Green Building

Inspiration from my Granddad

On July 21, 2015 at 10:10 in the evening my Grandfather passed away peacefully. His name was Ron, and he was a great man. The best Grandfather anyone could hope for. He never forgot any of his grandchildren’s birthdays and always made the holidays extra special with his child-like enthusiasm. He’d end every conversation letting me know how special I was and that he was proud of me. And now that he is gone it has occurred to me that I’m not sure if I ever let him know just how much he inspired me.

My earliest memories are explorations around my Granddad’s river house. It is one of, if not the oldest, original house built in Brevard county. Built in 1786 along the Indian River in Sharpes, Florida, it is a two-story river house with wrap-around balconies, rope swings hanging from huge magnolia trees and a long dock out into the river. My two younger brothers and I spent our early childhood growing up in this old house. That grand river house had character, but it needed repairs. My granddad restored the house with help from others including my Dad. It was truly a sight when completed.

Ron also built an A-frame in Port St. John, Florida with the aid of a government grant based on his environmental design. I was still too young to help with the construction at this time, but my Dad and a couple of his brothers were put to work.

I remember going with my Mom and brothers to the site and bringing lunches. The stages of building a house looked so much like a life-sized version of the same forts my brothers and I spent our days building out in the woods.

My family moved from the river house into a house that my Dad built almost entirely by himself. I remember helping alongside my Mom and brothers as we swung hammers, soaked bricks, and played under a hand pump in the backyard. My granddad helped with this design as well. Passive solar winter heating, and convection currents were employed to make our house more energy efficient.

Memories of Granddad

It’s been two years since I’ve said goodbye to Grandfather Ron. He continues to inspire me to this day. His memory lives on.

Advertisements
Categories: Green Building, Tiny Home: Arborion | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Roofing with Aluminum Shingles

I want to start by highly recommending aluminum shingle roofing to anyone who wants a good looking 50+ year roof for their tiny house. The Permalock system by the Aluminum Shingle Company is the product I used for my tiny house. I have no professional experience with roofing, but with the installation videos provided and some detailed notes and sketches I created, I found the installation a challenging, but enjoyable, experience.

A word of caution: 45 degree angled roofs are very challenging to work on. If you are working on a steep roof, please use every safety measure to keep yourself and others from being injured.

The first step is to install the drip edge. This is nailed directly to the plywood before the underlayment. Be sure to leave about 6″ extra on either end to serve as tabs when folded around the facia.

Dormer dripedge

Dormer dripedge

I cut to length and adhered the GAF Stormguard underlayment. This stuff can be tricky to work with alone and is very messy. Be sure to wear work clothes and have mineral spirits on hand for clean up. I worked from the bottom to the top on each roof slope and capped it off with smaller and more manageable pieces at the ridge caps. Each layer overlaps the last by at least 6″.

Dormer underlayment

Dormer underlayment

Once the underlayment is in place then a frame of various aluminum sections are trimmed, shaped and nailed in place to form a start and end point for the shingles on each roof section.

Shaping a section of gable rake with a pneumatic grinder

Shaping a section of gable rake with a pneumatic grinder

Gable rake

Gable rake

My brother Daniel and I lining up the gable rake

My brother Daniel and I lining up the gable rake

End wall flashing

End wall flashing

The shingles follow a very basic pattern that is then modified for special features. The rhythm is simple to maintain as long as you pay attention to the half mark on each shingle. This will make sure they continue to line up on each course.

Dormer shingles

Dormer shingles

Finally, the shingles are finished off at the top of the roof with interlocking ridge caps.

Ridgecaps

Ridgecaps

Fancy gable returns

Fancy gable returns

Gable rake finished off with rivets

Gable rake finished off with rivets

My brother and I finishing up the gable roofing

My brother and I finishing up the gable roofing

Roofing completed!

Roofing completed!

Roofing completed!

Roofing completed!

Categories: Green Building, Tiny Home: Arborion | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Top Notch Windows

For a while now, I’ve had Arborion’s eight main windows purchased. I have them stored in the corner of a large room in my house just waiting for the day I can install them into their new home. The three remaining small windows will be custom stained-glass pieces of my own design.

Eight main windows awaiting installation.

Eight main windows awaiting installation.

Kitchen window: outside.

Kitchen window: outside.

Kitchen window: inside.

Kitchen window: inside.

Kitchen window: outside opened

Kitchen window: inside opened

I had these windows custom ordered through Home Depot. It took about two weeks to have them fabricated and delivered to the store where I picked them up. After much researching, designing, measuring, pricing and more researching I chose to go with the Jeld-Wen’s Atlantic Premium Aluminum line of windows. They are offered in two colors, white and bronze. The windows are heavy due to the double-panes and beefy aluminum frames, but super rigid and durable. I also had the window panes tempered since Arborion will be built on a trailer and at some point be taken out on the highway.

