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bennelson 11-25-08 12:04 PM

My house is pretty nice. Everything is fairly new and in good condition.

My garage on the other hand....

It's a detatched garage on a concrete slab. The slab is cracked like crazy - off by 4" in height in some places.

The walls are just 2x4s with wood siding over them. The edges by the gutters are just rotting away.

In short, it needs to be completely rebuilt.

If I am going to build something new from scratch, why not do it right? Instead of the traditional design, I think this is a real opportunity for a well insulated, alternative garage.

My big challenge is going to be the fact that the existing garage is on the corner of two lot lines, and the side lot line abutts major road right-of-way.

What I have to do to appeal to the county board to allow me to get the building permits might be a challenge.

That said, what ideas do you have for an Eco-Garage? Potentially, it could be straw-bale construction, have a green roof, include passive solar design, or a number of other possibilities.

Due to the location of the road, and a large tree I don't want to cut down, I think earth-berming and solar photovoltaic are out.

I would like to have the garage insulated and heated well enough to be able to work on cars and other projects in the winter, as my house has no basement or other workspace. Keep in mind, I am in a northern climate!

Ideally, It would also be nice to include a small "home-office" space in the garage as well.

Your thoughts on the project? Go wild! Let me know your ideas.
We'll plan it all winter and then build it in the spring or summer.


(Yes, I will park my electric car in there.)

Daox 11-25-08 02:10 PM

My one requirement for a new garage would be solar hydronic heated floors. Crawling around on realy cold concrete isn't all that fun. There are of course cheaper alternatives for heat.

More ideas to come...

Tony Raine 11-25-08 03:33 PM

go wild? ok....

make it a "basement" shop instead of above ground. build a shed on top that looks like a garage (that will be the "office" area). but fold open 2 big doors in the floor to expose the ramp going down under.

or how about this for the walls....

on the outside, mount a tight screen, framed with something stronger (like welded-wire fence), framed with pipe, all together and mounted about 6 or so inches from your regular wall, all the way around (except the door, haha). fill cavity with dirt (you would need something waterproof for your garage wall, of course). cut some small holes and plant a lot of vines of something that grows really thick, all over the place. a couple inches outside of that, mount a bunch of trellis to both partially hide the dirt wall, and give the vines something to grow on. a really light-colored trellis should provide some "contrast" to help hide the darker colored dirt. i really like that new composite trellis, i used some to partially enclose my carport.

alright, here's something a little more feasible....

traditional construction. but for the roof, use the soda-cans-in-a-box heat system, and some good skylights (opposite the tree) for free light.

thats all i can think of right now

knowbodies 11-25-08 06:31 PM

I'm still in the planning stages for a 2 car garage but I did find interesting resources for winter heat:

Passive Solar Shop Heating

Solar Heating and Lighting

I've also kicked around the idea of using passive geothermal by heavily insulating a trench around the garage and hoping heat from the earth can flow into the garage faster than it escapes the garage into the atmosphere. It would be similar to an insulated foundation but without the concrete. I would rely on a slab foundation instead. It would certainly be cheaper than a full foundation but I doubt it would be structurally sound. A heavily insulated slab foundation and passive solar thermal heating is the current plan. Now if only I could find the labour to do it. :(

I'm also looking at going solar to power the garage door and lights. I can still run my tools via an extension cord. It looks like it would be cheaper than running electricity through a trench from my house because that would entail replacing the electrical panel in my house. As an off-grid garage, electrical permits and inspections would not be required.

bennelson 03-03-09 01:53 PM

I just found the same article as is in the second link of the post immediately above this! I got beaten to it!

That does look like a great way to use solar heat AND garage doors.

On my garage, the doors may actually be the best location for solar anything.

Daox 03-03-09 02:11 PM

I think I'm gonna stick with my previous suggestion. Solar heated hydronic floors. Add a fair amount of insulation to the walls/ceiling (which is really cheap) and you'll really be set.

bennelson 03-03-09 02:39 PM

I DO like the idea of a heated floor! Especially after working on my EV in Tom's floor-heated garage!

I do have water issues on my property. My garage is at the nexus of several different soil types, and is LITERALLY where the glacier stopped. (Most of the geology in my area comes from the Ice Age.)

I am also just down the street from a lake. So, that means no hidden basement in my garage. It also means that a concrete slab would need to be very well designed, so as not to crack from any ambient hydraulic pressure.

I think a (reinforced) insulated "floating" concrete slab would be the way to go.

Any ideas about the best way to get heat into the slab?
Direct solar gain is most likely a "no" as I really don't want a garage of patio doors showing off everything in my garage to the entire neighborhood. (I'm on a corner property too!)

I would think that either a roof-mounted or south-wall-mounted (garage doors face south) solar collector can work, I'm just not sure if it should be air or liquid based.

Also, I have electric in the (detached) garage, but no natural gas. I know I would need some sort of backup heat besides the solar.

truckncycle 03-03-09 02:47 PM

I think straw bale construction would be cool. I'm tempted to build a house out of it.

If I were building my own garage and had my choice, I would have room for at least 3 cars. I would also have at least 4 feet on one side (beyond the door) for shop space and to store my woodworking tools. The garage needs plenty of storage including places to park bikes. It needs to be fully insulated (including the garage door). As a woodworker, I would also have installed dust collection, 1 or more 220 outlets, a bunch of 20amp outlets with 10 gauge wire, heat and air (I really like the ground source heat pump idea). Space for a portable spray booth would also be nice.

Daox 03-03-09 03:05 PM

Traditionally, PEX tubing is used in hydronic heated floors. You simply lay out the tubing and poor the cement right over it. Very easy, and the tubing is flexible and should handle cracking.

The collectors could literally go anywhere in your yard, it doesn't have to be on the building.

I also agree with truckncycle, make it larger!

TimJFowler 03-03-09 06:01 PM

Wow, how cool to have your own green-building project to experiment with. Here are a few thoughts in no particular order:

* Plan, plan, plan. What do you need/want to do in or with the structure today or in a few years? Try to plan for possible future changes in your needs for the building.

* Talk to local / regional sustainable architects to see if any are interested in taking on the project for your budget. An experienced, LEED accredited architect should be able to design a structure that is incredibly efficient, is appropriate for your site and climate, looks good and hopefully avoids the worst mistakes.

* Check out the free / open source Free Green Home Plans from and see what you like.

* Design and build to the Passive House standard - Passive house - Wikipedia. Can you build a structure that is carbon neutral (or carbon negative!) for operational power and HVAC needs?

* Can you recycle 100% of the existing structure (Habitat ReStore, FreeCycle, reuse parts in the new building, etc.)?

* Use rainwater catchment for use in the structure or the garden.

* Write about the whole process here!

Have fun,

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