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Experimentation, trial, error, and the Lisa sounding-board.  These are the ways I established some basic plan concepts.

I started playing with some design concepts.  First I wanted to get an idea of how I would arrange the rooms.  I wanted to establish good people-flow.  Things like attaching the laundry room to the main walk-in closet seemed like a good way to cut down on foot traffic.

Once I had some feel for the rooms, I started trying different house shapes that fit with the passive solar goal.  Here is a small part of that process in pictorial form.

PLAN 1: The basic rectangle.
 My first plan started out about pretty normal.  Basic rectangles, nothing fancy.  I did get my master bedroom, bathroom, walk-in closet and laundry room setup just how I wanted, although I wasn't totally convinced with the kitchen.
The open space kitchen/living room is evident in this image.  The notion that the kitchen needs to be separate from the living area to eliminate unpleasant odors, and unsightly views, just means that the cook is held hostage there, and can't enjoy their favorite TV shows.  Not in my house.   Also note the verandah (patio) across the front of the house.  This provides maximum winter solar heating, and summer shade.
I also managed to create a "High Area" above the kitchen which really only serves as a well lit (skylights) reading and relaxation area.  The spiral staircase saves space over traditional stairs, but could have been improved even more with a Captains Ladder.  A "Quite Space" is attached to one end of the loft area to provide total isolation, and another sunny vista.

PLAN 2: More Interesting angles, and a roof deck.
The next major revision to the plan was to skew the rectangle, and add a garage.  The overall area of this design is actually a bit less than Plan 1, and the "narrow Back" design should require less excavation.  The two front angles enable curved window seats to be built in the Bedroom and office.  These provide a more open mountain vista.  I also did a slightly bigger version with better lines in the kitchen /dining area.
The upper "Loft" area has been removed, and replaced with a roof deck.  A roof cutout provides a very secluded, yet very open area for sunning and soaking.  An entrance nook on either side can be used for changing and storing BBQ and Hot Tub materials.  Access to this area will be quite restricted, probably via a pair of "Captain's Ladders".  Keep in mind that the sides and rear of the house will be mostly below grade, hence the lack of windows.
More detail on the roof cutout.  A slightly sloping base with drainage to the rear of the house provides very clean lines from the front.  A 3 foot lip at the front and back provides a totally private sunning area with great solar exposure.  Hmmm.  I may have to install a removable davit crane to get bulky items up to this area.
The kitchen was also refined in this design.  A very clean U shaped counter area provides lots of surface area, and a wide pantry on the opposing wall provides plenty of storage.  For most of the time, a ledge attached to the front of the counter acts as a breakfast area, but for entertaining, the two leaves swing out, and form a more traditional table for face to face dining.

PLAN 3: Time to get some real designers involved.
The next step was to approach some real designers. 
This floor plan is the third in the series produced by people who actually know what they are doing :) 

Click the image to jump to a full description page.

The final proposed Preliminary Design looked a lot like this, but it had several new features.


© 2000-2018, Phil and Lisa's relaxed lifestyle home.
An exercise in Energy Smart, Not So Big living. -


This site is all about building a cool, energy efficient house, that makes maximum use of earth sheltered design, passive solar heating and cooling, geothermal exchange energy management, and right sizing of the house for it's designated use. The home's placement is on a south-facing hillside in Deep Creek Lake, Maryland. This site describes the design process, the technologies used and the expected results. We also have a comprehensive Links Page for anyone who is also interested in designing a similar project.