A photographic tour of the Bioshelter.

Click on the photos or highlighted text to see larger images.

front view of bioshelterTurning into the driveway, the first thing you see is the house perched on the hill, with hundreds of feet of terracing and perennial blooming flowers leading up to it.  The exterior is wrapped with stained cedar siding, with the front dominated by large windows, inset with a copper metal band as an accent.

The building itself is a simple 42- by 42-foot square box set into a southwest-facing slope on the diagonal, so there is an uphill and a downhill corner. Landscaping, plantings, and multilevel exterior decks complement the clean simplicity of the building.
stairs between garage/shop and houseStairs lead from the parking area up both sides of the house. The front door is reached by the wide stairs to the left, going between the house and the garage, up to a couple of intermediate landings.
Front of garage, (in the middle of a project).The 24x24 detached double car garage was designed to support a "mother-in-law" apartment above.  (The apartment never got built, but the possibility is still there.)  In the meantime the flat roof surrounded by guardrail affords a great place for the kids to play.  The garage includes 30' of well-lit work bench, materials storage racks, a gas-fired unit heater and generously sized electric subpanel.
 
terraces at front of bioshelterOver 100 linear feet of terracing, five rows high, contain long-established perrenials, rock gardens, trees, bushes, and room for vegetable gardens. Strawberries, currants and raspberries flourish. The plantings include both native Alaskan plants and flowers, and many that are experimental in Alaska.  Several beds are devoted to vegetables.
 
west side of houseThe steps lead up between the house and garage to the front door, on the west side of the house. On your way to the front door, you'll pass the door to the mechanical room & shop space below the house.  One half of the footprint of the house is devoted to mechanical systems and storage - including an 8' x 8' root cellar.

west side of house, view of entryOn up the steps, a curving wall leads you onto the covered porch. The covered porch includes firewood storage large enough for one cord of wood.


 
front entryThe arctic entry (mudroom) has a ceramic tile floor and a bench to the right with boot storage and heater beneath.  In the corner are 12" wide shelves from floor to ceiling for  boot, hat and glove storage.  To the left, behind double doors is a freezer and shelves for storage.  In the other corner is a closet for ski storage.  Both doors are insulated.
 
Looking from arctic entry into foyer.Entering the house, you step into the hardwood-floored foyer. Viewing from left to right, you see stairs leading to the second floor, the den, the living room, a short hallway leading to the kitchen, laundry area and powder bath, and a coat closet.
 
view of living room & den from foyerThe den is one step up from the main level, the living room is one step down. Except for the laundry area and the powder bath, the main floor is all open plan, laid out diagonally to the exterior walls, with a large Finnish fireplace at the center. Flooring on the main level (foyer, kitchen, laundry and powder bath) is pickled oak hardwood, den and living room are carpeted.
 
Den, with doors closed.From the foyer, step up into the den.  This is a small, cozy room, completely built in for entertainment, conversation and relaxation.  To the right is a half-height wall filled with bookshelves, and overlooking the living room -- with a view through the sunroom to the mountains beyond.

Den, shown with doors open.Directly in front is an area for a built in TV and VCR. On the angled wall to the left of the TV are built-in shelves behind doors with cables linked to the built in speakers in the living room connected to the entertainment center.  All of the built-ins are hidden behind doors. 

Den couch & toyboxContinuing around the room to the left, you see a sofa bench built into two walls with storage underneath and "toy boxes" built in to both sides of the sofa.  This is a room designed for kids of all ages.
Living room as seen from foyer. Dining room as seen from kitchenStepping down one step from the foyer into the living room, you see large full length windows looking out into the sunroom and a view of rugged mountain peaks beyond. Moving on into the living room you see a "Finnish fireplace" masonry heater on your immediate right, and a dining area beyond it. 

Living room, looking towards foyerThe Finnish masonry heater is at the center of the house and a focal point of the living room. It is a modified old-world Scandinavian design, laid up with firebrick inner core and flue passages, faced with a decorator brick. The internal passages and large amount of thermal mass allow burning short (i.e. 2-3 hrs/day), very hot (i.e. efficient ) fires, without overheating the space.  The brick absorbs the heat, slowly re-releasing it to the space throughout the day. Clear glass doors allow a view of the fire, and to the right of the fire box is firewood storage.  It will keep the entire house warm through the coldest of winters, providing full backup to the gas-fired central heating system.
 
