The idea of this year’s natural building project hatched many, many months ago. Since then we have been working tirelessly as a group to finalize the design, so we can start building this season.
We first started with the idea of building a cluster of detached bedrooms with a shared bathhouse and a separate common building with a kitchen, dinning room, and lounge.
The idea was to build in phases, first starting out with the bathhouse. as shown below.
We went to the county planning office to see if we could do this, and they said, “no.” The main building has to be attached to the bathrooms and the bedrooms, otherwise they would each be considered separate dwellings, which we couldn’t do on this particular parcel of land.
So we all went back to the drawing board and came up with a design for an organic shaped community building that could be built in phases, but then there were some concerns about the roundness. The reason argued against a rounded building was that cabinets and furniture would be harder to fit, and would need to be custom made. Also squaring off the corners increases the square footage and makes it more affordable to pour a concrete stem wall, which will be required when building to code.
These are all valid reasons, but from our experience a well designed organic shaped building feels bigger and is more functional. Especially if the custom cabinets, built in’s, and furniture are designed to optimize the available space. It was also suggested that we use prefabricated conventional building materials, like trusses, plywood, and sheetrock, to speed up the construction and make it easier to budget the costs.
In the end, we had to pick our battles and decided to focus on using as much natural materials as possible and compromise on a more conventional shaped building. After all, who would want to come and learn how to build a standard conventional building with some straw and cob here and there. Not us!
After many discussions and drawings we were able to collaborate on a design for the community living space that works for everyone.
Hopefully in future building projects we can find opportunities to demonstrate the practicality, beauty, and benefits of building with more organic shapes. For now, we are excited to be creating a beautiful building with roundwood timbers from the land, strawbales from the valley, and clay from the building site.
The next step was to find an engineer that works with natural materials. I contacted SunRay Kelly, one of the most renowned natural builders on the west coast, and asked him who he uses? Bonny his partner, gave us a name, Jennifer Anthony, with Fearless Engineers. She specializes in working with natural builders, and has been great to work with.
She has been helping us with the structural aspects of the building, as required by our building department. Here are some of the newest drawings, sketched by Alex Forrester, the master planner for the Ananda Village, and our number one supporter.
The above drawing is an illustration of a schematic plan view from the top. Most of us can’t do a drawing like this, so if you want to build to code, I highly suggest that you work with an architect, or an engineer that can also do drawings. The Natural Living School will show you how to illustrate your ideas so a professional can covert them into data that the county will accept.
For me, one of the many things that will make this building exciting to work on is the timber framing. We will be using beautiful oak trees to create the curved crooks that will be holding up the ridge beam. All of the timber framing will be exposed either to the inside or the outside, and will include red cedar, doug fir, and black oak trees.
We will also be using milled lumber for the purlins, sheathing, and tung and grove ceiling. The above drawing shows the high roof framing for the great room. This room will be the main dinning area and also be used for yoga, music, and educational talks.
The above drawing shows the framing for the west side, which is similar to the east side. They are the two lower roof sections on the plan drawing. The kitchen will be on the east side, and the lounge will be on the west side. The north will have the bathrooms, storage areas, and possibly bedrooms.
The sketchup drawing above is an example of the high roof section with the two lower roofs on the wings. The high roof will actually be lower than in the image.
We are now in the process of redesigning the interior of the building to make accommodations for a communal kitchen, dining room, lounge, and bathrooms. The building is called Hyranyaloka, which comes from the “Autobiography of a Yogi,” by Paramhansa Yogananda.
Stay tuned, we will update you as the approval process continues.