It's January 2007 So where to begin?! 

You'd think it would be easy to come up with a plan when you have free reign of doing anything you want to do!  It is challenging though... it's taken a lot of thought and careful consideration and rethinking/re-working...


Click on (most) images for a larger view.

2007 January - March
We all have ideas of a house we would like custom built just for ourselves... or how we would change this room... or the plan of a place we are already living in.  We came across a great book by
Sarah Susanka, "The Not So Big House - A Blueprint for the Way We Really Live".  I read it cover to cover and bought the next one, "Creating The Not So Big House" and gleaned some wonderful ideas about site lines, re-thinking rooms, spatial layering, and themes and variations, to name a few.

I had never wanted to live in a huge house and Susanka's concepts of "big is not better", downsizing but keeping quality of workmanship, design for the way you live, and to reflect our values and personalities, felt right with what I wanted of a house. The design we came up with is still less than half the size of the smallest house she featured - with the exception of a cottage/house design in a cottage community on Whidbey Island in Washington State.  We actually incorporated a kitchen nook into our plan similar to one seen in that project.  We're going to build a small footprint house that incorporates sustainable practices to reduce our impact on the earth now and for the future.  We will write about this more as we implement our ideas so we can show what we are doing.

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south side of scale model
We built a scale model and plunked it right in the kitchen so we could see it everyday.  It was such a good idea to do this... Thomas can imagine things in his mind... I am a visual person and it really helped me to look inside to imagine what the space was going to feel like.  Well, it worked.  I was transported into the house and I felt the kitchen space and the inglenook seating area and walked upstairs to the 36ft open concept office, bedroom, bathroom.  The two dimensional drawings came alive in my mind; there came a point where it felt like I'd already moved in!

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site plan in the snow..

April - May
We've continued to make monthly visits to our Building Inspector, Jim, who is so personable, professional, patient, and helpful in answering our numerous questions and setting us straight on bylaws and code!  The Town sure is fortunate to have him on board ... and it seems he has been moved up to Chief Inspector, as in May he handed our plans over to Andre, a new inspector in the department.  He has been wonderful to work with as well!  We are fortunate indeed to have these two gentlemen to work with.  They've been very complimentary of our work too - commenting on our level of detail and thinking everything through.  We're right proud of ourselves - what a great feeling!
In traditional residential home construction the exterior sheathing provides lateral support to the framing structure. Since we are employing an exterior envelope design (more on that later), before we submitted our application for a building permit Jim required that we have an Engineer evaluate our plans to insure that adequate lateral support has been provided. Wanting to spend as much of our money locally we selected a structural engineer with a Sidney address who as it turns out is also a Seismic Consultant!  Graham Taylor is the project manager of the "Earthquake 99 Project" engaged with researchers at UBC in a ground-breaking (no pun intended) research project to lab test the ability of structures to withstand major seismic activity. It involves the testing of actual buildings on North America's largest dynamic shake table simulating actual ground motions of earthquakes.
In the event of a major earthquake one of the biggest challenges is the displacement of residents due to structural failures of their dwellings. Emergency shelters for large numbers of people are not only costly, but socially very disruptive. To quantify the ability of a residential structure to withstand an earthquake event and remain safe for inhabitants, four damage states have been defined as a result of this research. This scale ranks minor damage as less than 1.5% and heavy damage, that would result in the building being declared unsafe, as greater than 4.0%  

Graham assessed our design by performing a detailed earthquake damage assessment. On the basis of this analysis his company estimated that our design, with the addition of a few minor changes, has a probability of of heavy damage of no greater than 0.6% in 50 years. As a result they concluded that our design will have an excellent life safety and habitability performance in a large earthquake. Graham thanked us for being part of this innovative and enterprising project and we are absolutely thrilled to have him on our team. 

So now it seems that the last six months of reading, web browsing, researching, sourcing, planning, designing, drawing, and pricing have proven to be worth while. We are keenly looking forward to the day when we will begin building! But first we have to prepare the site...

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