10 Steps to Housebuilding Success!

22 Jan

Greetings Campers!

Ah… life in the South is filled with adventure, huh?

First, I’m sorry that I haven’t been doing much posting lately. This has been one heck of a New Year, thus far. Between saying goodbye to a dear friend, Momma being under the weather, and the idiot upstairs flooding our apartment (yet again!) I’ve literally been up to my neck in alligators (and other stuff I still can’t identify… Yuck!)!

That said…

Many of you are “follow-along” readers. And, I’m thankful for you, each and every one of your blessed little hearts, lemme tell you! That means that you know my family is doing that “dreaded of deeds…” Yep, we’re putting down rooooots.

Now, the prospect of this terrifies the neighbors, and frustrates the hell out of the local authorities, because they know that as soon as we build our castle, we’re gonna start influencing the neighbors… and that means (gasp!) change, folks…

The first big change is our use of shipping containers (ISBU’s) as the “guts” of the new house. That little gem of a gossip piece is getting a lot of mileage around here.

And around here, those “fossils” don’t get smarter, they just get older… and crustier… and more dense… I learned that in Geology class I did… or was it Psychiatry, or Mental Health? Hmmm… Wait, I remember… me therapist told me that… she did… when I wasn’t asleep on that couch of hers… Hey, I’m used to sleeping on a couch, what can I say? LOL!

A lot of my email lately echoes the same thought process, over and over again…

“Hey Ronin! Why don’t you get on that Harley and ride the hell outta here? Hmmm?”

Wait… that’s not it… Where was I? Oh yeah…

Where do you even start, when you finally decide that you’re going to build your own home? There’s a lot of ducks to get lined up in a row, and when it’s time to put pencil to paper, that blank page can get pretty darned intimidating! There is so much to learn, and so much to allow for, that you can get lost in the process, if you aren’t careful! So, being the generous, kind, thoughtful, handsome, benevolent, and don’t forget “wise…guy”  tyrant that I am… I thought that perhaps it’s time for a little “primer,” a series of posts dedicated to HOW you actually begin the process to build a house. After all, there’s more to building a home than just pounding nails, slapping up some walls, and putting on a roof.

Much more…

Like, for instance, how do you build a house that keeps all your cash INSIDE it, instead of letting it leak out to be lost outside?

(I’m talking utilities here, folks. The rest of my cash leaks out in that most dreaded of all sports… shopping for diapers and groceries.)

Everywhere you look, and everything you hear lately, seems to revolve around “energy conservation.” Now, that’s not a bad thing. Anyone who’s been pillaging “Ronin’s Treasure Chest” lately, knows full- well that here at “Ground Zero” we are really, really concerned about not only saving resources (because we’re poor!), but living comfortably, while we do it.

So, let’s start off with 10 simple rules to live by when designing and building a home.

If you implement these “rules,” you’ll reduce your family’s long-term energy use by 80-100%, and this will result in a more comfortable, long lasting home. After all, if you’re going to build a home, shouldn’t it be state of the art and follow affordable design and construction standards? A little planning and forethought will allow you to build a home today with high tech energy performance, capable of achieving “net zero” energy consumption.

“Net Zero” doesn’t mean that you’ll be reduced to having to eat those “Free Internet” DVD’s you keep getting in the mail. It means that you’re going to build a house that is so efficient, economic, and affordable, that your neighbors will “oooooh and aaaawe” every time they drive past your house.

Remember folks, “jealousy” is a sport, and getting the gold medal is the objective here. Your neighbors treated you like the rabble heckling Noah while he built his Ark, remember? Well, who’s treading water now, you bastards? Hmmm?

I started this adventure like many of you have, by using that veritable repository of all trivial knowledge in the world… Google. But, albeit I found several good lists, they were… yawn… boring! So… I give you…

The 10 Simple… um…er… kinda simple… Rules

1. Orient your home to the South and Use The Sun’s Energy
2. Build it Tight and Insulate Aggressively With Spray Foams or SIP’s
3. Maximize your Mass
4. Use Radiant In-Floor Heat in All of your Living Spaces
5. Use High Efficiency Condensing Boilers
6. Design For and Install Solar Power Systems
7. Install Outdoor Temp. Reset Controls
8. Don’t scrimp! Use the Best Windows You Can Afford
9. Specify Efficient Appliances and Smart Controls
10. Use GeoExchange Heating and Cooling Systems Whenever Possible

Okay, them’s the “rules.” So, what do they mean? Well… if you follow them, you’ll have a happy home, filled with sunlight and laughter, instead of a hellhole of a house plummeted into darkness and griping…

(And, you won’t have to hear that harpie of an In-Law constantly griping to your spouse about her “lousy marital choice…”)!

