Saturday 12 October 2013

Location, Location, Location

With a Building Permit finally approved, after 3 long years of frustration the house build is  starting to move forward.

The first objective was to accurately mark out the exact location of the proposed structure.

Thirty five months ago I had spent several days at the plot exploring various options to arrive at what I deemed the most appropriate location. This involved wandering around, checking out all possible options and envisioning not only how the build would technically be possible but also how the resultant structure would look from all angles both on and off site.

I climbed higher up the mountain to check out a bird's eye view of potential sites and also used Google Earth to superimpose the house outline on the Google view of the plot.

My original reference point!
After much deliberation I settled upon an approximate location that:

- minimised the number of mature trees that had to be removed (one or at most two),

- minimised the amount of earth/rocks that needed to be excavated to effectively "bury" the house in the mountainside,

- optimised the above criteria to orientate the glass wall that runs the length of the house as close to the South as I could whilst retaining the glorious views from the site.

Having arrived at what I felt was the "best" option I then marked it out using compass, tape measure and a large right angle (constructed from recycled pieces of wood in a 3 x 4 x 5 triangle!). As markers, across an undulating site, I used concrete reinforcing rods (that I found around the site), located them at key points in the design, checked for right angles by equalising appropriate diagonals and topping off the rods with empty bottled water bottles. I was thus able to wander all around the build area to obtain a real feel for how the house would "sit into" the mountainside. This was essential since the Archaeological Department were insistent, quite rightly given some of the dreadful examples around of box like houses dominating local mountainsides, that the design should blend into the surroundings.

Starting to lay out the house design at my preferred location
This was an early driver in the design process and my initial reason in going for an earth sheltered design. Later as I researched such designs I realised just how excellent this option would also be at meeting my other eco requirements.

The Architect and the Engineers have recently formally set out the design on the site. In this process it became apparent that my original position, whilst minimising the volume of earth/rocks being carved out, would require a substantial supporting wall to ensure stability.
Engineers formal reference point 
After exploring various options it was concluded that moving the site a couple of metres and excavating a further one and a half metres down  it was possible to reduce the height of the retaining wall significantly, move the orientation from South South East to South and save money since the cost of the extra excavation work, (provided special equipment and dynamite are not required to break up any substantial rocks!!), would be markedly cheaper than the cost of constructing the larger retaining wall that my original siting required.

Seemed to me to be a win win.

Engineers formal laying out marking position of rear wall
I therefore made a couple of visits to the plot at differing times of the day to establish that I was happy with the repositioning.

Roof level marker
This was quickly undertaken as the Archaeological Department were scheduled to conduct a "dig" at the repositioned site at the beginning of the next week.  (See later post)