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Design: Solarium at Wheaton Labs: Design Conversation

 
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This space is currently being used for several things.   I think now is the time to consider which of those things can get shuffled ...

  - recycling central.   Maybe it can be moved to the new and improved berm shed?   Or maybe we need so come up with something else near the house?

  - firewood.   We have started moving firewood to the eaves of the library/garage.  I think this works well.

  - free shelf.  Already being relocated to the berm shed.

  - storage for shipping stuff, and a variety of other odds and ends.   I think that this sort of thing could possibly stay.  

  - fridge.   I think that if the space gets upgraded, the fridge might end up getting upgraded also.

  - fat rabbit.  An experiment by peter van den berg.  It could be moved to the berm shed.

Anything else in there that needs consideration?




 
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Ok, I've extricated myself from personal drama, and can work on this some more.

First: the dimensions I took of the garage turnout area:

Also; to respond to your post, Paul:

- Trash/recycling center: you'd had the idea of solving this with 'trash sleds,' or skiddable trash enclosures. Not sure if that's still an idea you like, but the third picture shows two possible sketches for that. I assume multiple smaller sleds are preferable to one larger one

- Firewood: bins of burnables and a kindling cracker are there with the firewood. Not sure if you'd lumped all those together or not

- If fat rabbit moves; which RMH were would live in the post-Solarium garage/bunkhouse?
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Plan
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Trash sleds
 
Lee Jenkins
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Just chatted with Paul, re: the New Current priorities for the Solarium:

- Design needs to be ready very very soon, like yesterday.
- Needs to be constructable within a week. Design therefore needs to be greatly simplified. It will be "okay instead of great," to then be improved upon later.
- Door is still included (and a high priority) in the design.
- After the Solarium design is solid, I next need to tackle the inside-the-garage design questions to make it into "not a garage."

Questions:
- It seems like y'all have the rolley-shelf-bunks covered. Is that correct?
- Is moving the wi-fi dish support still fair game, given the 1-week construction time? I'm being conservative and assuming 'probably not' until I hear otherwise.

Ok. Now I'm going to gin up a new design concept based on this. Current plan is to post pics of a real rough sketch-up model here in an hour or so.
 
Lee Jenkins
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These pictures and design are just concept-testing, few details are worked out yet.

The question this post poses is: "Is this remotely close to what it needs to be?"

This new design, conceptually, is "Berm Shed x Solar Dehydrator = Solarium"

The primary structure is round-wood, a la the berm shed:
- ~8" Columns, in 6' x 7.5' bays. 6' is N/S, in the direction of the roof slope. How does this spacing compare to the berm shed?
- ~6" Beams, forming the slope
- ~6" Cross-beams, perpendicular to the slope
- ~4" Purlins, to form the substrate for whatever roofing material is used (roofing material not pictured)

The secondary structure is milled-wood and glass, a la the solar dehydrator
- 2"x6" frame,
- Onto which the glass is center-screwed, and silicone sealed
- I don't know what glass will be available; so the numbers aren't worked out yet
- The door is like Allerton Abbey's door.


Decisions:
- Columns are located where the garage foundation isn't.
- The South glass wall laps past the edge of the wood frame, to try to speed construction by requiring less glass-cutting.
- The NorthEast wall next to the door is not glass, but some round-wood solid infill. Since the inside will be sleeping quarters, and that corner faces the busiest part of the parking, this is solid so the sleeping area isn't quite so much of a fish-bowl.
- Raised planter bed only on South side, to try to rob less of the "Car Turnout space"
- Glass is not sloped, to try to speed construction via simplifying the geometry
- Base of walls is round-wood. This can be raised to make less of the wall glass, thereby reducing costs and speeding construction.
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This concept is much less "architectural" but much more practical, and I think better for function. The pretty sloped glass greenhouse look would as others have mentioned have been a bake oven all summer and much of the spring and fall, whenever it was sunny, at least without additional thermal mass and ventilation expenditures.

