We finally placed the windows this weekend. It was a pretty exciting milestone. As mentioned, we’ve lost about 6 weeks of our already short building season to extremely heavy rain so getting the frames in has seemed a long time coming.
The windows are interesting. We’re relying on solar gain as much as possible, while being mindful not to lose too much heat via unnecessary openings so it took a bit of planning. All of the kitchen and living room windows are oriented south. They’re also “regular” glass, as opposed to low E, which (surprisingly) took some tracking down. It seems the new standard is now low E which would entirely defeat the purpose of having south facing windows.
The plan for the living room, which has a total of 3 sizable windows, is to create a sunspace that will house an indoor greenhouse area. The greenhouse will both extend our growing season and provide additional heat to the home by virtue of its design. The garden will be several feet wide, about waist height, and have sliding windows on the interior for easy access.
The kitchen windows are also standard glass. We’ve oriented these south and slightly southwest to provide light and a certain amount of heat to the areas in which we’ll be most active.
We’ve recessed the windows so that we get the most winter sun as possible, while limiting the amount of summer sun. We were pretty happy the other day when we were able to measure the amount of afternoon sun permitted indoors and, with the protection of the overhang, it didn’t reach very far into the domes. We get some decently hot summers and it’s important that the house stay relatively cool. (On that note, we’ve also strategically placed vents in our design for a good cross breeze and ventilation- something not taken into consideration in the design of our current ‘traditional’ house.)
The only other windows in the house are one in each of the two bedrooms. The master bedroom faces west and the smaller room faces north so we went with fairly small windows and the low E option as we only need them for light and want to minimize the amount of heat loss through those openings. The only other window is in the front door which faces east (slightly southeast) and again, we went with low E as we’re not going to get a lot of winter sun through that opening. There are no windows in the pantry/system room (a dome divided in two by a wall) as we want this room to remain temperate throughout the year. The north side, which houses the pantry, will additionally be bermed up to maintain a consistent temperature.
Windows were an interesting exercise because I’m not used to thinking of them as anything other than aesthetic. I tend to like a lot of very large windows. The more windows, the better- on every side of the house. And I love, love, love skylights. I’d hoped to incorporate at least one into our design. Upon researching solar gain and heat loss, it quickly became evident our (my?) plans would have to change.
The skylight was out- pretty much immediately. We’d get the most light out of it during the summer, at which time we’d also be broiling, and we’d risk losing heat in the winter. And my dream of being surrounded by big windows- also out. According to every knowledgeable natural builder we reviewed, limiting the number of windows that are not south facing is an absolute must.
It kind of makes you rethink the way that you use a house. I have the tendency to use most rooms the same. I carry a laptop from room to room, or my books, or paper for writing, I eat wherever I find myself… This design causes you to evaluate how you use certain rooms. We only really need the bedroom to sleep in. And for other, well, activities that don’t require a lot of space or light. I never actually look outside when I’m shampooing my hair, I just like that I have the option should I ever be so inclined. I don’t need to type/write/read in the kitchen. It would be just as easy to sit in the living room. And the living room does tend to be the hub of all activity most nights, though we have an additional 7 rooms to choose from.
It’s just habit, I suppose, and a good dose of socialized thinking that I’ve come to expect that every room can be a ‘home unto itself’ and should, therefore, provide me with all the creature comforts that a home should- good lighting, lots of space, aesthetic value, and comfortable seating. This design caused me to review what purpose each room is actually intended to serve. Interesting concept.
Anyway, lots of noteworthy concepts incorporated into the design of our little dome-home, and I’ll try to touch on as many as possible over time. Our heating and cooking systems using only natural fuels is one that I’m very excited about. It looks like the rain is letting up though so time to head to the site and see what kind of damage I can do today, if any. Several inches of rain in the last 24 hours and another several predicted so it could be a slippery one. Ciao for now!