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Vick Smith
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I'm thinking of putting a living floor in my kitchen... (Still in building process) but can't find anything online to see why it's probably impossible, lol.

Living floor, like a living roof, right? Why not?

The kitchen is south-facing, will be entirely windows all along the front so should be plenty of light. Closest to the front, I'd plant more light-loving stuff, further back, more shade-loving stuff, flagstones for stepping stones in common pathways, etc. Is there a reason why this wouldn't work? Because the idea of walking on clover inside my house, and not worrying about spills etc in the kitchen is really attractive to me...
 
Judith Browning
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Living floor, like a living roof, right? Why not?


I love this idea! Seems like it would be much simpler than a living roof, in that it could be more like a greenhouse/solarium and the 'living floor' could be the ground itself rather than having to worry about support.
 
John Master
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instead of vacuuming you would be watering and fertilizing
 
Dale Hodgins
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Walkable living surfaces have been created using plastic grids that support the weight of people in high traffic areas. Plants grow in the deep recesses. A rot resistant wood could form a checkerboard pattern, in high traffic zones. A reel type mower might be suitable for maintenance.

Then there's humidity issues. A living floor is going to transpire plenty of moisture.
 
Deb Rebel
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I would just be worried about the fauna that might live in my flora... IN my house.
 
Steven Kovacs
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It's a lovely idea. I'd be worried about a few issues, though:

1) Moisture could encourage mold growth and damage to structure and finishes inside the house.
2) Plants (and soil continuous with the outside) bring animals, including some unwelcome ones (termites.)
3) Any indoor space you dedicate to plants is space that isn't available for other uses. You would be building an expensive greenhouse, in effect. If you want a greenhouse (with or without a natural floor), build one! Stacking functions is great but it may not be worth it in this case.
 
Deb Rebel
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Having more thought. If I were to put a kitchen into a dirt floor area, say inside a walipini or greenhouse attached to house, and put a RMH (rocket mass heater) into it with a built in oven on side and used that for cooking, it could be quite a wonderful area. I wouldn't have supporting frame rot then, there'd be enough light, and it would be natural. Just keep after the nasty bugs like some varieties of spider (we have three nasties here that I currently manage in my living space-a few other kinds I will let live or share space, some are not good to be sharing with).
 
Judith Browning
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Then there's humidity issues. A living floor is going to transpire plenty of moisture.


maybe could choose plants that need less moisture? Otherwise won't the area need irrigation of some sort? Maybe the dishwater rinse or vegetable wash water?
I think that I would probably want herbs along the sunny side...maybe creeping thyme rather than a grass and mints on the shadier side....sounding more and more like a greenhouse, I guess
 
Alex Apfelbaum
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Location: Northeastern Spain (Mediterranean, zone 9b)
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For living soil you will need a certain depth (or in this case height?) to give roots enough space to grow. Good drainage would also be a requisite as well as good humidity barriers on the adjacent walls. I'm also thinking very good ventilation. Another issue I see would be with the insects that will inevitably end up living there, usually they are not a welcomed guest in a place where you store food.
 
S Bengi
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Plant Requirements:
Low Light
Low Water
Minimal Soil Depth
Resistant to High Foot Traffic

Some type of moss/sedum maybe
 
Mick Fisch
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I love the idea of a living floor. The coolness factor is extreme. Is it practical? I don't really know. I'm envisioning some kind of creeping thyme or sweet, aromatic herb that stays low, with maybe some fruiting vine trained to run along the back wall. I think the dirt would be contained in a 'concrete box" (bottom and sides) with a drain in the bottom, probably going to your septic, with some stepping stones for most walking on. the sides of the box might extend up a couple of inches where they wouldn't impair traffic.

Upside - I dont' know what your climate is, but in cold country the air is often too dry in the winter, so the living floor would help that.
- After a few months of hard winter, my eyes get hungry for green, the living floor would help that also.
- It definitely be easier on your back and knees than walking on a concrete slab.

Downside - Possible humidity problems (might be a major problem if it's a small house or big floor)
- possible problem finding something that could handle the foot traffic and not take too much maintenance (stepping stones might help with the foot traffic problem).

