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.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Post and Beam

Not a great picture as the original was tiny, but shows some ideas for the main building construction and design. Another picture taken from the great "Tirutinbito" magazine

Real land clearance starts!

The neighbours have been doing a great job! In return for donating some of the wood that they chop I get free tree cutting. I hope to upload some pics of these fine folks soon.

My old friend from Tokyo, Jim Smith, came to visit and we spent some time clearing brush and grass. We also had some beers on the land after dinner. The first real opportunity I have had to enjoy the land. Wonderful sky views and we commented endlessly on the quality of the mountain air (possibly under the influence of the beer!).

Here are some pictures of earlier in the day clearing the land with Jim:

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Toyota (the car company) has developed a turf roof "tile"

Found this on a website.
 Japanese website is here
The guys who sell the tiles are here

Might be an idea for some of the roof of the house (the flat section in the southwest corner as per the concept)

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Design ideas from France

Liked the look of this French-designed eco-house. Might integrate a few of the ideas into my preliminary design concept. Particularly like the wood beam cladding and the possibility of roof gardens and an open-close deck area.
More pictures and links to this design:

Retired Forestry Professor, Fujita, helps to explore and manage land

Some months ago my neighbour Yoshiko arranged a meeting of the immediate household to discuss asking the development company to cut some of the trees in the area. As the future land owner of this plot she invited me along and it was here that we all met with Professor Fujita and his wife. The Fujitas live very close by on a plot similar to mine (on the edge of the mountain). Fujita is a retired cell biologist who was professor in the forestry department at Kyoto University. He is an expert in detecting tree disease and has a professional interest in forestry and land management. He also loves walking and managing the mountain land.
Fujita has gone a long way to making me fall in love with this plot. He has pointed out the exceptional private access to a mountain ridge which leads down into a "private forest valley". While my architect Salvator-John was visiting, Fujita appeared from this mountain path. "Amazing!" he exclaimed, "beautiful path all the way down to the bottom of the valley, you won't need to do much to make that your own private forest!" Intriged, John and I followed him back down the path. He was right. Fantastic! I will take some photos for the blog soon.
Fujita stayed a while after our short explore. He is currently marking trees to be felled on the site and will arrange for some other neighbours to help chop them down and into firewood. I will donate a third of the wood to the neighbours in return. A bargain by any reckoning! Hail Professor Fujita!
Professor Fujita and Architect Salvator-John

Invested in a Ryobi strimmer to cut the grass.

(That's not me in the pic, pic lifted from the Ryobi site). I went down to the local DIY place a couple of days ago and purchased a 2-stroke Ryobi Strimmer. 27,000yen for the top-of the range model. This is the first purchase (other than the land) that could be seen as "costs" for the project.
2 hours of strimming later and the land is looking a little less wild (below). The picture also shows architect Salvator-John using an iphone to photograph and augment measurements.

An Italian and Japanese Architectural Collaboration

Took a trip down to the land yesterday with one of my architects, Salvator-John Liotta. It was great to have John here again for the first time since the team came down to see the site for the first time around 6 months ago. The team of architects was put together by my old friend Matteo Dario Paolucci (who was a student of Venetian architect Nubar Gianighian), and consists of Salvator-John, Matteo, and Tomoko Matsushita. Tomoko's office ( will provide the schematic drawings.
John and I spent some time thinking about how to lay out the design ideas I came up with in the last post. Drawing out lines in the grass helped us to consider the layout and use of space.
Salvator-John Liotta

Friday, 18 June 2010

The Basic Design Concept

The basic concept is to have a CO2 neutral home in Japan using traditional and modern technologies and design features. The house is on the edge of a mountain (plot location) and has private and exclusive access to   two forested mountain valleys. The location provides an endless supply of free fuel and means that much of the CO2 I do use will be offset through forest management (cutting down diseased trees to allow new growth and tree planting). The location has cold winters and hot summers with cool spring and autumn seasons.