I chose the full aluminum frames over wood because of the superior durability and lack of maintenance required. The eight windows averaged about $250 a piece for a total of just over $2000 after a seasonal sale offer of 15% off the total purchase. I recommend checking with Home Depot in the Spring for the biggest saving on windows and doors. I understand that Lowes has their window and door sale just afterward in the late Spring. If you miss the sale then you may still be able to save around 10% by applying for their credit card and using it for your first purchase.

Categories: Green Building, Tiny Home: Arborion | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Modifications & Personalizations

The Arborion design has evolved since my last posting. Several of the changes involve more storage, higher quality roofing and larger sleeping loft. The effects of these changes have also altered the general appearance of the the tiny home both inside and out.

Looking a bit more green.

Looking a bit more green.

The storage loft and sleeping loft now extend out from the main building an extra foot. This creates room for extra storage closets at both ends of the house without eating up interior space and provide a convenient ledge or shelf below the gable windows. In addition to the increased storage area I also just like the look it gives to Arborion from the outside. The sleeping loft has been extended an extra foot to be flush with the top of the wardrobe and upper kitchen cabinets.

Insulation wall

Insulation wall

Room has been allocated in the kitchen for a tall, slim fridge/freezer as well as a small propane oven/range. I have plans to install a reclaimed copper sink and faucet beside the oven and in front of the kitchen window. The shower I’d like to cover in micro slate tiles. These are composed of super thin slate adhered to polyester and capable of being bent along curved surfaces. The ability to use actual stone, but at a fraction of the weight. However, it is not cheap. Luckily nothing in a tiny home is all that big.

Passive solar wall

Passive solar wall

The utility closet located over the tongue of the trailer will be divided into left and right sections. The left will hold the circuit breaker access panel, controller, inverter and batteries. While the right section will hold the propane tank and tankless water heater. The roof will be covered with hundreds of interlocking aluminum shingles. Both light-weight and very durable, these shingles are incredible.

Utility closet located over the tongue of the trailer.

Utility closet located over the tongue of the trailer.

More on my roofing choice in my next post.

Categories: Green Building, Tiny Home: Arborion | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

Raised-bed Garden Design

One of my greatest joys in life is growing my own food. I do not grow everything I eat, but am able to supplement a fair amount. I’d say easily half or more of my produce comes from my backyard. There is something about coming home from a long day of work and checking on the garden in my backyard. Its peaceful nature is compelling. Worries do not last long as I gather lettuces, green beans, swiss chard and some purple basil to go with dinner.

Tested and proven simple garden design.

Tested and proven simple raised-bed garden design 

Lettuces of all colors

Lettuces of all colors

Cherokee Trail of Tear bean grow up the pipe frame that covers the garden

Cherokee Trail of Tear beans grow up the pipe frame that covers the garden

This beautiful Purple Opal Basil is a great addition to pesto

This beautiful Purple Opal Basil is a great, colorful addition to pesto

This post will focus on the basic overall construction for the raised-bed garden. You may need to modify these plans slightly to suit your yard and any terrain obstacles you may encounter. First you’ll need to locate a sunny spot in your yard 10 feet wide by 20 feet long. The 10 feet wide is critical to this design, but the length can be as short as 10′ to as long as you like. I recommend keeping the length in increments of about 10′ however, as it will be easier to subdivide later for the purpose of walkways and crop rotations. If the location you have selected has any unevenness (most will) you’ll need to start on the highest point with your concrete blocks and work toward the lower end. This is to help ensure that you do not dig down more than you have to while keeping the tops of the blocks level. Using a string and wooden stakes can help to achieve a straight row, while a long level will result in a level garden bed when your project is complete.

Cinder blocks are a good choice for the construction of a raised-bed garden because they are cheap, long-lasting and non-toxic. I have not found any other building material yet that comes close to the advantages of concrete blocks. If you have large logs available for the construction of your ground wall this would be a good option as well, but you would need to replace them every few years as they decompose and breakdown.

The PVC is fairly cheap, long-lasting, but is composed of chemicals that I’d rather not be in contact with garden bed. So the entire frame is anchored on the outside of the concrete blocks — outside the garden. I use two sizes of PVC pipe for the frame. The first is 1″ schedule 40 and the second is 1-1/4″ schedule 40. The schedule 40 part is the thickness of the pipe wall and this is the stronger of the commonly available types of PVC. I buy all the PVC in 10′ sections. The last PVC components are joints at the top of the frame. They may not be carried in you local hardware store because they are more of a specialty item than a standard pipe fitting. You can buy them online or check a PVC furniture store for these fittings. The wonderful thing about these special fittings is that they allow someone up to 6′ 2″ to walk down the middle of the garden once the soil and walkways are in place. And besides that, I love the look of the peaked supports.

