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Garden Shed Kit Home

December 24, 2010

Hello all. I’ve been away for awhile – I’ve started many projects that met with dead ends and I’ve put them on the back burner for awhile. I had the thought last night – why not post these home design dead ends and see what you think. After all they all meet the criteria of “not going anywhere” (at least for the moment).
I stumble apoun a very attractive tiny structure/home at Mayaland

I had commented on Mayas’ blog that this tiny home structure had a perfect passive solar design with a shallow depth of 12′  (north to south). It had a large southern exposure window walls and the roof sloped down to the north side to shed cold winter northernly wind.

Since this little structure was perfect little home I decide to make changes to it to make it more “perfecter” – or a least to make it a good tiny home design for me.   I wanted it to be a longer structure – I made it 20′ x 12′ . The model looked good but I think in the finale draft I will add another 4′  to the length – a panel section with out a window on the west side of the glass door. Apart from giving me more floor plan space it will give me room to put a kitchen ( and counter space) along the west wall with a small bathroom ( or water closet for my British readers) on the back north wall.  This

set up will also protect the home from heating up when the summer sun falls in the west.  I also add a spiffy roll up, RV

awning to the design – bringing it out past the west wall to further protect from over heating in summer and the roll out shade would make sure to keep things cool.

I added a large window on the southwest wall – this would warm the home up in the winter afternoon sun – this window has a roller shutter that can be rolled forward to cover this window in summer afternoons.

I am also attempting to make this a panelized design with

galvanized, corrugated steel with 2′ x 6′ cedar planks bolted to the edges to make it easy to construct and disassemble the house so it can be easily move.  My thinking is that once the structure is bolted together the top “loft” floor and roof can be taken apart – the bottom floor can stay together – place a 12’x24′ roof section over this and you can move the bottom floor in one piece, making it fairly easy to move. I am still working on the panel sections and the celestial window for the loft needs some work.

I would love to hear some feedback on this design, I think it would make for a very attractive and efficient small home design system.

Thank you for your time.


The Bauhaus Barn

August 10, 2010

A number of people have been asking nicely to see the “innards” of the miniaturized modified A-frame ( gambrel A-frame – Jack Wades A-frame I knew it was going to be a time consuming “black hole” type of project but I decided to proceed with it any way because folks had ask nicely.

When I was a kid spending my summers at my grandparents cabin on the lake I would love breaking into my grandfathers stacks of old Popular Science and Popular Mechanics magazines that he kept in a box by the fireplace.  These where from the golden age of the D.I.Y. magazines – 40s 50s and early sixties.  I remember fondly the diagrams in these mags. They where usually cartoon”ish”  in nature, with bold ink lines and bright watercolours.  They usually showed an exploded view of some d.i.y. projects – had a 3D perspective and the outer shell of what was being built was usually removed to give you a good look of how things went together.  I would study these drawings at night in my bunk with a flashlight.  The next morning I would be off on my 3 speed with the banana seat and ape hanger bars, scouring the neighborhood  for turpentine and tuna cans and some nuts and bolts to build myself a double burner alcohol stove.  I still have that stove somewhere.  I think that those old drawings are part of the reason why I was so captivated by the Bob Theis drawing of the Oikos cottage . It is a great small home design and I hope that someone builds it someday but the drawing gives you the feeling for the homes brilliantly simple design and this one drawing contains the bulk of the building information – 20 minutes of studying it and you feel like you are ready to start pounding dirt into tires.

I had hoped to emulate these old drawings with the Bauhaus Barn.  I put a month of work into it ( of prime summer weather) and I am glad I did.  I will breaking this project post into a few bite size post pieces over the next couple weeks. There is a lot of stuff packed into this drawing. I actually skinned the the frame with 3/4 inch ply before I covered it with corrugated steel – and I have some cross bracing in the frame that is hidden – just because I wanted to see if it could be done. It sits on a 20′ x 20′ frame and it has an optional, small mud/mechanical room in the back.  The window dormer/workstations where designed to visually enlarge the space and the split level loft areas give the house a feeling of a big play house – the stacks of  old Popular Science and Popular Mechanics should be made a mandatory fixture in the Bauhaus Barn.

