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Black House/Round House ponderings...  RSS feed

 
Sean Kettle
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I'm sticking up some pictures of my current schemings of a home that will withstand the elements of the Outer Hebrides. Inspired by the Black Houses that were very much of the land and have stood the test of time.

The idea is to start small and build one independent round house so we can get moved in; then a second one - and then join the two together. Double skinned, earthen filled dry stone walls. Corbelled roundwood turfed roofs (less that can go wrong when compared to a reciprocal framed roof). Underfloor heating used as a dump load for turbines (plenty of wind!). Perhaps a nice geodesic skylight...

Finally a good amount of glazing for a south facing sun room.

















Thoughts and criticism encouraged!

 
Regan Dixon
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Location: Zone 4b at 1000m, post glacial soil...British Columbia
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Aha!  You're back from the drawing board!    In my opinion, this take is looking more promising and feasible, and a plausible part of the landscape, with its historic precedent and scale.  A couple of questions, and thoughts:
-What holds up the top of the roof?  Presumably posts, but they're not shown.  Or is the system more like a yurt roof, where the poles support the chimney ring, and the whole thing stays up in a conical shape, because of outward pressure on the unyielding wall?
-Your source of heat is up through the floor as described.  Is the only source of heat?
-Have you a membrane between the wooden roof members and the sod?  Near where I live, early settlers built sod roof log cabins, which today are all lovely and rustic, but eventually moisture passes through the sod, sits on the roof members, and rots them through.  I've been on a roof-clearing team.  It was dusty, dusty work, lots of sweating, and suitable for lightweight, nimble-footed people only.  The room below was disused, but I imagine they had barrowloads of dirt to remove.
 
William Bronson
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Black houses and corbeled roundwood roofs,both are new concepts to me,and very cool!
The only thing I would weigh in on is the skylight- they leak and/or are noisy.
I like how the black houses used turf ,covered with thatch.
I like the ledge that allows for easy access for re-thatching.
Heating is a common dump load for excess wind energy. Water heating allows you to move the heat around.
A connected green house could give a yeild from excess heat/energy.
If there really is a lot of wind, incandescent lighting could give light and heat,and heat loosing glazing could be eliminated.
 
Glenn Herbert
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The round roof frames each sit on the preceding one, rising by the wood thickness with each stage. It would be much simpler to build than a reciprocal roof, as it is stable at every step of building.
 
Regan Dixon
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Location: Zone 4b at 1000m, post glacial soil...British Columbia
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Ah, now I see better what I'm looking at, thank you Glenn.  Stable, until something rots...plan required.
 
Sean Kettle
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Regan Dixon wrote:Aha!  You're back from the drawing board!    In my opinion, this take is looking more promising and feasible, and a plausible part of the landscape, with its historic precedent and scale.  A couple of questions, and thoughts:
-What holds up the top of the roof?  Presumably posts, but they're not shown.  Or is the system more like a yurt roof, where the poles support the chimney ring, and the whole thing stays up in a conical shape, because of outward pressure on the unyielding wall?
-Your source of heat is up through the floor as described.  Is the only source of heat?
-Have you a membrane between the wooden roof members and the sod?  Near where I live, early settlers built sod roof log cabins, which today are all lovely and rustic, but eventually moisture passes through the sod, sits on the roof members, and rots them through.  I've been on a roof-clearing team.  It was dusty, dusty work, lots of sweating, and suitable for lightweight, nimble-footed people only.  The room below was disused, but I imagine they had barrowloads of dirt to remove.


Back from the drawing board indeed, after some sage advice.

I'm scheming up an all singing all dancing rocket mass heater - there's a stove builder in Scotland who can commission it and sign it off against relevant regulations. Cook-top, oven, back boiler... interested to see how peat will rocket.

Very interesting to hear your experience of the sod roof cabins. We'll definitely opt for a membrane of some sort, and perhaps some appropriate insulation.

William Bronson wrote: Black houses and corbeled roundwood roofs,both are new concepts to me,and very cool!
The only thing I would weigh in on is the skylight- they leak and/or are noisy.
I like how the black houses used turf ,covered with thatch.
I like the ledge that allows for easy access for re-thatching.
Heating is a common dump load for excess wind energy. Water heating allows you to move the heat around.
A connected green house could give a yeild from excess heat/energy.
If there really is a lot of wind, incandescent lighting could give light and heat,and heat loosing glazing could be eliminated.


Happy to introduce you to the concepts! It's funky stuff. I shall take heed regarding the skylight - given the occasional 130mph gusts it may not be the best idea...

I'd be happy to live in a pretty much windowless dwelling much like the original Black Houses, but my partner thinks otherwise! The sun room/green house/glazing will be a fixture of whatever we end up building.
 
Travis Johnson
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I am not an expert on this kind of housing, but I am VERY interested in it. I see no reason why it would not work.

