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Big Bend Home

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Offline canyonman

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Big Bend Home
« on: April 08, 2006, 08:37:59 PM »
Considering the climate of the Big Bend area, if you were going to build a home there; how would you go about it? Solar (PV and/or wind power) a given. Is there enough overburden (loose earth) to go underground to moderate interior temps? Well or water catchment? In the heat of summer you might want to head north for awhile,  but if you wanted to live there for say three seasons of the year, what type of home can you think of that would
suit your needs?

-canyonman
"Here, where I can stand in silent air under a starry sky watching the lightning show of a storm that's so far away the thunder never reaches me."
-Kent Frost, "My Canyonlands"

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desert woman

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building a house
« Reply #1 on: April 08, 2006, 09:35:26 PM »
I would build an adobe.  Lots of good adobe dirt around here.  You can stabilize it with portland cement or not.  Put covered porches on three sides - on the south side only put a 3' overhang to get the winter sun.  Pressure treated wood out here splits and warps and like regular wood needs to be preserved with paint or wood preservative every few years.  When the wind blows about 40 mph or more you will be glad you're in something solid.  

As far as water goes - well water has a lot of minerals and is hard water.  Lots of calcium something in it.  If you use a water cooler also known as a swamp cooler you will have little white particles blowing out all over your room.  Rain catchment water is softer but probably will end up with some bird poop in it and you need to filter that out though some people don't.  JMO

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Offline canyonman

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Big Bend Home
« Reply #2 on: April 10, 2006, 05:53:27 PM »
Desert woman,

                      Thanks for the reply. Using natural and easily found materials has always seemed like a good idea to me, as opposed to say taking a house plan good for New York and building it anywhere. And the porches would add water catchment if that's the way you got your water. The angle of overhang on the south is important, too, somewhere I've got the calculations to allow the light in your south windows any day of the fall you want it to come in to start getting the free heat.

 Thanks also for the info on the water- I was going to ask in another thread "What's in the water?". I've been interested in well depths in the Bend area but the elevations vary so much it seems silly to ask how deep the water is.

  From what I now (think I) know, it seems that an underground home with a passive solar design would work well. I've been playing with the idea of sandbags of local soil, chicken wire between each layer sticking out both inside and outside, gunnite (sprayed concrete) on the outside and lime stucco on the inside walls. Ground temperatures in the area are about 70 degrees so the inside temps will be cooled by being underground.

 Lotta other things to think about if you wanted to make a go of it down there without electric lines. Look at how many owners there are of Terlingua Ranch properties, and how few build and live there, at least part of the year.

 Thanks again,

-canyonman
"Here, where I can stand in silent air under a starry sky watching the lightning show of a storm that's so far away the thunder never reaches me."
-Kent Frost, "My Canyonlands"

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Offline Bobcat

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Big Bend Home
« Reply #3 on: April 10, 2006, 07:14:20 PM »
Homer Wilson ordered his home from the Sear's and Robuck catalog.
Location Location Location

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desert woman

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desert homes
« Reply #4 on: April 10, 2006, 08:00:11 PM »
Quote from: "canyonman"
Desert woman,

                      Thanks for the reply. Using natural and easily found materials has always seemed like a good idea to me, as opposed to say taking a house plan good for New York and building it anywhere. And the porches would add water catchment if that's the way you got your water. The angle of overhang on the south is important, too, somewhere I've got the calculations to allow the light in your south windows any day of the fall you want it to come in to start getting the free heat.

 Thanks also for the info on the water- I was going to ask in another thread "What's in the water?". I've been interested in well depths in the Bend area but the elevations vary so much it seems silly to ask how deep the water is.

  From what I now (think I) know, it seems that an underground home with a passive solar design would work well. I've been playing with the idea of sandbags of local soil, chicken wire between each layer sticking out both inside and outside, gunnite (sprayed concrete) on the outside and lime stucco on the inside walls. Ground temperatures in the area are about 70 degrees so the inside temps will be cooled by being underground.

 Lotta other things to think about if you wanted to make a go of it down there without electric lines. Look at how many owners there are of Terlingua Ranch properties, and how few build and live there, at least part of the year.

 Thanks again,

-canyonman

You're welcome.  I always thought passive designs an interesting concept but didn't know how the cooling aspect would work out here.  The underground idea would be good for that.  I've heard well depths out here ranging from 150 feet to 460 feet.  The more shallow wells have more minerals, or so I've heard.  The deeper wells are artesian, lots of gallons per minute!  There are quite a few people out here on solar.  There is a varied mix of housing and power and water ideas.  There is another chat board that you may find some information on concerning building and living out here and that is Texas Outback on Yahoo.  Good luck!
Link added by Moderator:  http://groups.yahoo.com/group/TexasOutback/

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Offline Doc Savage

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Big Bend Home
« Reply #5 on: April 11, 2006, 08:56:40 AM »
We've been toying with the idea of moving out to the desert to retire (hopefully sooner than later). We recently started considering the Big Bend area (a little more remote than what we had previously considered, but that's part of what we are looking for).

