SunRay Kelley

Natural Builder

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Houses on the Homestead

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The latest beautiful finished project on the homestead the "Waterfall House".  

Photos by Camille Nordgren photographer, artist and current resident of the Sky House. To contact Camille email her at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or find her work on Facebook.

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The Waterfall House:  This 1200 sq-ft home is as lovely as she is functional.  The passive solar design features a greenhouse with two waterfalls.  One is a small recirculating fountain and the other is the rock path in which the bathwater travels from the upstairs bedroom to the garden beds below.  The rocks and cob wall in the greenhouse serve as effective thermal mass.  The house is well insulated and additionally heated by a wood-fired masonry heater.  After the fire is going, you push close a damper and force the flue gas coming up around the oven to flow down through a chamber with a 150-foot coil of copper tubing then around the bench to give up more heat before going up the chimney.  Water running through the copper coil is heated for domestic use and to heat the radiant floor. SunRay has also used stainless steel coils salvaged from old air conditioners in his exchanger. The small door to the right of the stove allows for easy passage of wood from the outside.

The Waterfall House has at its center a two story, 20-foot diameter yurt.  On the second story is a large bedroom with a 360 view and a bathtub.  The left side extension houses a water closet with the hot water heater and hydronic valves and in front of that a toilet and sink.  The other extension is closet with a door to a small deck. A compromise with SunRay was necessary to keep the closet, a feature missing in many of his early houses. He got his door and deck and I got a closet.  It is affectionately now called the door to Narnia.

On the first floor is a bedroom with a shower built from framed up sheets of tempered glass, painted, and sealed on the outside.  The downstairs toilet and sink are on the other side of the lovely cob wall in the green house. Both the bedroom and kitchen both have double paned windows installed in their roofs for natural overhead light.  Off the kitchen is a laundry room and off the living room is a mudroom and back door.

The living roof is 45-mil epdm pond liner over rigid foam insulation on top of the cedar T&G ceiling.  By laying down flakes of straw before adding lightweight soil or mulch we find we don't even have to build an edge around the roof to hold the soil on.  We added seed for a cover crop to set roots quickly and transplant some indigenous plants for low maintenance. If fire is a concern in your area, a sprinkler can be added to keep the roof green.  In Lake Co. California that has a lot of fire regulation, we were able to permit a straw bale house with cob plaster and a living roof with a sprinkler.


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