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Closely spaced "umbrella" homes.  RSS feed

 
Len Ovens
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Location: Vancouver Island
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I have been thinking about how we change the land and environment with our projects. Part of my family lives in Calgary Ab Canada. And had their house flooded last year. This house is over 100 years old and this is the first flood it has seen. I grew up in Calgary and it is a sprawling city and still growing... What I see is that water that would normally have an opportunity to soak into the ground are caught by roofs and streets(and sidewalks) and routed to sewers and into the rivers that overflowed. Considering a city lot that is 50x100 feet (yes some are that small) and a 50foot width of road in front and a roof that is 1200sqft, that is a large percentage of rainfall that is being sent to the sewer. Calgary is not a wet city. I moved away because the dry air gave me nose bleeds.

Other places use the ground water so much the level of the land has fallen.

So what about house styles that use an umbrella of sealing material to keep a large chunk of earth dry to use as mass? I think most of these are built outside the city to allow proper siting or less code problems or because the builder who wants something like this is looking to be off grid. But what if someone decided to create a PAHS subdivision? It would seem that the underground umbrellas would tend to interconnect (drainage would be more of a problem too). Would this make runoff problems even worse? What would happen to the ground water level?

On the plus side interconnected umbrellas would work really well. In fact (assuming the sides are facing the next house) if the sides are connected then probably the front and back parts could be less than 20 feet. A 20ft umbrella increases the house foot print 3 to 4 times (or more).

Would a single floor four-plex need less umbrella? Or to rephrase, does the need for thermal mass go down with inside area? While I do know of a successful small high mass home with seemingly very small umbrella, it is built on a rock ledge (granite I think) and that may have the effect of creating a very large heat mass without an umbrella. Would making the heat storage lower help? are there correct ways of landscaping over top of the heat storage?

I love the idea of staying comfortable without using fuel, but maybe this will not "save the world". I will not even start into the question of how large should a city be? The idea of a PAHS house is lighten the load on earth so it lasts longer, I think we need to be careful in the design to make sure it does.
 
R Scott
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The duplex/fourplex idea is good, because you basically need the same perimeter of umbrella from the edge of the building. But keep in mind that the area goes up as the square of the distance, so it isn't as much savings as you think.

 
Len Ovens
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R Scott wrote:The duplex/fourplex idea is good, because you basically need the same perimeter of umbrella from the edge of the building. But keep in mind that the area goes up as the square of the distance, so it isn't as much savings as you think.



I am having second thoughts myself. First I think the four suites would have to be in a row rather than square as I had originally envisioned so that each suite has at least the chance to collect equal sunlight. The other thought is the same problems as the Triumph Trident and the original Honda GoldWing (the one with 6 cylinders that very few were made) Both had problems with keeping even heat from the inside and outside cylinders. I would guess the problem is not unsurmountable (lots of inline fours around), but would be much more difficult trying to use passive techniques. I think a duplex would be the place to start though. The problem with bigger projects like these, is cost. As the size goes up, the cost of failure also goes up. Though I guess a small duplex and large single unit may be the same size. A single unit could be used as a testbed to try things like this out by making a wall in the centre (there could be a door) to see how one side effects the other.
 
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