The Bright ISBU – a Design Project Slightly Less Wacky

July 13, 2010

I put a number of projects on the back burner to rework an old container home idea.  The inspiration for this project came from the architect and shipping container (ISBU) visionary Alex Klein. I purchased (made a donation to) his new book “Introduction to Container Homes and Buildings” Contemplating Corten Castles from his website  Al has been working at designing and building affordable green homes using ISBU containers since the late 70s. For those of us who see the potential of building affordable, energy efficient, appealing homes from recycled shipping containers – Alex’s new book ( and the larger one pending) is exactly what we have been waiting for. I’ve seen resource materials on ISBU building  that is short on the “nuts and bolts” of construction knowhow and other material that offer grand architectural visions that will offer very little to those who want to build a home and not be a slave to large mortgage debt.  Today it is very rare and welcome to see an architect that has dedicated a good chuck of his life to designing and redefining “homes” and making it easier for the rest of us to own one. I hope this is the first step towards a more standardized approach to building with Containers.

So here is my new project – I call it the “Bright ISBU”. It uses 3 ISBU containers either 2 40ft. containers and one 20ft. for a 800sq. ft. home or 3 20ft. containers for a smaller home with 480sq. ft. of living space. I incorporated a number of cooling strategies in the design.  The containers are insulated on the outside with either straw bales or earth bags filled with perlite or scoria ( a lava rock with an R value of 3 per inch – Kelly Hart pioneer this method in the construction of his earth bag home  There is a frame work of square steel tubing welded on to the roof that has a 5 ft overhang for the roof – 2 ft for the straw bale or earth bags and 3 ft. to provide protection to the walls and to protect the home from the direct sunlight of summer sun that sits high in the sky. In winter the sun hangs lower in the sky and the direct sunlight enters the home threw the large south facing windows to warn the home. A tiled radiant heating floor would also help retain the heat of the sun in winter – it would become a solar mass, thermal battery. I have a larger overhang area on the southwest corner of the home – this is the place where it looks like I forgot to add the forth container.  This outdoor area offers a shaded area to add further protection from the heat of the summer afternoon sun.  Shade blinds will also help protect this area from the sun. on the northwest wall I have two tall narrow windows.  In the summer the sun will beat down on this wall and cause it to warm up so I placed heavy planks over these windows – hinged at the top – prop these planks open at the bottom  a couple of inches so the hot air will pass up and out through these openings – drawing cooler air into the home from small vent windows on the cooler northeast wall.

I’ve had the idea for the roof for a couple of years now. Rows of 3 corrugated galvanized bin sheets that are rolled  for a 42 ft diameter grain bin. The top sheet straddles the apex of the roof making the joint seams lower down from the apex- rain will run over these joints here better. The 2 sheets on the bottom on either side will be bolted to the top sheet from underneath so the rain will roll down and over the joints.  I have 2 rope caulking seams in-between these joints. The ends of these sheets will be fastened to bracket angle flashing pieces – corrugated on one side to be bolted to the grain bin sheets ( with 2 runs of rope caulking seams in-between). The angle bracket flashing pieces are then screw bolted to the overhang frame through pre-drilled pilot holes. The bolt hole pattern on the seams of the grain bin sheets and the angle bracket flashing would be 2 rows of holes on the “hills” of the corrugation ( as apposed to the “valleys”) .  This provides tiny, unobstructed gutters for the rain to flow.  The ends of the roof would be “Structural Insulated Panels” and the steel cavity of the roof would be sprayed with with closed cell insulation foam – This would give the roof a high R value – add more waterproofing to the roof and give in more structural integrity. This would be a very strong roof – easy to build and inexpensive.

