Living where I live now, I was limited by city ordinances, lot size, environmental restrictions and a whole host of other items, not the least of which was financial, so I built a home that was wood frame, extra strong and flexible (hurricanes), super energy efficient and roomy enough for a big family without a lot of extra rooms no one uses. It matches my neighborhood theme and I like it. Good ending, yes?
Ehhh..not so much when you think about it.
Someday soon I'll be retiring and moving to the country, whether it is to the property I own in NE Arkansas or some other lovely few acres I find, I'll be building a house on it too.
Deciding what to build as a homesteader who is also trying to be sustainable, trying to embrace the human values that made us a successful species, ensure continuity for the future, able to age in place and on top of that...love it forever, is a tall order.
Maybe you all can help me out.
I've considered the low cost things that are totally natural like the famous Hobbit House. I've considered the ultra-efficient and low impact Natural Home. I've perused the offerings for Underground Earth Homes. I've spent hours combing over the available concrete home plans in search of more permanent homes. I've even finally found articles on the increasing trend in Multi-Generational homes, yet plans remain sadly lacking in realistic living.
The bottom line on all of that is that they are hopelessly flawed in one way or another. What is a self-sufficient, sustainable, homesteading, multi-generational living, comfort loving girl to do?
While the Hobbit House is cute and, in theory, lightly living, it isn't at all a really permanent home no matter what the former inhabitants say. Too flimsy and too vulnerable. Also not a good idea for aging.
The Natural Home and Underground homes both have the appeal of concrete, which is much more permanent, but they are drastically limiting in terms of normal family sizes and multi-generational living. Both also tend to have significant problems after 20 or 30 years that just don't pass the permanence test for me.
Concrete home plans seem to be geared almost entirely toward those who want to build huge monstrosities in areas where houses probably shouldn't be...like the Florida coast along Hurricane Alley. And current multi-generational plans usually really mean it has 2 ginormous master suites or a mother-in-law cottage/suite somewhere in there.
So let me run past you all what I think I want. Maybe you can offer me some sage advice?
1) Permanent - Homes are generally built for a 30 year life. Surprising but true. They say more, but no, not without a lot of work. Concrete is a sure and certain way, if properly done, to ensure your house will be there for hundreds of years of continuous occupancy. Minor maintenance needed, of course! Look at some of the simple middle class homes from Rome, almost 2000 years and still safe and sound, albeit buried under the new city. Heck, the Colosseum is still there.
2) Sustainable and gently built - Believe it or not, much of the concrete and cement materials are sourced locally to their use. Fossil fuels for creating it are often counted as the bad guy, but nowadays, many use old tires and other industrial waste for that process without contaminating the concrete itself. Good deal. Sustainable to me also means lasting. If a house has to be rebuilt every 5 years like the Hobbit House, then it really doesn't matter that only a tenth of it came from manufacturing, it is still a waste in the long run. Permanence is a part of sustainable, I think.
3) Multi-generational - Personally, I think the idea of every nuclear family unit living a totally separate life from the rest of their family is going to wind up being a fairly short lived norm, relatively speaking. It leads to so much instability, so much waste and so much expense that it really isn't super wise. I'd like to be able to ensure a reasonable and comfortable existence for all who live there. (I lived multi-generationally for a while and it isn't an unknown concept to me. I rather like it; no scratch that, I love it.)
4) Flexible Over Time - Any house that ties me to one type of wiring or permanently fixes some "modern" need in time won't work. Part of the reason our homes have a true life of 30 years is because of these ancillary issues. Any house has to be able to be changed, modernized (or de-moderized) and be generally flexible.
5) Appropriate to the climate - Most houses are not at all built that way. Same house plan in muggy South Carolina can be seen in Wisconsin. The dependence on artificial means to force it to work is a hallmark of today's homes. I'd like mine designed to take advantage of sun angles, prevalent wind conditions and all that good stuff. That includes protection from common negative environmental happenings normal to that area. Ever seen how many houses are now built in tornado alley that have no basement or storm shelter? No thank you, I say.
6) Stage-able - By this I mean that it doesn't have to be done, inside and out, to the last floor tile before I move in. I'd like to savor the experience of putting in shelves, the non-concrete interior walls (if any), the fixtures for all the bathrooms (but one, of course!), the cabinets, tiles...well...all of it over a period of time.
I'm not asking too much, am I? Nah..I didn't think so. So why is it that architects look at me in horror and simply say that is too complex a set of requirements in a less than 1 Million budget (for NE Arkansas!). Prices for design on a house like this are truly astronomical. I could buy a house with that much. Seriously.
I've considered that altering an existing plan might be better and, believe it or not, I found that the most likely one to be altered was in a luxury home plan book and I've found it online for you. It is ridiculous and all of it has to be changed, but it has the bones it needs, if you know what I mean.
So, what do I do? Where do I compromise? How do I find, commission or buy plans that will suit that? Who exists that will be my willing accomplice and design a home that is truly meant to be the right home for me and those who come after me? ::sigh:: Okay, I'm ready for your words of wisdom!