Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Radiant flooring

Inspired by a flooring product I have seen, I developed a home-grown modular track system for installing radiant tubing in the floor of the Cubit. It basically consists of 5/8" pex tubing with strips of plywood 5 3/8" wide, with 6" radius turn pieces at the ends. This allows me to lay the tubing within the subfloor in a zig-zag pattern back and forth along the length of the house. I have yet to decide how I will plumb the system, but I now have the plumbing infrastructure I need within my floor. Yay!

Monday, September 5, 2011


The OSB interior of the tiny house proved to not creat the rustic feel that I thought it might; instead it just looked undone. We decided that paint was necessary.

We did some sleuthing to find a zero-VOC, perfectly safe interior paint, called "Mythic" I deemed Jessica the colorist of the tiny house; she picked quite an artistic & quirky palette of very lively colors.

The paint performed very admirably, comparable with any interior latex paint I've ever used, for a similar price, all while being completely VOC free!!! (our local hardware store is discontinuing the line due to lack of interest. What? Come on, people!)

The paint colors add a great warmth, and make the space very livable, making it feel like a finished space rather than a construction zone. And Jessica and Poppy did a great paint job. Thanks girls!!!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Cork Flooring!

I was looking for natural products for flooring, and had settled on cork or marmoleum. Cork is made from a rapidly renewable resource, and is a great comfortable surface to walk on. Marmoleum is a healthy and durable alternative to linoleum, made from linseed oil and wood flour (an old technology that is experiencing a resurgence, it is also known as "battleship floor," as that is what the Navy used in their ships.) Both products are durable and renewable.

Both products are rather pricey too, at $8/sf material cost. Even for my tiny floor, I would end up spending almost $1000 on my floor!!!

I went to a local floor supplier and asked him what he had for odd stock lying around. He showed us some cutoffs of marmoleum which would have sufficed, and as we were hemming and hawing about them, the flooring guy said he would check out back to see what he has in the back.

He came back with a cartload of boxes, and apologetically told us they were all different patterns, leftovers from a sample flooring section that they had done in the store. We were thrilled!!!

He had no use for the 75 square feet of assorted flooring. The whole lot he sold us for $100! Yay!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Folding ladder

A cool ladder design that I saw years ago to a friends' loft. I finally built it for myself, to the Cubit's loft!


& down!

Click here for a demonstration

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sustainability Matters

Why sustainable?

Why anything else?!?

A definition of sustainability - "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." from "Our Common Future," United Nations, 1987.

In what way is the Cubit sustainable?

Small Physical Footprint
-temporarily permanent installation: requires no permanent foundation, no septic tie-in, no grid connection, no fixed well
-easy to heat: small square footage and energy-efficient envelope translates to low BTU requirement.

Energy Efficient Envelope
-consists of SIP walls (R-24 roof, walls & floor) & low-emissivity argon-filled double pane insulated glass

Natural & Simple systems
-photovoltaic solar electricity: 12-volt electrical system is designed to run lights, charge laptops, cell phones and audio equipment, and run a few electrical appliances
-rainwater catchment: directly taps an otherwise unused source of water
-passive solar heat: south-facing windows utilize solar heat gain in the winter
-natural ventilation: windows are designed to catch and direct breezes for natural cooling in summertime
-natural daylighting - natural light is utilized to reduce lighting load
-compost toilet & greywater system: low-impact systems to manage human waste, and turn the waste into a useful product (compost and irrigation for a garden)

Sustainable Materials
-salvaged lumber used for windows and doors
-siding and trim was locally harvested & milled lumber
-EPS SIPs - waste product (saved from the dumpster) recyclable, durable - SIPs provide efficient insulation with minimal thermal breaks

Monday, November 15, 2010

Cubit Construction

The foundation of the Cubit is a steel trailer. This allows the house to be moved when necessary, and also helps to lessen the ecological footprint of the house by not requiring a permanent foundation.

The panels were hauled on the trailer across Vermont to the construction site.

The floor was built upside-down on the trailer and then flipped over. It required lots of levers and rigging - next time, I will build the floor right-side up!

SIP walls are precut, according to shop drawings, and then framing lumber is added afterwards.

The SIP walls are pre-built on the platform, and framing lumber is installed and screwed in place.

Once the walls were built on the deck, they were then raised (with help from my father and Herb Bates) and secured in place. Firefly, my dog, was also very helpful with the construction.

The roof panels were hoisted onto the walls using ramps and straps.

After the walls are assembled, foam is injected into holes drilled in the panels. This helps to seal the envelope of the building, and create a continuous insulation barrier.

The walls are wrapped in tar paper in order to help weather-proof the walls.

Siding is applied over the tar paper. The siding is built out from the walls, with a 1/4" space behind it to allow for vapor venting and prevent rot.

The siding is secured with screws in order to strengthen its fastening to the walls for transport over the road. Everything must be designed to withstand 70 mph winds!

After the construction was complete, it was time to move the trailer - it was a trick getting it out of a tight space!

The Cubit trailer, secured and ready to haul!!!

Energy Efficient Doors and Windows: Design and Build

Windows and doors are an indispensable element to building a house. They provide ventilation, light, heat from sunlight, and a means to enter and exit a space. They also function to protect the interior space from the outside elements. In order for doors and windows to be energy-efficient, they must create a tight seal at their edges and insulate from the cold, as well as functioning (opening and closing) to provide ventilation.

Designing windows and doors and building them from scratch was the most challenging aspect of this project. Not only did I have to design a window design which seals out the elements and provides optimum insulation and sunlight, but I also needed to acquire materials and design a shop process for milling the windows to precise tolerances needed to assure proper operation of the window unit.

Designing a full set of custom windows was too much of a task. If I did this project again, I would acquire salvaged windows, and then design my house around them!

The joinery for the window was was fun to design:

The window joinery took three tries to get right. Mock-ups of the joinery were important for me, in order to understand how the rails and stiles fit together. The window joint is a double-lap joint.

The joinery is pegged (square pegs in round holes) in order to make it stronger and more stable. The peg holes are offset in order to draw the joints tighter, so that clamps are not required for the assembly (I don't own enough clamps to clamp all of these windows!)

Here are the finished windows units, ready to be installed. The glass units are 3/4" double pane insulated glass, with low-emissivity coating.

The doors have a square mortise and tenon. The tenons are cut on a table saw and the mortises cut with a square-mortise machine (a drill press with a square bit). Precise milling of the wood is critical to ensure a consistent and tight fit for the joints.