I think it's a bold experiment. One reason it hasn't been done traditionally is probably the lack of good, insulated glazing for most of history (except rich victorians who DID have sunrooms, orangeries and stuff similar to what you're talking about. (I think theirs were mostly potted though). If you actually do it I would love to hear how it turns out.
 
Xisca Nicolas
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I think we can dirty our ground only when we are nomad.
A floor you cannot wash will attracked ... it has been said.

I know 2 types of living floor:
1) Normal one with some spots that are like inground "pots".

2) The old way of earthen floor. like in Morocco.
But DRY
They were broomed every day, and the dirt was put in the compost toilet.

The other idea would be to add a real winterhouse on the side of the house, have a rocket stove in it, cook on it,
...and have a door to go to the regular kitchen/eating room.
You could even wash dishes there and use the grey water.
That is not a living floor ...but the reverse.
I mean, you do not put ground etc in your kitchen but you cook etc on the ground.
Also depends on your climate!
 
Jeremy Franklin
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I've been envisioning something similar, but for a shower house - a different building just for bathing and showers, with a pea gravel floor over a well drained concrete floor, and moss and other moisture-loving plants on or in the pea gravel. Then ivy or vines trained up the walls. The idea is to try to out-compete the mould and mildew.
 
Corey Schmidt
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Location: Kachemak Bay, Alaska (usda zone 6, ahs heat zone 1, lat 59 N, coastal, koppen Dfc)
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I also like the idea of having an attached greenhouse with cooking facilities inside. this stacks functions by adding heat to the greenhouse, making greenhouse heat available to the house and keeps the cooking close to the growing and the fauna out of the house. I think the biggest design consideration if you actually have the living floor inside your kitchen inside your house is the rot and humidity that others mentioned. this really brings up how you want the rest of your house to be- cheap and biodegradable, or permanent and posh? survival shelter or multigenerational family palace? of course your general location is of utmost importance. where do you live? what is your approximate budget? One thought is, (and of course the applicability of this will depend on your climate) build your kitchen right on the ground with the lower walls made of masonry (with adequate foundation for your location of course) and the perimeter insulated as well and as deep in the ground as possible, turning the ground under your house into a giant thermal mass. If you really want it, you CAN have it, and your idea certainly can work. if you could build the whole house of masonry, and decay resistant woods or steel framing, then you just have to take care of anything that could create a health issue, like mold. (again very dependent on your climate). Usually we try to think out all the possible problems before hand and design to overcome them, and then after we actually make the thing we discover more problems and keep chasing them with solutions until the situation is acceptable. particularly with an idea as innovative as this it is good to smart small and scale up our successes. Maybe this idea would work with a no frills wofati?
 
Xisca Nicolas
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Corey Schmidt wrote: I think the biggest design consideration if you actually have the living floor inside your kitchen inside your house is the rot and humidity that others mentioned.

I would see the cleaning as a very big issue as well.
A house is not nomadic.

That is why I think better cook in the greenhouse than bring the green and purple inside.
A living roof is outside, big difference.
 
sebastian baum
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Vick Smith wrote:I'm thinking of putting a living floor in my kitchen... (Still in building process) but can't find anything online to see why it's probably impossible, lol.

Living floor, like a living roof, right? Why not?

The kitchen is south-facing, will be entirely windows all along the front so should be plenty of light. Closest to the front, I'd plant more light-loving stuff, further back, more shade-loving stuff, flagstones for stepping stones in common pathways, etc. Is there a reason why this wouldn't work? Because the idea of walking on clover inside my house, and not worrying about spills etc in the kitchen is really attractive to me...
every time you drop a seed it will germinate and soon it will be a jungle.
 
Willy Walker
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Curious, how about take this idea and move it to the counter tops. I am thinking you could build a bed between the window and counter. You could tie all the drains together. This might get a permanent garden inside the kitchen but keep it contained and maintained. Not the same but a twist. Keep us updated on your choice!
 
Samantha Lewis
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I think a kitchen garden floor would be lovely until it is not. Then you can stop watering it, let it go back to earthen swept floor and replant when conditions are right. Sounds awesome! I want one.
 
Wyatt Barnes
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I have seen a living car driveway in a city. Some sort of cement pattern to support weight and grass in between. Would you mow your kitchen floor?
 
