An interview with Andy Chappell-Dick. HIS PROJECT: He and his wife, Wendy Chappell-Dick, are building a 960-square foot ďsmall house,Ē a three-bedroom, two-bathroom, energy-efficient home in Bluffton, and they said they hope to build more.
1. What made you decide the small house should be the next big thing?
Thereís a tremendous movement in this country in people interested in downsizing. Wendy and I have been interested in that for quite a while. Itís something that has quite a bit of currency in the country today among people who want to do something different, environmental people who take it as a political thing when energy is a very hot political issue, and just aesthetics. Thereís some people who want to try something thatís different than a lot of the tract housing that goes up these days.
2. Do you feel as if youíre bringing a new way to build to Bluffton?
Iím not doing anything that hasnít been done in this town already. Thereís nothing new here. A lot of itís decades-old. There are people in this town who in the 1980s built extremely, deliberately energy-efficient houses and were onto this very early. Itís astonishing to me how itís taking so many decades for some of these priorities to come around.
Now of course with the price of natural gas just bottoming out, it has removed some of the urgency again. I think itís a false optimism to think weíre going to have natural gas prices where they are for much longer. Maybe itís decades. To us, it doesnít matter. I think what weíre doing is the right thing to do. Even if natural gas is coming from under eastern Ohio, I think itís the right thing to figure out ways to use less of it.
3. What room in this house do you think youíre going to love the most when itís all done?
The main room downstairs. Itís where the table is with the view of the backyard, within reach of a coffee pot.
I like all the rooms, though. Why shouldnít you like all your rooms in your house? This is the crazy, nutty thing. We stand in our house now, we have three rooms that at best we walk through once in a while. Itís an older house.
When we look around and regard our square footage, we realize we have several hundred square feet that are simply walk-through spaces. And we have to keep them clean. Itís good to feel like every square inch is vital to the carrying on of our lives.
4. One of the things thatís interesting when you come up is seeing how few windows there are, four on the front and two on the sides, compared to a lot of houses being built today. How concerned were you with natural light?
A lot of green building incorporates a lot of south-facing windows for passive solar gain. Itís a great technique for lowering your energy bill. It does mean you have to spend an awful lot of money on high-quality windows. Windows are terribly troublesome in terms of R-value.
There was a green house built in Alaska I read about that had a single window. Thatís just absurd. You get a great, well-insulated wall, but natural light is important. Because we chose this English cottage style, it goes well with more vertical, smaller windows. Thereís a big window facing the backyard. Smaller windows, well placed in a small house give you all the light you need.
5. When do you anticipate being able to move into the finished product and start enjoying what youíve been working on?
We wonít move into a finished product, unfortunately. Weíll move into a semi-finished product.
Weíll move in October, I hope. Weíll work on the interior details over the winter.
6. When itís all said and done, using some of the old metrics on a house, what are you looking at here?
Itís such a complicated answer to such a simple question. Thereís one bedroom, but there could be as many as three. There are two bathrooms. In the scheme of multiuse rooms, there are three bedrooms.
By Bluffton zoning ordinance, there are 1,600 square feet in this house. They measure three full floors at over 500 square feet each. By real estate standards, itís 960. Thatís big. Itís a big house.