Photo left is the interior of "Eyelash" plan.
Hello, Robert here.
My primary purpose in putting up this site is to introduce my straw bale house plans.
Notice that the average size of these plans (about 1000 sq. ft. inside) is small by North American standards. My initial interest was in designing small, efficient, Straw Bale houses that are easy to build (owner/builder friendly), do not require a mortgage (pay as you go), are expandable (as you have the money), and are fun to build and live in. Some of my early designs met these standards, others did not. Now I am spending more time designing larger houses for people who want their dream home.
An underlying assumption is that as world population increases, as man and nature continue to destroy existing homes, and as resources are depleted, demand will increase for small (and larger) low cost, energy efficient housing...and that many of you out there will want my plans and my design services.
Most of these plans are conventional in that they include the rooms and spaces normally associated with western housing, (bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens, areas for laundry and utilities, etc). When planning for alternative lifestyles, these spaces can be used for other functions without substantially altering the plan. Areas designated for washer/dryer, utilities, or bathrooms, for example, can also be used for storage or closets, always in demand. Because the plans are small, public areas (living, dining, kitchen), are often combined in an open plan, or share space.
ConsiderationsIn general, I have tried to accomplish the following with each plan. Keep in mind that a good plan is a subtle blend of compromises, the most important elements (to you), in balance.
- Small. To avoid mortgage payments, pay as you go, minimize resource use, and keep construction simple (and fun), it helps if the plan is small. Most of these plans are designed as small as possible and still be livable...always with the option of "blowing them up" 100% or more for more space in all use areas. A "basic living unit", consisting of a combined living, dining, kitchen, a small bath (with utilities near by) and one or two bedrooms, requires between 350 and 800 sq. ft. of inside floor area.
- Expandable. The basic living unit is a useful concept, particularly, if the plan is also expandable. Some of these living units must stand alone (not easily expandable), others allow the addition of a room or two, and others are designed as two or three part expansion projects.
- Plumbing Efficiency.Most plans include some kind of plumbing wall or plumbing core to keep equipment close together, runs short, and construction simple. Until these plans are actually build, it is difficult to say how well this goal has been met. Soon, I will meet an experienced plumber who shares my perspective and has the talent to see problems and make corrections from the plans. Let me know if that person is you.
- Passive Solar. Generally (in moderate climates), for good passive solar performance, the prefered plan is somewhat longer on the east/west axis, providing good exposure to the low winter sun, with a somewhat higher percentage of glazing on the south face, less on the north, and less again on the east/west walls to prevent heat build up in summer months. Additional glazing on the south face should be balanced by additional (exposed) thermal mass inside the house. Rooms with more exposed thermal mass (like bathrooms and kitchens) are more effective on the south face than say bedrooms with low mass furnishings (bedclothes, carpets).
You wilI see from my plans that I honor the above formula, but fairly often break away into something "less efficient". My excuse is that I believe a well designed, well build "superinsulated" house can make some passive solar concessions, put more weight on other considerations and still be a "good" house.
- Super Insulated. Solar heating and cooling, passive solar design and solar tempering is less an issue when the house is superinsulated. Properly done, superinsulation (with accompanying sealing), greatly reduces the total amount of heat required from solar and supplemental sources. A poorly insulated house could use huge banks of south facing windows and accompanying thermal mass to provide part of the enormous heat requirements. With the well build straw bale (superinsulated house), solar measures can be modest and get the job done. If the plan looks too solar...maybe it is.
- Straw Bale Module. Most plans are based on either a 3 foot (two string) or 4 foot (three string) bale module, with design decisions (outside wall dimensions, window size and placement for example) strongly influenced by this module. Most plans can be designed and built using either three or four tie bales (with window size and placement modified accordingly). A 12 foot wall section for example, can be constructed with 4 three foot bales, or three 4 foot bales. In the real world of straw bale home building, the bale module often gets ignored for other considerations.
- Load Bearing Option. Generally, the smaller and simpler the plan, the more likely one has the option of using load bearing construction (which may be less expensive). As size and complexity increase, it becomes more likely that post and beam construction will be required. Often, a hybrid system is possible, with post and beam or stick construction on the south wall (with more windows), load bearing on the north wall (assuming few and small windows), and maybe a center suport post and beam system.
- Symmetry. Many factors influence house design including for example, education, class, custom, intuition, art, science, tradition, culture, code, (you name it). Within these constraints, designers have the opportunity to bring something personal to their work. Symmetry is a theme that runs throughout mine. My underlying assumption is, if a plan looks good (to me), feels good, works well, in plan, energy will generate and flow well, and the house will be enjoyable to live in. For me, in most cases, this means symmetry. The shape, the footprint is the starting place for me, with use areas expected to fit into this matrix. In most cases, use areas gracefully adjust, in respect to the overall form. Obviously, there are other ways to design a house...