The planning phase continues with revision on top of revision.
I have an architect who is willing to embrace what I am doing, but I am still assembling the specifications and material submittal package to give him to get started.
The area I am building requires the first living floor to be built above the base flood elevation, which would require that to be 60 inches above grade. Rather then do a pier and beam with a bunch of unusable space underneath, I am going to raise the first floor even higher and make the space underneath a super garage. The foundation will be a 12-inch-thick concrete slab built on a compacted gravel base. The ground-level perimeter walls will be concrete with flood vents installed in case the waters ever come.
If you are trying visualize this, think of it as a basement being built without digging a 12-foot hole in the ground.
For the frame on top of it all, I am going with light gauge steel with no wood. Why steel? Light gauge steel framing is made from 80% recycled content, so from the very get-go I am going green by using a strong material that has been reformed for new use. Steel also better supports my goal of clear span construction, meaning no interior load-bearing walls, which not only will create more open living space, but also supports reconfiguration in the future. Of course, steel is largely immune to moisture, and the insects have no interest in it.
The steel framing will be assembled with steel pins driven in with a 400 PSI air-gun system - this system is stronger and faster than screws. The pin system will be supplemented with Loctite adhesive designed for bonding light gauge steel frame.
Floor decking will be USG FORTOCRETE
panels, which are a cement product. Not only are these panels fire and water resistant, but they provide a very solid floor deck, and again the bugs won't eat it (yes, I have dealt with termite and carpenter ant damage in the past).
I am still working on my exterior sheathing thoughts, but I do know the exterior of the frame will be wrapped with some manner of rigid foam insulation to create an igloo cooler effect. The exterior foam cocoon will negate one of the drawbacks of steel framing, which is steel being an excellent thermal conductor, so the exterior foam will create a thermal break and maximize the benefit of insulation.
Some of the other innovative things I am planning for
1. The home will be heated and COOLED (Texas) using a Mitsubishi Mini-Split system. There will be an variable outside unit with refrigerant lines run to a manifold inside the house. From the manifold, refrigerant lines will be run directly to flush-mounted ceiling recessed units that measure 2'x2' or 3'x3' depending on the model. These interior units perform the entire cycle, so air within one room is pulled in, filtered, heated or cooled and returned to the same room. Each interior unit is controlled by a hand-held remote, allowing true zone control.
To provide fresh air, Mitsubishi makes a heat exchange unit that will remove interior air and exchange it with outside air. This unit feeds fresh air through small ducts into the individual interior units. A heat exchange unit will be installed on each climate-controlled floor level.
While this system is totally different than what most people consider, it is a proven technology and eliminates the ductwork of a forced air system. Not only does this save space, it eliminates the inefficiency of trying to force heated or cooled air through a complex duct system that never seems to be right. Also, since there are no ducts, the system eliminates the accumulation of dust and other things in the maze of ductwork.
Until the next update... keep planning.