The roof in this project expresses the  similar ideas that I was working with on the Foam Dome Home as a roof project – a quick and easy to build structure that is strong , lightweight and inexpensive and these Bright ISBU models worked out rather well for me.  I would love to live the 480 square foot model and I will be working on this idea for awhile yet but I hope to post with some smaller interesting projects  in the weeks to come.

Foam Dome Homes as a Roof

June 29, 2010

So, it’s been awhile since my last post – my computer crashed during a thunderstorm and I lost most of my Sketch Up files but it’s not a big problem – it gave me the chance to rework some of my ideas with a fresh perspective.

My new wacky Sketch Up project – I have been interested in a company from Japan; International Dome House, that makes “Foam Dome Homes” (really – check out their video on their website – it’s super-plus good, giggle giggle )

So the idea behind this dome system is – you have expanded polystyrene pieces that snap together to form a dome and then the surfaces of the dome are plastered and treated to make them water proof. These domes can be built in a day – they are super strong – the structural material in the domes are insulation material so they are energy efficient and they are affordable ( they are not sold in North America yet though).  So if you don’t mind living in a home that looks like it was designed by anime architects than this home is for you ( I personally would love to live in a foam dome home that looks like it was designed by anime architects – cuel).

The problem with purchasing a foam dome home would be that such homes don’t  hold their resell value like a more traditional home here in North America. It’s not that they aren’t as good (or better) than traditional homes with a traditional roof – it’s because the home buying public isn’t interested in such homes on any mass market level on this side of the pond.  I still think that these homes are a brilliant idea and can be incorporated into a more traditional home design.  My idea is to use the foam dome as a roof. It would make great sense for homes that use “green” materials like straw bales or earth bag walls. If you have a design in which you can put up the roof first than the straw bales or earth bags walls will be protected from the elements during construction. Being light weight, such a roof would be a great option for a load bearing straw bale design.  An easy, quick construction time would lower the labor costs in the build process and would make a green home more economically feasible.

The model that I made uses an elongated dome design ( International dome house calls this design the “Long Dome”) as a roof for a structure that uses 3 20 foot shipping containers. The bottom of this dome roof flares out 5 feet – it is sits 2 feet in on the containers to give the first story a 3 foot over hang to block out the direct sunlight of the high summer sun and the overhang will protect natural plastered walls from rain. This design has rounded semi circle wall extensions on the East and West ends of the house.  There would be 3 or 4 levels  of  expanded polystyrene pieces that snap together with different lengths on alternate levels – first level 2 pieces second level 3 levels, this would add strength to the wall – no continues seam along the elevation of the wall.  These walls would be reinforced with re rod and wire mess and then you could add a masonry wall to the exterior.  I like the rounded ends because  – circles are stronger than straight walls – cold winds would blow around the wall and eliminate energy “nose bleeds”  – it provides the home with a mud room – and you could place a wood stove in this area ( so you don’t tract bark litter into the house) and it provides a good places to have a staircase up into the upper level with out having to cut into the roof of the container which would cause the container to lose some of it’s structural integrate.  I think the rounded walls give the house an elegant feel, like an old, turn of the century train station that you would find in an English countryside settling .

The great thing about this design is that all the expanded polystyrene pieces could be shipped in the containers that you would use to build the first story of the house as well as other house components.

Well I hope to be back with a new post sooner this time – until than here are some more pics of my 3 20 foot container house with long foam dome roof.

