Designing a House

Design thumbnailWe started designing our New Mexico house with an Earthship in mind and SmartDraw 2008 on the computer. The first iteration looked like this (click on the image for a larger view):

This design was true to its Earthship inspiration in nearly every respect except for the tirewalls; instead of tirewalls, it had 12-inch-thick exterior walls. It was also huge--over 87' across the south side, 43' on the east, and nearly 75' on the west.

The design was huge for two reasons. First, because I'm klutzy. In close quarters, I bang furniture into the walls, bash my hands on things when I talk, crash one shoulder or the other when I pass through a doorway. Second, I tend to over-compensate.

Ted and I made some mistakes in our Virginia house design--a hallway too-narrow here, the need for six more feet of floor space there. Ted is a minimalist. His greatest joy is to use exactly the amount of a given resource needed for the job, no more, no less. Although he never over-estimates, sometimes he under-estimates, especially if he's not considering my inherent klutziness, being not-a-klutz himself. I've learned that I need to increase his estimates of resource requirements by at least 10 percent to satisfy my own requirements. If 10% is good, 20% is better.

Final design thumbnailThe design went through 16 iterations before we ended up with the version we sent to the builder. Click the image for a larger view.

The design was still an Earthship at its core. We improved on our original thinking by adding a room over the garage, thereby increasing the overall floor space by another 23'x25'. We envisioned this as entertainment space, overflow guest quarters, and if the time came, an apartment where live-in help could reside.

All the iterations shared one feature. No passageway, whether a door, hall, stair, or space around furniture, could be less than 36". There's a reason for that, rooted in my years in emergency medical services. An EMS crew always finds the patient in the room with the narrowest doorway, at the end of the narrowest hallway, or at the top end of a 24-inch-wide stairway having at least one hairpin turn. In addition, the crew must usually move furniture to get equipment to the patient--and sometimes simply to get the emergency medical technician to the patient. If I ever need a rescue squad, I want it to be easy for them to save my life.