Rustic Homestead Community

SunRay Kelly has created an interesting collection of 7 natural homes on the homestead in 2nd growth forest at the base of Cultus Mountain in Washington, USA.

room looking out picture walls to forest

Garden House by Sunray

We live a chop-wood and grow-your-own-vegetables lifestyle here on the homestead. Instead of working away from home all day to make money to buy food and pay big utility bills we grow a lot of our own food and make our own heat.

exterior view of Sky House

Sky House by Sunray

Skyhouse includes a greenhouse as part of the house.

About SunRay

SunRay’s organic style seeks to retain the natural shape of trees used in construction. His study of architecture and sculpture only reinforces his affinity for the organic forms found in nature, rejecting the rectilinear, artificial Western method of architecture.

While he was still in college, SunRay’s showed some of his blueprints to an older builder who replied, “Learn to use a hammer, boy, because no one but you is going to be able to build that.” Since then, SunRay has been creating things that “nobody but SunRay could build.” His structures are timeless and give the appearance of being rooted, as though they had sprouted from the forest floor.

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Flexible Chair/Couch

This is an interesting idea. It does seem to me the chair is too close to the ground and not exactly comfortable looking, but the idea is neat. And I haven’t actually tried it, maybe it is more comfortable than it looks.

Several versions are offered by FlexibleLove. One version:

Dimensions (Collapsed): 64cm x 56cm x 23.6cm
Dimensions (Extended): 64cm x 56cm x 720cm
Weight: 28.5 kgs
Supports weight up to: 1920 kgs

Related: Making the Most of 450 Square FeetAmazingly Flexible 344 Square Foot Room Can Transform Into 24 Different Rooms

Heating Homes, Past and Present

Solar is a great source of passive heating and can be used actively for electricity and in ways such as hot water panels that circulate water to heat the house. These solutions don’t always work in a given situation but when they do they can be very attractive.

One common heating method in the past (and still used a fair amount) is oil tanks. Before that we had coal heating for houses. The house I grew up in had such a system (taken out long before I moved in, but remnants of it were still visible) where coal was poured down a shoot, at ground level, into a basement room with the furnace.

Then the coal was heated and I believe water was heated and sent to radiators to warm the house. This was no longer in place, so I am guessing; when I moved in the house had a furnace using gas to heat air and that was sent to warm the rooms upstairs. I remember sitting by the vents where the air would be warm.

Removing oil tanks and especially underground tanks can be quite a challenge and requires special attention to potential environmental issues (leaking oil). This clip from This Old House shows an old system being removed and replaced by a new oil tank.

Normally oil tanks are used for heating in areas that don’t have natural gas utility lines available. That is often rural areas but also areas that just never had gas lines put in. Heating using house-hold oil tanks is quite common in the North East United States even today. Delivery trucks connect to the house and pump in oil – very similar to what old coal delivery truck did (and in many houses in the North East they probably had trucks delivering coal before converting to oil).

This Frequently asked questions on oil tanks (from Commtank – the company in the video), provides lots of useful information, including:

Why should I consider removing my Underground Storage Tank (UST)?

Approximately 50% of 275-gallon 12 gauge steel tanks are estimated to develop leaks within 15 years, according to the American Petroleum Institute. Many older underground home heating tanks were never designed to withstand long-term exposure to soil and water. Even steel tanks that were specifically designed for underground use can leak if they do not have adequate corrosion protection. Home heating oil storage tank leaks can be very damaging to the environment and leaking petroleum products may contaminate the groundwater. Toxic ingredients such as benzene, toluene or xylene threaten human health by poisoning the environment and may require costly cleanup.

Related: Using Algae Filled Window Panes to Provide Passive and Active SolarCon Ed has been piping steam (a byproduct of creating electricity) to heat buildings throughout lower Manhattan since 1882Do It Yourself Solar Furnace for Home Heating

Using Algae Filled Window Panes to Provide Passive and Active Solar

This webcast looks at this demonstration project (at the International Building Exhibition IBA 2013 in Hamburg, Germany) using algae filled window panes to provide passive solar and active solar. Passive solar is achieved as the algae grow quickly under direct sunlight and thereby produce share for the building. Active solar is achieved by using the biomass of the algae for energy.

The algae use photo synthesis to grow and create biomass. The water also is heated up by the sun and that heat energy is captured to be used also. The algae window panes are moveable in order to provide shade and better capture sunlight.

This is a speculative project. It is interesting to see the various alternatives to reducing our use of un-renewable energy and using design to create livable spaces.

The BIQ algae-powered building has been operating for over a year. It’s faring well so far

The building currently reduces overall energy needs by 50%, and Wurm says 100% is achievable. Combined with solar panels to power the pumps and heat exchangers, the building could be completely self-sufficient.

