Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Anorexic Architecture

Our current fascination with tiny homes started with one dimension only. Several years ago we were patrolling the web for skinny homes. Not just skinny homes, but the skinniest homes in the world. Our thought was in trying to cram as many homes as possible onto a 50x100' wide lot, assuming zoning allowed. Given that 5' setbacks are typical, we figured there would be a 40' wide footprint. Most folks would say 2 attached 20' wides would be typical. We are currently working on a 3-16' wide building. But you could easily do 4-10' wide houses. Crazy? Consider that building code requires a minimum 7' wide room in homes and you could cram 5-8' wide homes onto that lot.

But history has brought about some even skinnier homes. Boston, MA and Alameda, CA have their 10' wide homes. In Alexandria, VA is a skinny house that was built to close off an alley. The home is 7x25' and two stories tall. In the Montlake neighborhood of Seattle, WA is a house that, while 15' at the front, is 4.5' in the rear.

The most notorious of all skinny homes was the so-called Richardson Spite House at the corner of 82nd St. and the newly punched through Lexington Avenue. Built to spite his neighbor for an insultingly low offer for his 5' sliver of land, each of the two houses built contained 8 suites each which rented for $500 per year.

While we don't recommend building strange homes to spite your neighbors, we are interested in designing homes for lots that seem unbuildable. If you own a piece of property that seems too difficult to build on, contact istockhouseplans and we'd be happy to design a home for you. We appreciate the challenge of taking the zoning and building codes to their limits. Don't be fooled by our stock skinny offering. We can make this thing look like a wide mouth bass.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

What's the difference between an architect?

In Oregon there exists a secret society that has all but trademarked a common word and all it's iterations. The only way you can claim to be an architect, do architectural drawings, or practice architecture is to be a 4-year schooled and trained, passed the exam, and certified professional. The idea is to protect the public from folks who do the same thing but are not board certified architects.

I suppose this is rather smart as it would be akin to separating attorneys from legal professionals. However it seems the public is not so trained in the difference. To the general public, anyone who designs a house is an architect. Time and again we have been referred to as architects, asked if we do architectural work, or had our work referred to as architecture. While we are flattered, please be aware that we are not trained or certified as architects per se. However, the State of Oregon cannot keep other individuals from drawing houses and submitting them for permits. (Nevada, however, can and does).

So to be clear, we are not architects. What are we then? We have always referred to ourselves as design professionals. What's the difference? We have training and experience, but we are not certified by a board. We are limited to designing homes of a particular size, but this has been a threshold higher than we care to reach. The main difference is that we cost way less.

If you are looking for a custom designed 8,000sf house, please contract the services of an architect. If you are looking for a cute little stock plan for an 1800sf home, look no further than Istockhouseplans. We have a diverse portfolio of homes and would be happy to help you with your next project.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Dream it, Design it, Build it, Pallet!

We at Istockhouseplans have been a bit busy this last month exploring a new outlet. While designing standard homes is a lot of fun, we yearn to trade in our mouse and T-square for a hammer and framing square. For a long time we have been following Michael Janzen's Tiny Free House blog. Michael is attempting to (and succeeding at) building a tiny free house out of found materials. The main structure of the 96sf home is made out of pallets. Intriguing! And very sensible. After all, most pallets are already built with rigidity and rough handling in mind. He expanded this idea to a blog called the Tiny Pallet House. Then there's John in Nova Scotia who has built several outbuildings and a fence out of pallets. We've even seen a pallet fence in our own neighborhood.

Enter our food co-op. The co-op runs a garden that is in need of a shed. Initially we stepped up to help with it. The sheer number of other interested folks made us shy away because after all, no one else would understand or be willing to embark on a pallet shed. After a few weeks, the call was put out again as no one had actually done anything other than raise their hands. So we called dibs on the project and immediately started designing for pallet use.

The shed is to be about 8'x8' and not terribly tall. It was designed to use 20 standard 40"x48" size pallets. There would be 2 courses of pallets 48" wide and 40" tall. This results in a plate line of 80" tall, good for doors. The pallets on the front would be relieved of about 14" of material each, leaving space for a 28" window. This 14" would then stack on top of and tie into the front wall making it about 8' when plates are considered. The plan was then to tie 6 pallets together to create the shed roof. The roof includes a 24" overhang on the back side to hide garbage cans. The whole thing would rest on some reclaimed cedar fence boards on top of a packed gravel floor.

Pallet shed floor plan, rear wall, and front wall.

Pallet shed side view, roof plan

The door works well as it is about a 3' gap left after 48" of pallets is put in the 7.5' +/- space between the sides of the front and back pallets. The pallets on the roof are tied together with some 2x4x8 inside the pallets and some 2x6 on the outside for trim. Corrugated clear roof panels keep the rain out. We were going to plywood the sides but reclaimed fence board could be used as vertical batts between pallet boards, or lapped as desired.

What actually happened is something a little different. There were a handful of free pallet ads on Craigslist. By the time we showed up, there was nothing left of anything close to 40"x48" pallets. So we surveyed a few sites and found some great 8'x6'-4" ish sized ones. Perfect! This was better than tying four smaller pallets together. There was even one that was 7'-4"x6'-4" which means it would fit right between the front and rear pallets without cutting and maintain the 8'x8' footprint. We loaded them onto (mind you, not INTO) the truck and drove to the site where we started prepping the panels to tie together. Unfortunately we couldn't do much else since gravel had not arrived for the floor.

Since the whole project is being attempted for the princely sum of no money down, no payments ever, we are looking for free gravel on Craigslist. Hopefully we will be done within a month. As progress is made, we will keep you posted and throw up a few pictures.