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A farmhouse for three families  RSS feed

 
                    
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I have this probably crazy idea that people are greatly influenced by their environment.  I'm mostly finished reading Jared Diamond's book "Guns, Germs, and Steel" and in it he does a very good job arguing that the differences in people on different continents is not due to large differences in the people themselves, but rather the important differences in environment that each continent offers. 

Along those same kind of lines, when I lived in Boston, I saw and was told all about a group of section-8 (government subsidy) housing, designed by an architect who believed that if you gave people something nicer to live in than glorified fema trailers stacked atop one another (that's what most section-8 housing resembles in boston), the dwellers might be able to have a better quality of life.  Apparently, his pretty neat-looking design was effective in lowering the crime rate of those particular buildings (compared to "normal" S-8 housing) and people generally thrived - held down jobs longer, got off welfare altogether, that kind of thing.  His goal was to give people a place that was nice enough to care about, which in turn made them feel taken care of, which in turn helped them want to contribute to society in a positive way.  I wish I knew the exact architect and everything, but I don't and am too lazy to look it up.  Also, that's not really why I started this thread.

So, with that in mind, I have the idea that a community of people might be better able to tolerate living together if they were sharing a house that was thoughtfully designed to accommodate the needs of the group and the individual. 

There are many benefits of people sharing the same roof (see other thread).  But how to offer genuinely private AND productive public space for the dwellers?  I think that people are turned off by is the "lack of privacy" in house-shares, but I don't think that has to be part and parcel to sharing a house, if the house were designed properly. 

We've been discussing plans....I might draw up and photograph a floor plan of the first incarnation of what we've been talking about.  Any verbal ideas in the mean time?
 
Jami McBride
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marina phillips wrote:

So, with that in mind, I have the idea that a community of people might be better able to tolerate living together if they were sharing a house that was thoughtfully designed to accommodate the needs of the group and the individual. 

There are many benefits of people sharing the same roof (see other thread).  But how to offer genuinely private AND productive public space for the dwellers?  I think that people are turned off by is the "lack of privacy" in house-shares, but I don't think that has to be part and parcel to sharing a house, if the house were designed properly. 



Excellent idea!  Let's see if I remember - you wanted less distance between living quarters, less paths to walk and centralized plumbing, heating and such for efficiency.

I couple of layouts I've seen come to mind
(1) the pie - with central courtyard and the units coming off like slices of a pie.  Water catchment, filtration and dispersal happens in the central courtyard/green house.  Showers and baths could be put there too, with simple compost toilets and sinks in each unit.  The thing I didn't like about this plan was it's southern exposure, I don't feel it takes enough advantage of passive solar gain, but I guess someone could tweak it.

(2) Something along the lines of the Pueblo Indians in New Mexico is what this next one reminded me of - the structures I saw were built on a hill side that faced south, around the 40° latitude I think.  They were stacked in some cases, side by side in others, but all so close as to make the paths part of the structure(s).  Some buildings were community structures.  In this case the water was collected/diverted from the hillside above - a gravity fed set up.  Terrace type gardens were everywhere.  The hill wasn't, or didn't appear, to steep as far as I can remember.

Okay - now to share my favorite place to collect house plans for converting into my cob dreams - http://www.balewatch.com/  This place has several plans that would work nicely for group housing with some modification.  Check out the eyelash house, semi circle that could face south for lots of exposure.


 
                    
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I originally liked the courtyard idea, but then everyone is looking in at each other.  Also, I want a design where no one has to go outside to use the bathroom or shower.  And, yeah, how do you make the thing solar friendly? 

That hillside sounds amazing. 

I've seen/heard of some designs with a circular (or central) shared living room/kitchen area, and the doors to the various private rooms are positioned around this.  But imagine your roommates are having a party and you're sick and want to sleep.  Your bedroom opens right into all the activity.  I'm not really attracted to that idea. 

The design we worked on today has a large kitchen on the east end which is open to a large living space.  The shower room (with two stalls and two shower heads in each stall, plus a bath tub and two sinks) takes up part the west end of the living room and seperates the public space from the eastern wing. 

This "bedroom" wing is fifty feet long, has a long wide (6 ft) hallway with three parental bedrooms (10x15 each, with foot thick walls) on one side.  In between each of these bedrooms is a narrow "semi-public" space, 8 feet wide, that the bedroom doors open into.  Across the hallway are the children's rooms, four of them that are about 6x12 ft, and they also have semi public spaces that mirror the spaces between the parent's rooms.  In this way, the sliding glass door windows on the front of the house can light up the north side of the house where the kids are.  There are two toilet rooms on either end of the hallway, next to the children's rooms.  We figured kids could share when they were young, and send them up to the attic when they reach teenagehood. 
 
Ken Peavey
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I think families and partying youths don't work together well. 

If parties are on the agenda, consider a shack in the back of the property.  A simple boxstove for the cold season, the old busted couch, and an outhouse can go a long way to setting this up. 
 
                    
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Uh, I didn't mean that there would be partying going on in the farm house.  Strictly ho-downs. 
 
Ken Peavey
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This is off topic, but I'm just getting to my morning coffee so I insist I can get away with it.

A robber runs into a dance studio to hold the people up for money.  He pulls out his gun and yells "EVERYONE GET DOWN" 
 
                    
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HAHAHA!  nearly spit chai all over the keyboard, thanks. 

