Vermont Stock plans now available for purchase

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I am finally getting around to offering stock plans from my own website including Vermont Simple House (VSH) 1, 2 and 3. These have been for sale for a few years now on HousePlans.com and, by contract I can sell them on my own website for an increased price. I have been getting many inquiries about other plans I might have for sale so I’m going to focus for a while on increasing my offerings. My simple traditional aesthetic with clean modern lines and plans seem to have hit a chord with many people and I rarely get to keep things so simple with my custom work. I have been digging through stock plan offerings on the web since 2008 and I have found little competition for this sort of house. These plans all have shells and detailing bumped up to “Pretty Good House” levels which is also unusual in stock plans.

These are the plans that are for sale currently:

Fernhouse plans for sale Robert Swinburne southern Vermont architect

Fern House

Vermont Simple house Robert Swinburne southern Vermont architect house plans

VSH-1

vermont simple house stock plans robert swinburne southern vermont architect brattleboro tiny house

VSH-2

vermont simple house stock plans robert swinburne brattleboro architect

VSH-3

I also have steel stair plans but haven’t uploaded them for sale yet. I will get to that later this week.

steel stairs plans southern vermont architect robert swinburne

I am now working on a variation of the Greenfield house which will have a footprint of 22’x 32’ + bump-out and offer two full bathrooms and up to three bedrooms in about 1452 square feet. I will strip out of few of the more custom elements from the Greenfield house such as the very large (and expensive) corner window and the steel staircase – it’s easy enough to add those back in.

vermont simple house southern vemont robert siwnburne brattleboro house plans stock plans
vermont simple house stock plans robert swinburne southern vermont architect Brattleboro

COMING SOON !

farhouse stock plans robert swinburne Southern Vermont architect brattleboro
farmhouse plans southern vermont architect Robert Swinburne Brattleboro

I have this other farmhouse plan from a while back that I need to do just a little more work on as well before it is ready for sale

My plan is to continually add more plans here including variations on these plans (most of them are quite flexible) Credit card processing is taken care of through Gumroad and you are immediately able to download all associated files. Of course all work is copyrighted and good for the construction of one house, stair, whatever. I will need to figure out how to make discounts available for multiple purchases. I will also develop a resource page for materials, products and useful information. Feed back is most welcome and I hope that people send photos!

Bu the way, I am about to purge my user roles quite a bit. There are over 8000 registered users and when I ran this list through a spammer check, it showed me that half of this number are spammers. If you want to get regular updates please register via the slide out are on the upper right side of any page in case I accidentally purge you. One would dislike being purged.

Hemlock siding Vermont Modern Robert Swinburne architect

Hemlock – Open Gap Rain Screen Siding

By | affordable modern, cool stuff, education, good ideas, Living in Vermont, products, projects, Small house, super insulated, traditional vs modern, Uncategorized, working with a builder, working with an architect | 6 Comments

My use of eastern hemlock as a siding material has been generating interest. Hemlock is a common wood in Vermont but doesn’t get used a lot except in barns and outbuildings and sometimes for timber frames. My summer job during high school involved working in a small sawmill. We sometimes cut hemlock and I found the wood beautiful, but heavy. One summer, we cut some hemlock for a bridge. Fast forward um… lots of years and I ordered a bunch of hemlock for framing and decking when I built my barn. I learned a bit about how to work with hemlock, how it ages and weathers and I started thinking about how I could use it in my own work. I try to source materials as locally as possible and design within local builder’s abilities and interests – which is easy to do here where builders get together monthly to discuss building science related issues

Eastern hemlock in Vermont

In rural New England, buildings are often sided with pine siding in a vertical shiplap form – and often unfinished. It tends to develop a black mold that is relatively harmless but can be ugly. I found that hemlock is more resistant to this mold. It’s also harder and more rot resistant. It is nowhere near as rot resistant as cedar, a more common siding material however.

White pine siding on my own barn
white pine siding on a barn robert Swinburne Vermont Architect

A brief on open rainscreen siding: Good architect and builders are installing siding with a vented airspace between the siding and weather resistant barrier (WRB). This allows any moisture that gets behind the siding to dry out before it does damage. Modern materials (a better WRB) and the venting detail allow us to use different materials and different details for the siding itself. I have commonly seen the open gapped rainscreen detail used with ipe boards but Ipe is a tropical hardwood related to mahogany. Cement based boards are also used commonly but cement has fairly high embodied energy. Both of these are not locally sourced materials. The gap in the siding also reveals a view of the WRB (depending on the size of the gap) This means that damaging UV rays are also reaching the WRB. And bugs. Thus the need for a better (and black) WRB. There are several on the market designed for this. Both projects shown here use Mento and tapes from Foursevenfive.com