The house will use a passive solar design (south facing glass and good insulation) for winter heating with a wood stove & wood fired boiler for backup heat and hot water. I will harvest rainwater for toilet flushing and clothes washing. Flat solar collectors will be used to supply hot water for most seasons. Passive cooling will be provided in summer with natural ventilation, shade, and salt dehumidification. Ultra-high efficiently LED lighting will be used throughout the house. The house electrical systems will be automated for increased energy savings. As far as possible all construction materials and systems will be low-impact, recycled or recyclable, and sourced from local suppliers.

Below are some preliminary architectural designs:

From North

From East

From South

From West

My architect team have been proposing a variety of conceptual ideas over the last few months. One that I liked was to have a separate building (like a tree house) that could be used as an apartment while the larger house was being rented out (when abroad for extended periods etc.). I have integrated this idea to the basic arrangement of buildings and orientations. I used Punch  home design software for these designs.

Any comments welcome!

Still at "Stage 1" Finalizing Design Basics and Clearing Land

So I am still very much at the VERY beginning of this project as the reader will see from my magazine "cuttings" and long grass on the plot.

I have hundreds of ideas from months of research on building construction and eco house design. I will be putting stuff up here in a very random fashion as I progress. Please think of the blog as a kind of scrap-book of ideas and photos of work done on the site.

Feel free to leave comments on photos and ideas too!

A building I like in Kyoto #3

A building I like in Kyoto #2

A building I like in Kyoto #1

More design ideas from the "Tirutinbito" magazine

More design ideas from the "Tirutinbito" magazine

More design ideas from the "Tirutinbito" magazine

More design ideas from the "Tirutinbito" magazine

More design ideas from the "Tirutinbito" magazine

More design ideas from the "Tirutinbito" magazine

Interior ideas

There is a great magazine here in Japan called tirutinbito that
celebrates natural living. Some nice design ideas from this magazine.

More scribbles

The land is shaped a little like Italy (flipped horizontally obviously!)

Some very basic Ideas!

Some quick scribbles!

Nice idea for a possible building

So many sytles of building to choose from. I happened upon this
picture on the Internet and like the "post and beam" construction.

More long grass!

Grass has grown since video!

Shot towards the south.

Preparing to do the first work on the land

Some work to be done cutting the grass and identifying and preparing the surrounding trees for trimming and cutting. The grass has grown since the video walk around was done.

I am lucky that a local retired forestry professor is helping me to mark out the trees that need cutting!

Walk Around the Plot

Took some iphone footage of the plot. It is quite large and is on the edge of the mountains. Only one neighbour and 270 degree panoramic views (once I get rid of some of the trees!).

My Land, Our Land, A House Build in the Japanese Mountains.

So, I have been living in Japan, on and off, for around 13 years. I came to Kyoto to work some six years ago and have been renting a house up in a small mountain community between Kyoto and Lake Biwa.

The house I have been renting was built in the late 70s by a Japanese architect and I have grown into the place and feel at home here in the mountains.

While the house I rent is great, I have longed for some nice views over the lake and the surrounding mountains which my current place doesn't have. I have been keeping an eye out for property in the same community for the whole time I have been here (with or without an existing house on it); a property that has sweeping views and feels part of the mountains rather than part of the development.

At last, around a year ago a friend drew my attention to a plot that I had long admired (no house on it) that had suddenly come up for sale. Managing to secure the plot with a deposit (negotiations through the real estate agent and owner) I put my finances in order, took ownership and now begins the process of designing and building. The house will be a "self-build" but I will be drawing on the help of many many people (professionals included) all of which I hope to acknowledge here in the blog along the way. Who knows, even YOU might end up in the acknowledgements!!!

So, thanks for stopping by. Although I hope this blog might be useful for others who may follow a similar path, it is, selfishly, more for me. I hope this blog will help bring my ideas and those I gather together in one place and that it will serve to document the largest project of this type I will possibly undertake. As I write I have no firm idea on what kind of building will go on the land, or any concrete concept of landscaping, materials, construction techniques etc.

So, here goes, hope you will enjoy the journey with me!

Other Web Resources for House Building in Japan

For those of you who are happening upon this because you are interested in building a house in Japan, let me start you off with this link if you haven't already seen it: