Don’t like the view … just wait a minute! Electrician Luke Everingham has created an amazing house that has rural property owners in a spin.
When Luke Everingham’s 87-year-old white ant-ravaged country home was deemed “beyond repair” in 2002, he began searching for a replacement home to build. The major requirement was that the house design would take advantage of the views he had acquired when he had purchased his Wingham, NSW, property (in the hinterland of the Manning Valley on the Nowendoc River) some 20 years prior.
At that time, one of Luke’s friends, who had joined his ‘tree change’ lifestyle invited him and his wife, Deb, to dinner to show off his brand new country house.
“After the meal, my mate said he loved everything about his new home … except his wished it was turned about another 15º to take better advantage of the view he had paid so much for.
“Deb said jokingly: ‘wouldn’t it be good if you could move it’. Well, after that comment I couldn’t think of anything else and when we got home that night I started drawing designs of a house that could be rotated.
Trapezoids in a circle
“I ended up with a rough version of this house – trapezoidal prisms in a circle.
“Having straight edges in the house design makes construction so much easier, but more importantly, affordable.
“At first, I wrongly assumed it would be too expensive to get the design to spin so I sat on the plans for far too long. Every six months or so I’d slip them out and have a bit of a fight with Deb about them,” he laughs.
“Finally, I bit the bullet and spent the next seven years designing the house to take full advantage of the views, got the proportions right and worked out a way to rotate it economically.
“I was determined not to be influenced by other designs so I stuck with my own design which suited this property because I didn’t want a ‘mongrel’.
“When the project was nearly finished the kids surfed the Net and found some other designs but we didn’t even look at them because we didn’t need to. We were extremely happy with our own design.”
Function and form
What Luke has now is a highly functional home, built with off-the-shelf products made from durable materials. “The home is very low maintenance, even if it meant sacrificing on some aesthetics,” says Luke.
The entire structure weighs around 50 tonnes, can rotate 360º if and when desired, within a 180º retainer wall and a 180º fixed deck and railing.
The octagonal design makes construction quite easy and the 24m diameter (12m radius) offers plenty of room for three bedrooms, two bathrooms, an office and a huge meals/dining/entertainment area (21m wall-to-wall at the outer edges).
Careful use of space
The ‘wedge’ design of the bedrooms and bathrooms ensure there are no wasted spaces adjacent to the entrance doors and every room takes full advantage of the views with floor to ceiling windows and sliding glass doors which lead to the 3m covered verandah which is part of the rotating base.
“Adding the upstairs room really didn’t cost much more. It’s a great reading/sun room that’s functional, too, by drawing heat from the ceiling areas of the other rooms through natural convection which keeps the house remarkably cool.
Cleverly, geothermal piping 120m long and 2.5m deep supplies a constant 22oC to the house through the central core.
What looms below?
Directly underneath the staircase are the nuts and bolts of the operation where the services lead to a central hub.
The wiring of the house is not as complex as one would think. Like many modern houses, the electrical hub is located centrally, although the services need to flexible to allow for the house’s rotation.
After much experimentation with cable types and lengths, etc, Luke settled on a multiservice manifold and radial loom for the cables, noting that the amount of movement at the core of the house is negligible, and that fact that the house only travels just over one revolution before slowly spinning back the other way.
Controls and automation
Luke chose Dynalite for basic lighting control and has standard wall-mounted user control panels and a touchscreen.
“I think this is only Dynalite installation which controls the speed of the house,” says Luke, referring to the variable speed motors which control the rotation of the house that come under the control of the Dynalite automation system.
The Dynalite DDRC810DT relay controller provides a low level interface to the Rockwell motor control system and provides not only simple speed and direction control, but more complex functionality, such as selection of a certain face of the house to follow or avoid the sun.
“I can choose to have the house rotate 360º and then rotate the other way non-stop, or I can stop the house at any one of 4800 points on the dial! It’s that accurate.”
The house can take up to two hours for a full rotation on a slow speed or around 27 minutes on the faster speed.
“Most times the house is turned to take advantage of the sun and property’s views and then remains stationary,” Luke says.
Down the drain
Luke says the most questions he gets asked about this home are about the plumbing.
“I’ve had the strangest questions about the waste water system,” he says. “Even things like: ‘do you have to wait for the house to spin so that the pipes line up underneath before you can flush the toilet!’ It’s funny how people think. All the plumbing services run under the flooring back to a 100mm swivel joint from a broad acre farm walking irrigation boom arm.
“This fitting houses all the waste water pipes and provides a water tight seal. Because the house rotates, it was important to find something that was designed to spin and not leak. This is perfect.
“It wasn’t that hard to find one, once I asked the right people what they thought would do the trick. Being in the bush you can often find people who are good at finding solutions.”
Storm water is collected through the gutters and downpipes like a typical home. The difference is under the house where none of the pipes are buried. Instead, the pipes hang attached to the underside of the floor and lead into a square metal trough with an inlet and outlet pipe. Once the collected water reaches a certain height the outlet pipe disperses it back to the river.
Luke has installed small geothermal solution to help keep the house comfortable year-round.
“I installed a 100mm plastic pipe 2m underground which runs for 120m. At that depth the soil temperature is always 22ºC, so the air in the pipe is drawn into the house with the help of a in-line air-con fan.
“It doesn’t keep the house permanently heated at 22ºC but it makes the winters a little milder.”
Features of the house
- The octagonal design of the house allows for wedge-shaped rooms with a lot more space than most conventional houses.
- Windows and glass doors constitute a large part of the exterior walls to take advantage of the great views and the warmth of the sun.
- The wrap-around 3m-wide verandah is a hardwood timber deck
- The exterior walls are vertical corrugated Colorbond®
- The interior walls are predominantly Gyprock
- The mechanics: a 200-tonne central bearing, 32 outrigger wheels and two 500W electric motors attached to reduction gearboxes and drive-wheels.
- Geothermal piping supplies a constant 22oC to the house through the central core.
This article was originally published in Electrical Connection magazine. Pictures used with permission from Luke Everingham.
For more information, visit http://erotatingstructures.com/