Cabin design update

Oh, right. I have a blog.

Between a bit of a tenuous return to work after my flu episode (where I filled in for 2 people who quit and 4 more that also came down with seasonal plague) and the fact that I’ve been busy with a side project for a while, it’s been quite a few days since a real post.

I have been making a few strides in the cabin design in that I’ve finalized the overall layout of the interior and most of the left side framing layout is now complete. Which brings me to licensing: I want to make this design accessible to as many people as possible without making myself liable beyond the scope of due diligence. I.E. I want to do a good job making sure I cover all my bases with regard to structural integrity, but I don’t want to be sued into oblivion for my trouble.

The Cabin design will be Open Source

All the structural aspects of the cabin will be open to anyone to download (I’ll probably make a full download link available here), and modify for their own needs without having to pay me royalties. All I’m asking is for the copyright to remain intact.

That being said, I’ve been using a heavily modified ISC license for the past two times I’ve released any updates. This, I feel, isn’t really applicable to structure since these were originally meant for software. Being a software developer, naturally that was the first place I looked. I’m still using a heavily modified ISC license, but I’m open to suggestions on how I can license it.

I need to find or create a good license that will help me share my ideas without being subject to any sort of litigation. We’re talking about structure here and there’s a real risk of injury or worse if it’s done incorrectly. But I still want to let anyone feel free to modify it without too much legal wrangling while still indemnifying me.

Is it safe?

This has really been the question that’s stayed with me since I started on this journey.

I’m not a trained engineer, although I think I’ve taken reasonable steps to ensure everything is structurally sound, however I’m using OVE (Optimal Value Engineering) practices where applicable. I.E. 24″ On-center stud spacing, 6″ studs and using standard length materials (using 96″ studs as much as possible) to reduce weight, maintain proper insulation and still remain structurally sound to snow and wind loads. Also, I’m avoiding any cuts to the studs for the windows. The only cuts to the studs are at the front door and the bathroom entrance of the internal wall. I’m considering eliminating the center column by turning the bathroom wall into a load bearing one. We’ll see.

OVE is still somewhat controversial among builders for varied reasons. Some people believe it’s not as secure, others think you’re not really saving on materials, so there’s no “value”. My opinion is that the “value” comes with energy-saving. Granted you’re using less material, but this is not the primary benefit.

A sneak peek

Here’s the last sketch I did of the left side external framing layout. Note: The angle of the roof is approximately 50 degrees to accommodate year-round solar panels for the Northeastern U.S. This isn’t optimal since, ideally, you should be able to change the angle, but I don’t expect people to hop on the roof every few months to do that so this angle will have to do.

I’m still going with a 16″ x 16″ footprint with a 16″ x 8″ loft. Shaded in areas on the 1st floor are the support beams. See the previous foundation update for how they’re put together.

Left side cabin framing sketch

Left side cabin framing sketch

Special thanks to Kelly and her partner for offering me advice along the way.

Mobile or Responsive? How about both

This started off as just another reply, before I realized I’m me and I don’t know when to shut up so here’s a reply in post form.

There’s little reason to be either/or in this case though.

I’ve been working on a side-project (a discussion forum basically) and been experimenting with ideas on mobile friendly pages.

It’s far from perfect, but for my purposes, it gets the job done. And I don’t claim to be a design “expert” since that’s not my forte, but I have designed for clients before.  I… er… “borrowed” a few topics from the front page of the WP support forums for the first example before switching to faux latin for the rest. Also stole borrowed the sidebar cues for the “topic” page from the support forums as well (which is running bbPress), but I’m using none of the same CSS. I think I’m done with Version 3.

I’m using just one stylesheet that makes the page adapt to any screen size between a minimum 480px to 1000px+ and the visitor doesn’t need to refresh the page.

I kept the range at that wide because there are still users of older monitors (that they don’t want to change for whatever reason or are unable) that still deserve to participate online and those are usually maxed out in the 800 – 1024 range. Tablets also fit the upper limit of that range these days.

Anyone should be able to resize the browser and see the page change styles. The “mobile” version (on the smallest window size) was designed to give maximum contrast. That’s to make it easy on the eyes since it’s pretty painful to browse a lot of sites with their tiny-weeny text and ridiculous backgrounds on a mobile device.

There’s a drive to create these “mobile specific” pages, if that’s the right term, from a lot of web designers and I totally disagree with the premise. I can understand if it’s a heavy-duty web application where one template can’t serve all platforms, but in most cases, it’s just a corporate site or blog that can just as easily be served with an adaptable stylesheet. I think it’s just narrow thinking for the most part.

It’s absolutely possible to design a site that will adapt gracefully to a mobile device while not depriving the desktop experience. Just a matter of leaving aside the junk, of which there is plenty sadly, being served to the client regardless. I wrote about that too a while ago.

