Building a House
Building a House
February 25, 2009
My wife and I are doing our part to stimulate the economy by building a house. The construction will take about a year, but the planning, design, and approval process took about three.
Financially, it’s the worst timing in the world because buying an existing house is getting cheaper every day. But we wanted some specific things in a house that just weren’t available, notably my studio.
Arguably, this process started back when I designed what was known as the Dilbert Ultimate House. That home only existed as a computer simulation that the user could “walk” through, and it included lots of features that had been suggested to me by readers. I thought you might be interested in some of the ideas that made it from the Dilbert Ultimate House into our own house design.
First, we’re building the greenest home in the area, at least for its size. Obviously the greenest home would the tiniest house you could build. But my definition of green isn’t about giving up what you want so much as finding the greenest way to do it. Some of the energy-saving features include:
– Solar panels
– Clay roof with lighter colors for best reflective properties
– Thermal barrier in roof
– Windows minimized and shaded on the hot West side
– Lots of thermal mass inside house
– Argon filled windows
– Chimney effect airflow (warmer air goes up and out)
– AC unit on the shady side of the house
– Efficient lighting
– Energy Star appliances
– Heat and AC ducts inside the house envelope
The list goes on. Our goal was to get our use of AC use down to a few days per summer. This design should get us there. (For comparison, my current office is in a townhouse that is only 5-years old and I have to run the AC full-blast for about 9 months a year.)
As far as the living spaces, we did some interesting things there too. We built a small cat’s bathroom for the litter boxes. And we have a Christmas tree storage closet just off the room where the tree will be displayed in December. Now I just need to talk my wife into using an artificial tree and we’re all set.
We don’t have a fancy foyer inside the house. That would be a waste to heat and cool. No one lives in a foyer. Instead we have a turret around the front door, so the initial visual appeal comes before you enter the conditioned part of the house.
We didn’t want a formal dining room that only gets used twice a year. Our dining area will be relatively informal and just off the kitchen, serving as both the everyday table and where we entertain. I don’t want any visitors who feel they are too fancy to eat where we eat.
My office will be in the house. I won’t be driving to work every day and adding to the carbon overload.
The back yard will be artificial turf. Water is a big issue in California. The newer artificial grasses are impressive.
Those are a few of the features. Maybe someday you’ll see the rest on Cribs.