Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Progress on Site Work and Foundation at NHND to the Pond

When you build in an established developed area, like a village, there could be municipal services that your new building can hook up to, like water supply and sewage treatment. There are enormous benefits to shared services such as these, and that's why the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards value selecting a building site in an already-developed area so highly. (Site selection can also help one minimize their transportation footprint - which this family is great at, biking to work/school/town)

This rural site doesn't have any municipal services to offer.  So the owners here have to install their own services. Here are more photos of dirt, but essential if you want to have indoor plumbing!

Temporary construction "road" to SDS area of site (follows existing carriage lane)

Raised Leach Field

House Footings
In addition the the well and septic, the footings for the house were poured. The house is placed on the site such that part of the foundation will be exposed out of the hill sloping down to the pond, so the footing needed to step down as well. In our climate zone, footings need to bear on undisturbed earth minimum 42" below grade. (or be re-bar tied into bedrock) This is to ensure they are on soil that won't freeze and heave, which would rack/move the building un-evenly, like a annual winter earthquake! Footings and leach fields may not be interesting or glamorous, (no pics like these on Houzz!) but they are probably one of the most important parts of making a rural home safe, solid, and comfortable to live in for many generations.

Tall Forms used (right side) where footing steps down hill

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Site Analysis for the New House Next to the Pond

In the first post about the NHND to the Pond, (read it HERE ) I mentioned how an architect-designed house such as this one starts with a site analysis and a program analysis.  Through the analysis of the site I review the legal, natural, man-made, and physical conditions of the specific building site, as well as the climate/solar path/prevailing winds. The "program" is the architect's term for the rooms or spaces needed/wanted (pretty standard in residential architecture) and where they should be placed in relationship to each other on the site.

Proposed Site Plan
First let's talk about legal restraints. These include required zoning regulations such as setbacks from property lines, water, etc. This information can help inform where the building or driveway/curb cut can be placed (without having to get a variance from the town or special permission from the DEC, for example). The zoning regulations will also set limits on the footprint size, maximum lot area to be covered, maximum and minimum building square footage, and maximum height of primary or accessory buildings so that something completely out of character with the neighborhood cannot be constructed without input/review. Some laws can also include "pattern" books or suggested materials or styles- this is mostly found in village centers and historic districts, and not relevant for this project, which is located outside the village boundary on a rural road.

Open Meadow by the Road
The natural features of the site were then examined. This site is large with a stream, pond, wetlands, rock outcroppings, wooded and meadow areas.  There is a lot of grade change and a surveyor was engaged to create a topography map so we could read how water drains off the hillside. This map helps the designers figure out where the rock outcroppings are and where the land/soils might be most suitable for the house, the well, and the septic (SDS) system.

The man-made features on the site include a old farm path leading up the hill, a rudimentary stream crossing (which did not meet current standards and needed to be upgraded), meandering old stone walls at some property lines, and utility poles along the edge of the road. These features are all shown on the survey as well. In a neighborhood or a smaller site, neighboring buildings would be taken into consideration, so the placement of the new building fits in (see NHND post showing a site plan in a village HERE ) but on this site, we have no "context" like that that we need to be sympathetic to.

The physical conditions, like soil type, were looked at by the engineer to determine the design of the SDS system. He also determined the volume of water (design is always for the worst case - the 100 year flood) that will be coming down that hillside so as to design proper drainage for the driveway, and around the structures. This helps set the finish floor elevation and the garage slab elevation so that the building is up enough to be dry, without having its foundation sticking out too much. It also helps us figure out the grading into the garage for a car and setting that so that we don't need an excessive amount of steps between garage and house.
Correctly designed overhangs let in winter sun and block summer sun

 One of the most important things I look at during the site analysis is the solar orientation. Following the track of the sun across the sky helps layout what rooms might go where and informs the orientation of the long axis of the building. When at all possible, it's best to have the long axis north-south with an eave overhang for shading in summer. Creating a diagram of the height of the sun in winter (when we want to let the sun it the house) and summer (when we want to shade the house from the sun) informs the size of the roof overhangs.

Site Analysis informs design of house
So the site analysis of this pond property showed that what at first glance looked like the best building spot - the level meadow by the road- was not legally allowed, as it was within the DEC wetlands buffer. Therefore, a long driveway would have to be constructed up the hill to a building site in the woods. We elected to have the driveway come from the road at the southern edge of the property, even though this meant crossing the stream, because it meant not crossing through this wetlands buffer, which a driveway from the northern edge would have to do. (the engineer stated that steam crossing would be the easier permit to get). And this way we could re-use the existing farm lane as our driveway, therefore requiring less clearing and re-grading than a new driveway from the north edge of the property.

The SDS system and it's expansion area were placed where the soils could handle the percolation required. The house site was decided to be on a level-ish area not-too-far up the hill in the woods with the house oriented such that it's long axis faces south for ideal solar advantage. A walk-out basement recreation room could be incorporated in the northwest corner where the grade slopes down toward the pond. The garage could be tucked behind on the north, not blocking light or the view of the beautiful house as one approaches. (us architects always want to hide the cars/garage) The south/front of the house can have the porch my clients want while also functioning as the entry, and the west side- near the pond- can be the place for the screened porch. Now we are starting to get into program analysis - and that can be the next post.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Electricity at the New House Next to the Pond

Electricity trench from pole
The New House Next to the Pond is awaiting the power company to inspect and hook up electricity to the site. (working with wired electricity powering the tools, rather than using a gas-powered generator, is preferable by far for the workers and the environment)

The trench is dug from the pole at the street, up along the side of the driveway, over the stream, to the house site.

But this house won't be buying all it's electricity from Central Hudson. There is an "off shoot" trench/conduit for a connection to where the solar panels will be located. I named this project the New House Next to the Pond, but it is could also be called the New House in the Woods; solar on the roof is not possible, as there is too much shade. So, a free-standing, grid-tied PV (photo voltaic) system is planned for the sunny meadow between the road and house.

This network - follow the red "ribbon" next to the conduit- is all connected, so the PV system can supply the house with it's power, as well as selling the excess generated electricity back to the grid for neighbors to buy and use. (and, of course, the house will draw power from the grid when it needs to, like during night)

Conduit not in trench at bridge
Off-shoot Trench leads toward Solar Panel location
Giant Spools left over from long runs of wire

Temporary meter location with house site beyond

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Hiding the Structure- Before and After Photos

Steel Lally Column in basement supports floor above at corner of stair
I was on a job site and the carpenter was lamenting that the spray foam insulation covers up all the framing. He likes the framing. He likes seeing the bones of the structure.

But mostly we cover it all up. Except for timber frame, where the structural frame is left exposed inside the space, most of our construction methods hide the structure behind wood or sheet rock.

Here are some before and after photos with the structure exposed (before) and the final product after the structure was all hidden by the finish materials.

Trim around column disguises that column into part of the stair railing
Engineered Lumber Beam (long and orange-ish color) supports 2nd floor/roof above
Boxed in Beam painted white with round columns becomes decorative separator between Living & Dining areas

Pressure Treated Lumber supports Screened Porch Above
Posts and Beam gets Wrapped in Trim with Bases and Capitols and Painted