It occurred to me that I could use narrow hemlock boards from local mills to create a very elegant (I hoped) rainscreen siding detail. It would use local and relatively inexpensive materials, it wouldn’t need paint or stain, installation could be simpler and faster if I got the details right, and if I installed it horizontally, the lowest courses could easily be replaced if the siding degraded due to splashback and snow banks. The damaged siding would not present a disposal concern – just toss it in the bushes and it becomes habitat for red backed salamanders.
I was lucky to have a client with a taste for modernism allow me to try my ideas out on his home. The results were rather spectacular and gave me a sense of the potential. Now I am doing my second project with hemlock siding. The builders for this project (Webster Construction of Marlboro, Vermont) are quite familiar with good building science and modern products and methods. They saw the potential and were happy to give it a try plus they were able to improve my detailing in several ways which I can then incorporate into drawings and specifications for the next time around.

modern ski house in vermont near Statton

The hemlock turns silvery gray within a year. The narrow boards create a woven, fabric-like aesthetic.

The hemlock is installed “green” with deck screws. This siding is all 1×3 so gaps will be quite small as the wood dries. Fiberglass bugscreen is installed directly behind the siding. strapping can be regular 1×3 strapping although coravent makes an excellent product for this purpose and should at least be used on any strapping set horizontally such as over and under windows.

hemlock siding installation

This is the corner trim detail the builder came up with and I really like. One side runs long and is cut after installation. The other side is held back for a crisp reveal – very architecty! Of note: the deck is white oak (local) and the post is European Larch which is from a harvest of a Vermont tree farm. European larch is used in Europe as a durable siding material that needs no treatment.

hemlock siding corner detail - Vermont architect Robert SwinburneHemlock siding in Vermont - Vermont architect Robert Swinburne

modern ski house in vermont near Statton with open gap rainscreen siding

detailing around windows is super simple. On the first house I used metal panels (installed by the roofer) to accentuate the windows and wrap corners. Here it is about as simple as it gets.

Eastern Hemlock siding detailVermont modern house by architect Robert Swinburne

A few of my minimal details:
wdw2

wdw

triple glazed windows

Windows – decision making process

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I am grappling with window issues for several projects right now. Designing, choosing, pricing and detailing windows is much more complicated than it was as recently as 5 years ago. I used to simply specify window sizes and the builder would have the lumber yard price a few lines or a favorite manufacturer. This is still the way it is done my most builders and architects.

Now we have many more options to consider with windows and this has radically affected the decision making process. In the past we didn’t look carefully at the solar gain (how much warmth from the sun gets in, visible light transmittance, U value (insulation) and especially installation detailing. With my own work, a primary goal has become to eliminate the traditional heat distribution system – boiler (oil, propane or natural gas) manifold (that thicket of valves and pipes and pumps in the basement) and distribution (radiant tubes in the floor, baseboard radiators etc) – in favor of the simplicity of an air source heat pump and often, a wood stove for alternate or backup heating. The heating system then becomes a heating appliance. This has not, for my practice, been a client driven goal but I figure I’m not doing my job if I don’t discuss these options. Most clients in recent years have simply expressed a desire to minimize fossil fuel consumption and have a house that they don’t have to worry about leaving for a few weeks in the winter. Windows are usually the biggest variable in being able to minimize and simplify the heating equipment for a building.

The process, which continues to evolve, begins with sizing and placing windows according to light, views, privacy and ventilation. So far, a fairly traditional approach. Some things effect the decisions such as whether the window opens inward, outward, up and down, sideways, or not at all. Smaller windows open easier and larger fixed pane windows are cheaper (per square foot) so we often mix and match for maximum effect. Exterior doors are often now part of the window package as well.

I use sketchup modeling for this part of design as it brings a high level of clarity at an earlier stage than any method I’ve found thus far. This is also not so traditional.

family-room

Once we have arrived at a good window configuration we need to pin down some minimum energy performance specifications. The first big decision is double glazed vs triple glazed. Double glazed windows meet energy code currently but probably won’t in a few years. Window manufacturers (in the US – in Europe they are already there) are starting to realize this and gear up to offer triple glazed window options. A largish house with small windows can probably get away with double glazed windows and meet the energy use criteria I mentioned above. I also have found that with large areas of glass, comfort becomes a big issue. It can be very unpleasant to be near a large window at night when it is zero degrees outside. Condensation issues are vastly mitigated with a triple glazed window as well. I often do some energy modeling to get a sense of what the overall heat loads of the building are. It’s easy to change around the U-value to see the effect of different windows. I’m also learning how to use the sketchup plugin for the Passive House Planning Package. In my spare time. (insert smiley emoticon)

Next we look at several different options from several different window manufacturers. Unplasticized PVC (UPVC) is usually the least expensive option for any window with aluminum and fiberglass usually more expensive but offering thinner profile frames. Wood is very expensive. I’ll stay away from the PVC argument here.

triple glazed windows

With preliminary pricing in hand we – myself, the builder and the client make THE DECISION and the subset of choices that affect the price and my detailing. When these decisions are made I can put specific CAD details from the manufacturer into my drawings and create much more accurate details for how it all the windows are installed, air sealing strategies, tolerances, finish work around the windows, very specific rough opening and flashing information etc. In the past this was all fairly standard and left to the builder to figure out in the field. We don’t do it that way anymore.

