We spent a few years researching types of natural homes and types of inexpensive homes that we could build as a permanent home. We looked into cord wood, cob, earth bag, earthship, domes, recycled homes, shipping container homes and many other ideas. After spending all this time on the research and getting a feel for the land we have finally started to design our permanent home. Domes have become one of the most appealing options for us, but I want the house to have a natural look too. It needs to be built with inexpensive but solid materials, the more we can scrounge for the better. We have all the time we need to scrounge and build, so that is not an issue. There is no hurry. We just want it to be an amazing, functional, mortgage free home that we built ourselves. Easy right?
Here is the home we have designed as it stands today (May 2016):
The type of home we want to built has to be very much incorporated into the land that we have. We have an awesome, south facing slope that we will take advantage of for passive solar heating, we live in Maine and it gets cold. The back of the house will actually be dug in to the hillside and back filled to help retain the heat, again taking advantage of all the heat we can. There is also a nearby, small water flow that we may be able to adapt into some for of running water for the house. We will have to construct a rubble trench around the perimeter of the house to encourage good drainage away from the partially buried house.
The foundation of the house will be some sort of rock/gravel or earthbag foundation. This is the last thing we have attempted to figure out, partially because it may change depending on how much ledge and how many giant boulders we find when we start digging. Any thoughts on incorporating these giant rocks into a foundation is more than welcome. The main cylinder of the house will be the kitchen and living area of the house. It will be built of cord wood and include many glass bottle windows to let in as much light as possible while still keeping the house as warm as possible. These walls will be 6 feet high and the diameter will be 30 feet. There will eventually be a lot of math to do and dimensions to figure out. It will not be a perfect cylinder.
There will be a good sized masonry stove in the middle of the main cylinder. This will provide us heat, hot water, a cooking surface, and anything else we can think of. It will be built out of rock, and include as much rock from our lot as possible. We have rocks that explode when they get too hot all over the place, so I have some more research to do on rock harvesting. Again, any thoughts or resources are very welcome. The masonry stove along with some trees harvested from the lot will form the base of the loft. The loft will be built in such a way that it resembles a tree house, being built with all natural trees. The chimney will also come up through the loft to the outside.
The main bathroom will also be in this part of the house. The water hut, on the hill top outside the house, will collect rainwater and provide water for this bathroom along with the kitchen and master bathroom. The toilet will be a composting toilet that dumps (haha) into and underground composting bin to eventually be composted down and used as humanure. The gray water from the bathroom (bath and sink) will filter out into a greenhouse planter trough. The greenhouse will wrap around a portion of the outside of the house and provide a place to grow greens and things through the winter. The bath water filtration system, similar to that used in earthships, will keep the plants in the planter trough wet with nutrient rich water. There will also be a sink and bench for planting and shelving for seedlings.
We will be using solar and eventually wind to power the house. We will also have a system called cooling tubes. The open on one end into the house. The length of the tube is buried underground where it is cooler than the house. The other end is open to a shady cool area outside. The idea is cool air flow in the summer.
The roof of the house will be built out of domes. Each cylinder of the house will have it’s own dome roof. We will be building enough domes that it will be worth it to us to buy an actual hydraulic press just to build the domes quicker and easier. Since the press isn’t cheap, we will be building many domes in order to justify the price. The next dome is going to be another greenhouse. It will be a round, sunken living room with the interior sculpted in cob. There will be a rocket mass stove built into a round bench to keep the greenhouse warm. This means we will be able to have things that require more warmth than the first greenhouse. Like the fish pond that we will have. This will be a food source as well as a swell water feature. The final dome (for now) will be the (master) greenhouse bathroom. This may just end up being a tub in a greenhouse, but it will be a nice tub with a crazy waterfall with plants and some heat. A kid free bathroom basically.
The next part of the house will be the towers. These will also be constructed of cord wood and glass bottle windows and have dome roofs. The first tower will be for the kid’s rooms. The second tower will likely be the last thing we build because I don’t know what it’s for. The third tower will be half pantry half root cellar on the bottom and the dome level will be a wood storage dome. We will figure out a way to build a chute for the firewood and kindling to slid into the house without it causing heat loss. I’m more than ok with stacking wood sometimes to get it to slide down the chute, but lugging in have frozen wood is not fun. The final tower will be the master bedroom that the greenhouse bathroom is attached to. This will have it’s own cob heater built in. The dome roof over this tower will also house it’s very own weather station. The flag on the top of the dome is actually a wind sock.
The final inside part of the house will be the tunnel. It will have to have an amazing theme and a cleverly disguised entry way. The tunnel will lead to a very geeky game dome. A house built just to play games. I may have a bedroom in this dome to make this dome more “functional.” Kind of like a guest house that we use for other things more often. Oh yeah, it will look like a space ship.
The south facing slope continues on past where the house will be. This will be the perfect place for a kitchen garden that will blend into a food forest. It will have a tire wall terrace system to prevent erosion. On the eastern portion of the downhill slope is where the water flows naturally through. We hope to be able to redirect the water slightly to form more of a pond, possibly for a water pump or maybe even some ducks. There will need to be a bridge built over this water flow. I guess need may be too strong a word, but we are going to build some kind of bridge. The water also flows through what will eventually become my “Zen garden.” Lined with an elaborate living willow fence and filled with small bridges and walkways. There will be many relaxing places to sit and some interesting shade tolerant plants. And maybe another part of that duck pond I mentioned before. If not ducks, there will be a frog pond.
So these are the current “plans” we have for the house. As we learn more information and add details, the plans are sure to change plenty. I’m sure there are features we forgot or glaciers we may find. We may have the towers built a half level above the main dome or any number of other things. People always share ideas or pictures they have found with me, which also can change plans. I will update this page as I continue to organize my information.
Every feature of the house will have it’s own page that will include details of my project and links that I used to gather my information for the project. We plan to start building spring 2018, so right now most of the links are just plans. Each project we do that is related to the dome home will be added to this page. The more we do, the more information I will have to share I will also include links to “practice projects” for all the features of the house. An example would be building a cob oven as practice for the cob heater in the master bedroom. We want to gain a little experience before we build. It also helps me to convey the idea of the project if I share a similar project we have done.
I almost forgot: the amazing view we have looking South West from the house. I will have as many windows as possible aimed at this view for us to enjoy. Especially in the winter when the leaves have fallen and the view is the best, and we are warm inside.
Update, June 30th:
We have now had a little practice building a dome and seeing how it’s done, we are thinking that building a dome as big as we want, up as high as we want isn’t a great idea. We also have concerns with snow load and leaking issues. We are already rethinking our roof design.
I am posting the many design revisions because I want to be able to share the whole house building process. Designing a home takes a lot of thought and practice projects, at least that is how we are going about it. If you are there for the very begining, the end redult will be that much more interesting.