Sustainable Features of this Home

Sustainable Features of this Home

Rammed earth walls with R40 insulation
Passive solar heat gain
Passive cooling
Stack cooling
Cross flow ventilation
High efficiency mechanical ventilation system (HRV)
Solar hot water
Green roof
Natural and reclaimed materials

Love the New Design

Thanks Andrew and Jennifer for all your work on the new design.  We are really excited with how it looks.  We have made our comments on the drawings below.  Let us know what you think.

Thanks again,

James and Emily

2D Proposal for House

Here are the latest 2D drawings of our new rammed earth home in Huntsville, Ontario.  Me and Emily are really excited about the current proposal and we will be reviewing our thoughts about them here on the blog for you to follow along and share your comments as well.



3D Design Proposal

Here are the latest 3D renderings that Andrew and his team at Linebox have put together for us.  Let just say, we are super excited about them.  What do you think?

James Blackman

Rammed Earth Home: The Natrual Impacts

Rammed Earth Home: The Natrual Impacts: "Above is the land that was purchased by our clients. Some major natural elements that will impact our design are; The sun path (solar gain..."

Client - Introduction

"I thought I would start with a little information on the rammed earth system we are using, since ultimately I need to be able to generate future rammed earth building business with this home.

The current physical dimensions of the walls we are building are 18" thick with a 6" inner and outer wythe of rammed earth and 6" of polyiso insulation in the middle. This orientation of mass / insulation / mass is one of the major advantage of rammed earth over ICF. We have built walls up to 20' tall, however it is a bit easier to form if the walls are 10' tall or less. The walls are built in pillars that we later go back and fill in between. With our current forming system we can do a maximum length of 9' 6" for a pillar. Both the inner and outer rammed earth wythe have vertical rebar in the wall and geogrid connecting the 2 wythe's together, typically at 2' vertical intervals.

With our house I would like to reveal the construction method in the finished house and play with the idea of connected rammed earth pillars.

In addition to our business providing rammed earth construction services, we would like to work with our clients to ensure that the rammed earth is incorporated into to the home in a thoughtful and efficient way. We firmly believe that no one item is "green" or "sustainable" on its own, it must be part of a whole housing system. Along these lines my wife and I admire the "Passivehaus" standard and would like to work towards that level of efficiency in our home. The main ideas being to have a very tight building envelope with a continuous insulation layer encompassing the entire house. Combined with some passive solar heat gain and advanced HRV systems the standard looks to severely limit the energy required to condition the living space. I feel it is a simple but elegant approach to what is becoming a buzz word and marketing driven sector.

The building site we have purchased is just over 3 acres, 10 minutes outside of Huntsville, in a new neighborhood of 30 similar sized lots. The lot was completely tree covered when we purchased it and I have since cleared a small building site, roughed in a driveway and installed a temporary hydro meter for construction. As I mentioned on the phone the building site we have selected is up on a rock ledge, part way down a south facing slope. We have had a topographical survey completed of the site and property lines. The driveway approaches the site from the south but remains at the bottom of the rock ledge, approximately 15' below the building grade. I have attached a copy of the survey which should explain things better than I can.

Again, with the exposed rock ledge we would like to mimic the steps in the rock and the weight of the site in the home.

As for the house itself we are looking for something modest and simple that accommodates our love of cooking and entertaining. We don't want space in our house that is not used and to limit the spaces that serve only one purpose. We are a young family of 3 who like to make our guests feel welcome with our hospitality not the size of our "spare bedroom". We like clean lines and things to function extremely well."-Client

Name: Emily Blackman
Project: Family Home in Huntsville, ON
Manifesto: I want to live with one bathroom. Everyone thinks Iʼm crazy, and they may
be right, but I believe with enough thought you can turn a potentially austere way of
living into something comfortable and good for the environment. Iʼm hoping that during
this journey we will be able to strip away the unnecessary and perfect what is left into
something that is functional, beautiful and full of life, not stuff.
So that being said I am not sure how to make the unibathroom idea a good one but I
hope to get there with a lot of help from some passionate professionals and a
supportive family.
Site: 3.5 acres of the most beautiful swamp land in Muskoka complete with a gorgeous
rock shelf that will be a main focus of the property. The property is set in Mineral
Springs estates, a 100 acre parcel of land that is being developed into a great
neighbourhood for families and anyone who appreciates the impressive Canadian
landscape in Muskoka.

Name Bio: James Blackman

Project: Family Home in Huntsville, ON
Manifesto: About 3 years ago while working in the automotive industry, a group of friends and I started to become concerned with this idea of sustainability. We had begun discussing the ideas of peak oil, climate change, and organic agriculture on breaks and around the lunch table. It soon became clear to us that our actions, both at home and at work were ultimately having a negative impact on the planet. While were were all engineers, and we love our numbers, it wasn’t any one statistic or observation that did it for me. In my mind it was clear to see that everything is finite, the earth, the atmosphere, and everything in between. Once I made this link, it was simple to say, for example, if its bad for my health to stand in a closed garage with 1 running car, how could it be good to stand outside with millions, they are both finite spaces. The time scale for detrimental effects to manifest themselves is most certainly different, but the end result must be the same. I think the same rational applies to most of the human impact discussions I have had.

With the questions mounting, and the responsibility of being a parent, it became clear that I had to make some changes. With this in mind, it was housing where my interest and that of a friend of mine turned. When we began to look at the design of a house from a complete system, it became clear that most new homes were broken from the start. What was more concerning was that it didn’t take much effort to find the people and the information on how they should work, or how to achieve it. When the opportunity arose to leave the automotive industry and start on my own path to sustainability, I jumped.

The Site

Client - Site Info
  • Location - 10 minutes west of Huntsville, Ontario in a small subdivision of 2 to 5 acre bush lots.
  • Reason for Purchase - The three main attractions of this lot were; cost, south exposure, interesting terrain.
  • Topography - The site is a 3.5 acre bush lot with a south facing hill. It has a natural granite ridge that separates the main building site from the entrance level and offers shelter from all sides, especially the north.

Architect - Siting the House

The location of the building site was chosen for a number of reasons;

  • The first was the south exposure and elevated view (natural contours of the site).
  • The second was the proximity to services (reduce costs to run new lines).
  • The third was for the topography, the way it sits the site provided an opportunity to do something architecturally interesting with the site. There is a major change in grade (cliff like) vain that runs through the site. We felt there could be an interesting opportunity to "bridge" the two major Plato's by splitting the home into two major forms. Placing the home on both levels and could all but eliminate the need for excess excavation / alterations to the natural contours of the site
  • Architectural another interesting element that influenced the siting of the building was its relationship to the tree lined lane way that would approach perpendicular to the main facade of the house . This offers a long and gradual view of the entire front facade during your initial approach and also offers an ability to showcase the rammed earth walls will be the core of this home.

Below is a sketch of the property and the proposed sitting of the home in response to all the factors that play a part and have an impact on the home. The proposed location takes advantage of what the site and nature has to offer while also trying to achieve the clients vision and objectives.

The Natrual Impacts

Above is the land that was purchased by our clients. Some major natural elements that will impact our design are; The sun path (solar gains in the winter), the major change in grade / large rock formation that splits the site in half and the existing trees / vegetation that we want to preserve. We shaded what we feel is a "buildable area" that responds to the natural elements of the site and is the least impactfull to the site itself. We will work within this imaginary boundary as we properly orientate, play with the massing, layout the program and site the building in hopes to respond to everything that impacts the design. (Client, Environment, Sustainability, Zoning, Budget, Site ect.)