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Miscellaneous Musings

By | affordable modern, education, mutterings, products, projects, super insulated, traditional vs modern, working with an architect | 3 Comments

I am working on this new small greek revival in Maine. Not the high style Greek Revival with huge columns like you see on banks and government buildings but the small, simple style that is so ubiquitous in New England and doesn’t get much attention but everybody knows. I’m designing it to “pretty good house” standards. It is for a family member who lost her house in a fire Read More

Tiny House Plan for Sale

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Now Taking orders for the plans for the Brattleboro Tiny House. The size is 16′ x 22′ with a sleeping loft. Super insulated double stud construction using advanced framing techniques. An excellent do-it-yourself project. Replace your old garage with something that can make an income as a rental unit or build this as a guest house/studio/office/….. Contact me at bob@swinburnearchitect.com if you are interested and/or have questions.

Plan sheet for 16' x 22' Brattleboro Tiny House

Heating Options for a Small Home – Fine Homebuilding

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Fine Homebuilding magazine has run a lovely and concise article by Martin Holladay this month (March 2011 actually) that covers the options for a small, low heat load home (my favorite type to design) What I like about this article is that it is simple and clean enough that I can ask clients to read it as a primer. Many of my houses are about 1/2 again energy star but only 2/3 passive house in terms of insulation. This is a low load house but not a no load house, a house that doesn’t need radiant heat but everybody wants to spend the extra money on it anyway. There is rarely the budget for heat load analysis and heating system design by an engineery sort so what gets installed is a regular old boiler. In recent years this is not so much a problem because there are so many good options out there for modulating boilers and the regular heat folks are familiar with them. A decade ago, this meant a non-modulating boiler would be installed capable of putting out 100,000 Btu/hour even when the house only really needed 30,000. This meant the boiler cycled on and off and wasted lots of energy. ($$$) The article covers “using a furnace anyway” as well as providing brief information on Direct vent gas heaters, electric heat (good for very low heat load houses especially if you put the money saved by not installing a conventional heating system into photovoltaics), Minisplit heat pumps – an excellent, low(er) cost option that can also provide air conditioning and are very simple to install although you usually need a certified person to do the installing in order to obtain the warranty. And also connecting a simple hot water coil to your ERV of HRV. You do have one of these in your new house….don’t you?
The article is not available online without paying something (I suspect) so pay or pick an issue at the newstand.
The Graphic below was an old scheme from when I was considering selling stock plans myself. My current collection (numbering exactly 1) can be accessed at Houseplans.com

Core-ten Steel Siding or A606

By | cool stuff, good blogs, products | 6 Comments

I have been a big fan of Steel for siding for a while now. It is often hard to convince clients to try it. Someday, I hope to use Core-ten Steel on my own house either in flat panel form or 7/8″ corrugated sheets. Here is a blog of interest: SIPs House It is a process blog about building a very cool small house in Portland, Oregon. The architects are SEED Architecture Studio. Of particular interest to me is the exterior siding. They Used Core-ten steel panels for part of the exterior. Core-ten is a steel that rusts to form a protective coating. It is very low maintenance and very beautiful. Pricing is unknown – they found a very cheap source. Locally, I have been unable to find it very cheap but I should pursue their link for a potential source. Look around and you may see examples of it in your area. There is a railroad bridge near the exit 3 rotary in Brattleboro made with Core-ten that is beautiful (other than the teenager spray paint thing) Here is a link to the SIPs house blog entry on siding. Also check out how they used old barn boards – beautiful!

core-ten siding

SIPs house Portland siding

build blog

By | cool stuff, good blogs, good ideas, good web sites, links, products | No Comments

Along the lines of; How I spend my time when surfing the net, I spend some time every week looking for what’s out there in the architectural world with focus on residential and small scale projects.
Here is a Firm whose website is great, the work they do is inspiring and they have a great blog that fosters thought and conversation. They are located in Seattle.

TED:Ideas Worth Spreading is a collection of talks and presentations that help me keep the world in perspective.

We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world. So we’re building here a clearinghouse that offers free knowledge and inspiration from the world’s most inspired thinkers, and also a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other.


also GoLogic homes in Belfast Maine is worth checking out. They have some great prototype small passive house designs. When I look to the future of my own firm, This is a great model for one possibility. Although if I were to go this route I would worry that it closes me off from being the small town architect for lots of people and doing more non-residential projects.

