some questions to get you going.

Do you have the land yet?

What is it's biome and topography like?

How big a space do you need to be comfortable for yourself, and plan for future changes and generations?
(Remember, most homes are going to cost a minimum of $75 per square foot and go up from there, and that is just you material cost on a national average, so plan for that, if not more.)

Will you practice permaculture?

To what level and degree?

Will this be part of the living environment?

What skill sets do you have?

Can one or more people in your collective family work more than 50 hours per week on the homestead? If not, how will you plan on building?


Answer these questions and we will get some focus in this discussion a little better.

Regards,

jay
 
Judy Saunders
Posts: 5
Location: Sullivan County, NH
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
We do not have land yet. We expect to be able to buy in the spring. That is one reason I am trying to figure things out now -- so we can look for the right features to fit what we want to do. There is a 5 acre lot currently available that I like, but it might not still be available in 6 months, so I am not counting on it.

Our 6 kids range in age from 2 to 17. The oldest is planning on moving out on her own next summer, so that will leave the next oldest at 14. I would like (for family harmony's sake) to give each child their own (tiny) room. It would be excellent to double them up, but I think they would kill each other. I like open concept design for the common rooms. My ideal layout includes greenhouses comprising the south wall of the house and a root cellar. The house we currently live in (my mother's) is about 2000 sq. ft. and this seems just the right size. We moved up from 1000 sq. ft. which was definitely too small for 8 people. The kids are in three singles and a double room (that we carved out from the enormous living room by using bookshelves as walls), and the toddler is in our room.

We do plan on practicing permaculture. We want to supply as much as of our own food as possible, with chickens, a few cattle for milk and meat, rabbits, and a garden. We have a dog and plan to get a cat. We've been told we should get a llama. Sheep are not really on my radar. I want a field with lots of wildflowers, and forest from which we can harvest deadwood for a woodstove for heat and cooking. Windpower is a very viable option (our town has a commercial wind farm). We want to live as an integral part of the land. I spent 6 years of my childhood with neither electricity nor running water. I look back fondly on those years.

Skill sets: When I was 8 I watched my parents build a small house (I even helped hold nails and such) that we lived in for 3 years. I am quite handy - I have built some few pieces of furniture for us (a roll-out pantry, a dining table, a tall chair for the younger kids, etc.). I am a seamstress by training and have pretty good 3D spatial skills. My husband has helped his father with light maintenance on his rental properties and reshingling roofs. He is comfortable working with 110 electricity as long as he doesn't have to mess with the box. We replaced almost the entire indoor sewer lines in my mother's house last summer. He ran ethernet cable through the house, too.

My husband works full time right now, and I just left my part-time job to take care of our toddler during the day. I am quite happy to put in hours of labor. My oldest said she is willing to help out with manual labor, too, if necessary, even after she moves out.
 
Jay C. White Cloud
Posts: 2413
46
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Judy,

With your time constraints I must assume you are going to hire someone to do most of the design, and construction? A simple 2000 square foot home will require the full time attention of 4 competent builders at least 3 months of labor (1920 man hours) and that is a minimum. I need to understand you projected timelines and "move in date." If you plan on doing this all yourselves great, but that will be a minimum of 18 months or more. You still have the burden of permitting and reasonable design criteria which can not be done even mediocrely with out the land and house site selected. I do want you to be successful but at the same time realistic about the cost and time burden this undertaking will require.

Regards,

jay
 
Judy Saunders
Posts: 5
Location: Sullivan County, NH
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Oh Jay, you've burst my bubble.

We wanted to build it ourselves and not hire anyone more than absolutely necessary. We don't have the money to pay someone for it. I understand it will take a lot of time and effort. Spring is when we are hoping to buy the land, not when we are planning to move into a house. We expect we will have to rough it for a while during the construction process, and are hoping to get exterior walls and roof up as quickly as possible and then finish the inside while living in it. I have heard of families living in the basement while building the house above them, but we weren't planning on a basement. I have lived in less. My main time goal is to have something to keep us dry by next winter (2014). So about 6 to 8 months of buildable time. That's why I don't expect to get much more than just walls and a roof up.
 
Jay C. White Cloud
Posts: 2413
46
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Sorry to do that..not my intention at all. I do have to keep it real, and what I see the most of in this end of permaculture, is romanticizing a building processes, and underestimating the effort and cost it takes to build. You still may be able to have success, but you must over estimate you projected costs and time lines, nut underestimate. This is why so many homes built today are coming out of factories and off assembly lines, thrown together with nail guns and 2x stock. It gives our "consumer culture," near instant housing, and no one can argue with the speed, but quality is a different matter entirely.

Your home, no matter who builds it, will have a minimum of 1500 man hours to bring it to a minimum turn key level of occupancy, in almost all architectural modalities, and regardless of materials, sorry but that is the truth of it. I will gladly keep answering questions, but you must get you plan organized for me to be of any great value.
 
And now I present magical permaculture hypno cards. The idea is to give them to people that think all your permaculture babble is crazy talk. And be amazed as they apologize for the past derision, and beg you for your permaculture wisdom. If only there were some sort of consumer based event coming where you could have an excuse to slip them a deck ... richsoil.com/cards
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!