I was originally going to say that building with rock takes a lot of time, but then when I look back at my own lavish use of rock, I got a lot accomplished in just a few years. The key is just to start. This applies to everything in life, but when you suggest doing anything, there are 15 people telling you why it can't be done. There is SOME value to that, but often just starting an ambitious project is enough. And the last piece of advice applies to everything as well. Finish. Always save drive, determination and funds for the finish.

It is kind of like a marathon runner. They can't win the race if they never start! And 15 people are going to tell him why he is not conditioned enough to take on the grueling challenge. And it certainly does not do any good to quit the race 80% of the way through.

I have found in the middle is where I get discouraged, for I see how hard it has been to get to the half way point and yet there is so much to do, but sticking with it achieves results.

So best wishes to you on this. I'll be following your progress for sure.
 
Chris Knite
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Primarily I wanted to comment in order to encourage you.  Fun looking project!  Please keep us informed and updated.

As a possible input - when building my in-laws place, rather than put in a skylight we put in a "sun-tunnel" (not the correct word).  He wanted the natural light into an interior room, but was afraid of heat-loss and exposure to leaking of a sky-light.  Instead we put in a kit that had a small 12" round aperture on the roof - connected to shiny 8" ducting, connected to a glass opening in the room.  We insulated the ducting so very little heat loss, but a surprising amount of light gets radiated into the room.  It is not a window, but it brings in the natural light.
How in the heck you would install either that (or a skylight) into your type of roof I have no idea.
 
Regan Dixon
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Location: Zone 4b at 1000m, post glacial soil...British Columbia
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Sean Kettle
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Travis Johnson wrote:I am not an expert on this kind of housing, but I am VERY interested in it. I see no reason why it would not work.

I was originally going to say that building with rock takes a lot of time, but then when I look back at my own lavish use of rock, I got a lot accomplished in just a few years. The key is just to start. This applies to everything in life, but when you suggest doing anything, there are 15 people telling you why it can't be done. There is SOME value to that, but often just starting an ambitious project is enough. And the last piece of advice applies to everything as well. Finish. Always save drive, determination and funds for the finish.

It is kind of like a marathon runner. They can't win the race if they never start! And 15 people are going to tell him why he is not conditioned enough to take on the grueling challenge. And it certainly does not do any good to quit the race 80% of the way through.

I have found in the middle is where I get discouraged, for I see how hard it has been to get to the half way point and yet there is so much to do, but sticking with it achieves results.

So best wishes to you on this. I'll be following your progress for sure.


Thanks Travis for your advice and well wishes, I'm with you on all those points. I look forward to getting started, we need a plot first! All in good time. I'll be posting updates on the build once we get round to it.

Chris Knite wrote:Primarily I wanted to comment in order to encourage you.  Fun looking project!  Please keep us informed and updated.

As a possible input - when building my in-laws place, rather than put in a skylight we put in a "sun-tunnel" (not the correct word).  He wanted the natural light into an interior room, but was afraid of heat-loss and exposure to leaking of a sky-light.  Instead we put in a kit that had a small 12" round aperture on the roof - connected to shiny 8" ducting, connected to a glass opening in the room.  We insulated the ducting so very little heat loss, but a surprising amount of light gets radiated into the room.  It is not a window, but it brings in the natural light.
How in the heck you would install either that (or a skylight) into your type of roof I have no idea.


Thanks for the encouragement Chris. I've seen these before and they look very interesting. I'm sure we could find a way to squeeze a few into the design
 
Glenn Herbert
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The sola-tubes (one brand name I believe) should work for you, but I would also want some sort of view out of every main room. The skylight, being at the highest point of the space, will cause the most possible heat loss. Windows low in the space will cause less heat loss. I would modify the design just a bit to lower the stone/sod wall at one point on the south side of the room to allow a window, which would also allow through ventilation when the windows can be open. You could have a bit of view out to a sunny garden space, or through flowers in the spring...


I would most assuredly have a window leading from each round room to the greenhouse space, as that would not even alter the drainage or exterior appearance of the structure.
 
Sean Kettle
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Glenn Herbert wrote:The sola-tubes (one brand name I believe) should work for you, but I would also want some sort of view out of every main room. The skylight, being at the highest point of the space, will cause the most possible heat loss. Windows low in the space will cause less heat loss. I would modify the design just a bit to lower the stone/sod wall at one point on the south side of the room to allow a window, which would also allow through ventilation when the windows can be open. You could have a bit of view out to a sunny garden space, or through flowers in the spring...


I would most assuredly have a window leading from each round room to the greenhouse space, as that would not even alter the drainage or exterior appearance of the structure.


Yes Glenn, in the name of simplicity I think I'm going to give the ol' skylight a rethink.