For the next few days, we’re gonna take a look at these “rules,” and then figure out both what they mean, and how we use them, to insure our success.

Let’s begin, shall we? Hmmm?

Start by orienting your home to the South and use the Sun’s energy!

Now, I ain’t talking about embracing “grits and cornpone…” Or even stinking up your house with “greens…” And, if I catch you frying up a mess of “catfish and cornbread…” well… let’s just say all you’ll see is my elbows and my backside, as I head for the front door… Ewwwww!

We’re talking about passive solar design here, folks… and I’m talking about maximizing “free” solar energy. Orient the house with living spaces and windows opening south and carefully shade them in the summer.


Make sure you have enough overhang (control) to provide adequate shade.

Over the windows, not your belt buckle. See? That’s what you get for eating all that catfish and grits…

Use exterior sunscreens, soffits or roof overhangs to prevent direct sun from entering south windows from May through September, so you don’t fry.

Make sure that the angle from the bottom of a southern window to the overhang or sunscreen is not be less than 30 degrees. You can refer to a sun-path chart commonly available on the internet to verify these angles and then verify angles and placement.

Place ALL the main living spaces on the south, with services, bathrooms and storage on the north side of the house. Why? Because the rooms that get used the most will benefit from the sunlight, and the “free heat.” Duh! LOL!

But put your Mother-In-Law’s room as far north as you can get it. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, watch a re-run of the “Wizard of Oz…” Trust me on this… In fact, if you need a passport and an up-to-date shot card to get there, it’s even better!

And speaking of the north side of house… Minimize the windows, and their size, on your  northern elevations. Smaller (and even fewer) windows on the north (cold) side of your house just steal heat, and energy.


If you’re lucky ( and rich) enough to have an architect working with you, ask him/her to document the sun angles on southern elevations for various months on a dedicated sheet, in your house plans. And, if you’re looking for a good one, say it with me…


Remember that a “good” design is everything. If your design sucks, so do you… Wait, that’s not it (although your “other” may tell you that, repeatedly)… Whether you do it yourself, or you hire someone who actually knows what they are doing, insure yourself that that direct sunlight enters your southern windows from at least November 1 to March 1.


And for heaven’s sake, do everything you can to avoid structures and siting schemes that result in more east/west elevations and walls than your north/south ones.

Next time, well talk about “tight” buildings…

Stay tuned!

Addendum: I am not now, nor have I even been, in the employ of hiveModular.com, so stop asking me! If I’m guilty of “shamelessly promoting ” them, it’s because these “Titans of the Tundra” think like I think. No, they don’t take any “mental meds” (that I know of)… Okay, they think like I “wanna” think. (If my brain wasn’t frozen from living in sub-zero weather…) Wait… maybe they ARE nuts…
These guys are great at creating innovative, out of the box solutions to difficult housing problems (like the “building economy,” for instance) in a manner that is elegant and functional. I don’t know about you, but I really don’t want “the same old cookie-cutter house” that my parents had. I want something that will earn my respect and save me money, while making my family comfortable. Capish? Who couThe Renaissance Roninld ask for more? Hmmm?

5 Responses to “10 Steps to Housebuilding Success!”

  1. wildkitty January 22, 2009 at 9:21 pm #

    I like catfish and cornbread and grits… *eyes you suspiciously*

    • renaissanceronin January 22, 2009 at 9:37 pm #

      Hey kiddo: With a name like “wildkitty” is it any surprise that you like the same ingredients I suspect they use to make Cat Chow? Hmmm? LOL!


      I’ll take a medium rare steak, and a good baked potato (“loaded” please) anytime, over “bait”… *glares defiantly*

  2. wildkitty January 23, 2009 at 6:28 pm #

    There’s nothing wrong with steak and potatoes either, but catfish is definitely not cat chow 😛

    • renaissanceronin January 23, 2009 at 10:16 pm #

      Wildkitty: Yeah, even cats are smart enough to avoid catfish! LOL!


  1. It’s Okay to Use the Sun… Honest! « The Life and Times of a Renaissance Ronin - February 10, 2009

    […] while you go back and read some of my previous gems… um…er… posts, namely “Orienting your house…” and “Maximize your […]

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