One thing that concerns me is the notion of center bolted glass... unless it is extra strong, drilling glass for bolt-through mounting will create an extreme stress concentrator and weak point. It would also mean only single-pane glass... in Montana. Is there any glass resource already identified? Will it be bought new? Recycled from other sources? If not ordered new, the glass will need to be on hand before finalizing the window dimensions. Letting glass run past the edge of the wall framing is asking for it to be bumped and broken. I would be concerned about that in any circumstances; in a busy multiple-use area, it would only be a matter of time. I think this would be a good place for a concept from one of my professors in architecture school 40 years ago, bypassing systems: each part of the building operates on its own module, and may "float" relative to other systems. The roundwood framing has an optimal layout and fixed overall width. Let the window wall, above the roundwood base, be set a few inches in front of the posts with its frame dimensioned according to the glass actually used. With thoughtful arrangement of the final materials this could look attractive and interesting. Horizontal roundwood at the base of the window wall would naturally go with the windows centered above the logs and not pressed back to the posts leaving a big snow-collecting shelf outside. (I note that the sketches appear to show something like the positioning I suggest.)

The roof as sketched would be quite low slope, and require some modern technology to be waterproof. Aside from commercial rubber roofing or an asphalt built-up roof, I think the best solution might be a green roof, using the billboard material as done on the wofatis with a thinnish layer of soil and plantings to hide and protect it, and give a taste of the uncommon building methods and materials employed on site. It could not follow full Oehler design, but could be a viable option for locations where that is not practical. For the structure size contemplated, making it strong enough would be easy. It would mitigate summer heating in the space, and while not giving much insulation for winter, could probably be combined with another insulation method... scope for thinking about leading up to construction. The structure can be designed with a certain number of inches between ceiling and roof surface to be filled with whatever is decided upon.
 
Glenn Herbert
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If you will be ordering new glass, you should be able to get stock sizes that come out even with the overall wall width, or adjust the walls by a few inches before construction layout starts. If getting recycled glass from a Restore or the like, it should be possible to do some figuring on the spot to select items that will fit the overall space available.
 
Lee Jenkins
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Thanks for your comments, Glenn. You make a good point about the shallow roof slope.

Your comment on the independent systems is exactly what I'm going for. My hope is that it makes for easier and more rapid construction, and gives a bit more margin for error where it's needed.

Unfortunately I don't know the answers to the glass procurement. Paul had hinted that the glass module may change based on what they acquire, so I'm deliberately keeping that geometry/dimension "unsolved" for now.
 
paul wheaton
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The outside planters are for lots of growies, including hops, which should provide a lot of summer shade.  

And further, I like the new design better because in the summer, the sun goes directly overhead, while in the winter, the sun rides low in the south.  

Currently, the structure gets to be way too hot in the summer.   I think that if we built a large rocket mass heater in there it would provide heat in the winter AND a lot of cooling in the summer (have I written about that or put that in a podcast?).    But even more - I think this needs some sort of ventilation system in case things get way too hot inside.  I think the structure is going to need a skylight that can open.  And some sort of window that can open (with a screen) preferably low to the ground and maybe from a cool source.  

 
Lee Jenkins
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Good. I'm glad I'm headed on the right path now.

[tldr edit/add:
Ventilation comes down to the semi-independent questions of Where and How. Openings in the Solarium, or the Garage? Off-the-shelf products, or Custom Fabrication?
]

Passive Ventilation/Cross-Ventilation/Chimney: Let me know how these ideas sound. I don't know where the line is between tolerating off-the-shelf products to expedite construction vs. eschewing off-the-shelf products for better values alignment. One or several could comprise the overall solution:

High/Hot side ideas: Sorted by shortest construction time first, to longest last.
- Ridge Vent(s) in the existing Garage Roof Ridge: Off-the-shelf type stuff, will be self-flashing. Making a non-electric vent operable will require extra work. Likely shortest construction time. Construction time is independent of solarium construction.
- Operable Wall Louver(s) in existing Garage wall above Solarium roof: Off-the-shelf stuff, possibly harder to come by. Construction time semi-independent of solarium construction. Might be kinda ugly.
- Operable Louvered Window(s) in existing Garage wall, above Solarium roof: Could be off the shelf (much faster) or custom (likely slowest construction). Should be a louver that opens at the bottom. Adds light further into Garage. Construction time semi-independent of solarium construction.
- Operable Skylight(s) in Garage Roof, near roof ridge: Off-the-shelf type stuff, will be self-flashing. Construction time effectively independent of solarium construction.
- Operable Skylight(s) in Solarium Roof, top center near Garage Wall:  Flashing will likely be very tricky, adds construction time to the solarium. Skylight adds light further into Garage. Longest likely construction time.


