Saturday, November 21, 2009

A dream starts to be come reality!!!

Ok, so I'm a bit of a green freak. I've always thought God had a better plan than fossil fuel! I have a cabin in VA that is powered by the Sun. I love the outdoors, and think we as humans have been given a mandate to manage it well.

So, I've wanted to build a solar powered/heated house for a long time, but I also like living in downtown Raleigh - not a lot of solar stuff going on in urban areas. Then I realized that when I bought the 6 dilapidated shot-gun houses a few years ago I got two long narrow lots behind them that happened to have a direct southern exposure. The only problem was that the lot with the street frontage is only 20' wide at the front. Current zoning code requires 30'.

Tell me I can't do something, and I'll almost go nuts trying to figure out how. Guess what - in Raleigh if a lot's boundaries pre-date zoning, it is permisable to build a single family house on that lot as long as you can meet set-back requirements.

One hurdle down. The next problem is that with a 20' lot, and 15 foot combined setback requirements for the sides that only would leave room for a 5' wide house! Well, low and behold - another loophole! My lot happens to be in the New Bern-Edenton Neighborhood Conservation Overlay District (NCOD). This is a special zoning district designed to encourage development that preserves the character of the neighborhood. Many existing homes are built right up to the lot line, so current NCOD rules allow zero lot-line building. So now, I can fit a 16' wide house with 16" overhangs!!! With a direct southern exposure on the long side of the roof!

So, I've designed a house that is 16' wide (narrow for a house, but not for a room - so design a house with no hallways to waste space) that will be certified green built and certified Energy Star. It will generate more electricity from the roof than it uses, and will heat it's own hot water for domestic use and radiant floor heating. It will collect rain water to be used to flush the toilets, do laundry and water the plants. It will have an open floor plan and be liveable but not a McMansion. I will be able to have my urban cake and eat it too - with free sun heating my house and generating my electricity!

This week Tri-City Contractors dug my footers. They were inspected promptly and....

The concrete trucks arrived. A hard-working crew quickly filled the footer trenches.

Next week, after the footers harden, they will form some concrete walls to fill with gravel. Then they will install rebar grids. My radiant floor heating kit is on it's way. I'll be looping 4 separate zones of pex piping through grids to be buried in the concrete slab. On sunny winter days, the sun coming in the southern exposure windows and the fluid running through the roof top solar collectors will heat the 8" thick slab during the day and the heat will be released at night. I can hardly wait for the next step! This will be a long process though - I plan to finish the exterior of the house in 4 or 5 months, then slowly work on the inside - doing as much of the work as possible myself. I will move in after I've lived in my current house for 2 years and can take the tax break. So check back - I'll try to be better about posting regularly since this is such a cool project!

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