The Solar Farmhouse is what can be called an “elaborated saltbox”. This is the house we built for ourself. It consists of a basic main floor shape 24’ x 36’ long containing the primary living spaces. The upper floor sits on top of the south half of the main floor and is 12’ x 36’. It contains sleeping areas and an upstairs bath. The gable roof over the upper floor slants down to the north, to connect the north wall of the main floor. This provides extra height in the living room by means of the cathedral ceiling and a expanded bedroom where the upper floor structure carries through to the north wall.
The plan has been fully “elaborated” from this basic concept to include extras which owners and builders may choose to incorporate or not (information is provided on necessary structural changes when these extras are eliminated).
The extras include:
The construction system consists of a platform frame of plywood and joist floors sitting on a concrete perimeter foundation. The wall system is built using 2 x 6 studs and plywood sheathing. An interior exposed post and beam structure runs east/west down the center line of the building at main and upper floors. The upper floor is platform framed over the beams. The roof system consists of 12’ wide site build trusses over the upper floor in combination with 2 x 12 rafters sloping down the north half of the house.
This is the house we built for our family. We spent a little over $50,000 (in 1982) getting it built to the point where we moved in. This was done over a period of five months working part-time as a project manager and subcontracting the vast majority of the construction. We wanted a feeling of openness and light, and I feel we got that.
Some people gave me a hard time about two north facing skylights in a solar house, but they are triple glazed and on a moonlit night you can walk around the house without turning on a light. Maximum energy efficiency is compromised somewhat by greater than minimum glass areas. It is a compromise we are quite happy with; a house must be more than an efficient machine.
The floor plan works well for us (a couple with two young boys). The main floor is positively spacious with its open plan; yet the living room has a separate feel to it and does not look at the dishes or dining table. The house actually has more space than we expected to get, and the sun space and front porch are glorious luxuries.