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Building a Future on the Prairie: My whole-tree passive solar house.  RSS feed

 
Posts: 230
Location: Southern Minnesota, USA, zone 4/5
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Reading through the Wafati forum thread has me thinking about temperature so I'll report how this design has been performing. Now it's no Wafati so I'm not trying to say it's any better. It's taken my four years to build (so far!) and cost a hell of a lot more than a Wafati should. But, I'm very happy overall and it will continue to improve with things like thermal window shades, the extra little airspace once the siding is on, and a few minor insulation details.

Anyhow, over the past week it's dropped to about 55 F inside while outside temps have been below freezing, even during the days, for a week now. We had a couple of single digit lows last week and it's 29 F right now.

There was one good day of sun (yesterday) and two days ago I stated running a small 1500 watt electric heater. Since turning on the heater the temp hasn't dropped any more.

I'll get some more pictures up this week! Lots to share!
 
pollinator
Posts: 203
Location: SW Ontario, Zone 5
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That is an impressive build Scott!

Some of those timbers look really cool in there.

I am interested in seeing the final product.
 
S Haze
Posts: 230
Location: Southern Minnesota, USA, zone 4/5
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With some help from someone willing to teach I've decided to hold a cob building workshop here this saturday. It's a lot to pull together in a short time but it should be a great time! Please share this with anyone in the area who might be looking to burn off a bit of excess turkey this weekend!
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S Haze
Posts: 230
Location: Southern Minnesota, USA, zone 4/5
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In other news...
Over the weekend I built some badly needed steps down to the front door using ruralite (calling it urbanite here would just be silly!) Uff, that was a lot of work, but I'm really happy with how they turned out and it took less than a day. Just needs a handrail still. This was possible because winter decided to take a couple days off and the ground thawed out again.
Oh, and Anna recently painted the doors orange!
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S Haze
Posts: 230
Location: Southern Minnesota, USA, zone 4/5
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duck forest garden trees woodworking
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Ha!!
-12 F this morning and still 55 inside! No heat since tuesday when for the first time of the season I ran the wood stove to burn some lumber scraps. There's some frozen condensation on the windows though probably because yesterday I moved in about two yards of wet sand for the cob wall.
 
S Haze
Posts: 230
Location: Southern Minnesota, USA, zone 4/5
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What a glorious day for passive solar!

It's still around 0 F right now and got down to -5 to -10 last night and with a bit of wood it's 65 inside! No fire yesterday either. When people ask how I'm going to heat the new house the question sounds almost as ridiculous as "how are you going to make your breakfast when you move in?"

The cob building event went pretty well too, not a lot of people here but at least I learned a few things and got started.
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Posts: 91
Location: PNW
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Awesome project Scott! If you don't mind me asking, how much was the design/drawings through "Whole Trees Architecture"? I am looking at doing a home soon and like the idea of using roundwood but trying to get an idea of what I have to spend for plans.
 
S Haze
Posts: 230
Location: Southern Minnesota, USA, zone 4/5
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Kris,
I'll dig out my expense records tonight, it's been a few years lol.

If I did it again I'd probably order the full construction document prints vs. just a design plan with a few key construction details. It's a tough pill to swallow since it can double the cost right at the time you may already be feeling anxious about how much you've spent before anything's physically been done. Not as important the smaller/ simpler the design is. Another benefit to going small. I decided to build a bit bigger for reasons I've probably covered earlier in this or other threads but can re-explain if necessary.

Keep us all posted on permies as your project progresses. There's probably not enough info here (on the forums) on the planning side which is so critically important when spending so much in the forms of resources, time, and money.

-Scott
 
S Haze
Posts: 230
Location: Southern Minnesota, USA, zone 4/5
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Exciting times here lately!

Hope everyone had a marvelous Christmas season and your dreams and plans are at the forefront of your minds as another year begins!

My family and I have been camping out in the new house for about the last week. I'm getting lots of finer details planned out and focusing on making the place more livable so we can transition out of the old house and finally shut down the damned propane furnace! The "good" wood stove is now in the new house and I wasn't using it this year in the old in order to focus more on the project. It's funny how I can fire it for several days and barely get up to 70 F while I know if this was a conventional light-weight "ziplock baggie" type house it would be roasting in there.

-Scott
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Kris Arbanas
Posts: 91
Location: PNW
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S Haze wrote:Kris,
I'll dig out my expense records tonight, it's been a few years lol.

If I did it again I'd probably order the full construction document prints vs. just a design plan with a few key construction details. It's a tough pill to swallow since it can double the cost right at the time you may already be feeling anxious about how much you've spent before anything's physically been done. Not as important the smaller/ simpler the design is. Another benefit to going small. I decided to build a bit bigger for reasons I've probably covered earlier in this or other threads but can re-explain if necessary.

Keep us all posted on permies as your project progresses. There's probably not enough info here (on the forums) on the planning side which is so critically important when spending so much in the forms of resources, time, and money.