Inge Leonora-den Ouden
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I have been thinking about this too. And now I know what I'd prefer.
Here in the moderate, rainy, Dutch climate I'd prefer a 'serre': a greenhouse attached to the house, one step through a door (from the kitchen/living area) to enter your greenhouse. Something like in the Earthship or 'Greenhouse for the Future'. Some garden-furniture in that greenhouse would make it an extra living- or dining-room, a hammock can provide a place for a nap in a nice climate surrounded by plants.
But in my dreams I make plans for living on a tropical island (Curaçao). In that case I would make my house almost without walls at all. A roof is needed for protection from the sun, and in the rainy season from the rain. Without walls the cooling wind is in all of the living space! Only very valuable things you don't want to be stolen need to be hidden behind walls I don't care about plants from the garden invading the place where I live. I'd welcome the tiny creatures too (like insects and lizzards). When I know one of these creatures is poisonous, I'd keep my distance from it, maybe take a broom to brush it away ...
I know many people do not like the tiny creatures. I think those people won't visit me there. No problem, I can meet them in other places
 
James Horne
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Technically the main problems could be overcome... that is the transpired moisture issues (think about grow op houses that are destroyed by the water in the air, the floor being able to take the moisture and still not hold it in too well, it has to drain as well.. Plust it will be much heavier per sqft than normal floors so that must be accounted for in the structure. I have maintained ponds and water lilies in my house along with other growing options without water issues or mold.

But the biggest issue I see is plants that can actually handle that level of traffic, with the very limited light we have in our houses. Even brightly lit houses are often many times less bright than the outdoors. And even under ideal conditions the toughest of traffic tolerant plants don't take that much traffic. I hate mowing grass so I have studied many varieties of ground covers and very few are anywhere near as tough as grass, and even fewer will tolerate low light and variable moisture conditions. Even worse the traffic resistance decreases as the conditions decline. So as the light gets dimmer, or the moisture and fertilizer declines from ideal so does the tolerance to traffic (at leas tin any plant you'd actually want to walk on. Lawns and such work because the level of traffic is very low relatively speaking. Floors see very heavy traffic.

The level of lighting you are talking about needing is not easy to provide. not without considerable expense. You can put in windows and skylights, but they don't work when its dark out, and in the winter, its dark more than its not.Skylights, windows , all are expensive and offer limited insulation values. even the very best are about 1/8 as efficient as a typical wall. and much less as compared to a ceiling/attic. Artificial lighting at that leve4l is expensive. 1000W metal halide vapor lamps will do about an 8'x8 area at something just under solar lighting levels. These are expensive lights and draw a lot of power... more than the 1000W on the bulb.

Overall I can't see it would be worthwhile or cost effective and certainly not "ecologically sustainable" ...
 
T Phillips
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Location: Colorado Springs, CO zone 5A / Canon City, CO zone 5B
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I remember seeing a photo of a small grassy area in an indoor garden in an earthship. It looked delightful, but looks can be deceiving. If you are set on it, can you try it in a small growing space first, to make sure it is what you want it to be? It seems to me that this is something you'd want to live with awhile before you commit to an entire house. It is an ecosystem of its own...
 
Mick Fisch
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If you had a living floor, bugs would anavoidably be among the plants and would eat crumbs, etc that would fall. After I thought about it for a moment I decided that would probably be an improvement on my wall to wall carpet that, even after it has been vacuumed or scrubbed is still full of nasty stuff down at it's lowest layers.
 
Chris Lyons
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Stepables might have something usable. All kinds of plants that take foot traffic. The low light and dry category might work well.


http://www.stepables.com/
 
Robbie Asay
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I would be concerned with food spillage into your living floor. As others have mentioned any food particles that fall onto the floor that don't break down right away will attract unwanted customers which could include fleas and ticks. Also, if you spill oil it could suffocate that area if it doesn't get cleaned up right away. I LOVE growies but I'd want a break when it comes to maintaining a floor.
 
