At the beginning of 2010, we sold our lovingly-renovated, 4 bedroom villa and moved into a converted shipping container. This blog is about our efforts to survive in a big metal box while our eco-home was being built, and how to turn it into a finished home when we finally moved in.
Saturday, 15 October 2011
Despite a great start it’s been a mainly damp spring, so far. A good time then, for our house to finally get dressed.
Nice lines! This detail makes the house look as if it was designed
by someone who knew what they were doing, rather than us.
At the earliest stages of planning our home, we fearlessly proclaimed that it would be clad in locally-grown macrocarpa, and be allowed to silver over time to resemble the nearby barns which we took our inspiration from. We liked the idea of using locally sourced and sustainable timber rather than an air-mile eating imported variety.
Rose unveils our recently delivered Cedar – it smells nice, too.
Sometimes the best laid plans can be defeated by practicality, and this was the case here. Macrocarpa has a tendency to warp, meaning that we would be constrained to using heart wood only. Even so, the potential for the timber to alter its shape clearly made our builder Dean, a little uneasy. He takes his responsibilities very seriously - his priority being ensuring that nothing is going to go wrong with this build in the future. Neither party ever wants him to have to come back to fix something.
The final nail in the macrocarpa coffin was the discovery that Dean was unable to source it in the lengths he needed – which would mean far more joins along the exterior walls, further compromising their weather-tightness.
Reluctantly we elected go with the only other option – imported Western Red Cedar.
To quote the product description: it is sustainably sourced from the natural forests of coastal British Columbia, it is noted for it’s stability, durability and fragrance – and has proved itself in New Zealand conditions since early last century.
With those credentials, and the increasingly impracticality of our first choice, we felt better about going with an imported timber.
Our first board - and a plank.
To keep ahead of the weather, Dean completes the most-exposed west side first.
He then moves to the long north side, which involves a huge amount of
patient measuring and cutting because of our numerous windows and doors.
After the ensuing week of rain the weather begins to lift, and the sun shines on
the completed east side. The south side is still awaiting its Titan Panel cladding.
The cladding for the south side of the house was always going to be something quite different. Rose explains:
"Sensible eco design calls for minimal options for cold air to enter a house on the southern side (in this hemisphere, at least). The south-facing wall of our new home has just one long thin window, three skylights and the front door in it for just this reason.
While researching front door options I came across an image of a beautiful cedar door in a long expanse of grey zinc cladding and fell in love with the clean lines and contrasting look. Costing the zinc was a $20K reality check - so we clearly needed to find an alternative.
One of my favourite New Zealand architects is Parsonson Architects, who use a James Hardie fibre-cement product called Titan panel in their designs. The large, smooth surfaces with sharp negative detail between them create a very similar aspect to the zinc, so we thought that this might be a viable alternative."
'Class of the Titan' - and here it is; presenting an 'impassive' face to the world
It’s mainly a commercial property product, and our decision to use it still raises some eyebrows. But now that we can see it in position, it’s yet another component of this build which has utterly exceeded our expectations – we’re thrilled with it.
Presenting such an initially impassive and practical face to visitors perhaps says more about us than we would like, but the twin requirements of acting as an effective shield against the southerly chill and having minimal visual impact on our surroundings have been well met. We’re glad to be clad!