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3D Model

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Now things were getting serious on the house design.  I was showing the preliminary design around a lot, and I was starting to think more about the observatory (upper level loft area).  I wanted to see the house in 3D, but none of the 3D home design programs I'd bought could handle the flat/pitched roof combination.  I decided that I needed to break down and build a REAL 3D Model.  I'd previously laminated the preliminary design drawing so I decided to build the model right on top of this.  
I headed off to the local craft store, and purchased a stack of 1/4" and 1/8 balsa wood (for 12" and 6" walls), a steel rule and Exacto-knife.  I started with the rear retaining walls and worked forward.  Since the plan was laminated, I could assemble the balsa on top without fearing that it would stick  I figured that cutting openings for doors and windows would have made the model flimsy, so I decided I'd stick colored paper cutouts on later.
I had recently shown the plan to a builder at Deep Creek Lake.  The first thing he told me was that the BOCA code wouldn't permit me to just have a ladder up to the observatory. BUMMER !!  So when I came home I started thinking of options.  I always thought the curved space behind the kitchen was somewhat wasted so I started thinking about how I could use it to solve my access problem.  I quickly came to realize that by pushing the observatory wall back towards the rear of the house, I could extend this curved space up to the high ceiling and therefore open up space for a spiral staircase.
My initial thoughts were to leave out the floor altogether in this section to create a cathedral space with a staircase in the center, but, that would prevent us from sitting at the rear windows and watching the wildlife up-close and personal.  I settled for an oversized staircase opening surrounded with a narrow balcony suitable for fitting with window seats.  Since I gained some floor area with this new layout, I could pull back the front edge of the balcony (over the breakfast bar) which would enable natural light from the clerestory windows to illuminate the kitchen area.  I can imagine some automated reflector above these windows which would enable them to be made opaque, or could be used to direct the light straight down.  
Since corridor width will still be limited behind the kitchen and I do want these rooms to be wheelchair accessible, I'm thinking of a neat design that enables the upper half of the spiral staircase to protrude into the kitchen area (above the rear counter) where headspace is not critical.  Another benefit of this new layout is that light can also enter the curved area behind the kitchen, and the kitchen itself..

© 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.