Monday, 6 December 2010

Waterworld--The proposed energy system and a call for expert advice

Well, it's getting to the point where I need to finalize the energy system design. In order to run my initial ideas past some green building experts I have posted a summary of my current energy design concept on the excellent Green Building Talk forum.

Here is an extract from my post... (follow the link at the bottom to the forum thread)

I am looking for an energy design solution based around shifting water as the thermal mass and the goal is to keep the solution as cheap and simple as possible. 
The current house design has lots of glazing on the south side (maybe even over 25% of the total house--the roof slopes up to the south). The 1st floor is around 1200sqf with 550 sqf or so above in a limited second floor configuration. 
I want to utilize the south facing glazing to warm inside waterwalls/tanks and maybe some kind of inside waterfall that runs to tank/s that release the thermal mass stored overnight (flowing water inside would also help to humidify in the dry winter). I also have a couple of flat-plate collectors that can supplement the heating of indoor tanks/walls (and can buy 1-2 more) and unlimited free firewood for a wood stove (that could have tanks beside or near it)...

read on at...

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Latest design screenshots and plans

Been a while since the last update but quite a lot has been happening. More work cutting down trees (photos to come in a future post) and a new video walkthrough which I will post soon.

My friend and project architect Matteo was here for a couple of days and we spent time measuring out the building on the land and making important design changes. After Matteo got the bullet train back to Tokyo, I went to work on putting all the ideas and new dimensions into my amateur software.

All these shots should speak for themselves. We now have an internal walkway, a "light corridor" and several other cool design features. I will upload the professional images once I get them from the team. This design puts the house at 160 square meters of living space--that's 1,725square feet or 48 Japanese "tsubo".

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

New Design Pictures from the architects

Check these out! Great visuals from the street-side north view! Which roof style to go for? Please give me feedback! And who is that couple in the picture????

Monday, 13 September 2010

Lots more thoughts on design...

Been working some more on the design and taking the best from the architects' ideas. I am returning to the idea of a separate "hanare" (building/tree house), mainly because of the views that the gap between the two buildings allows out to the lake from the second floor. The space underneath the study is, oh yes, the rotenburo (or outside hot hub)!

I think this all works pretty well although now that I have my indoor/outdoor space between the two buildings I don't need it so much in the entrance courtyard, so may revisit some earlier options.

I am thinking that I will build the "hanare" entirely by myself, while the main house will perhaps be a factory-made kit that I put together with a carpenter and some friends on the site.

All the felled trees around the property can be used for decking and fencing.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Working on getting more detail on the plans....

Have been working away using the !Punch software to get a better feel of the space in the house. These images show some furniture and other features. Note the grass roof, porch swing and 3f observation deck!

Friday, 10 September 2010

New Design Ideas

Some new ideas that have been inspired by the latest architect sketches. Small shape changes with a courtyard entrance way into two volumes. Haven't worked out the way that the roof or 2nd floor work but these ground floor designs were measured on the land FIRST and then transferred onto computer. The measurements in the floor plans are thus very accurate and the positioning takes into account the views that I am now understanding having opened up the tree lines. Otherwise the room layouts and 2nd floor designs will be similar to the latest architect sketches (link above).

I used !Punch software for these mock ups.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Google Earth helps to map out possible lake views

Along with the general land clearance work it is becoming important to understand the possible lake views that can be opened up in the near future so that the house designs can be tailored to these views.

Julian and I have been using a variety of methods to transfer bearings onto google earth and to clear a path for a strategic tree felling line. We are hoping that once a line to the lake is opened up it can then be broadened out.

Here are a couple of screenshots showing the predicted lake views once the trees are felled.

View #1
1st Floor/Ground Floor projection

View #2
2nd Floor Projection

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Julian helps with land clearance

Flying in from the UK, poor Julian didn't have much time to get over his jet-lag before he was put to work. On a couple of hot summer days Julian and myself got to work clearing a view to the southeast. Together we felled around 10 large oaks and now the sky to the southeast has opened up with views of the distant mountains and golf course. I will post a video walkthrough to show-off the first major views from the site! Thank you, Julian!!!

This picture also shows the makeshift "shed" that stores the tools on site. Made up of cut logs from the site, the "shed" is technically the first "building" on the site!

Sunday, 29 August 2010

New Design Sketches

Some new design ideas from the architect team that integrate the tree house into the main building. Some nice ideas here. Any thoughts greatly welcomed!

SEPTEMBER 12th 2010 UPDATE: See how these sketches look in a mock-up 3d design

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Considering importing a Thermobuilt house

I have been considering using the the Florida Company Thermobuilt for some time now. Great innovative construction idea with super insulation properties. The above video shows how a thermobuilt house is put together. My architects are currently in contact with the Thermobuilt founder Carl Hebinck.

I will keep the site updated on how these talks proceed. Ultimately, it would be great to source and cut the EPS here in Japan, but the efficiency of the global shipping network may not mean this is cost effective for just one house. 

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Massive Oak Felled on a Morning that Opened Up the Sky

This was the morning that opened up the sky. The tall trees that have been blocking the southern exposure have finally begun to be felled. Because of their size, felling these trees needs a fair sized gang of people, with a reliable leader, professional felling crew and their supporters. Thanks to Prof. Fujita's networks and to my immediate neighbor's family, we got ourselves together just such a crew.