Cold/Low side ideas:
- Opening(s) in existing Garage Wall, Northwest side, near ground: Operable Wall Louvers, as above.
- Opening(s) in existing Garage Wall, Northwest side, near ground: Operable Louvered Windows, as above.
- Opening(s) in new Solarium Wall, Northwest side, near ground: Operable Wall Louvers, as above. Ties into solarium construction time.
- Opening(s) in new Solarium Wall, Northwest & Northeast side, near ground: Operable Louvered Window(s), as above. Ties into solarium construction time.


Light in Garage idea:
- Garage Roof Dome-Skylights: Off-the-shelf stuff, self-flashing, can be operable off-the-shelf.

RMH in Summer: I don't recall hearing you talk about this, but I can imagine the Thermal Mass in Summer will do what Thermal Masses do in Summers (i.e. bank the heat)

Summer Heat problem: Adding further insulation to the Garage should help some, but it's not the whole solution. Would adding Thermal Mass to the interior-side of the exterior walls be a potential part of the solution here?
 
paul wheaton
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I suspect that this will be done in two phases:

phase 1:   take out the garage door and put in a quickie solarium.  Just enough to have a barely acceptable living space for this year's events.  Maybe a total of a week of work.

phase 2:   insulate the garage and make the whole space quite nice.   Maybe an addition three to five weeks of work.

 
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Has anyone calculated the potential daily heat gain/loss of the existing building or any of the proposed addition designs? My 9'x24' solarium tends to overheat from April to October even with 75 square feet of open windows and a ground coupled brick floor and a good shade tarp and Ohio's relatively shady climate. Designs that add floor space (especially low mass floor) and overhead glass (especially single pane) will be very challenging to manage temperature swing. Starting with a solar wall outside the existing garage door in the door frame would be an expedient way to start the experiment at the PTC and run it for a year before adding a solarium. Additional experiments could include thermal mass water barrels or a cob trombe wall or a cob rocket mass bench placed in the solar footprint of the glass wall.

The primary design challenges I see are
1. Blocking solar gain when it isn't wanted
2. Capturing the solar gain without overheating the space
3. Retaining the solar gain with appropriate thermal mass and insulation. I don't think the thermal benefit of the ground coupled concrete floor comes close to the thermal loss it incurs. This would be a good thing to know.
4. For comfortable space getting "enough" solar gain is a distant 4th in design challenges compared to these others.

Unless you really need more square footage your building will be a lot easier to build and perform a lot better thermally if the addition consists of adding glazing outside the garage door made from repurposed double pane sliding doors. As many of them as possible should be openable and additional venting provided high on the far side of the building--although venting low on the north side and high on the south side would cool the space better.

Leaving the garage door in place and insulating it as much as possible while still being easy to open would make a huge difference in keeping out the sun in summer and retaining the heat gained in the winter.

Improving the building insulation (and venting) would probably make a bigger difference in comfort in the building than the solarium. The ground coupled thermal mass of the floor is a major heat loss in the winter but helps a lot to cool the place in the summer. The ground coupled concrete floor and 6 ton rocket heater in my converted barn apartment does a great job of air conditioning the space in the summer. In winter it does a great job of heating the place BUT only if it is being continually occupied. If not then it takes a couple days of constant firing to bring the bench up to temp and weeks to get the floor up to comfortable. A cob or recycled brick floor over a layer of dry sand would allow us to capture and retain daily thermal gain with less loss. A CottageRocket or rocket mass pebble bench is excellent for quickly heating occasional use space, but a cob bench works better for ground coupling for long term heat storage and for air conditioning because the heat doesn't tend to work its way down into a pebble mass.

--Mud
 
Lee Jenkins
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paul wheaton wrote:I suspect that this will be done in two phases:

phase 1:   take out the garage door and put in a quickie solarium.  Just enough to have a barely acceptable living space for this year's events.  Maybe a total of a week of work.

...



Thanks, Paul. Does the design above meet your expectation of a quickie solarium? Or does there need to be a quickie-ier design concept to meet the 1-week timeline?
 
paul wheaton
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I don't think the pole roof would work here.  

An experiment we have going up at the lab is using 1x4's off of the sawmill to act a bit like shakes.  

 
paul wheaton
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Where might be a good spot for adding some air movement?
 
Chris McClellan
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Put a whole house fan with an insulated door up in the top of the eave or a solar chimney at the peak of the south end with an insulated door on the bottom end where it comes out in the ceiling. Bring in air low on the north side with insulated screened openings between the studs a few inches above the stem wall. Is the ceiling flat in that building or vaulted? How much insulation is in the ceiling?
 
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