Posts Tagged With: scale model

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.

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

Back to the 3D Drawing Board

During my design process I started with sketches on graph paper and quickly refined those into 3D renderings using SketchUp, a free version of a great 3D modeling program. Once I got to the point where I liked the general look and proportions of the tiny house I then started on the physical 1/8 scale model. I learned more than I could have imagined. By taking my ideas from a 3D drawing and building them in reality I was able to see more clearly what did and did not work. Now, I am in the process of editing my 3D computer model with what I have learned building the physical scale model. I also foresee this back and forth between conceptual and physical as a helpful tool for solving many problems before the actual build.

Here are several strengths and weakness I have found with each design method:

With 3D modeling software the accuracy can be perfect, however with a scale model that depends on your level of skill. Measuring, cutting, sanding, gluing, and fastening are just some of the steps involved to create and accurate scale model. Also, a mistake of 1/16″ in an 1/8 scale model means a 1/2″ mistake at actual size. The smaller the scale the more precise you will need to be with each step.

Changing dimensions, textures and colors is a big advantage of 3D modeling.

The ability to quickly change dimensions & textures are big advantages of 3D modeling.

Scale models are slow to build due to all the details that must come together just right. 3D modeling, on the other hand, can be relatively fast. You don’t have to worry about drying glue or even how to fasten materials in order for them to stay put. Also, the ability to make quick and painless changes and as many alternate versions as you like, is a huge advantage to the this process.

Assuming most of you have a computer and access to the internet, the 3D modeling can be done for no additional cost with the use of a free or trial version software. The materials for physical scale modeling, although inexpensive, may be difficult to find or cut to the exact scale dimensions required. I found that many elements like cardboard, mat board, short sections of 2x4s and aluminum pie crust dishes (for metal flashing) can all serve as modeling resources. Keep in mind that even the thickness of your intended plywood sheathing should be kept to scale to keep your model as accurate as possible.

I did not realize the satisfaction that holding a physical representation of my tiny house would bring. To feel the weight of the model, the smell of the wood, looking into the open doorway and seeing the sleeping loft  made the project feel that much more rooted in reality. I enjoy my print outs of the computer models with the color textures and rendered perspective, but for me it does not come close to replacing the experience of building something physical.

Scale model with 'metal roof' and siding.

Scale model with ‘metal roof’ and siding.

Structural Integrity
Several times I discovered areas of my scale model that did not join up with enough strength and required reinforcement. When this was the case I built the reinforcement into the design, instead of just adding more glue to the model. My thinking was this, if my scale model needed additional support then a full size structure would benefit from the same reinforcements. This would most likely occur by feel or sometime by structural failure – usually when I was moving the model. This is something that would be difficult or impossible to test in a free version of a 3D modeling program.

Skill Sets
Depending on your skills and knowledge on each method you could tailor your design process to meet your strengths. There is no reason to attempt 3D modeling if you do not enjoy designing on a computer. Or likewise, with building a scale model. Even though I am familiar with 3D modeling, I found that building a scale model for the first time was fairly intuitive.

All this said, I strongly urge anyone who has the time and patience to try out both methods of design. The strengths of one style help to offset the weaknesses of the other. And I assure you that the learning will be exponential as you switch between the different modeling practices applying what you learn each time to the other modeling method.

Categories: Tiny Home: Arborion | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Scale Model: Exterior Walls

During the designing of the Arborion tiny house, I continue to make changes and improvements. However, the exterior walls, for the most part, are fairly straight forward. I’ll present the construction layers in a similar manner as the subfloor and point out several key points of interest that may be worth noting.

The exterior walls are constructed of the follow layers from the outside inward:

  1.  3/4″ cedar siding
  2.  storm guard underlayment
  3.  5/8″ high grade plywood
  4.  structural grade 2x4s
  5.  professionally installed closed-cell spray foam
  6.  1/2″ maple plywood (interior surface)

See previous post for subfloor attachment details – Scale Model: Subfloor




As I mentioned in my previous entry, the trailer I have selected is a 8′ x 20′ trailer built by Tiny Home Builders. The exterior wall thickness subtracted from from the wide flanges will give me just over 7′ of interior space. This is a minimum requirement for my design – especially in the tight kitchen (galley) area.

The exterior walls are a simple rectangle in layout except for a small 30″ x 36″ porch at the rear corner of the trailer. This location is also where the only door to the tiny house is found. There are a total of twelve windows to allow for maximum light while keeping a single long wall of the house virtually window-free. This side will be positioned facing north in colder climates or south in warmer climates to block cold north winds or hot summer sun respectively. The sleeping and storage lofts are integrated into the walls and roofing in order to tie everything in for maximum strength, but I will cover this more in my next post.




Next Up – Scale Model: Roof

Categories: Tiny Home: Arborion | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Scale Model: Subfloor

For my Arborion design Tiny Home I’ve chosen the 8′ 6″ x 20′ utility trailer built by Tiny Home Builders as my foundation. After spending many months searching CraigsList and trailer manufacturer sites, I am sold on this sturdy design and reasonable pricing. I should also mention that my design calls for some slight modifications to their standard trailer. These modifications include wider trailer deck flanges along with reinforcement on the sides, upgrade to axles and wheel well fins to help keep out weather.

The layers of the subfloor consist of the following layers from the ground up:

  1. Metal framing support of the trailer. By selecting the trailer I described above, I start with an ideal platform to build a well-supported and strong subfloor.
  2. 5/8″ plywood painted, sealed or covered with aluminum flashing on the underside. The five plywood sheets will run across the width of the trailer.
  3. A framework of 2″ x 1-1/2″ supports ripped down from 2x4s. Double joists will be added at the plywood seams for better attachment and support. This will allow just enough vertical space for the insulation, plenty of support on top of the metal framework of the trailer, and saves vertical space within the home. Also, all plumbing and electrical will be run through the walls so no extra space is needed within the subfloor for these components.
  4. 2″ ridged insulation panels with foil backing on both sides for blocking infrared. I have yet to determine the brand I will be using. Although this is not a ‘green’ option, nor is it cheap. I feel that with the life-span of the home and the energy savings of this high-efficiency energy barrier, that responsible use of this product will be worth the investment.
  5.  Five sheets of 5/8″ plywood painted and sealed will cap off the sub floor.


The top side of the finished subfloor with final layer of 5/8″ plywood, as represented by a 1/8 scale model. Note cut outs for the trailer wheel wells. 


The underside of the subfloor with partial layering of aluminum flashing, 5/8″ plywood, and subsequent layers as represented by a 1/8 scale model. 


The underside of the subfloor, minus the layer of 5/8″ plywood, as represented by a 1/8 scale model. The silver panel between two joists represents the insulation that will be used throughout the subfloor. Note that the cut out for porch has finally been added and is separate from the subflooring and will be attached directly to the trailer. This will allow for better drainage during wet weather and protect the home (main subflooring) from possible water damage.

The attachment of the subfloor to the trailer will consist of five 1/2″ dia. bolts along each long side of the trailer securing everything to the flanges.


Cross section of subflooring attachment to trailer flange via 1/2″ dia. bolts.

Next up – Scale Model: Exterior Walls

Categories: Tiny Home: Arborion | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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