View from dining room. Sun room on leftThe kitchen is built for entertaining and families.  The almost thirty linear feet of counter top, includes a 7' foot island with cooktop/grille in the middle, and curved ends. 

Foyer beyond left, living room beyond right.A vegetable sink below a built-in spice rack, and small appliances are tucked under the ceramic shelf  behind the curving wall from the entry.  All of the custom-built base cabinets have roll out shelves with top-of-the-line hardware.  There are no overhead cabinets - just large windows that look out into the sunroom and the spectacular view beyond.


The oversized pantry takes care of all necessary storage.  Cooking for large parties is a dream with a microwave/ convection oven above and a gas oven below.  Everything is built in, including the refrigerator, with matching laminate face.  A desk looking out on the view has 2 large filing cabinets and several pencil drawers.  Beside that are two doors that open up to provide full access to the heat recovery ventilation unit.
 
view of sunroom, looking from east to westThe full-height sunroom is 12 feet wide and 42 feet long -- the full length of the house.  At the west end is an 8x12 deck (covering a 5,000 gallon cistern) with cabinets for storage of garden supplies, and room for a patio table and chairs.

constructed wetlands and pondThe remaining area includes ponds, "constructed wetlands" filled with aquatic plants, a waterfall and trickling stream, surrounded by concrete paver walkways & potted plants. There are hanging plants, as well as plants growing from and beside the ponds.  It has been used to grow tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, start plants for the terracing and vegetable gardens, in addition to orchids, hibiscus and many house plants.
 
The entire growing bed area was excavated down to the footings, waterproofed, and backfilled with 4 to 8 feet of clean sand and gravel, a filter fabric and 2 feet of biologically active organic topsoil. It could be visualized as an insulated swimming pool with the bottom sloping to a perforated collection pipe at the deep end, and with a heat exchanger built into it. This area functions as (1) plant growth space, (2) graywater sand filter, and (3) thermal mass. More detailed technical description.
 
downstairs powder roomThe powder bath on the main floor sits behind the curved wall to the front porch and has an oversized, custom built curved vanity.  The water closet is in a separate private "potty room" with a door closing it off from the rest of the powder bath. Over the years we have experimented with various different types of toilets, ranging from an "indoor outhouse" bench with chute down to the composting toilet below, to the current marine toilet.

The washer and dryer, sewing area and storage shelves are behind doors in the hallway leading to the powder bath and adjacent to the kitchen.
 
foyer & stairsThe stairs to the second floor are at the north side of the house.  A south-facing light scoop upper stair, natural daylight on the roof above brings natural daylight into the back of the house. Second floor rooms include two large bedrooms, each with large window areas and french doors opening out onto balconies in the sunroom; a large bath, and a smaller bedroom at the northeast (uphill) corner, above the den.
 
walk-in closet in master bedroomThe master bedroom is huge.  One wall is all windows looking out to the view, and french door leading out to a balcony overlooking the sunroom ponds below.  The walk-in closet is completely built in with shelves and hanging hidey hole in master bedroom area, as well as a separate closet for off-season storage and luggage and Xmas storage under the "hidey hole".  This is a cozy little carpeted den -- a meditation room, or play room for the grandkids, accessed through a round hole in the wall. The view from its round window is through the tree tops, down the valley to the west.
 
upstairs bathroomThe main bathroom is laid out as two large intersecting circles.  The vanity is set into one curved wall, has double sinks, and tons of storage.  The floor is ceramic tile warmed by the fireplace below. The oversized shower has two heads.  The water closet is in a separate private room off the main bath.

hot tub, view out through sunroomThe spa tub sits in a curve extending out over the sunroom, the focal point of the room, with an unobstructed view of the mountains and valley below.  It is large enough to seat six comfortably.  It has never been hooked up and used.  There is a door leading to the master bedroom.
 
officeThe second large bedroom is currently used as an office. Built-in shelves dominate one whole wall and half of another. Over 20 LF of L-shaped, custom built desktop/work surface, with filing cabinets below, wrap around three walls, below shelving and windows to the view beyond. A french door opens out to a balcony overlooking sunroom ponds below. An 11 foot long closet has built in storage behind 2 sets of double doors. And there is still room for a sofa bed for guests.
 
The third bedroom (uphill corner, above the den) is a kids room or guest room. It, too, has 11 feet of closet, all built in with shelves and an area for a desk as well as an area for hanging items.


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