Good call on a window looking into the greenhouse. And a decent sized south facing window would be really nice. Though I found myself getting upset when considering double glazing! Such a limited lifespan for such an integral, expensive and energy consumptive item. Hopefully there may be a way of interpreting the building regs that permits single glazing with some shutters/a really decent curtain. Perhaps another topic...

I'm having a think about different approaches to the roof as I am no longer considering a skylight. The diameter of the roundhouses is 6m. I'm looking for something that doesn't necessitate any posts in the middle and can support a turf roof. The hunt continues...
 
Regan Dixon
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Location: Zone 4b at 1000m, post glacial soil...British Columbia
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Re:  double glazed windows.  I'm asking partly out of my own ignorance, but I intend to do the following in my next project:  Can one not get two panes of ordinary glass, and double-groove the wood one intends to use as a frame, and just seal it well, as one would for a single pane of glass?  It wouldn't be vacuum sealed, so maybe some moisture between the panes, but it would be dead air space for pennies instead of pounds.
 
Glenn Herbert
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You certainly can do that. What would probably be better than double grooving the wood frame would be setting one pane of glass into a deep frame recess with a 1/2" x 1/2" strip of material, then setting the second pane in the normal fashion with putty. This would allow future disassembly for maintenance or replacement of a broken pane without destroying the frame. That is what my father did in the late '50s when he built the house I grew up in. It had no good sealing aside from tight wood joints, so moisture and even a few spiders did get in. With actual sealants in the construction (either putty or silicone if you are willing to go with modern tech), it could be quite tight. I would do the work in very dry weather to minimize the built-in moisture. Clean the inner surfaces painstakingly, as anything left inside will be there to look at forever.
 
Sean Kettle
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Regan Dixon wrote:Re:  double glazed windows.  I'm asking partly out of my own ignorance, but I intend to do the following in my next project:  Can one not get two panes of ordinary glass, and double-groove the wood one intends to use as a frame, and just seal it well, as one would for a single pane of glass?  It wouldn't be vacuum sealed, so maybe some moisture between the panes, but it would be dead air space for pennies instead of pounds.


Glenn Herbert wrote:You certainly can do that. What would probably be better than double grooving the wood frame would be setting one pane of glass into a deep frame recess with a 1/2" x 1/2" strip of material, then setting the second pane in the normal fashion with putty. This would allow future disassembly for maintenance or replacement of a broken pane without destroying the frame. That is what my father did in the late '50s when he built the house I grew up in. It had no good sealing aside from tight wood joints, so moisture and even a few spiders did get in. With actual sealants in the construction (either putty or silicone if you are willing to go with modern tech), it could be quite tight. I would do the work in very dry weather to minimize the built-in moisture. Clean the inner surfaces painstakingly, as anything left inside will be there to look at forever.


Great! "Secondary Glazing" is essentially what you speak of. As you say - predates double glazing, is more user friendly, simpler/lower tech and less wasteful in that a misted up unit doesn't have to be "recycled" every 20 years or so. My dad says he's used cling film in the past at a pinch. My double glazing blues have subsided; thank you.
 
Glenn Herbert
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If sealed with silicone or other good sealant, it would actually be double glazing, just without special atmosphere and fancy components. The secondary glazing is a good idea where there is already one pane of glass in a frame.

I have built a few of these as sealed, double-glazed panels that were then set into a custom wood frame.
 
Sean Kettle
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Glenn Herbert wrote:If sealed with silicone or other good sealant, it would actually be double glazing, just without special atmosphere and fancy components. The secondary glazing is a good idea where there is already one pane of glass in a frame.

I have built a few of these as sealed, double-glazed panels that were then set into a custom wood frame.


I suppose it would be! Looking forward to giving it a go one day
 
Sean Kettle
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Back from the drawing board again. Seems like I'm progressively moving towards the vernacular - out with the round, in with the rectangular. Seems a bit simpler to pull off and to butt additional buildings on. If I keep going down this path I'll be doing away with the glazing and stretching Highland Coo' stomach over the window frames like they used to...

Again, the idea is to start with a small dwelling - internal measurements 6m x 4.5m. Big chunky wood frame to hold up chunky joists for supporting a heavy sod roof. I couldn't find a span table for joist sizes supporting up to 500kg/m2 - having a slab of timbers made up of 100mmx300mm would certainly do the job however.

Waterproof membrane and landscaping fabric to protect it on top. A layer of foamglas insulation or similar, another membrane and finally turf from the site.



Build second dwelling 10m away and join the two together! Central section to be split into greenhouse, kitchen, bathroom, living room, etc.



The finished build would require between 200 and 300 tonne of walling stone...



Criticism and thoughts, constructive or otherwise, encouraged!
 
Sean Kettle
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Revised layout that makes a bit more sense to me. Makes for a larger open plan kitchen/living room.





 
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