Metal Stair plans for sale

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I have the .pdf file of the plans for the Metal stair completed along with the sketchup model for a nine foot floor to floor configuration. At some point I will modify it for a 10 floor to floor as well. Upon purchase, I will send via email the sketchup model (download a sketchup viewer here) and the .pdf plans which you can have printed at your local print shop. The plans constitute a license to construct one (1) stair.

Be aware that I have no legalese stuff on the drawings about safety and local codes.








Serious Windows

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“I was surprised while traveling in Sweden two years ago to learn that triple-glazed windows have been, essentially, required by code in that country since 1976.” Alex Wilson writes in a Green Building Advisor article. He also mentions Serious Windows which I have been hearing a lot about lately and am anxious to try. Pricing seems very good and I have heard tell that the quality is excellent. I believe that parts of the U.S. will move towards such code legislation in the near future as the severity of the global climate crisis becomes more obvious to Americans.

Marvin Integrity in black

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Designer tip: I have liked the Integrity line of fiberglass windows from Marvin for few years now. And…
they come in black! For that old fashioned farmhousey yet hip and fresh modern look.
Also did you know that for about $150 per window, Marvin makes single glaze old fashioned style storm windows? This is how you get to triple glazed on moderately sized windows without a heavy chunky window unit. or how you forgo replacing all those beautiful old double hung windows in your 1920’s foursquare.

Marvin Integrity Windows

Gouin Green

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I just added a link to Gouin (Go-In) Green a process blog where some folks are building a SIP modular house.  The house is rather vanilla but the blog is full of excellent information and $ #’s which I always appreciate.  It looks like they actually used Alpen Windows which are super good and they talk about how they justified the extra cost.   There is also a long discussion of radiant heat in a super-insulated house in the Features section

Vermont Sunporch

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More Pictures!

this is very traditional looking new house I did a decade ago.  The sunporch is made from storm screen doors from the Brosco catalog with cellar sash above.  The builder ripped the edges down for a slimmer look.

The most excellent builder was Kent Webster

Vermont Sunporch

Here is the whole house:

Vermont traditional house

more on solar hot water – no boiler

By | environment, good ideas, good web sites, links, products | No Comments

An article by Alex Wilson of Environmental Building News in the local newspaper Brattleboro Reformer on solar water heating with some good local links.  I have done a couple houses now with solar hot water backed up with a propane or electric heating element right on the storage tank to boost water temps when needed to serve as heat (radiant) and hot water.  No boiler!  Marathon Water Heaters are how you do it.

see also passive house institute for more information trickling to this country from Europe about how to build carbon neutral-zero energy-heatyourhousewithacat homes

Also Coldham and Hartman architects have done something similar with a number of houses in the Northeast involving upgrading the shell of the house enough to be able to heat with a single space heater such as a through the wall gas space heater in the main living area.

My own house (900 square feet, 1970, poorly insulated cape) has a modern woodstove and electric radiant heat in the ceiling which we use primarily when we are away in the winter.  We heat water with a plain old electric water heater.  The presence of large sugar maple trees prevents us from utilizing the sun.

Budget modern steel staircase

By | affordable modern, good ideas, press, products | 11 Comments

Hey all you sleek expensive modernist architects with square toed shiny shoes and funny little glasses! Check this out. I designed this very cool steel stair out of stock pieces of steel – two C-channels and a bunch of 1 1/2″ steel angle. Lots of nuts and bolts. Add some stainless steel cable with turnbuckles and there you go! Very Erector Set. No Welding. When it is completed there will be a wooden handrail bolted on and the 2 x 12’s that were bolted in place during constructin get replaced with solid planks of cherry from a tree felled on site. I love the rich patina of raw steel.

see also Stair Porn for a larger photo

Plans are available for this $150. See http://swinburnearchitect.com/wordpress/?p=286

Perry Road update – foundation

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Here is a rendering of the Perry Road project for the press.

The ICF foundation is in and the slab goes down thursday.  The plumber is putting the drains in to the septic and roughing for a future basement bathroom. We used Nudura ICFs which have 2 1/2″ of foam inside and out.  and a footing form that stays in place as a footing drain inside and out.  We are putting 4″ of foam under the slab and radiant tubing in the slab (in case we need it someday)

Fiberglass Windows

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The more I learn about windows, the more I am sold on Fiberglass windows. Thermal rate of expansion issues are completely bypassed and I think this is the cause of most failures. The thermal performance of fiberglass frames is incomparable. For the Perry Road project we are looking at: Read More

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Robert Swinburne in Brattleoboro, VT on Houzz

Contact

bob@swinburnearchitect.com 802.451.9764 72 Cotton Mill Hill Brattleboro, Vermont 05301