Buckminster Fuller dome, eastern hemlock as a diagonal sheathing material, eco building, Geodesic dome, green building, greener building, greener building in Canada, John Otvos, Raymond Thibeau master mason, Toronto Star
NB: All images are scanned from analogue sources, as this building is no longer in existence.
In 1976, I constructed a small addition to the dome. This became our first son’s bedroom, as he was now 3 and quite mobile. It was planned as an entry portal between the dome and the yet to be constructed main home. 2×4 walls of R12. Not code today, but back then . . .
In 1977, a high-hoe was contracted to dig the hardpan clay basement for a massive 2-storey house. The basement walls were 12″ cement block without blockloc. Big mistake as the dozer that backfilled the walls got too close and its vibration cracked the lowest layers.
Cement block was commonplace and poured concrete was still a luxury in ’77. Yes, the wall leaked somewhat in that location as did the sodden window wells which I was told could be backfilled with sand. Another big mistake. Sometimes we learn by doing. Sometimes we even have to do things over and over before we get it right. Whatever that means.The front living room (LR) walls were balloon framed with 2×8’s 16′ high. A real joy to lift into place! Spiked to the floor platform, they were a piece of cake for 3 men. The cathedral ceiling that was 19′ high in the LR. We didn’t call them great rooms just yet.
The upstairs had a scissor truss and that’s where the master bdrm, ensuite, kitchen and laundry were located. Don’t ask me now to justify my mind’s eye from that epoch. It was a hillside house with a walkout patio from the bdrm. There was a real stone root cellar behind the garage.
The walls were only R24. No HRV in those times. There was no under slab basement floor insulation. No perimeter insulation. We humans back then had no thought of ever running out of oil and the concept of peak oil was foreign to our awareness of planetary ecology. The house was heated by a combination of a wood furnace and an electric furnace. I cannot recall the ceiling R value.
I used fibreglass back then but never again. One can see the stuffed fibreglass in the front vertical corners on the balloon framing. I was told if it gets wet, it will dry and be as good as new. Hardly! Fibreglass insulation whether batts or loose fill, depends upon its air entraining ability to produce it’s R value. Once it gets wet, the micro-fibres matt together and never again hold the same air entraining ability. Now studies from Minnesota, teach us that below freezing, as the ‘snake’ works precipitously lower; fibreglass looses percentage wise, progressively more and more of its insulation value. I don’t know what the numbers are.
Most of my buildings take several years to construct. I usually do all the wall framing. I get help for roofs, as I’m not a masochist. I like to build a shop first and from the shop all interior finish millwork and cabinetry, cut wood shingles, fancy facer boards etc. are created. Part of my MO (modus operandi) is not to leave tool marks on any surface that is to be part of the interior finish. Now toolmarks are OK if that is your intention and part of the patina. All millwork is sanded and edges are softened. Wood is tactile, sensuous and like anything of great natural beauty begs, nay demands to be touched and stroked.
I cut over 70 squares for the mansard roof on this building. They were laid shanty style over roll roofing as the roof sheathing was rough sawn hemlock of varying thickness. Notice the diagonal hemlock sheathing to add strength to the outside of the building.
This house was featured on the front page of the Family/Classified section of the Toronto Star on Oct. 27th, 1981. Thank you Carola! My family and I were about to leave to live in New Zealand and I thought all the interesting woodwork would be lost. I walked in to the Star and gave them my story. Mama stated that her grandma always said;
“The squeakin’ wheel gets the grease.” ]
The rest is history. This karma just follows me wherever I go. Now, I just smile.
Eventually the house was lost in a disastrous fire 12 yrs. after we sold it. All that remains are these scanned images and a few copies of the Torstar article. The Buddhists exhort us to not become attached to people, places or things. Wise people those Buddhists.
The house’s kitchen depicted here and in the following image was the building’s Pièce de Résistance! I’ll try to only hit on the highlights. First off, it was an entire room that was created. It took me 4-1/2 months, every day to create. The ceramic tiles on the counter matched the floor tiles. The wallpaper on the ceiling @ 15ft strips where my ‘former’ and I were divorced many times, matched the walls. There was a ceiling grid in quarter sawn white oak glued to the paper. All of the 3 banks of drawers were hidden, because I wished for an all door appearance.
I still have the 4ft circular black oak (very coarse member of the red oak family) table and 6 chairs not yet fashioned at the time of this image. Notice the map of NZ in the background.
The washer and dryer were in the large corner cupboards by the elliptical archway entrance. The deal was that a wash could be carried out while the dinner was being prepared. I always worked a 10 hr. day for nearly 30 years. Yah I know, male chauvinist p$%. Too long work days including Saturdays. I cheated my family and myself of play and simply being with them. Can’t get those long hours back lads. And then the big “D” takes it all away after 35 yrs.
In 1993, with all that wood, it must have been a glorious fire. (:<)