-Scott



Thanks Scott, I'd appreciate that. Yeah, full prints is what I would be after. There's definitely not too much out there for designs using round wood so I'm undecided on whether to go the permitted route or not. "Whole Tree Architecture" seems like a solid option for doing it to code.
 
S Haze
Posts: 230
Location: Southern Minnesota, USA, zone 4/5
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Awesome project Scott! If you don't mind me asking, how much was the design/drawings through "Whole Trees Architecture"? I am looking at doing a home soon and like the idea of using roundwood but trying to get an idea of what I have to spend for plans.



It was in the $5-6 k range. We ended with 2 floor plans, 4 exterior elevations, 2 section drawings, and 2-3 pages of details. There was a site visit and we had many lengthy phone conferences and I also visited their site. The process was quite a hassle at times and I think they were mostly used to designing structures that they would build themselves and have probably come a long way since then. We did end up with a great design that we are very pleased with so far.

-Scott
 
S Haze
Posts: 230
Location: Southern Minnesota, USA, zone 4/5
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Hi folks!
I haven't posted many pictures lately since I've been focuses on wiring and plumbing, not too exciting for permies but I'll share what I've been up to again soon.

It's exciting to make things take shape inside, getting the walls framed up. Wish I had time for more cob and round wood framing though, since I don't know where the lumber comes from, how sustainable is really is, and I have to pay for it.

Finally it's up to normal room temperature inside and we've been getting a fair amount of sunny days lately. The temps have been in the 20's to 30's lately so I can easily take a day off from running the wood stove and only lose about 5 degrees.
 
S Haze
Posts: 230
Location: Southern Minnesota, USA, zone 4/5
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It's been keeping 65 F and above with a fire only every 2-3 days! We've been getting some of the more important daily living stuff done, working on installing a tub/ shower right now. Here's a picture of a butcher block type cutting board made from a piece of bowling alley. I just hijacked on of Paul's threads with it here wondering what if anything should be done to get it ready for use.
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Inspiring thread! Thank you for sharing your hard work with us.
 
gardener
Posts: 1948
Location: PNW Oregon
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Well Spring 2015 is here!

And I'm wondering how your build is going . . . .

I just love the look of your building design, and I'm hoping you find the time to post some more pictures soon :

 
S Haze
Posts: 230
Location: Southern Minnesota, USA, zone 4/5
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I truly appreciate the comments, Thanks!

It's really nice to get feedback from people who "get it" and understand mostly what I'm doing and why. There has been a fair amount of local interest too, which has been a goal of this project from the start, but the conversations usually aren't very in depth. There's something to be said though for getting lots of practice explaining concepts such as passive solar, round timber construction and why this type of stuff matters.

Here's a link to a recent newspaper article:
http://www.faribaultcountyregister.com/page/content.detail/id/510646/Haase-home-brings-the-outdoors-in.html

And we're getting some help with installing the cedar siding during the busy spring field-work season. Nice to see that finally going up!
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S Haze
Posts: 230
Location: Southern Minnesota, USA, zone 4/5
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Time for a new photo! I'll try to add a few more this week. Construction continues, we now have a few walls finished and I'll finally get that stucco on this summer. Even though it's still a construction zone, living in the new house has been great! We only used two chords of wood to get through the whole winter and this will get better yet as more improvements are completed such as thermal window shades.
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Looking more like home!
 
S Haze
Posts: 230
Location: Southern Minnesota, USA, zone 4/5
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ADD strikes again!

The house work continues on and on and ON!  Smaller and more simple would have been really nice!  But life is complicated and messy, just like the bottom photo.  We have the needs and desires of loved ones to consider and then there's all the other REALLY COOL STUFF life hurtles us through.  It would be so nice if the house was completely done but all in all I wouldn't trade it for anything else!  Soil health initiatives on my family's conventional corn and soy farm, agroforestry, raising mangalitza hogs and cattle, and lots of other fun and exciting things have pulled me away from this forum and the at times from the house project.

Progress does continue though!  We've finished interior walls, prepared for exterior stucco, finished the roof and facia, brought the upstairs bathroom to 85% completion, and will soon completely finish the spare bedroom.  Over the next 6 months I hope to at least quadruple the pace of the previous 6 months.  This will be accomplished by keeping myself accountable, enlisting the help of family members and holding them accountable, hosting another cob workshop to wrap up some details, and putting my money where my mouth is by hiring some help from part-timers, handymen, and professionals.  Some of the finishing woodwork details can be outsourced and I've found a local who's really good with a trowel.

Halfway through the winter of 2014-2015 we started "camping out" in the new house, still cooking and showering in the old one but now this is our 2nd full winter.  The firewood supply is growing without effort so it must working! I think we're using about 2-3 cords per winter and it will only get better as we add efficiency measures such as thermal window drapes and seal air leaks around the ceilings.

Hope everyone who reads this finds their own personal best way to make positive impacts on the landscape!
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steward
Posts: 2798
Location: Moved from south central WI to Portland, OR
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Looking good!  Thanks for the update.
 
Julia Winter
steward
Posts: 2798
Location: Moved from south central WI to Portland, OR
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Hey there, anything new with the house for winter 2018?
 
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