The Crew (left to right) Mrs. Fujita, Mrs. Simizu, Mr. Nobuta, Prof. Fujita, Me, Mr. Uneo (taken by Miki)

So, here are some great pictures and a video from a morning of tree felling. The video and pictures were masterly taken by Miki, the daughter of my immediate neighbor, Mrs. Simizu. Miki works in the film industry and one can tell from the skill of the camera work! The video shows us taking down the largest oak on the property. The oak is being pulled by the new hand winch and has already been sawed by Mr. Nobuta. Watch this monster come down and take the top part of the Japanese Cyprus next to it down with it!

A huge thanks to all those who helped this morning! Mr. Nobuta came up especially to lend a professional hand to the felling; Mrs. Simizu and daughter Miki helped to clear the trees once felled, Mrs. Fujita helped to keep us hydrated, Mr. Ueno provided an extra hand and chainsaw and Prof. Fujita was our great leader as always.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Architect Sketches Marked out on Land

Returned from a work-trip to the US to a beautifully cleared plot. Turns out Prof. Fujita worked tirelessly to cut the felled trees and branches that were lying on the land while I was away. Thank you Prof. Fujita! Mr. Ueno also contributed greatly, removing all the wood he needs for his wood-stove for the winter.

Due to efforts of these great folk, Fujita and I were able to head down to the plot on Friday to mark out the boundaries as per the architects' design.

This video is a quick walkthrough having marked out the boundaries.

Video shows Prof. and Mrs. Fujita, their dog, and my lovely neighbor, Simizu. There is a longer version of this video on the video walkthrough history page.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

First Sketches of New Designs come in from the Architect Team!

The super architect-team has supplied me with some new sketches of the new design ideas I worked out on my home design software. Some very nice ideas here. Please do feel free to leave comments!

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Timberrrrr! Land and Tree Clearance on the Plot

I have taken a couple of short video clips to show what a typical working day looks like now on the plot. A big thank you to all the neighbors who have been helping in these videos! (Simizu, Miki, Ueno, and Fujita)

Ueno fells one of many trees!

New Hand Winch Will Seal the Deal

When the rain hasn't been pouring (rainy season) I have been chopping down trees with my newly received chainsaw.

Clearing some of the trees on the south side of the land, however, is a job for a professional tree surgeon, and bringing such pros is expensive.

Prof. Fujita has recommended I meet an ex-student of his who is a professional but would fell trees as a favor.

I met Mr. Nobuto this morning and he came to look at the lay of the land. He said that with a hand winch to control the felling direction, he could do all the trees that Fujita and I identified as needing cutting.

On returning to Fujita's house, we found this hand winch on the internet ($670). Prof. Fujita and I will share the cost, and as such this represents my second official purchase. The winch will come in handy for a range of tree felling in the future, and can of course be used for other applications too.

I am constantly touched by the generosity of Fujita and other neighbours. Hiring professionals to achieve what we will have achieved on land clearance alone by the end of the month would have cost thousands. Due to the kindness of these folks, a bit of my own sweat and around $300 on a hand winch and $300 on a bush cutter (both of which are items which will be used into the future) the land will be ready for the house within a couple of weeks!

Monday, 5 July 2010

More New Designs

(Update: compare the designs in this post with the latest design). Several new ideas for the house. These don't contain the walkway entrance yet but I am thinking to preserve this from the basic concept. New in these designs is the spiral staircase that goes up to the study on the 3rd floor. This means that as one walks up, it will like climbing a nearby tree. In the winter, the views should be fantastic as one walks up. In the summer it should really feel like one is climbing up into a tree house.

In the meantime, land clearance continues. Was down at the site yesterday with the neighbor, Ueno, other neighbors and have been doing lots of tree felling. Prof. Fujita has also very generously given me a chainsaw. Pictures and short video clips to follow!




Monday, 28 June 2010

Some ideas for the east wing (separate apartment)

(edit: why not compare these designs with the latest design?)

(New view from North showing how the tall East wing will look from the road)

Been working a little on the East Wing of the house. The idea is that the first floor will be "shared" when there are separate occupants (perhaps as a utility room or some such). There will be stairs from the first floor to the second (not shown in these designs) that will be shut off by a locked door when separately occupied. The second floor can thus be a separate small apartment with deck space accessible from the roof of the main body of the house. There will also be loft space for a small study and access out to 3rd floor roof terrace.

New view from South

New view from the South East) 

Floor Plans (draft versions, no stairs or final internal layouts)

1st Floor
2nd Floor

3rd Floor

Been using !Punch Design Software again for this. See shots prior to these designs here.

Build with Japanese Cyprus from Owase?

Had a great chat with Prof. Fujita about the possibility of using Japanese Cyprus (Hinoki) as the main material for the house. Japanese Cyprus (here on wikipedia) has wonderful lemon scent and is highly resistant to rot. It is also highly prized here in Japan and often used to build castles and temples--a "Hinoki" built house will retain significant value and garner interest if I ever come to sell the place.

Being the highest quality lumber that Japan provides, Hinoki is, traditionally, incredibly expensive. However, Fujita's ex-student owns a company down in the famous Hinoki-growing Owase district (see map) which is only 100km or so away from my house. Owase Hinoki is the top of the range stuff and Fujita thinks he can get me a good introduction to some pros who work in the wood market in this area thus saving me a good deal of money and making it a viable option for the build. Link to a regional Owase association for Hinoki growing (Japanese).

Also found some interesting design ideas for hinoki houses on a site linked to from the Owase Hinoki association:

And as another aside, here is a possible idea for a curved roof section that could connect the main building to the separate apartment.