Kristen Tabor
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I think the stepping stones are a wonderful idea, they give you a place to walk on, a place for the insects to live rather than your pantries.
Since the main issue is moisture, having maybe a mix or balance of moss and grass could help with heavy foot traffic, while absorbing the excess humidity.
I think you should do it to your counters with moss as a test run to see how things grow and produce in that living area first, where you have a little control, and then adapt more to the environment they would have on the floor by taking your control away (and smashing them with bowls and what not to see how they do)
 
William Baldwin
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I don't think anybody has mentioned the use of moss on some kind of substrate. If you create a sunken part in the floor ~1½" deep, lay the substrate (I've seen old outdoor rugs used as well as something as thin and simple as a bath towel) into the lowered area, and pour ground-up moss (in a blender with water or something similar) over the substrate, and the moss will grow. I've seen moss bath mats and similar things, so I don't see why you can't make it flush with the rest of the floor and use a substrate that would be comfortable to walk on.

You may want to add a floor drain to your sunken area for proper drainage and cleaning as well.
image.jpeg
[Thumbnail for image.jpeg]
http://inhabitat.com/moss-carpet-by-nguyen-la-chanh/
 
Dale Hodgins
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Erica Wisner
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I agree that moisture is a fundamental issue here.
A house, as most of us know them, is a shaded, very dry space, where the roof and walls keep outdoor humidity out, protecting the structure and contents of the house from rot. If you like to keep paper books, or leather, or metal cans and containers, or painted objects, or most kinds of art and clothing -- in fact any of the accoutrements of civilization -- in your house, they need that very dry, consistent indoor atmosphere to preserve them.

Almost all plants need, and create, a more humid climate. The category "houseplant" includes those most unusually tolerant of dry, warm, dim indoor conditions - mostly desert plants and tropicals, and many of the desert ones can only thrive in a sunyy window or with artificial light. I can't think of many that will tolerate heavy foot traffic (or that I would want to step on).

If you build an outdoor kitchen in an area with lots of plants on the ground, very soon the foot traffic beats down the main use areas to dirt. Plants just don't like being walked on, at least not as regularly as we like to cook and eat.

But if your kitchen is relatively humidity-tolerant, with cedar or tropical hardwood detailing, and a drier cupboard for cookbooks, herbs, and your glass-jar pantry storage...

Then I can imagine a beautiful variation where you do a "garden-like" paver stone or packed-earth floor in the traffic areas, with a "gutter" recessed under the counters along the edge to grow plants. Put grow-lights in the bottom of the counters in some places, and water the plants with some of the grey water from the kitchen (cooled water from double-boilers or dish rinsing, non-salted cooking water from stuff like broccoli or spinach, undrunk tea, etc).
In the parts of this "gutter" where there's a bigger cupboard under the counter, put a lower-power grow light, and do mosses, creeping herbs, etc.
Aim for a deeper recess than just a toe-kick, so that your toes will occasionally brush the plants and awaken their scent as you work, but you don't always step on them.

In the center, you could have a Zen "island" where there is a little mossy rock sculpture you can sit on/under, with flagstones for feet and plants creeping around the edges.
You could do a glass-countertop "terrarium" where your friends can sit on bar stools and share coffee over a living microcosm.

All this will require active gardening, and ideally a low-light nursery and standard trays so you can swap out unhappy plants for a rest.
But even if you only really get it going for a few good seasons, the photos and memories will be amazing.
And if you can have year-round bright light and thriving greenery, it might become the oasis for all your friends who formerly suffered from seasonal depression.

It is almost an unreal, fantasy kitchen - a virtual reality stunt - but it would be worth doing as performance art even if you needed a second kitchen for everyday.

This could also be a good fit for adding year-round greenhouse space in an indoor/outdoor kitchen setup.
Have the dry pantry storage and cookbook area, with hot ranges and heavy traffic areas like the coffee pot and fridge.
Then an "island" that is actually the first indoor/outdoor wall, with this grow-light bed under a counter, facing out toward the next "wet" space.
Then the "mud-room" part of the kitchen with prep counters, greywater and blackwater sink, compost or worm bin.
Then maybe a second wall to separate this heated room from the greenhouse and true outdoors.
(Heating a large greenhouse is an expensive thing to take on in cold climates, I would not want to be obligated to cook in a greenhouse winter or summer in the temperate zones. In summer, you'd need a way to vent it or you'd fry everything with the heat. Greenhouses also exclude moisture unless designed otherwise, they are not going to stay alive without help, unlike outdoor ecosystems.)
The outdoor kitchen extension can be the space where the floor is alive with moss, nourished with compost and greywater, maybe a decorative "swamp" that processes nutrient-rich wastes into duckweed, sedges, frogs, and butterflies. Maybe a "clean-water" runoff area with food plants like wild rice, wapato - blending into the larger landscape as a moisture and seed source.