I've been thinking of what to do to make a residence as self sufficient as possiable. Thoughts have been LP for heat and fridge (like what we use in the RV only bigger), also wonder if it is possiable to run some AC on LP similar to the fridges, need to look into that more, swamp cooler is an idea, but with water at a premium, I wonder if that is smart. Solar water heater (no brainer there), and mainly DC power in the house powered from batteries charged via solar/wind power. Also look into wind for some AC power generation, or use a generator for those times AC power is needed (microwave or washer/dryer use). Probably use a combination of water tank, catch basin, or possiably well (cost can be high on those from what I've heard, about 10K). I forsee a water/septic system similar to our RV. Black water (sewer) goes to a septic system (hopefully ground will perk enough for that, if not look into composting toilets), and grey water goes into a holding tank that can be used to water a small courtyard with grass/flowers/trees, dogs gotta have a place to go  :D ).

I can actually visualize the house in my head. It will be an adobe style (haven't really considered actual building materials, funny someone mentioned gunnite, that was a consideration). U shaped with a courtyard entrance area on a side/bottom of U and a covered patio area in the middle (top of the U would face north). The covered patio will be dual purpose as it will serve as a rooftop deck also allowing access to the roof for lounging at night when the breeze will feel good.

Really just some preliminary ideas and I haven't researched it throughly other than to think of what I'm aware is possiable and what I've read about passive houses in years past.

Robert
Enjoying the Texas life!

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Offline homerboy2u

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Big Bend Home
« Reply #6 on: April 11, 2006, 10:59:19 AM »
Quote from: "Doc Savage"
We've been toying with the idea of moving out to the desert to retire (hopefully sooner than later). We recently started considering the Big Bend area (a little more remote than what we had previously considered, but that's part of what we are looking for).

I've been thinking of what to do to make a residence as self sufficient as possiable. Thoughts have been LP for heat and fridge (like what we use in the RV only bigger), also wonder if it is possiable to run some AC on LP similar to the fridges, need to look into that more, swamp cooler is an idea, but with water at a premium, I wonder if that is smart. Solar water heater (no brainer there), and mainly DC power in the house powered from batteries charged via solar/wind power. Also look into wind for some AC power generation, or use a generator for those times AC power is needed (microwave or washer/dryer use). Probably use a combination of water tank, catch basin, or possiably well (cost can be high on those from what I've heard, about 10K). I forsee a water/septic system similar to our RV. Black water (sewer) goes to a septic system (hopefully ground will perk enough for that, if not look into composting toilets), and grey water goes into a holding tank that can be used to water a small courtyard with grass/flowers/trees, dogs gotta have a place to go  :D ).

I can actually visualize the house in my head. It will be an adobe style (haven't really considered actual building materials, funny someone mentioned gunnite, that was a consideration). U shaped with a courtyard entrance area on a side/bottom of U and a covered patio area in the middle (top of the U would face north). The covered patio will be dual purpose as it will serve as a rooftop deck also allowing access to the roof for lounging at night when the breeze will feel good.

Really just some preliminary ideas and I haven't researched it throughly other than to think of what I'm aware is possiable and what I've read about passive houses in years past.

Robert


 Doc....You should check this out: http://www.sierrasolar.com/index.html

All you need to build your home,economically...and more.

Regards

Homero
Stay thirsty, my friends.

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desert woman

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etc.
« Reply #7 on: April 11, 2006, 12:29:59 PM »
Quote from: "Doc Savage"


I can actually visualize the house in my head. It will be an adobe style (haven't really considered actual building materials, funny someone mentioned gunnite, that was a consideration). U shaped with a courtyard entrance area on a side/bottom of U and a covered patio area in the middle (top of the U would face north). The covered patio will be dual purpose as it will serve as a rooftop deck also allowing access to the roof for lounging at night when the breeze will feel good.

Really just some preliminary ideas and I haven't researched it throughly other than to think of what I'm aware is possiable and what I've read about passive houses in years past.

Robert


I think the courtyard in the middle is a great idea, a real spanish-style home.  And the rooftop deck is another great idea for stargazing in some of the darkest skies around.  The prevailing breezes might be a consideration in situating your home.  The prevailing breeze at our house  blows north to south and south to north.  As one old timer said once, "we get some big wind out here sometimes."  This is true!  Also check out the LINKS section on the Texas Outback group I mentioned in the previous post.  Our moderator was kind in supplying the link.  There is some good information there.

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Offline canyonman

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Big Bend Home
« Reply #8 on: April 12, 2006, 07:22:41 PM »
Desert woman,

                      It's nice of you to respond with so much info- thanks!

 Doc, the courtyard style home you describe is my all-time favorite- I just can't make it work in the Bend climate without a huge PV array. It makes more sense to me to go underground as long as I can light the interior well. I like the idea of a roof deck, too. I'd have a firepit and a telescope on it.

 About wind power, I visited a 100% solar-powered business serving Canyonlands National Park in Utah called the Needles Outpost. I asked whether they'd considered wind power and I got the reply that "Wind generators and dust in the air do not mix".

 I just last week received free literature from Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico about sizing and building solar systems for residential use. A couple of thick books it took me hours to read but were well worth the time. You might visit a website hosted by a couple in Arizona who built an off-grid home with water catchment. They documented it pretty well. It's at www.solarhaven.org. It was there I got the Sandia link, but I checked today, and can no longer find their publications request page, but I bet if you emailed them they'd tell you what they can provide you.

-canyonman
"Here, where I can stand in silent air under a starry sky watching the lightning show of a storm that's so far away the thunder never reaches me."
-Kent Frost, "My Canyonlands"

 


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