A small footprint home?

January 29th, 2020

Dear Readers,

A small footprint home, and therefore a more environmentally friendly home, is a result of being wholly prefabricated. With the home about entirely constructed off site, less ground disturbance is caused by heavy machinery and equipment. When we build The Seed, we are not going to be building it in a factory. Neither funds nor resources understandably exist for that at the moment. However, we would like to design and build The Seed with prefabrication concepts in mind. 

When an ideal prefabricated home is placed on site, the process should be as simple as possible so to minimize on-site labor and disturbance. A minimal amount of time and intensity of on-site labor would decrease the overall cost of the home, both monetarily and environmentally.

One way we are looking to incorporate that concept of limited labor on-site into the construction of The Seed, is by avoiding digging into the ground for the home’s foundation. Digging a conventional foundation/basement is a time intensive process, and it is disruptive to the site’s environment. Instead of digging a foundation, we wish to use a pin system. A pin system is less disruptive to the earth and its natural soils. In fact, Diamond Pier uses a tree and its roots as a great simile for their Spread Pile Engineering development. Like roots, the pins from the main pier can be latched into the earth at different angles, using the natural soil as its strength and structure. It is like the home would have its own root system, attaching it to the soil it is raised upon. The bigger the home, the more roots it needs. The roots would not break apart the soil, nor effect water flows. They would form to the natural environment and support the weight of the home. 

A rainwater collection system will also be incorporated into The Seed so as to lessen the impact to the land and the time it takes to place the home into its surroundings. Instead of digging deep into the bedrock to tap into a natural spring/well, or depend upon a town’s water supply, a rainwater collection system will prevent further disturbances to the earth’s soils and water tables as well as create further independent sustainability.

To make things even more interesting, we are experimenting with the idea of also incorporating a composting toilet. A composting system consists of a toilet in which human waste, toilet paper, and air enters. This all proceeds to a holding tank which has a ventilation system, allowing the resulting carbon dioxide and water vapor from the natural composting process to escape. Composting toilets extraordinarily reduce the amount of water usage in a standard household (which is great if you are relying on the weather to wholly provide your water supply), as well as provide a means for our human waste to become what nature always intended it to be: dirt. A composting toilet also eliminates the need for a tank or sand mound to be installed; again, that reduces the amount of onsite labor and land disruption.  A complication we are foreseeing in the usage of an unconventional sewage process is the compliance of a greywater system to local zoning regulations. We are still researching that bit…

We also, of course, intend to have our own power generation. Generating our own power will allow our home to be more holistically self sustaining, as well as free us from the need for electrical wires to be run onto the property. We are primarily thinking of using solar panels. However, we have two concerns. One: we would love to live in the woods, and the home’s exposure to southern light would potentially be very little. We also, of course, do not want to take down any unnecessary trees, which intensifies the dilemma. Two: solar panels can be recycled, but there are few to no local facilities that do so. We then face the question of responsibility throughout the lifespan of our potential solar panels. The great thing about the home being a passive house, however, is that we will require little energy for the home to comfortably function in the first place. Therefore, fewer solar panels would be needed overall. 

We want there to be a sustainable and healthy building and living approach to The Seed~ from its construction, to how our small family engages and lives in its spaces, to the decades and decades of shelter and comfort the concept of its prefabrication could provide to individuals and families. It is an idealistic idea which we can only hope and strive for.


Shelby Aldrich

1 Comment

  1. Sounds like quite a project.


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© 2020 Sustaining Tree

© 2020 Sustaining Tree