Friday, February 27, 2009

Lab and House on Camano Island

Revised Nov 6, 2010 - I arrived on Camano Island in 1998, with the intent of quickly finishing the Microship project and taking off on the expedition. But boat projects have a way of taking their own sweet time (especially ├╝bergeeky ones like this), and the years kept passing... while I grew ever more comfortable in this wooded paradise at the northern edge of Puget Sound.

Things have changed now, and I am preparing to make the transition to a full-time life aboard Nomadness, a 44-foot steel pilothouse monohull (about as different from the tiny Microship trimaran as can be imagined!). That leads me to the subject of this posting.

photo of our forest by Chuck Willyard

The Microship Lab is For Rent

There is a photo album over here, and what I'd like to do now is provide a bit more information about the facilities than is allowed in the limited caption format. The primary property is a 6-acre parcel that includes a 1150 square-foot passive-solar house and a 3000 square-foot shop building... as well as a stream, an acre of open meadow, and a garden shed. In addition, I have an adjacent 5 acres of forest that might be available, and a good friend owns an additional 10 that abuts the other two. So depending on your needs, you could have 6, 11, or 21 acres to play on.

The house itself is an unusual one, and was featured in Fine Homebuilding back in 1995 (the four pages are visible at the photo album linked above). A "sunspace" with translucent fiberglass roof and roll-up glass door exhibits the greenouse effect when it's sunny-but-cold, prompting thermostatically controlled fans to pull air from high in that region and distribute it low in the house. With R-40 structural foam panels making up the roof, this is quite effective... and when it's not sunny, the efficient little RAIS woodstove does the job beautifully.

Of course, my primary geek playground has been the lab, a monitor-style pole building erected in 1998 (with numerous upgrades since then). It's on a 40x56 slab, giving a ground floor (concrete pad) of 2,240 square feet, and there is a suite of offices upstairs that add about 750 more square feet for a total of approximately 3,000.

My current plan is to keep the upper floor as a storage facility, since I'm unable to get rid of everything that won't fit in a boat and mobile lab! This region is split into four zones: my master office, well finished and super-insulated with built-in desk and lab benches, a rougher central area used for shipping and inventory, another finished office with pass-through doors, and a little storage area at the head of the stairs. Both "nice" offices have drop ceilings with electronic fluorescent troffers, and quality carpets.

I have added a removable wall that can be bolted in place to make the stairs accessible only from the rear door of the building, which creates a clear boundary between that and the 2,000 square feet that is for rent.

On this main floor, a roll-up door opens into an almost full-length area (large enough for a couple of cars or other large equipment). This is flanked by shop zones... to the west, with the main entrance, there are professionally finished built-in workbenches and huge inventory shelves, a woodstove, and a propane unit heater. To the east is an open area currently used for machine shop and general heavy work, and one end of that is covered by a large storage mezzanine. To the south is a "hall of inventory" that wraps around the central open bays. A small bathroom is roughed-in with all plumbing (but has never been brought online), and the central regions have internal walls added to help with dust control when doing dirty work.

The 3,000 square-foot lab building


A lot went into the "infrastructure" of the building, which is 750 feet back in the woods relative to the house. A 3-foot-wide, 3-foot-deep trench was excavated down the middle of the road, and we laid in 1.5" waterline terminating at the yard hydrant, 4-0/4-0/2-0 electrical cable for 100-amp service split at the shed (separate from the house), and 30 conductors of copper in three direct-bury silicone-filled cables. The latter take care of an Inter-Tel GLX phone system, a Napco Gemini monitored security system with separate house and lab zones, and the broadband net connection.

The network is worth some elaboration. For a while I wanted to use a couple of yagi antennas to do a WiFi link between the 1.5 Megabit/sec cable modem in the house and the lab, but punching a fresnel-sized hole through the forest and keeping it open is a lot of work. By the time I was looking at this problem, it was too late to bury Cat-5 cable (and it would have been very expensive), yet we needed a fast connection in the lab (even more than in the house, which is as far as the cable company would bring their line). What to do?

The trick was to use a back-to-back pair of SpeedStream 5851 SDSL routers to bridge the two LANs. The wiring itself is just a randomly-chosen pair in one of the three 10-conductor direct-bury cables, and phone-grade wiring was used to connect from those to convenient SpeedStream mounting locations in the buildings. We're seeing a steady 1.5 megabit/sec symmetrical link over vanilla copper (which amazes me, having grown up in an era where "3 kilocycle bandwidth" was taken as gospel). There is more detail here if you Googled your way to this page and want to know how we did it.

Needless to say, all this will stay with the facilities... it is an essential part of the building wiring.

The plumbing is partly done; all the bathroom stuff was cast into the concrete foundation, so it's ready for sink, toilet, shower, and extra wash-up sink. There is no septic system, but it percs just fine (2007 test) and will take a conventional gravity-fed drainfield. If a tenant wanted to add this, I''d be happy to make an adustment on the rent to share the cost... though living in the house, I have never felt it necessary to complete the planned bathroom.

Thermally, the building has been fully re-insulated with R-19, then sheathed internally with OSB and painted. It's quite cozy now, and the huge woodstove keeps up just fine. There are also a pair of propane tanks (rented), along with a giant unit heater for thermostatically controlled heat.

Not a bad work environment... the bench structure has since been painted black

Looking for Geeky Digs?

If you're one of the unusual folks who salivates at the notion of a shop that is twice the size of your house, would love to have your own forest with year-round stream, and can function effectively in a rural setting about an hour from Seattle, then perhaps this is for you.

While it would be possible to rent house and lab separately, I'd rather not - the utilities are tied together. The rent for the pair, with 6 acres, is $1850/month.

Please contact me for more details or to arrange a showing. It should be available by about the first of December.



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