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A hole and a show

24 Nov

Progress on the new house.

  • It’s just a hole in the ground. But it’s the FIRST hole for the new shed and house.

  • Cleared area for the 81 square metres of shed.

  • There’s a row of holes for the posts that frame the building.

The one hundred and thirty seventh Courtney A & P (agricultural and pastoral) show.

  • Lots of people, lots of farm animals, lots of vintage tractors.

  • More people, more farm animals, and lots of carnival operators making a living.


An unusual Japanese rock garden

3 Jul

In a book of Japanes garden designs (The Modern Japanese Garden – Michiko Nose – 2002), I found this delightful setting:


What makes it unusual, is that the “rocks” are actually shattered pieces of (flawed) optical grade crystal.

Costs of building a house

30 Jun

From 1917:

In the suburbs of the more important cities an expensive wooden building will cost about 17 cents per cubic foot at the present time. Concrete, stucco, and hollow tile will cost about 20 cents, while a brick dwelling of the better type will cost about 10 per cent more. In ordinary times a well built house of the type shown in the sketch may be put up for from 8 to 12 cents per cubic foot, depending upon the cost of labor and materials in different localities, but at present the cost would range from 10 to 15 cents. Probably 14 cents per cubic foot would pay all the bills connected with the erection of such a dwelling in the vicinity of most cities, while present building conditions prevail.

So;  we could say 14 .. 20 cents / cubic foot.

Our insurance company obtained a quote for rebuilding our house after the earthquake:

Price in 2012;  $18 / cubic foot.

Joel Spolsky’s Bionic Office

4 Jun

Back in 2003, technology/programming blogger Joel Spolsky wrote a detailed article about the new offices they had fitted out for Fog Creek Software. By 2008 they’d outgrown them and moved on (and up) to even fancier offices – there’s an article about those offices as well.

Many a programmer has looked with envious eyes at those offices, particularly the cunning way that there are more offices than windows, but everyone gets a window view without sacrificing privacy.

Nice looking offices:

But also flat out useful things:

Every desk has twenty, that’s right, twenty outlets. Four of them are colored orange and have uninterruptible power coming off of a UPS in the server closet, so you don’t need a UPS in every office.” and “Every office has its own 8-port network switch, so you can plug in your laptop and your desktop and“.

And, if it all sounds over the top, Joel makes his reasons clear:

Your business success will depend on the extent to which programmers essentially live at your office. For this to be a common choice, your office had better be nicer than the average programmer’s home. There are two ways to achieve this result. One is to hire programmers who live in extremely shabby apartments. The other is to create a nice office.



Painted Trees

23 May

A couple of real trees, stripped back and painted silver.


From the book “Japanese Gardens“, by Gunter Nitschke (1993)


Plywood Pentayurt and New Zealand Building Codes

22 May

Many attendees at Burning Man, the annual alternative party in the Nevada desert, have discovered the useful qualities of a temporary building design called a hexayurt. This design (invented and open-sourced by a chappie called Vinay Gupta) is notable for a very efficient use of materials. It cunningly makes use of either whole, or diagonally cut, sheets materials in the very common 2440 x 1220 (eight foot x four foot) size.

Here’s a typical hexayurt (image stolen from, in bright reflective materials for hot weather conditions.

Now, we hope to move out of town within the next year, and with all the challenges to our budgets, I’ve been thinking about building a cheap shed based on hexayurt designs.

I’m by no means the first to think that, for examples this guy built a nice looking shed out of oriented-strand particleboard for $132 in materials.

However, this is New Zealand, land of bureaucracy, forms, and nanny-state control. The council wouldn’t be happy with a structure like this and would insist it be ripped down (though they might be reasonable about short term use). But, tucked away in a government document dbh-guide-for-building-work-consent-not-required I spotted a section that went A building consent is not required for the following building work … does not exceed 1 storey, does not exceed 10 square metres in floor area …

This looks promising. Unfortunately, the most common hexayurt designs run to 166 sq feet and my 10m2 limit is 107 sq feet. There are other designs, including the pentayurt (which, logically, has 5 sides and coincidentally has steeper angles which handle snow better). The standard pentayurt runs to 110 sq feet – just too big.

A little fiddling with numbers, and a willingness to make a few more cuts, and I’ve got a possible design.

If I shave 50mm off one end and 25mm off one side, of each 2440 x 1220 sheet for the roof triangles, then cut them diagonally, I end up with triangles 2390 x 1195, ten of which form a pentagonal pyramid covering 9.8m2. For the vertical walls, five more sheets have 80mm cut off one end, leaving rectangles 2360 x 1220, which form a pentagon inset by 20mm from the roof (to get rain drip eaves) with a floor area of 9.6m2. I drew a plane across at 1800mm (about 6 feet up), and a very respectable 4.3m2 of the floor space is higher than that – plenty of headroom.

The good thing about all this – I saw someone selling sheets of exterior plywood (11mm, H3 treated) for $29 each. That’s $290 for the basic structure. There would be extra costs, and it would be pretty primitive, but everything I could store in a cheap shed would be more space in the house – and the house is expected to cost well over $1400 / m2.  I’m mighty tempted.