Next spring I took delivery of 14 pallets (almost 5400) of interlocking paving bricks and started setting them on a bias that required a lot of cutting with a diamond saw. It was slow going, hand labor and we were anxiously looking forward to our first outdoor mid-summer luncheon.... maybe a bit TOO anxious...But, eventually, over 4500 bricks and a couple diamond saws later, it was done.
I had been scrounging used paving bricks for a while and we decided they'd make an attractive face for the newly exposed part of the house. Of course, doing that right meant putting in a frost footing for the brick facing.The contractor left us with a crushed stone base for the bricks... a LARGE base.
First, that hillock had to go, so we called another contractor friend who ripped it out....Sharp eyed viewers will notice that about this time we changed from composite shingles to a metal roof and modified the roof line over the family room- this is yet another story; here's the 'Reader's Digest' version: NEVER believe ANY contractor who insists he can make a flat roof that won't leak, no matter how small and simple it is.
Content that we had enough nice, livable inside space inside with this addition, I set out to finish the outside with a place to enjoy lingering summer evenings listening to the tree frogs. Initially this was to be a small retaining wall by the family room entry door with a small patio that wrapped around to the south of the greenhouse. I bought a couple hundred paving bricks and set out to prepare a base for them. At one point, fairly early in what was to be a small outdoor project, I asked Willi to give me her opinion regarding how the bricks should run (straight or on a bias). As we stood there on that little hillock by the family room and tried to envision what would look and work well, we concluded that a real, livable outdoor space, like what we'd built inside, was called for; and that little outdoor project grew... just a bit. Well, actually QUITE a bit. If I'd known that afternoon that it would eventually grow to cover almost 1400 square fee plus a 100 foot walk way to the car port (all hand laid brick) AND a steel I-beam and wood cover... well, I'd have probably have taken up homebrewing a few years earlier than I did......
And by the next Summer, we'd 'planted' our hill side country home:
PIZZA TIME !
We did some of the finish work including all of the exterior staining and interior painting; it was a real family affair.
Another design feature I'd decided on was hydronic heating which uses a system of tubes to circulate hot water through the floor. We broke the house into several heating zones and put independent tubing in each zone. You have to experience warm in-floor heating to know how wonderful it is. I also put in a loop to provide for picking up of heat from our main wood stove for this system:
And , of course, all of the mud gave my sons plenty of opportunities for some projects of their own...............
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it was for an earth sheltered (covered roof) design and my economic analysis had convinced me that we were better off in our part of the country with an earth bermed home that placed a conventional roof over a mostly below grade living space. But the imaginative use of a set back south face that let sun light penetrate every major living space was really attractive. We considered other plans but kept coming back to this one; eventually we decided this was at least a good plan to start with and ordered a set of drawings (thanks Roy).Convinced that earth berming was the way to go, and wanting to extend the passive solar aspects of this design, we worked with a local builder to modify the original plans to include a solarium on the south side of the living room and add clerestory sky lights over the kitchen and master bedroom to further emphasize the use of bi-directional natural light....
A running history of our earth bermed, solar home.
My interest in earth-integrated housing dates back to the mid-60's when I and a hand full of high school friends converted an old, abandoned, cement block and tile, farm root cellar into a winter hangout. We comfortably weathered some pretty cold nights with the heat cast from one small pot bellied chamber stove; regrettably I don't have any pictures of "the cellar" as we called it.During the OPEC oil embargo in 1973, I was in New England (during my Navy Days) which was particularly hard hit by the fuel shortages. At that time I started visiting with my Navy friends about my vision for an underground home. Many of them thought I was nuts (still a subject of discussion in some circles); I had no idea that about that same time a similar school of thought was taking root in some design schools and architectural firms.A few years, a marriage and a degree later, we bought 6 acres including a south facing slope, moved onto the property in some temporary housing, and started researching earth home design information. That quickly lead me to a couple manuals from the American Underground Space Association
Now "all" that was left was to build a partial roof with open beams by the solarium to avoid reducing our winter time solar access. With concrete footings carefully placedI located an old fashioned metal lamp post, some similar decorative cast pieces, fired up the welder and made some roof supports out of one inch square steel and four twenty foot, four inch I-beams.
By the time we were ready to move in, it was evident that the clerestory skylights were going to be a good addition to the kitchen workspace. and the solarium to the south of the living room would provide a nice year-round green space.
Before long, our main contractor was framing it up and closing in the shell:
........................... We started moving dirt and pouring concrete.
And we set out to build it in the hillside I'd aquired for this purpose, with the help of a couple of contractors ....