Essentially, the outdoor living floor that I imagine is a low-light, roofed garden for exotic plants that like the benefits of living near human kitchen activity.

It would need to be a "secret space", that people visited with awe and pleasure, or you'd need to rotate trays of moss in and out so they didn't die from heavy foot traffic.

I've seen well-meaning crowds kill off lawns in the course of a 1-week event due to heavy foot traffic (and wet conditions leading to compacted soils). The plant choices, and the design to separate plants from foot traffic areas, would be critical.

Plants that I've seen thrive in compacted, occasional-use pathways include:
- Pinapple weed
- Hardy mustards
- Dock
- Plantain (plantago, not the starchy crop)
- Thistle
- Some grasses

Plants that I've seen sold as "foot-tolerant" but don't love HEAVY traffic:
- Creeping thyme, lemon thyme, silver thyme
- Irish and Scottish moss; various native mosses in damp corners
- Dwarf varieties of the mint family
- Periwinkle / vinca (can be invasive)
- Yarrow (used in mixed-herb lawns)
- All of the "steppables" in the purple pots

In terms of shade - I don't see a lot of plants volunteering in barns, even with plenty of fertility, and relatively humid weather exposure compared with a house.
So I think you would need to deliberately create an outdoor-like environment with artificial or redirected light, and a lot of moisture, to get anything to grow indoors.
Occasionally seen under stairs or in other edge-of-this-shade settings:
- Prolific weeds like dandelion, cress, grasses (they seeded here and "don't know any better" than to grow)
- Mosses
- Ferns
- Some kinds of bulbs
- Some little-leaved, runner garden weeds with pink or blue or purple cup-like flowers - don't know the name.

Another option would be to create a "terrarium" floor - wood supports with bar lighting, and heavy glass panels, over short plants, where you could have a glass pathway and see the plants, but not step directly on them. You could have a glass or bamboo pathway over moss, and then plants on the sides that could be a little taller.

I think it would be very intensive to maintain at "fantasy" visual levels. Greenhouses get issues like mildew, algae, and hard-water stains; plants pressed up against hard glass or plastic have rotting leaves, and you almost have to take the plants and glass apart to clean it down to the point where it looks wonderful from all angles. Greenhouses that are seasonally emptied, cleaned, and re-planted, or with constant work crews of botanical garden volunteers, tend to look tidier than most of the private ones I've seen.

There is this optimal point where plants are just starting to take over their environment, like the mossy bath mat in the picture, which is perfectly lovely. Their natural peak, decline, and decay is not so lovely.

Maybe it would make sense to do it more as an art piece, where the floor is designed with modular sections where you can swap in trays with either natural flooring (reed mats, with a little moss grown through), or rows of herbs and mosses for visual appeal. Like indoor flower displays, these indoor plants would actually be grown in a nursery or orangerie dedicated to their needs, rotated into the kitchen for their working life, and then rotated out again when they began to show signs of wear. For times with lots of visitors, you would rotate the delicate plants out, and swap in "tiles" of heavy-traffic materials (cork flooring, slate tiles, reed mats on a clay base, etc) in the same shaped trays.

Living roofs are designed to capture water in an outdoor space, and mitigate the impact that a building has on its surrounding watershed and living landscape.
Floors don't have this problem - there is not excess water being delivered and sluffed off by the floor, in fact all the water that the floor footprint would normally receive is instead being diverted by the roof.

If you do this, even as a small-scale experiment, I want to see pictures.

-Erica W
 
Erica Wisner
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... or electronics. Rain leaks, vapor-barrier condensation, for for that matter rodent activity such as might increase with an un-cleanable kitchen floor, are all known contributors to electrical fires.

