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Zero Energy Prefab House Kit Update: We Look To The Land.

The zero energy prefab house kit exterior is complete.

In about 2 weeks we move on to the next steps: interior walls of the modern house, off grid systems (solar energy, solar heat, and rainwater collection and filtration), and with it all, stepping back for a larger view: the land, and how we will encourage its health while bearing sustenance for our family.

Heather Barber, ASLA, of Topos met with us last week to discuss the land, and landscape architecture.

From the beginning, here are my thoughts about the land:
  • I love the fact we did not have to cut down ONE TREE for the home site.
  • However, we are big believers in crop tree release to help the woods become healthy. What that means, in short, is removing weed/competing trees to let the native, desirable trees grow strong and healthy. Along the field we have a mixture of poplar, hickory, oaks, walnut... mixed in with cedar, red bud, pine, a few dogwoods and... non-native evil ghetto palms! Ghetto palms, I'm out to get you!
  • The 8 acre field can be rotated with
    • cover crops of warm season grasses that encourage the quail habitat (as well as leaving strips here & there in the fields, and other quail / wildlife management practices)
    • potatoes, garlic, onions: With friends we can plant the field, then harvest it together, keeping enough for our families and donating the rest to the Society of St. Andrews. I mean, why glean (although I do look forward to doing that with my friend Peggy, what fun combined with hard work on a gorgeous weekend!) when you could actually plant a field for hunger? (Also note: store bought potatoes have one of the biggest carbon footprints as they often travel quite far to reach the consumer. They're so easy to grow, try growing your own in your back yard!)
    • eventually move to the Rodale Institute's cover crop roller. Currently we have a tractor with a bush hog and blade.
  • There is a smaller field downhill from the home site we could irrigate with rainwater... we've tossed around ideas of growing some kind of crop there, like asparagus... but the reality is that as it is much deeper in the woods it will be much more accessible to wildlife... but it's something to think about...
  • I would love a root cellar in which to store food.
  • ...and, I admit, we have a hankering for mid-century coolio functional cooking grills- purposeful practicality with kickin' design. YES I realize this is a murky area, in which I struggle. Half o' me is survivalist (heck my family has survived here for hundreds of years), half of me is forward thinkin' design, and half (fine I never said I was good at math!) o' me wants a third option from the solar cooker and propane marine stove. I mean, if the weed tree is felled, why not use it? (Or not? Considering.)
  • Handsome Husband and the casa ti green building architect, David Day thought it would be plenty fun to have our friends hang on the slope next to the east side of the house in the evening and project old movies onto that north-east side of the house. They were even tossing around words like, "amphitheater." We'll see.
    They're such romantics. Which is why I love 'em. Which is why they're both more talented than I. : )
  • We've already planted apple trees around the shed, and I was pleased to see they are all in bloom and healthy! In a few years we can invite friends over to pick apples!
Now I also must remind myself that we are on a STRICT BUDGET. So maybe most of these ideas will not happen for years. But in the meantime, here are a BUNCH of land pictures, so that the Virginia landscape architect Heather Barber can get a better feel of the entry, field, and area surrounding the modern house kit. I commented on many of the photos, so if there is something that interests you, click on it to see it larger, and with commentary.

We also met with Ron Bernaldo, also known as The Most Fabulous Contractor In The History of the World about our next steps. I can not re-iterate enough how critical having a knowledgeable, experienced contractor has been to the success of our house kit completion. The house kit itself erected easily; but the decisions we had to make as consumers, making the modern off grid house kit "our own"- could not have been affordably or successfully achieved without a contractor like Ron.

Regarding our green building progress, as I mentioned we start again framing the interior, then move on to solar and rainwater collection integration. And THEN we move to interior design of the house kit. Married to a fellow design enthusiast, living our role as house building consumers, I suspect there *might* be design fights ahead.

The first hint came when Handsome Husband nailed up some old sconces. Yes, they do help light the interior of the unfinished SIPs - exposed house kit, but... um...
Fortunately they dribbled wax onto his pristine-just-polished concrete floor so I suspect that will be that. But we shall see... never underestimate Handsome Husband.

So maybe I should start a new blog category, called, "design fight" just in case...

In the meantime, here are a few more pictures of the zero energy modern house, it was a *lovely* weekend on the land!

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At 4/20/09, 10:28 AM , Anonymous heather barber said...

Great documentation of the land!So excited to get going. So is the man with the saw gonna let me drive the tractor?


At 4/20/09, 12:39 PM , Blogger Passive Solar Prefab Homes said...

Honeychile you can drive that tractor whenever you want.

I offer free tractor driving to anyone who visits, really, you DO want to bush hogg the field, it is SO much fun on a hot day! People are lining up to do it, get your tickets now!

--Tom Sawyer


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