Wurm says we’re likely to see the first full-blown commercial applications on data centers, which of course are particularly energy hungry, and require a lot of cooling. That’s another advantage of algae: it provides natural shading as it absorbs sunlight.

It seems up front costs may mean this isn’t economically viable yet. But we need to keep experimenting to find solutions that work. Also, the current failure to properly count for the negative externalities of fossil fuel is something that must change.

Related: Benefits of Green RoofsDo It Yourself Solar Furnace for Home HeatingGreen Building with Tire BalesWonderful Low Impact Woodland House

Monastery of Saint Simon (Cave Church), Cairo, Egypt

This is a beautiful space for a church.

photo of the inside of 'cave church'

Cave Church theater by vagabondblogger

Monastery of Saint Simon, also known as the Cave Church, is located in the Mokattam “mountain” in southeastern Cairo, Egypt. Simon the Tanner lived in Egypt, during the end of the 10th century. Saint Simon worked in tanning, a craft still practiced there today.

photo of the Church of Virgin Mary

Church of Virgin Mary and Saint Simon by vagabondblogger

The main Cathedral at the site is named after the Virgin Mary and Saint Simon. The Coptic Cathedral is actually quite new. It was constructed in 2 main phases during 1986 and 1994.

The Monastery of St. Simon is on the west bank of the Nile behind the Zabbaleen village. In 1969 the governor of Cairo decided to move all of the garbage collectors to the Mokattam and many still live there.

Related: More details on Tour Egypt web siteWonderful Low Impact Woodland HouseEgytian Statue in Front of the The Temple of Dendur at the Met in NYCGiza Pyramids

China Opens the World’s Largest Building

New Century Global Centre is a multipurpose building in Chengdu, China. The building has 1,700,000 square meters of floor space, making it the world’s biggest building measured by floor space. It is half a million square feet larger than the former title holder, Dubai’s International Airport Terminal 3. It is 3 times the size of the Pentagon.

The Boeing Everett Factory in Everett, Washington has the largest volume, and the Aalsmeer Flower Auction Building in Aalsmeer, Netherlands, has the largest footprint.

Nearly 400,000 square meters of the building will be devoted to shopping. It will also house offices, conference rooms, a university complex, two commercial centers, hotels, an IMAX cinema, a “Mediterranean village”, a pirate ship, a skating rink and a 5,000 square meter artificial beach.

The building was designed by award-winning British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid.

The Intercontinental Hotel will feature 1,009 rooms that are spread over 6 x 8 story blocks around the edge of the complex.

While parts of the shopping area are open, the main opening is planned for 22 August 2013.

Related: Underground Hotel, Shimao WonderlandWonderful Low Impact Woodland House

Webcast on Oscar Niemeyer

Oscar Niemeyer (1907-2012) was best known for his design of civic buildings for Brasília, a planned city which became Brazil’s capital in 1960, as well as his collaboration with other architects on the United Nations Headquarters in New York City.

Niemeyer’s first major project was the design of a series of buildings for Pampulha, a planned suburb north of Belo Horizonte. His work, especially on the Church of Saint Francis of Assisi, received critical acclaim, and drew Niemeyer international attention. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, Niemeyer became one of Brazil’s most prolific architects, designing a range of buildings both within the country and overseas.

He received the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1988.

Related: Influential Architects: Mies van der RoheOscar Niemeyer official site

Benefits of Green Roofs

I hope this idea gets adopted on a more widespread basis. Reducing storm water runnoff and reducing heat in the city are nice. But I really think it just provides a wonderful living space which is even more important.

Related: Wonderful Low Impact Woodland HouseBuilding with Tire Bales for environmental benefits
Phone Booth with Roof Lawn in Hoh Rain Forest

Underground Hotel – Shimao Wonderland

view of propose 'underground hotel' - build into a cliff

Shimao Wonderland Intercontinental by Atkins, Bristol, United Kingdom

This is a concept design for Shimao Wonderland Intercontinental in Songjiang, China by Atkins (Bristol, United Kingdom). The design was shortlisted at the World Architecture Festival 2009

The client’s brief called for a unique solution to a problem of siting the hotel in such a way that only 2 levels projected above the rock face of the 90m deep quarry. Particular request for underwater public areas and guestrooms was successfully accommodated in the design. The concept adopted the image of a green hill cascading down the rock face as a series of terraced landscaped hanging gardens. The central vertical circulation atrium connecting the quarry base with the ground level is in the form of a transparent glass ‘waterfall’

The winning architectural team includes Paul Rice, Hu Yali, Zhang Jian and Ding Fang from Atkins Shanghai led by Martin Jochman from Atkins in Bristol.

The building is under construction with an expected completion in 2013 or 2014.

Related: Headquarters of HuaiNan Animation Technology Industrial Park