Designing a house is a process, a series of actions and steps taken to achieve an end. There is a finite set of factors involved in designing a house, but as a building progresses from concept to
construction, there remains the opportunity for re-evaluation and change.
PLUShouse is under construction. The earth has been excavated and graded, foundations
have been poured, and 6” of drain rock have been spread in the
interior of the foundation. Electric and plumbing lines have been installed over the
drain rock, and orange plastic tubing for radiant floor heat has been layed down. A 4” concrete
slab has been poured over this matrix, and the concrete, which will be the
finished floor, will be the exact color of the earth the house is connected to.
Control joints, or grooves, have been cut into the concrete floor for the
purpose of controlling where cracks will occur (concrete will crack). The
control joints are organized not in an expected grid pattern, but are an array
of radiating lines.
|Laurie (client) driving excavator|
|Lindy (architect) driving excavator|
|under slab radiant heat lines|
foundation and concrete work are complete, we begin the framing stage of construction. The house
will be primarily wood framed, although there are quite a few structural steel
beams (horizontal members) and posts (vertical members) supporting the house.
One 3”x3” steel post will be exposed inside the house, the remainder of the
steel members will be installed in the ceiling plane and the walls, and not be visible.
|concrete slab control joints|
As the PLUShouse
is rising out of the earth, all is humming along smoothly under the supervision
of Mark and Robert of Drew Maran Construction. The foundation walls are not a
fraction off from the dimensions shown on the architecture drawings - we have
been measuring the accuracy of the foundation during site visits, as Edgar, of
Adorno Concrete, grins with surety that the walls are right on the mark.
house is not set in stone, and in the course of construction there is a deepening
awareness of the project. The
architect (myself) and the owner (Laurie) have not stopped thinking. New ideas
continue to be presented by both parties, research is done, technical data is
evaluated, and things change. And change is good.
|Mark measuring while Laurie observes|
|Laurie - client|
we are re-evaluating the doors, both interior and exterior. The exterior door
system is always a bit tricky, as aesthetics, function, viability, and
project-specific requirements are all things to consider. The front entry of the
PLUShouse is a 13’ wide x 10’ high glass system, with an off-centered 10’ high door
flanked by a window on each side.
|Lindy Small - architect|
|north elevation with glass entry system|
straight forward, until you begin thinking a bit: what type of door is
possible, what is the glazing and transparency of the system, the material, color,
width of the door and window frames, type of locking system? All these are
decisions we are currently re-evaluating. We are not changing the overall
design of the entry (13’ wide x 10’ high), but are evaluating the elements that
make up this system.
the entry door was a 3’ x 10’ hinged aluminum door. Not wanting wide frames which
are standard on a door this size, we identified a Swiss company who could make
very narrow door and window frames. As this company manufactures pivot and sliding
doors (not hinged doors) – a pivot front door usurped the originally designed hinged
door, igniting new research on the entry system. Our revised set of parameters for
the entry became: pivot door, narrow door and window frames, glass which can be
etched (Laurie is designing an etched pattern for the entry system), and a
locking system which can be electronically controlled by a cell phone, using the Goji system.
And so research
began to find a door manufacturer who could satisfy this new set of criteria. Long
story short, the glass used by the Swiss manufacturer we identified is structural, so cannot
be etched, we were not impressed with the steel welds of an Arizona company who
satisfied all criteria, and a California manufacturer could not install an
electronic lock. We were on a mission, and eventually found 2 companies who
could satisfy all our requirements - a local company and a New Zealand company. The
PLUShouse is a 100% sustainable house, employing as many local services and
products as possible. An easy decision followed - IronGrain in Oakland will be
manufacturing the entry system to meet all our specifications.
door is very different from a swing door, most notably in that you can
determine where the point of pivot will occur. Pivot
doors swing in and out simultaneously, and the point of pivot is a critical
location - it can be anywhere from at the door jamb (edge of
door) to the center of the door. So, if you want a 36” clear door opening, the
door can be anywhere from 36”-72” wide.
width of the door was re-evaluated, the relationship of door to adjacent windows
was re-considered. This affects the location of the door to the interior space
it opens on to. Which in turn affects how the etched glass pattern of an oak
tree, fabricated by Lenahan Glass in Oakland, will span the 13’ x 10’ system, which
affects where the pivot point will be in relation to the etched design. (It’s
beginning to sound like the old lady who swallowed a fly……)
stretching and compressing the tree design a bit, and manipulating the door
size and pivot point location, the design has settled. The pivot point will be
centered on the tree trunk, the proportion of door to windows is balanced, and
the door will open into the house exactly where it should. It is a process
where nothing is in isolation.
our journey to find the perfect entry door system, we became hooked on pivot
doors, and Laurie decided to use glass pivot doors for the
interior doors as well as the entry door. The interior doors will be frameless
glass, with a single 3" wide x 8' high wood bar on the leading edge of the door. Our evaluation
continues with what type of pivot system and hardware to install, what type of
glass to use, and how best to fabricate and apply the wood edge to the tempered
or building can be designed, approved by a client, and then built without
further changes. But things change over time, new experiences occur, new
products come to market, new thoughts and ideas surface, an image is seen, a
phrase is read in a book.
|interior pivot door studies|
is always a new problem to solve, both small and large, and nothing is
insignificant. Think clearly, pay attention. This is process.