You would definitely be designing something other than a "standard" American house around this living floor.

-Erica
 
Deb Rebel
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I still think the best solution is to put a greenhouse extension on your residence, with a RMH that's built into stove/oven combo so you can sit on it and use it to produce your food, and a dirt floor (outside ground). Then you could combine your love of plants, treat it as an environmentally controlled 'outdoor kitchen' and grow your herbs right there. Keep your food storage INSIDE the residence, and use your dedicated greenspace to eat in and a place to while time as well as cook when it strikes you. You can varmit (rodent and bug) proof the outer wall that you build this to, along with moisture proof, it will get enough light then, and you can control the temperature with sunshade roller (reed or bamboo) and venting or with the RMH. I have had a major walipini in plans for two years, this year I hope to complete it, and I am planning a living space within it including RMH (two) for heat and cooking. If my power goes out or a natural disaster, I can retreat to my 'indoor garden' and survive until and if the power comes back on or we get dug out of whatever befell us. (20'x75' which would be bigger than my current house but most of it would be plant/food rearing)
 
Corey Schmidt
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Location: Kachemak Bay, Alaska (usda zone 6, ahs heat zone 1, lat 59 N, coastal, koppen Dfc)
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mention was made of how expensive insulative windows are, I offer this solution I am using with great success in my small passive solar house in Alaska (zone 6)
2 layers of clear acrylic sheet (plexiglas), separated by an air space (i used 3/4" due to some people warning me about convection currents, but in retrospect i wish i had just gone with the originally planned 3.5" airspace which would have simplified the construction). the layer of acrylic inside the house is sealed tightly against weatherstripping, and the acrylic pane on the outside has a 1/4" hole at top right and bottom left corners, this allows moisture that makes it inside to escape so they don't fog up like a failed thermal pane. I combine this with insulated curtains which are closed at night and opened in the morning. one issue has been condensation at the bottom of the windows causing the inside window pane to become wet. they would be better off at least 1 foot above the floor. Also, i put about 1.5" of silica gel in between the 2 panes on a couple of windows and they have less temporary fogging inside. the same concept could be done with polycarbonate or best thermally (but not for views) multiwall polycarbonate greenhouse glazing. ideally the wood in between the glazing would be cedar or equivalent, especially at the bottom. I bought mine for $52 for a 3'x6' sheet, and it took 2 for a window (i think 3 panes would be possible as well and give better thermal performance. this is about half the price of a very basic thermal pane of similar size and has the advantage of being easier to transport and replace.
 
Vick Smith
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Thanks so much to everyone for your suggestions/feedback! The house I'm building is extremely unconventional, lol - the kitchen is going to be 2/3 inside, and 1/3 outside screened-porch with a common sink and counter, and separate rocket stoves. Walls only on the North side, everything else is screen in summer and plexiglass sheeting over the screen in winter.

This is South Texas so winters aren't very cold. We never even finished sealing up the main room before winter, but the little wood stove in here is more than enough to keep it toasty. (When I built a fire the other day it got to almost 100 in there - whew.)

wood heat dries everything out, so a little extra humidity will be nice when the plexiglass is up, and with everything on 3 sides a screen, (plus a screened door on the north side) air flow should be sufficient to keep it from getting too humid in summer. We're not running electric to the kitchen, so no worries there. (Very limited electric at all in the house. Some solar for lights and other minor things, plus a shed at the far end of the garden where power comes in for a freezer, washer, and other necessities)

I love all the plant ideas - I'm really excited about implementation. Honestly, I discussed this with my kids (we are all building this together) and they thought it was a great idea, lol - and I just couldn't think of a downside. Humidity? I don't have a sealed house anyway - I like the air flow. Bugs? I'll plant stuff like mint (repels flies and likes shade) and strew any herbs that won't grow inside to repel other buggies. Sprinkle diatomaceous earth, etc - all the things I do with the areas we like to roll around in outside to keep the bugs out/off.

Also - I've lived in all kinds of conventional houses, and every one of them had creepycrawlies of one kind or another. There's always a way in. Spiders, ants, roaches, ick. I might as well embrace the flora/fauna ... and maybe bring in some lizards to cohabitate and eat up the bugs! Ha! We've got plenty of lizards around here, I think they'd appreciate being in a room safe from the cats! (No cats in the kitchen!)