The Oikos Cottage

March 30, 2010

About 10 years ago I read a magazine on building homes with straw bales. ” You can do that” , it seemed like such an odd idea – a perfectly “Wacky” idea.  After some research I started to realize that straw bale home building makes more sense to me than  wood framed houses.  Straw bales have a high R value ( it’s been a debatable subject but I think I can safely say that a 2 ft wide straw bale has an r value of over 50) . Straw bales are an agricultural waste product  ( it can be used as animal bedding – or you use it on mushroom farms but most straw bales are considered waste products and is usually disposed of).  As a waste product you can obtain this material much cheaper than the materials needed for a wood framed house.  Straw bale homes have a higher fire safety rating than wood frame homes  – straw bales are densely pack so there is little air (O2) contained in a bale for fire combustion to take place , think of trying to light a telephone book on fire.  Add to this, Straw bale homes have a plaster cover and if the plaster is done properly than there is no chance of  the bales catching fire.

About 4 years ago I came across the website of the straw bale home designer, Bob Theis. On the his site he had (still has) a collection of  small straw bale “Proto-type homes

Here you will find a collection of truly brilliant small straw bale home designs .  I would love to explore these designs with various S.K. models but I will start with the Oikos Cottage. .  I sent Bob an e-mail this morning asking if it would be okay to post his Proto-type  pages to this blog ( I would really like to see more interest develop for these designs) – here is the letter that he wrote back which I think will best describe this design concept.

“Hello Craig,

There is a groundswell of interest in tiny houses it seems. I wish I had the time to follow all the threads appearing on the net these days.

By all means, feel free to write about the prototype gallery. And please pass along responses you get from others.

I should mention that the Oikos house was originally designed by David Baty. He asked me to illustrate it, and naturally I was compelled to tweak the design a bit, but it’s really his puppy.

One insight I’ll share: my several decades of designing small spaces have taught me that a house is far more “sustainable” – that is, livable over decades – if at least two people can coexist comfortably there. And coexistence is much, much easier if you can at times close the door on whatever your partner is up to.

In a tiny house, a super compact way to do this is to access the sleeping loft from the exterior, allowing complete separation from the activity and noise in the living space.”

In a small house, try real hard to create a closeable bedroom, or at least a bed alcove. The effort is worth it.

I’ve designed places for several single people, closely tailored to their solo lifestyle, that had to be radically reworked, or even left behind, when they shacked up with someone. Best to plan that in.

That’s the message for the day.

Bob Theis

p.s. A small straw bale house ( 600 sf ) I designed for a family of 7 that lost their home in the wildfires will likely be built in public workshops this year near Chico, CA. If you are interested, or want to mention it to others, watch for postings from <> and <>

Thank you for this Bob.

Over the next couple weeks I would like to break down my modification of the Oikos into different components and post write ups on them but tonight I want to leave you with the why of this new design, first – I wanted to draw some much deserved attention to Bobs Proto- types Second – I wanted to have a flexible “studio” style space in the added back half (north half) of the home.  You can work on your bike here – do your laundry – build a kayak – turn it into a fancy dining room – partition a section off with a large curtain to make a temporary guest bedroom – what have you. I use to work building sets for theater and I became fond of the idea of having a certain space designated to building something new and imaginative and then taking it apart – packing it away and starting something new in the space.  With this in mind – you define the space, the space does not define you ( hey that sounded philosophical). I also wanted an arched back roof section that would face the north – to shed the cold north winds of winter  and I wanted celestial windows with a southern exposure mid way in the depth of the house ( north to south) to add a passive solar heating for the north half of the home.

Well bye for now.


Oikos studio cottage

March 29, 2010

This one has been an extremely labor intensive model.  It’s a straw bale concept that I liked and modified.  It uses corrugated,  galvanized  grain-bin sidewall for a roof.  It has a super efficient, wood stove furnace and has a good passive solar design and would handle temperature extremes quite well.

It’s late – I’ve been swearing at  the algorithmic programing that guides Sketch-ups’ inference engine ( yes that old chestnut of an annoyance – ” Thats not what I was thinking…. stupid program” – having said that I should say that Sketch-up and I have made up and I still think it is as wonderful as the day we met)

More to follow on this design – must slept and dream of  erasing my dogs untidy lines.


