Skinny, Tiny, Pre-Fab, Eco House

The “Skinny House” is an idea taken from looking at various pre-fab homes, in particular the high concept, prefabricated Glide House, designed by Michelle Kaufmann. Working with clients over the years, many had seen interesting prefabricated homes in Dwell Magazine and other online architectural place. The idea of having a home built in a factory – better working conditions – better quality – cheaper prices etc – is a hot appeal.

The Glide House

The plan below is an idea that uses many of the concepts of a prefabricated home but a bit bigger and using the garage as a “flex space.” Many people prefer using their garage as a studio, office or other use.

One of the ideas of the “Skinny House” is to incorporate outdoors living space.

Keep construction simple to keep costs down … simple but elegant!

Incorporate solar power …

Often times, after researching the true costs with infrastructure, foundations etc, the actual costs of prefabricated homes are the same or more than building the home on site. A site built home design has much more freedom to be “tweaked” to fit the site. Many options, levels of quality and design exist, but most prefabricated homes are based on components – usually 16 feet wide – that can be transported by truck.

Below – some additional ideas for floor plans.

Prefabricated home companies have been around for years. You mostly know them as trailer park homes. Many of these companies have not evolved past the ugly boxy designs you have seen. A bunch of new companies have come and gone such as Michelle Kaufmann’s Glidehouse. It seems to be – so far – a serious challenge to create the “iHouse” design for homes. A design that works everywhere – works well – is priced well and deliverable everywhere.

A bold objective …

Hygge – a friend of mine recently built this home in Long Island, New York

Method Homes

Stillwater – in the state of Washington is an interesting company

An Easy way to Stop Sending All Ojai’s Fresh Water Down the Drain

In the recently published Ojai Valley News – quoted below – Jeff Palmer almost proposed an excellent solution to a big Ojai problem.

KEEP our water in the valley DON’T  send it to the ocean.

Typical methods (and codes) have previously required all concentrated drainage i.e. from roofs to be piped from gutters through pipes and onto City streets. Once on the street – water flow increases – picking up lots of toxic auto waste from the roads and quickly makes its way to the ocean (simplified version but true).  This is exactly what we do not want  !

Drywell Pit – one solution

Drywell pit

The answer is to slow the water down – redirect the flow and encourage water absorption back into the ground recharging the aquifer with fresh, clean water.

According to the article below – Mr. Palmer did a “windshield survey” noting “numerous downspouts emptying directly into the ground …” were “direct connections” to the sewer system. I am not sure how Mr Palmer knows this, however I do know that emptying the water into the street is exactly what we don’t want.  We don’s want it sent through the water treatment plant or down to the ocean.

There are many simple ways to achieve this:

Continue reading “An Easy way to Stop Sending All Ojai’s Fresh Water Down the Drain”

Ventana Magazine Features Ojai Custom Home Builder – Green Home

Contemporary Cool

The Ojai abode of green builder Otis Bradley.

The exposed structural steel and beams are painted in Frank Lloyd Wright’s Cherokee Red.

By Andrea Kitay—Photography by Gaszton Gal

Casa Verde, the two-acre Ojai spread that Otis Bradley and his family call home, is more than a play on words. Its name is a nod to the custom homebuilder’s passion for efficiency. The 3400-square-foot contemporary completed in 2008 is a result of Bradley’s determination to build an ecologically sound home, in keeping with his family’s laidback lifestyle.

Continue reading “Ventana Magazine Features Ojai Custom Home Builder – Green Home”

Spanish Style – Wallace Neff – Ojai ICF New Construction


  • Custom home on Ojai’s east end

  • Traditional “Wallace Neff” Spanish style home

  • Green Building – Built with Rastra Block


With the roof, stucco and driveway complete, only the finish landscape is missing!

Stucco Brown Coat

Roof tile detail

Window detail – custom tile sill with deep set  aluminum clad window

Plaster walls

Porch roof – exposed framing

Groin vault in entry – note Techsheild radiant plywood
and planter cut outs in wall.

Roof framing over Rastra block

Rastra Block topped out and framing commences!

Window rough

Rastra block installation

South side – front entry on the left

Garage slab ready

Raising level of courtyard

With the floor system in – we move up another 4 blocks and prepare to cut out windows and doors. After these blocks are
grouted – only one more lift to the roof.

Walls above the floor framing

Rastra Technician with the “Rastra Lift o Matic 5000”

Front entry

Floor joists and plumbing goes in.

Attaching the floor ledger and getting ready for wood.

Looking from garage towards living room – Rastra walls


Looking from bedrooms – Rastra walls

Looking from living room towards garage – Rastra walls

Rastra block arrives – a concrete/post consumer waste styrofoam block

that will provide 12″ thick highly insulated, fireproof, rot proof walls!

