When you are building a non-traditional house, you spend a lot of time wondering about things that people building in the usual 2×4, drywall, aluminum siding and asphalt shingle world can take for granted. But Doug and I want to be green pioneers and explore new ideas about sustainable structures. Its unfamiliar territory. But we saw a sign post along the way a few weeks ago.
We are working with Whole Trees Architecture to build a cozy, house whose members will be unmilled lumber with straw bale walls and a sod roof. We have drawn and redrawn the plans, whittling down and down until we, and our architect feel we have got it just about right with a main floor 24 x 36 that will contain the kitchen, living room, bedroom, bath and laundry. In the basement we’ll have 2 little offices and a guest room. Over one corner of the main floor there will be a little, low-ceilinged loft. It looks great on paper.
But what will that space feel like? We got a chance to experience something similar a few weeks ago. Our architect built a house of very similar dimensions in rural Potosi WI, not very far from where Doug and I have been teaching at UW-Platteville. So we motored over to check it out. This house is owned by someone who uses it for a retreat. It is called Tussen Taak (thousand thanks). No one was there when we visited, so we could just sit down and experience the space for a couple of hours.
This structure is similar to ours in its basic layout and dimensions. We too will have an open ceiling above the eating area. The whole tree timbers will be similar, but no two are are alike, of course.
And it has board and batten exterior walls. That’s what our barn has, but our house walls will be strawbale and mortar. We worked with that at a 6-day workshop last summer (see my post on that workshop here), and it was a wonderful material.
Tussan Taak is insulated with reused wooden pallets filled with insulation. Our walls will be much thicker and insulated with straw.
Tussen Taak doesn’t have a basement, which ours will. We are building into a steep hill, so we can get some solar advantage in the basement too.
Despite some differences, it was almost the same basic footprint and the same whole tree construction, with a south wall full of windows. So we began to get a sense of the interior for the first time.
It felt very good.
I can hardly wait till we build our own house next year.
Categories: Eco architecture