And, I promise.. I'll take pictures.
 
Inge Leonora-den Ouden
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I am looking forward to your photos Vick!
 
Corey Schmidt
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Awesome! what general area of south texas?
 
Roberto pokachinni
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It doesn't sound like you will have most of the problems, considering that the solution to most of them is your lifestyle matching your climate/circumstance... It's usually when a permie wants to grow bananas on a north facing house in the Yukon that the un-matching aspects collide into expensive and unrealistic solutions. If your lifestyle changes, then you may have to adapt.

I've been trying to wrap my brain around the idea of having more plants in my own home (yet to be developed), and deal with the moisture. The living floor idea has had a few days in my grey matter. And so I thought that the obvious solution is to have a lot of potted succulents and cacti to take up any additional moisture from the air, as is their function. For instance, plants like aloe and century plant will collect moisture down their funnel like leaves to their bases, as they do in the desert.

I think the key to the problem is finding plants that will thrive in situations with little water and lower light levels, and designing the floor so that the plants are not impacted much. If the 'living' area of your floor was 50% flat 'flagstones' (for major traffic pathway zones) and the gaps done up with cobbles (which take up another 20%, maybe) and plants taking up 30% in the gaps between cobbles, I think that you could have a thriving system, where impact is mostly taken by the stones, but the garden effect is thriving visually in the cracks. Occasionally the plants would get bent over and crushed on the rocks, but sweeping them into the grow cracks, or picking them up to the compost, would be easily done. You might be able to get away with a lot more % of plants than that too.

Minimize the watering of the floor by choosing plants that are alright with very little water, for the most part, and having drainage plants that handle any excess. A light misting and occasional watering is as much as many plants really need. You can find a balance with the right plants and the right culture of watering and light. These will vary depending on the orientation in the kitchen. If you are not picky to choose edible species, many mosses and perhaps lichens, would do fine in a shady corner, and do not need constant water to thrive. Where I live there are tons of forest floor perennials that thrive in low light settings. They can go long periods holding their water between 'rainfalls' on your floor. Thyme is a dry-land plant that can take a bit of impact, as many have mentioned. I would place it where it get's a bunch of light and does not get pounded to powder. If you had a deeper drain 'ditch' through the kitchen (directly beside a heavy path), it could be filled with round drain rock and soil and planted with a more moisture loving plant that is hard to kill, like mint. You might want to be a bit more cautious and careful when the systems are establishing, but I think that a person could very easily build and maintain a living floor of this nature, particularly with transplants that are ready and wanting to live. Seedlings might be harder to establish in such conditions.

All of this said, this sort of floor would handle occasional spills, and kitchen detritus without much problem. I think that if you want it to handle major spills, then the area needs to be sealed properly, from underneath with drain systems built to accommodate downward excess water flow.

I think that taking the time and planning it out is probably the biggest consideration. It sounds particularly doable in your situation/lifestyle/family.

 
Vick Smith
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A few hours north of Houston, Corey. Roberto - thanks for your thoughts, and love the idea of flags and cobblestones. My kids are thinking more like turtles than lizards to help with wildlife - since they're less likely to get into anything else, being slow and non-climbey. Eldest child is all for importing an anteater and making it a kitchen pet. More research needed there! Overall, as with everything else here, it's a grand experiment, so will be fun to see what works and what doesn't!
 
Rue Barbie
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Good luck. I think it will be a fun project.

Besides spills on the floor which could damage the plants (both heat and 'gunk'), I suspect one of the larger problems will be lower light intensity. This past winter I tried to grow greens and microgreens in the house. I thought I had the perfect place of it - a south-facing room with windows side by side and from floor to almost ceiling with direct sunlight streaming in from early till late. In summer that room is an oven, and in winter it stays warm with no additional heat. I planted many varieties, but except for just a few, there just wasn't enough light passing through the glass to produce strong, healthy plants. It was a major surprise, to say the least. While your floor plants might live, they may not prosper. They may get leggy and even more sensitive to being stepped on. But you won't know till you try.
 
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