Designing a House (December 7th, 2009)

I took an introductory architecture class at university this semester where we designed and built a model of a house. We used some software called SoftPlan to design everything, but I have no idea if that's what real architects use. Either way it was fairly intuitive and easy to use, probably due to spending a lot of time in Wings3d building BZFlag maps.

Thankfully this was an individual project so I didn't get bogged down with other people's suggestions on how to design the house. I'm not a fan of modern architecture, and wanted something that was symmetrical and had a large sitting room. I'm not exactly sure what this type of architecture is called, but I know it when I see it. ;)

Rendered House Elevation
The Front Elevation

Computer Generated 3D Model
Computer Generated 3D Model

Floor Plans
The first thing to make was the floor plans. I had a rough idea for the general design, which was inspired by Thomas Jefferson's Monticello. I wanted a large stretched octagonal room that would be the main part of the building that would contain the living room, kitchen, and dining room.

Connected on opposite sides of the octagon are two rectangular wings that contain 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, closets, and the garage. Overall I don't have a very efficient layout, but I do think it has promise. Basically I ran out of time and just tried to make the important rooms fit. :P

On the back side of the house is a horseshoe shaped deck. This is accessed by 4 doors, two of which are on the 45º walls of the octagonal room. The master bedroom and a second bedroom also have access to the deck.

Floor Plans
Click to biggify!

The software could automatically generate elevations, 3d models, roofs, and other stuff which was really helpful. I did some tweaking of colors, materials, and roof overhangs, but generally the program was spot on. I also changed the octagonal roof a bit when I got around to making the model, but that was only to make it easier to build. Basically I made the 5 sided triangular panels over the front door and deck to 3 sided to get rid of the compound corner.

Roof Drawing
This is going to be hard to make

Building the Model
We had to build a scale model for the final project. I wanted something solid and well made, not just because I tend to overbuild things and wanted to one up the class, but also because I had about a half of a sheet of 3/16" plywood left over from another project I wanted to get rid of. My dad also recently bought me a Rockwell SoniCrafter oscillating tool that I wanted to try out. It worked really well, although the head got fairly hot after extended use. It's not so bad since it's winter, but I doubt it'd be as fun in the summer.

I used my plans to cut out all 50 walls, deck, and roof panels. I just printed out the plans and measured directly from the paper to get my lengths. I doubled the size to make the house a little bigger, so the scale ended up being 1:63. As with any other project I do that involves a lot of measurements, I am constantly amazed at how easy the base 12 Imperial system is to use. Perhaps I just don't know the benefits of the SI system, but it's great to have a ruler that's easily divisible into eighths, quarters, thirds, and halves. Ok, enough metric ranting. :P

Cut pieces
Some assembly required

Next I hot glued the roof panels together. The hip and gable roofs for the two wings went together very easily, but the eight sided central roof was a real pain. I had forgotten to take into account the thickness of the material and that threw my angles off. So I simply glued everything together and trimmed off the excess overhang. It's pretty amazing how sturdy the octagonal roof came out once the glue hardened. I was pretty happy with it, considering I don't have much experience accurately fitting multiple panels together.

Work area
Honey and pill bottle supports

Next up was the walls. I glued the walls together with simple butt joints, then glued the walls to the base. It took some bending to get the house square while I glued it to the base since most of the joints weren't exactly perpendicular to begin with. But that was a fairly minor problem, all things considered.

After the walls were glued down I used a wood burner to outline the windows and doors. Then I painted everything, glued the roof on, put my name on the bottom, and collapsed into bed. :P

Finished model

Over all I spent about 17 hours on the model over two days. Next time I would start earlier, and design a house that suspiciously has the same dimensions as a shoe box. ;)