Don’t get me wrong. There are very talented designers out there that go out of their way to make attractive mobile pages, but their focus should be “how much” they send to the client and not just “how pretty”. Data plans aren’t cheap after all and “unlimited” plans aren’t really “unlimited” or available everywhere a lot of times. Also a lot of mobile browsers aren’t capable of the voodoo that desktop browsers are capable of (yes even Safari on iPhone).

Sometimes designers just need to step back from their projects and go “what is it that I’m trying to accomplish here?”

The golden rule of web design always applies. The theme should fit the content, never the other way around.

Well, hopefully all that made sense. I don’t normally comment on web design choices unless they’re keeping me from browsing comfortably (like the Huffington Post which I’ve abandoned as a result), but since I was interested, there ya go.

8:00PM I’m tired and it’s been a long day so I’m off to hit the hay. Night!

New YouTube theme

You’ve probably seen a few experiments here and there on YouTube where the theme suddenly changes only for it to change back on the next video or even the next page refresh. There were even instances where the same page was showing different themes for different browsers at the same time. Looks like the YT team is going to match the service to the rest of the Google suite (like Search and Plus).

For those of you who missed the experiments, here are a couple of examples.

The new home page (as it appeared a few days ago)

New video page


Build Outside to Inside (goes for design as well)

This is an age-old adage that really should be hammered into every would be architect and amateur alike. Your interior, while you will be facing it more of the time, will depend on what’s done on the outside. That’s your envelope, your boundary, your line in the sand. Well, proving to myself that I am an amateur at this, I realised that my previous floor plan isn’t going to fit exactly within the walls.

New Plan

I’m not scrapping the 1st floor plan entirely, but I knew I’ll be moving things around a bit after I drew the cabin exterior in profile. Here’s the left side view, which will see a some more editing after this.

Left side profile of the cabin.

Note there are 13 steps to the loft and to center with the landing window, I had to move the stairs over. I don’t want to cut studs, add headers etc… to fit the window which will create thermal bridges (not to mention add more work), so I want to fit the windows between studs whenever possible. I can widen the stairs and make extra storage space below, or do something else with the space. We’ll see…

Cabin design: 1st floor update

Well, that was quick! I got a flood of emails from a lot of interested people overnight after the last post and it seems there are few resources on the web (or few that are easy to find) that provide specific details on laying out a cabin with exact measurements. I think the biggest complaint was that most designs don’t take into account realistic use and habitation. Elbow room cannot be taken for granted!

The second biggest complaint was that few, if any, are free. I can understand this since time x effort = money and most people wouldn’t want to work for free. But I do want to share everything I can here as I see a real demand for people who can’t afford to hire someone to design a cabin for them let alone spend money on building materials.

A few people offered to pay me to do a design for them. I’m not a trained architect (there’s a shock!), but I try to make the best effort when making sure the design is sound. So I can’t in good conscience charge people for something that a real professional should be doing. As mentioned in my previous post, you do need to run these by a certified architect or engineer before any construction can begin, but if you do use these as a starting point to your own design, I’d love to hear about it.

You’re doing it wrong!

A few of the emails were from people who have built cabins, worked with plans or have studied architecture. They almost universally were not happy with the way I drew the blueprints. Well, as I mentioned in the layouts post, I know nothing about blueprints! This is quite literally the first blueprint I ever drew so, of course, there will be “issues”.

Taking their suggestions into account, I redrew the layout with proper measurements this time and a few fixes here and there plus an added window at the bottom of the staircase. I know there are still some rough spots, but this is a better attempt since the first one was only a few hours of work.

Walls weren’t clear enough in the first one and measurements needed to be provided to the center of every opening (doors, windows etc…)

Apparently in my previous drawing, my walls were not as clear as they should have been and standard procedure calls for all openings to be marked from one corner to its center and then to the center of each neighboring opening. A perfectly sensible way of doing things that I didn’t know about until today.

Thanks to everyone who made the suggestions.

After going over and over this design, I think I may move things around to get more floor space and open it up more. Not sure how exactly I want to do that yet, but I see the toilet being sent to another location. We’ll see how that will work.

Update 7:40PM. Final changes

I did end up changing the bathroom by making it smaller and more space efficient. The dedicated closet space was eating up far too much room inside so I did away with that and moved the toilet and sink. I still want to make sure all major bathroom parts are accessible. Since the space under the window wasn’t being used, I moved it to just above the toilet seat. Since this will be a raised bathroom, I can still run supply and drain lines for the sink and shower without too much difficulty.

This also allowed me to move the stairs further back and away from the front door, giving more open space.

The opened up space between the end of the staircase and the wall to the bathroom may house the electrical panel.

Besides creating space for an electrical panel or other such utility feature, there is now more space beneath the window at the bottom of the stairs. This is an important safety consideration since you don’t want windows too close to the floor. This also means the front door is not crowded as it was before by the stairs and if someone tall uses the bathroom, they won’t feel like ducking when they get under the stairs (even though there would still be ample room overhead, this will be a psychological barrier to feeling comfortable). Head room (real or not), like elbow room, cannot be ignored.

Coming soon: The 2nd floor…