Basic design for constructing the raised-bed garden

Basic design for constructing the raised-bed garden

This specialty PVC joint is at the heart of this design

This specialty PVC joint is at the heart of this design

 

1-1/4" anchor pipes secure the frame into the ground

1-1/4″ anchor pipes secure the frame into the ground

The PVC frame will allow you to grow beans, pea or other lightweight climbing vegetable, but you may need to help the vines up the slick pipe by using a string or rope to guide it. The frame also lets us easily cover it with a reusable plastic cover to extend the growing season into late fall. I use heat lamps in mine and am able to grow right through a Florida winter. I can also use shade cloth on the frame in order to minimize the blazing sun in the middle of summer (Florida’s difficult growing season).

After laying out the concrete blocks straight, square and level, cut your 1-1/4″ schedule 40 PVC into 4 equal sections. Make the cuts at a 45 degree angle. This will allow each anchor pipe to been driven into the ground with less effort. Start at the corners driving each anchor pipe right next to the outside of the concrete block, about an inch in from the corner.  Use a block of wood on top of the pipe to protect the PVC from the hammer or small sledge while driving it into the ground.  Once all four of the corner anchors are in place then measure the distance along the long side and divide it equally or just measure out a distance between 3′ and 4′ along the side. Repeat the exact same measurement along the opposite side (making sure they are directly across from each anchor pair).

Then slide the 10′ schedule 40 1″ pipes into each of the anchor pipes. You may need to fill or extract soil from inside the anchor pipes to keep the rib pipes all at about the same height. Then with a fitting in hand, and possibly some help, grab one rib pipes and bend it down toward the center of the garden. Slip the flitting on the end. Now, with the first pipe firmly in hand, lean over and grab the pipe across from it and work your hand up the pipe to the end. With the help of your forearms bring the second pipe close to the fitting and insert it. This may take a few tries to get the hang of it. Do not be discouraged.

The last step is to add the spine. This is a piece of 1″ PVC that connects each of the ribs at the joints along the top. You can glue up all your PVC joints or do as I have done and use a loop of rope along the spine to compress the structure and keep all the fittings snug. I’m been using this design for 2 years now and I am very happy with it’s performance. I leave the frame up year round and consider it a part of the garden.

I hope this has inspired you to build your own raised-bed garden. Please contact me if you have any questions about the raised-bed garden design or suggestions on how to make the instructions clearer to follow.

 

Categories: Green Building, Natural Living | Tags: , , , , | 9 Comments

Northeast Georgia Earthship

Homesteaders, Andy and Rosemary.

The very idea of an adventure is to live out of the ordinary scope of our everyday life. So to push ourselves out of our comfort zone is par for the course. This is how it was for me when traveling 10 hours north to a small northeastern Georgia town called Royston.

Through Facebook I had discovered a couple building an Earthship by themselves. The purpose of my trip was to learn as much as possible about these ultra-efficient homes in order to build my own someday.

I had only emailed the owner, Andy, twice and spoke to him on the phone once before making the trip up. I wondered if the trip would be worth using half of my vacation time, if my dog be content to stick around their property for a week while we worked away, if I would get along with the owners, if I would get the kind of education I was seeking, and if I would be leaving there with a feeling of achievement.

After an all too brief visit with my brother and his family in Warner Robins, GA, I continued up to the Northeast Earthship construction site and arrived late Sunday. I met the enthusiastic Andy for the first time in the dark. He seemed happy enough to have a new volunteer eager to help out for a week and I was grateful to be allowed to camp out on his property for the duration of my stay.

Monday morning came and working together flowed smoothly as our conversations covered a broad base of topics. We both shared our views on why we thought the Earthship design homes were everything we were seeking in sustainable living. Most of that day, and those to follow were spent on the details of the metal roofing with plenty of breaks for walk-throughs and descriptions of the various building aspects of a home that is completely self-sustainable. Besides the fact of no utility bills, Andy and his partner Rosemary will be taken care of by their beautifully hand-crafted home. From the planned solar and wind generators to the indoor greenhouse they will have a level of freedom that most homeowners do not comprehend. Their house will quite literally be caring for them.

Other systems include fully integrated heating and cooling through the use of solar gain and thermal mass, rain water collection, water reuse and filtration, air purification, indoor food production and the use of recycled materials to lower construction costs and reduce waste. If these were not enough, Andy has even been looking into other environmentally friendly back-up systems like a wood chip incinerator for radiant heating throughout the floor of home.

By Friday we were intent on finishing the vent box covers and the battery box cover. All of which were to be installed on the roof. It was cold working on the roof in the wind, but at the end of the day and drawing to the end of my visit we both felt very good about all we had achieved.

I had arrived with high hopes. During the long drive home I had time to reflect. I had gained a wealth of knowledge and two new life-long friends that were on the same path. Every aspect of the trip was a chance to grow and learn. I had invested my time and energy into their dream and was repaid many times over.

Categories: Green Building | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.