Monthly Archives: January 2013

Soil Temp Experiment and Storm room design


Posted on January 13, 2013 by

Soil Experiment

My soil temperature experiment is on going.  I recently collected my 15th month of data and updated the charts on that page.  Now that we have more than a years worth of data, it is clear that the deeper probes are in more a more thermally stable environment.  Specifically, the 10 ft deep probe shows that soil temperatures at that depth peak (max or min temp) nearly 3 months behind the air temperature peak.  In other words, the heat of June takes until September to reach that depth.   The amplitude of the temperature variation at 10 ft depth is similar to the 9 month average air temperature, which is a small fraction of the air temperature variation.

Temp Profiles of all the probes...  Notice the difference between the "dry" and "control" probes is slight and may actually be due to slight variations in the depth.

Temp Profiles of all the probes… Notice the difference between the “dry” and “control” probes is slight and may actually be due to slight variations in the depth.


These results are interesting because they contradict a lot of the oversimplified and unsupported statements that you find in many earth sheltered home books.


The Storm Room Design

We just finished that fantastic period between semesters.  That means that I am headed back to work on my MBA.  I am just taking one course this semester, and will probably take off the rest of the year if construction starts in the spring.  While I was off I did a few things around our current house, watched some movies, played with my kids, researched some house related stuff, started a non-house related book (1491), etc.

Meanwhile, my architects assistant also had time off and the house seemed to leap forward again.  Without school to keep him busy, the architects assistant has played with rendering portions of the house in 3D.  This lead to design questions in certain areas, which lead to me generating some new 3D models in response.  This lead to the designs of the storm room, entry, green house and even my duct work taking a step forward.

As I expected, the architect has done the majority of his work in 2D.  When looking for an architect, I actually counted this as a good thing.  3D models are fun, but my geometry is complicated/difficult by CAD standards (Shotcrete is very liberating when it come to actually building these shapes) and I didn’t want the architects either spending too much of their effort on the CAD (rather than the design) or dumbing down the design to make it easier to CAD.  In the end, the homes are always built from 2D blueprints anyway.


We also had a fun collaborative session after trading some models back and forth.  At least it was fun for me, I hope it was pleasant enough for the architects assistant ;).  I think we pretty much figured out the storm room by the end of that.

While most people think of a “Storm Room” as a cellar where you hide from storms, the “Storm Room” in my design is a concrete room on the top of my house that gives me 360 degree views.  I am looking forward to sitting up there and watching the storms roll by.


Now the assistant architect’s classes are starting back up, so we are not sure if this pace will continue or not, but I definitely feel like we have crossed a hump…  Still no word from the engineer though. ;^(

Here are some renderings of some of the 3D models we passed back and forth…



Cobb Mountain Cottage


Posted on January 2, 2013 by

I am not fully sure on the blog etiquette here, but I wanted to show you a blog that I found and their “contact” link is broken.  I am guessing they won’t mind, but they can always contact me if they want this taken down.


This is a cobb and straw-bale mountain cottage with an earth sheltered (green) roof...

This is a cobb and straw-bale mountain cottage with an earth sheltered (green) roof…

Take a look at this cobb and straw “mountain cottage” with an earth sheltered roof.  I am not sure I really trust cobb or straw-bale construction in my SE Michigan climate, but their location in New Mexico is pretty cold and wet also…  I don’t plan to give up my shotcrete cement plans and I could never take this long to build my house (although my overall timeline is already really long), but I think it is a real work of art worth showing to you all…

Elevation drawing

Elevation drawing

One funny side thing I noticed…  It may have taken them 4 years to build their home, but their architect went from concept to permits in less than 4 months, which is pretty fantastic.  I would have liked to have seen more of the drawings.  I guess my home is more complicated and larger.

I also liked the condensed timeline layout, so I am adding a timeline to my site…  It will make more sense then the blog when things start happening.

Here are a handful of pics from their site, you can find many more and even a bunch of other projects that I have not gone thru yet.

Again, here is the link…