Passive Solar Heating & Cooling ~ Part IV

design Nov 01, 2018

The Following edited excerpt is a continuation of how I designed the interior of our passive solar, self-self-sustaining home. 

The kitchen would have new appliances, and I began to research energy efficient refrigerators and stoves as well as those designed specifically for off-grid living. The island in the kitchen would function as a kitchen table.

The greywater planter would run the full length of the south wall of windows in the living room. This indoor garden would need the light from the southern windows to grow plants that would clean the greywater. This arrangement of windows and indoor garden would bring in plenty of winter sun as well as provide a lovely view from any position in the great room and kitchen. 

The remaining half of the home would consist of two bedrooms, the bathing room, toilet room, and a laundry space. Because the greywater planter would reside on the sunny and warm south side, there needed to be some consideration for getting the water from the sinks, tubs and the washing machine to flow naturally into the planter. 

I embraced simplicity by lining them up on one continuous plumbing line that emptied into the planter. The simplified plumbing dictated that the laundry room and bathroom reside on the southern wall. The single bathroom needed a warm location, so the south side of the house was the perfect place. 

Having a family home with only one bathroom must seem barbaric to many people in our western culture, but bathrooms are some of the most expensive spaces in our modern homes. 

I don’t relish cleaning these well-used spaces. So having one bathroom was fine with me. The trick is designing the space so that business in the toilet area can be done privately from the washing area. 

I needed a way to have a delightful place to soak in private. Thus, Bathing Room and Throne Room were titles added to the plans. The Throne Room had access from either the Bathing Room or from the main living space. All the doors would be equipped with locks to ensure privacy whether bathing in the tub or sitting on the throne. In addition to its door, the Throne Room would have an operable window for light as well as for added ventilation. 

Incorporating a long-time dream of a clawfoot tub, I surrounded it with a thermal mass wall for extra warmth in the winter. I pictured a bottle-art wall with sparkling, colored light shining through the reused bottles while bathing in the warmth of the sun. The colored bottles would allow light to pass through the wall but would ensure plenty of privacy. 

The washing machine was placed in the remaining area along the wall, creating an open laundry space. 

The bedrooms remained to be designed. I created my room at the end of the house, hoping to find some privacy and quiet away from the main living area. The northeast corner of this room was curved and sloped because it was at the end of the house. Two full-sized closets occupied the west wall. One closet could store clothes, and the other closet could function as a small office. I labeled the room on the plans the Lady’s Chamber. 

I allowed for a modest outdoor space, accessed from the back door just outside of my room. I labeled this area, The Mommy Patio. It was a place outlined by tires forming natural stairs as they spiraled out from the house. I imagined these steps holding blooming plants in colorful pots during the spring and summer. This western patio, shaded by the house, would provide an afternoon escape from the summer heat. I fancied enjoying a cup of coffee here in the cool summer mornings and sipping a glass of wine in comfort on warm summer nights. 

The boys’ room was placed next door to mine. For now, the room would be open to the rest of the house. We would likely add a wall or row of bookshelves to create more privacy as they matured. Their closets found a home against the back tire wall. 

From the very beginning of this quest, the kids had asked for a loft. The simple design of the house made incorporating this a challenge. No cathedral ceilings or fancy dormers existed to accommodate a full height loft, so I decided the best place for this space would be above the closets in their bedroom. 

Because this area was against the sloping back wall, the ceiling of the closet formed the floor of the loft and would feel quite spacious. A small ladder would allow easy access to this play area. An adult wouldn’t be able to stand up in this short space, but it would make a cozy place for the kids and even a great napping spot for an adult. 

By the time the weather had warmed and the building season arrived, we had a blueprint for a spacious, comfy home.

Tune into future Blogs as we dive into some of the details of the systems that make a home self-sustaining — off or on the grid.


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