Sawtooth Saltbox

March 22, 2010

Well here’s my passive solar, well insulated, ISO. shipping container home concept.  It was quite a bit “O” fun to build this.  It’s heavily laden with Google warehouse components and I spent so much time editing the components that I probably would of done better to have made the whole thing from scratch.  Every time I open this file I run the risk of crashing my computer ( it’s my third biggest file).

When I finished this design I sent it to Michael Janzen who has the “Tiny House Design” blog.  The Sawtooth Saltbox isn’t exactly small but like the Sketch-up work that I did – the passive solar design and …..well, shipping container homes are pretty darn cool.

Here’s the part that I dread – writing about the design – I’ll just plunge head first into it and try to get through it in a quick and understandable fashion.  The Sawtooth is made of two 40′ containers and two 20′ containers arranged in a jagged zigzag pattern ( hence “Sawtooth”) This arrangement allows to open up the width of the home past the 8′ of the container to make the space more usable while retaining the structural integrity of the containers .  The windows on this model or facing south to capitalize on the suns energy – heating the houses tile floor ( which would be a radiant heat floor) with the direct rays of the sun.  In the summer the sun sits higher in the sky so good roof over hangs will block out the direct rays of sun – this will keep the house cooler in the summer. The Sawtooth was designed with most of your window space on the south and east faces.  The east facing windows will help heat the home with the early rising sun – to help heat the house when it is at it coolest.  Good window shades will help block out the direct morning sun on summer mornings.

The Sawtooth has 2″x6″ wooden frames on the inside south and east walls – a soy base insulation foam would be sprayed inside this frame  ( the soy foam is said to have a R-value of 7 giving these walls a R-42 value.  These frames would be “skinned” with larch panels which a sustainable forest product and has a warm orange-y tone.  I have steel plates welded to the corners of the exteriors of these walls ( in the elevation images).  On the inside you would cut holes through the steel walls of the containers in these places, with 3″ hole saw – this would allow the insulation to push into the corners –  this would prevent air leaks ( energy nose bleeds) at the corners.  I have insulation materials on the exteriors of the north and west walls.  These walls would have a larger R- value to protect the house from the cold north winds of winter and the from the heat of the summer afternoon sun.  Small windows would be put on these walls at the top with wooden shutters on them – this would let the heat of the summer out on the west walls and would winterize the northern wall windows.  I had an earth-bag insulation design in mind when I created this model – poly. bags filled with insulation materials like perlite  or a lava rock called scoria . Kelly Hart has used this method in his earth-bag home with great success.

The Sawtooth Saltbox was one of my first Sketch-up projects  ( over a year and a half ago) .  When I first downloaded Sketch-up I was very fascinated with shipping container homes and boxes are about the easiest things to draw in GSU.  I sat on this design for about a year and pulled it out again last fall and completely reworked it – I wanted to build a single story house (wheel chair accessible) and I wanted to give it a very detailed floor plan so I could get a clear idea on how to layout such a house.   This would be why it looks like the “bachelor pad from hell” with a colour scheme of a  Hergé’s “Tin Tin” graphic novel ( I was reading ” Tin Tin, Explorers on the Moon” at the time ).

The roof took a bit of thought, I wanted something that would shed the north winds at the back and have a good facade area in the front for solar panels.  Something like a salt-box roof.  I made several elevations with 3 conjoined roof designs but they were less then inspiring.  I finally thought I would take a stab a a modernist take on the Salt-box roof that would bring the whole house together ( instead of making it look like 3 conjoined houses) and I wanted an overhang over the main entrance to give a visual clue as to where the door was.  With this in mind I whipped up this elevation in about 20 minutes.  It’s probably the most visually satisfying thing I have done in Sketch-up.

So there you have your basic passive solar home build inside a (“my goodness you live inside steel boxes”) shipping containers.

I don’t know why but it takes a lot out of me to explain this design, so if you have any specific questions on the Sawtooth Saltbox please write and I will try to make it clearer.