The southeast corner during the day The southeast corner at night
Day and night images of the front

Murphy, North Carolina

What was needed:
My friends had a very tight budget. As a carpenter, he would do a lot of the construction to save money. They needed something easy to build, energy efficient, and equipped to take good care of her aging parents. Their property was tight and steep.

The first step:
Measuring the property was difficult because the slope was irregular. A topographical survey would help, but we didn't want the extra cost. So I began to work on a plan that would fit.

While they liked the first plan, it would not fit when staking it out on the site. By moving the carport behind the house, it was able to fit much better. But this would require pushing the north wall into the ground. This wall would need to be reinforced concrete with insulation. While that raised the cost, it would save a lot of energy and allow us to fit the house on their property.

To give this couple and her parents some privacy, the plan has two bedrooms on opposite ends. Each has bathrooms that were efficiently planned for minimum cost and square footage.

The wheelchair ramp
The wheelchair ramp with the same angle as the roof

Having elderly parents in their home was an even stronger reason to make this home accessible. A concrete ramp from the carport to the front porch was planned. There was not enough room for a standard handicap slope, but this ramp is a huge improvement over steps. The inside plan was also laid out with straight line traffic patterns to make wheelchair navigation easier.

The buried, insulated north wall
Right after the north wall was insulated and buried.

For energy efficiency I planned for lots of south facing glass. The north wall was to have insulated concrete so it could be buried with ground. Spray foam insulation was specified for the wood frame roof and walls. And more air tight casement windows were included.

Colored glass collection
The antique glass collection in the dusk light

The colored stained glass lighting up the wall
The stained glass brings beautiful light into the hallway.

But this home needed to be more than just practical. My friends have goot taste in art, and they love to entertain. He has his orchid, rock, and antique bottle collection. She is a foodie. The great room was designed to display the colored glass collection where the sun would make it sparkle. To add to the colored glass theme, I recommended the stained glass panels, gifted by a friend, be placed to let the sunlight from the office light up the hallway wall with colored light. All of this is visible from the great room and dining area. Dinner is an event, a nice diversion from hard work and care giving.

What I learned from this home:
My friends had to move in before the house was done. The north wall was not insulated or buried yet. In the first winter they called me with a complaint. The closets along the north wall were wet and cold in the winter. I inspected and found the problem. The lack of insulation on the north side concrete walls was letting the closets chill inside. The warm inside air was condensing water on these cold surfaces. To fix this, the insulation needed to be completed on this side. When this was done, the condensation problems stopped. The heating costs went down too. Then a few years later they were finally able to bury the north walls as I had planned. (See the photo above). This further reduced their winter heating costs. It also reduced the summer cooling costs. The lesson is that all of the insulation is important. It was interesting to see the changes in the house as each issue was resolved.

Client review:
The client posted this review on My HOUZZ Profile : "We are very pleased with Richard MacCrea's design for our home as well as the finished product. We faced several challenges, one of which was that the home as designed originally was too long to fit on our land without being way too close to the road. Richard was able to come through with a design plan that only sacrificed a little outside work space and still made good use of passive solar design, i.e. The house is still one room wide so we get sun in all rooms accept laundry and bathrooms.

When the building inspectors didn't understand if some of the innovative things used, like laminate I beams would carry the weight of the roof, or the spray foam insulation was adequate for our insulation needs, Richard came quickly to show them specs and research proving these were more than adequate, even superior to normal options. Time has proved Richard was right. Our electric bill, which is heat, air, and all appliances is in the 120's in summer and has never reached 200 in winter since the back wall is underground to about 5 feet or so.

Our house has a Frank Loyd Wright style, shed roof, and tall windows, so even though the back is largely underground, this home has far more sun and light than the average home. Also, because our parents were aging, Richard was able to design this home with no steps on the outside, just a long ramp which looks like a natural part of the design, not "handicapped accessible". Also all doors in the house are 36" wide, both showers are walk in, no steps or high tubs to climb into.

Because of budget constraints we had to sacrifice some finishes Richard had originally designed. Specifically the house wide tile floors, which were to be part of the mass which would absorb heat during the day and give it off at night. We had to settle for laminate flooring in some rooms just to save money. However, because of good southern exposure, excellent spray foam insulation, as well as rigid insulation all around the perimeter of the slab so cold wouldn't transfer to the slab making for very cold floors, as I mentioned before, the home is very economical to heat and cool. Richard was accommodating about these changes for budget reasons realizing that solar panels and other things could be added later when more money was available. All in all we are very happy with our home as well as Richard's efforts to help us and accommodate our needs and desires."

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(800)738-8781 P.O. Box 446, Murphy, North Carolina 28906

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