I can't remember how long we've been planning the house for now. To be honest in the past month we've been too busy sorting out the groundworks and foundations to remember that we'll actually have a HOUSE at the end of all this.
I can hardly remember what it's like to have a house of our own, it seems a world away, even though it's only two years since we left England (it will be two years on the 7th of March to be precise, by which time we should have our shell up - a nice synchronicity).
It's not like I've been planning a self build for years either. In fact, I remember some years ago thinking that I'd never want the responsibility of it. Yet, somehow, here we are.
At first, we were going to buy a house over here, with a bit of land. We weren't scared of a renovation project either. Yet, as we looked, it didn't seem to add up for us - with Sam being so tall that he'd be forever stooping under low doorways (he hits his head enough on the doorways here in my aunts house), worries of finding the house has no foundations when it comes to extending / renovating, not having much scope for extending etc.
That, combined with my growing passion for 'eco-building' and low energy living and a desire to get exactly what we wanted in terms of living space, was enough to tempt us down the route of the self build.
I had great fun researcing different build options including straw bale, cob and earthships. I still remember my visions of friends coming over to help stack bales or lime render walls etc. In the end we went for timber. We'd looked at Scanhome for years and visited several times before making up our minds. I'll confess that partially I was daunted by the idea of trying to get an unconventional build through planning and having to organise work parties, but I also felt that the timber house worked well for our needs (all those instruments and studio equipment need space!). I noticed that a lot of cob and straw bale houses work really well when they are quite small. That is great in terms of low energy footprint, but just didn't suit us so well.
The Scanhome is low energy (not fully passive as we have one woodburning stove, but very highly insulated and with a heat recovery ventilations system ... I just wish they had a 'passive stack ventilation' option that wouldn't have needed constant power, mind you the power consumption of the unit is very low .. but it is still a constant drain of energy). I like the simplicity of it, the design, the natural materials used throughout .. and the fact that we can take over once the shell is up. Turns out that we'll be rendering the outside to keep the planners happy, rather than having a wooden finish (when the shell comes the outside is cladded with a special board that we render onto). The photo shows one once the shell is up and it is ready for rendering (plastering to be precise .. what exactly is the difference anyway I wonder?)
Sam has made a model of the house, which is great and reminds me that it IS real.
He even has cut outs of us and Sally the dog (I keep forgetting that he is so much taller than me!)
Having a 3D reference is wonderful for decision making, such as where to put the wood burner so as to avoid being too near the veluxes and too far from the ridge (I'd wanted it near the edge of the house but there it would have needed external support - too messy and ugly). The biro is ably representing the stove flue.
Here is the downstairs layout. I love the way I can hold it up to the light and mimic the direction where the sunlight will shine in - we are standing in the front of the south face, so that side will get most of the sunlight during the day)
Here's a rough version of the upstairs layout - still a work in progress. We're trying to decide how to best integrate the chimney flue, as it sticks out into the landing / library area and Sam thinks it will look odd. I did suggest that we cover it in chicken wire and turn it into a great big papier mache tree, with branches going to the ceiling - but he has yet to be convinced!