Follow by Email

Saturday, September 17, 2011

So, begins the journey from big house to small sustainable green house...

We are a family of four residing in beautiful western Wyoming, with one daughter, a freshman in college, the other daughter, a junior in high school.  We are looking ahead to when both girls will be in college.  We began asking ourselves, "Why do we need this big of a house, 6,200 square feet for two people?

Once we began questioning the need for all this living space, we faced other questions as well; "Do we want to sell the house? Do we want to move to a more temperate climate? Do we want to move somewhere where the cost of living is more reasonable?"  We did a lot of reflecting and research, and the bottom line? We came full circle that our beautiful piece of Wyoming is where we want to be, but we did a 180 degree shift in what kind of abode we wanted to live in: big was not okay anymore.  It felt burdensome, wasteful even.

I began the process of getting our house listed, while pushing for us to buy an existing small house.  My husband was not convinced we could find an existing small house in our town that he would be comfortable living in without major remodelling.  When we looked at the quality of homes in our price range we both became disenchanted with the available inventory.  I was loathe to take on a building project for a multitude of reasons, not withstanding we'd built two homes together and did a major remodel on our first home together.  I wanted to forgo that stage if at all possible.  And it seemed counter-intuitive to our quest for a simpler life to take on a building project.

However, my sweet husband convinced me we would be much happier if we built.  We began pouring over house plan websites trying to find the "perfect" small house plan (1,200 to 1,800 SF), but what we saw was unimaginative.  I was discontent with the available stock plans.  I was shocked that a lot of the green innovations and modern design were not reflective in these website offerings.

I have always been a proponent of modular construction.  It seemed such a nifty way to speed up the building process, while controlling the quality and cost, as everything was built in a factory and delivered in modules to your site and placed on the prepared foundation.

The green modular business seems to have embraced modern architecture.  We had looked at this burgeoning industry back when we built  this house in 2003.  But, at the time, the cost was prohibitive, upwards of $300 to $400 per SF!  Surely, in the subsequent years the price must have come down to be equal or close to on-site building prices?  After much internet research and browsing,  I was discouraged to realize that not much has changed in that regard.

The companies (and there are only a select few) offering a factory built, green, tricked out modern home were cost prohibitive.  Not knowing what to do next, dispirited, I half-heartedly began surfing the internet one more time.  I happened upon Green Modern Kits, and woo-hoo, this seemed our solution to our dilemma.  Their business model is radically different;  work with great impassioned architects and designers to come up with workable green designs that can be adapted to many sites, offer these designs as a bare bones SIP (Structural Insulated Panels) kit, to be assembled on your site by a local contractor.  This, we believe, is the workable solution we've been looking for.  I have begun dialoguing with Copeland, the Green Modern Kits President and all around enthusiast and cheerleader for cost-effective green design and living.  Her passion is infectious and it has been refreshing to talk with her about her kit products, associations, such as the architects and designers of the kits and her other clients and where they are on their journey towards a green kit home, including her own families' journey to build a Casa Ti prototype.  Here is her blog on the process,

We have many hoops to get through before we can proceed with building a passive solar house.  First and foremost, we need to sell our house.  Next we have to find a building site, purchase it and decide how best to fit a kit on that site.  Then, which of the kits (Casa Ti or Modern Dog Trot) should we build?  And, once we decide on a kit, what changes if any do we need to make for our area (roof pitches and directions for accommodating snow loads and fall, and other extreme winter conditions).

So, more to follow as we work through this process.  But building a small green passive solar house feels like a great step towards our new simpler life.

In that vein, I saw the following article today cross my computer.  Obviously, we are not the only ones thinking downsizing is smart on many levels.

I'll end on this note.  I've always loved this song since it came out years ago, and lately it has been reverberating in my head, it seems to be our theme song as we approach this stage of our lives and this exciting ending to an era and mindset to a new beginning and the opening of ideas and options:

"I walked across an empty land
I knew the pathway like the back of my hand
I felt the earth beneath my feet
Sat by the river and it made me complete..."

Friday, September 16, 2011

House for sale... The lovely "big" house we are hoping to parlay into a small green passive solar house

This house has so many happy memories of family and friends, it is a skosh hard to let it all go.  However, we are also thrilled to move into a new, simpler, more satisfying existence.  The time and energy we will save in not having to maintain this "asset" can be poured into gardening, travel and simply being.

Neighbors, friends and family have all express dismay and sadness when we announce our plans.  They see it as loss, while we see it as gain.  Maybe we have had more time to process and allowed the idea to percolate into a brew of excitement and joy.  We see the possibilities in owning less.  We know once they see the journey played out that they will be as excited as we are, but it has opened my eyes to just how much we are creatures of habit and change can be hard and scary making us cling to the status quo.