I made the bedroom wing part of the house in google sketch up.  If you have the program (and it's free and useful!) you can download and view it here: 



https://docs.google.com/leaf?id=0B8FAVD31EZ-jOTg3NGYxNjQtZGU0Ny00NTM0LWFmMGItNjk2NDkyY2YxNmY3&hl=en

We're planning for a timber framed structure, hence the right angles and lack of curves (sorry cobbers - we don't have enough clay or patience for that).  Keeping in mind that our plan for heating is radiant floor, otherwise the well insulated adult spaces would be ice boxes.  The idea is that this is the "bedroom" wing, and that there is a large greatroom/kitchen off the edge where the wall doesn't exist.  A shower room right next to the eastern bedroom would provide a bit of dead air between the public greatroom and bedroom wing.  The larger bedrooms are on the southern wall, and are for adults, with foot thick walls.  The 8 foot wide anti-chambers between them are designed for sound privacy and to provide a semi-public space for people to hang in, without going into their private rooms.  Book, coat, shoe storage maybe.  They also let sunlight back into the north half of the house (there are sliding glass doors to the outside in each of the anti-chambers).  The smaller rooms are the kids quarters.  We figured the younger kids could bunk in shared rooms until they don't like that idea anymore (the central two rooms could even be one larger room), then chop up the attic for teenagers who need more space.  And again, the spaces between the kids rooms could be play space, toy/clothing storage, etc.  The two small rooms on either end of the hallway are toilets with a sink.

In all honesty Ken, I wasn't thinking that there would be big rowdy "PAAAAARRRTYYYY!!!" type parties happening in our farmhouse, but there will definitely be celebrations, dances, large potlucks, etc.  And I suppose they could become rowdy with a healthy supply of mead for the farmer folks.....

If you have a sick baby who wants to sleep during an event like this, it's important that you can get away from the action of the public space.  Creating walls with good insulating and sound proofing/absorbing material is a start (we're attracted to light earth - woodchips and clay).  Keeping the bedrooms in a separate, quiet wing of the house will help create a feeling of isolation, even if it's not "real" isolation. 

The entire house is about 3,000 square feet, but we could get away with just building the "public space" ourselves and put a temporary bedroom in that half of the house while we find other people as nuts as ourselves.  THEN we build the west wing for the crowd. 
 
                    
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And here's the whole house, mostly.  I didn't draw the loft over the kitchen area because it would have made it hard to see that side of the house, so the stairs lead to no where.  The roof line is suggested because drawing the whole thing in would have made visibility difficult as well. 

The portion that juts out in front of the house is the green house area, with the curved (rock) wall acting as the thermal mass for solar gain in the house.  It's a water garden, so I tried to draw some tank looking things in there.  (I learned how to use sketch up this morning....) 

The odd shaped room in the middle of the house is the shower room, with two stalls.  We want to put a tub in there too.....might need a redesign (ya think?)  The rock wall has a fire place in it on the living room (north) side - that's the bump next to the bathroom.  The long thing in the great room is a dining table where 17 people can sit.  The kitchen is defined by the curved counter, the stove is in the middle of that section and looks out into the great room.  Sinks are in the counter on the south wall, and the island completes the work triangle.

I tried to make all doors and windows holes in the walls, but sometimes that didn't work out that way, and you can't do that on curved surfaces so I just drew circles to represent windows and a flat drawing of the front door on the green house wall. 

https://docs.google.com/leaf?id=0B8FAVD31EZ-jZWE1ZTM2OWUtNzNjOS00NzhmLTg3ZDgtNWIxNjFmMDlhMWQx&hl=en
 
                        
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Hi Marina!

As I mentioned in the other thread I have lived with archeological crews in a number of family dwellings which were confiscated for industrial development .  There is one in particular that comes to mind that we lived in.  It is in  rural Tennessee.  The general plan of these farmhouses is that they are two story with 2 or 3 rooms on each side of a large central hallway on each floor.  There is a large double story porch across the front of the building so that there is access of the hallway on each level to the balcony on the 3nd floor or the main verandah on the first floor.

Kitchens were often detached and may originally have been 'servants quarters' not actually occupied by members of the family.

In the Tennessee house that I am referring to, sisters had married brothers and there were two of these houses one on each side of a large central courtyard.  The old sisters still lived in the old kitchen and I had a chance to talk to them about the families that had lived in the houses.

Each sister and her husband had their own house but her/his sister/brother  and their family were only a few steps away.  Both families had a large number of children.  The sisters were very proud of their families and the way they had raised their children 'separate but still sharing with cousins' on each side of the courtyard.
 
                        
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This is a Southern town house -- not a Sdouthern farmhouse but the general layout is the same --- large central hall way, 4 rooms on each floor-two on each side of the large hall way, a front balcony and wide veranda.
There is a courtyard in the back which had the well and brick paves for working on kitchen projects out side.  A two story kitchen -- separated from the main house.

The farmhouses in Tenn were the same general plan but placed at right angles around the courtyard.

Magnolia Grove  (I worked as a tour guide here for several years so I know it very well).

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Magnolia_Grove_(Greensboro,_Alabama)

O.K. the link does not work.  If you Google Magnolia Grove Greensboro, Al.  wikimedia you will get the page.  There are several HABS photos on that page.

Actually this house traditional had 2 families or more in it at any given time.  The original builders invited a niece and her husband to live with them after the civil war.  There were 5 children who brought their families to live there off and on over the years.  In the end the old sisters and brothers lived in the house.



 
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