Setting the footings

Filling it back up!
Re compaction of the new soil for a solid base.

Importing fill

Excavators, 10 wheelers, water trucks, loaders, bob tails !

Digging out all the rocks!

Dueling excavators

Big rocks !

This is the property before grading!

Casa Verde – Ojai Green Home

“Casa Verde”  Ojai, California

  • New Home Construction

  • Green Building

  • Passive and Active Solar Design

  • Radiant Heat in Finished Concrete Floors

  • Design and Build

This home, set above the City of Ojai,  fits into the environment, working with the climate rather than against it.  The broad and deep overhangs of the shed roof reflect the sun’s rays while providing shaded areas and a natural convection flow of air up and out the high windows.  The narrow building allows natural light in throughout the day with out the heat from the sun.  The roof also provides the perfect spot for the thermal hot water solar systems that provides domestic hot water as well as heat for the radiant floors.  The thermal mass of the concrete floors keep the house cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

The Great Room

The house is “inverted,” meaning the living areas are on the second floor instead of the first floor.  A two story house was a conscious idea for a couple of reasons … one being the fabulous views of the Ojai Valley – two: the prevailing southwest breezes help cool the house and the deck on the second floor.  The idea of a “great room” versus the more traditional living room – dining room – kitchen etc. is to create a space for today’s life style.  Not only is the space open, light and airy but the “spaces” within the spaces form there own “rooms.”  The game table nook – fireplace area – dining table – dinning counter – kitchen – stairwell all work together to create a really fabulous space.

The Stairwell


Outdoor Patio

The Master Bedroom

The Kid’s Room !

Green Building

Passive Solar Design

Passive cooling is achieved using  a large, sheltering, shed roof and high windows which draw hot air out of the home.  The steel roof panels reflect much of the hot Ojai sun.

Active Solar Design

Solar electric panels will provide energy for the house and solar hot water panels will help heat the radiant concrete floors.

Perfect Powder Sink !

This deck, sheltered by the same long shed roof the covers the home, enhances the breezes through the shady space.

The Bunk Room for our traveling companions !


Guest House

Almost finished – the driveway goes in!

Kids rooms – note the finished concrete floors
Climbing wall
Built in desks


The Submarine Room !
Here is the brain of the house with high efficiency water heater, solar water panel controls
radiant floor controls
and laundry.

Radiant tubes laid out on 2nd floor

View across the deck – Trex decking – a mixture of plastic waste product and wood plup.

Guest House

Guest House Kitchen

“Drying In”

After framing, a new home seems to sit for an eternity with no visible changes on the outside!
While the plumbing, electrical, HVAC and other mechanical systems are being install, the house is waiting for the next big push called “Drying In.”

Windows, roofing, siding and insulation kick into gear pulling the house out of the doldrums and visible changes start to appear.

This roof is a standing seam metal roof.  The light reflective color keeps the suns rays at bay.  Each section is also formed out of one continuous sheet of metal – 40 feet long in this case.  Metal roofing is also light weight – a benefit in earthquake country.

Most people ask – “Doesn’t it get hot inside?” or “Isn’t it noisy when it rains?”
The answer is no !

Nordhoff Peak in the background

Chief Peak 5400 feet

Metal forming

Too much rain !


Main house roof framing

Steel post and beams connected for porch roof

Interior beam work

John sets the wide flange steel

Detailing the wall framing on the slab

Guest House

Framed – solar panels to be places on this south facing shed roof

The building has a three car garage below and a 640 square foot (city limit) apartment on the second floor

As in the main house – the design has radiant floor heat and passive cooling with the shading shed roof and low and high windows to promote ventilation.

Out look beams for cantilever roof

After removing and re-compacting the soil, placing the footings, setting the red steel and installing the radiant heat tubing – the slab is ready.   The integral color of the concrete and the hand tooled joints in the concrete will provide both the structural base for the building as well as the finish floor.

Finished slab

Cutting joints

Waiting for the right set

Fresh mud

Boom pump and finishers helping to place the concrete

El Suavecitos

Thinking man

Job hazard

Steel posts set for roof overhang.

Poured in place concrete retaining wall.

Concrete retaining wall allows the house to fit snugly into the site – while the 2 story design economizes on the cost of construction and minimizes the footprint of the building on the site.

John Deere excavator arrives

Frank’s Boys

Patty directs the crew !

Luke tests the depth – about 9 feet down

Pad ready for compaction

Here’s a 20 ton boulder !

Conceptual color schemes

Study model – shed roof

Soils tests with archaeologist