Debra Rucker Coleman, Architect
Floor 1
1,447 sf
Floor 2
652 sf
2,099 sf
Daylight Basement
1,447 sf
Unfinished Basement
1,447 sf
Entry Faces
South Glass
Ben Franklin
The Ben Franklin exemplifies simplicity and practicality while eliciting the warmth and charm of cottages. The compact footprint has everything a couple needs on a daily basis while the kids and guests can privately rule the upstairs. The north-facing front of the home with its simple, but elegant, front porch (large enough for rocking chairs) beckons to take a peek inside.
"The December sun is streaming into our home as I write this....and we so enjoy it! I have gone a year now with no KW usage at all...just the small fees of about 10 dollars a month..." more below...
First Floor
An ample size foyer with a quaint study on the side, separated by a glass sliding door, greets the visitor. Immediately beyond is the focal point of the home - the large hearth. A masonry wood stove need only be stoked once a day to give off a low even heat. On really sunny days it may not be needed at all, but can instead store the warmth of the sun.
The south wall is broken up with two built-in glass front cabinets on either side of the two-story area around the central hearth. The east family room wall with built-in cabinets adds to the craftsman character.
The family will most likely use the side entry near the laundry and half bath with nearby amply storage for coats and boots. A large pantry near the kitchen can also serve as coat storage. The sunny kitchen is large enough for both an island and family dining. The nearby masonry wood stove makes a very cozy place, with or without a fire, for visiting the cook.
The master suite is on the cool northeast corner of the house, but the east bathroom window allows the sun to brighten the day.
Second Floor
The safe, U-shaped staircase leads up to the second floor with two bedrooms and a shared bath. The central balcony overlooks the first floor. Lots of eave storage is on the north and south.
From the central stairs you access the basement which houses mechanicals and storage. The south side could be bright and sunny if your land slopes to the south and windows are added.
Optional Garage
The two-vehicle garage is recommended to be placed to the northwest. A covered walkway could connect to the side porch. Attach the garage to the west if losing a few windows is acceptable - including those of bedroom 3.
Construction Info
The first floor has 9' ceilings, and the basement has 8'. The second floor ceilings are sloped with plenty of eave storage. The foundation is designed to be precast concrete walls, but other types can be used. Main floor walls are 6" for studs or SIP panels. Rafter sizes vary with insulation requirements. The thermal mass is primarily in the masonry wood stove and the brick veneer wall on the north side of the family, dining, and kitchen.
Modification Ideas
Since these may affect energy performance and structural integrity, they should only be undertaken with professional assistance.
  • Replace the masonry wood stove with a larger dining
  • Expand the master bath out to the side
  • Floor in the center area of the second floor
Construction Drawings
For this plan, the following are included with Construction Prints and CAD files:
  • Schematic Site Plan
  • Basement Foundation Plan
  • Floor Plans
  • Exterior Elevations 
  • Building Section 
  • Kitchen Elevations
  • Typical Wall Detail
  • Schematic Electrical Plans
  • Schematic Framing Plans
  • Detached Garage
Comments and Photos
John and Susie enthusiastically kept us posted during construction.Clients often do that and send us photos. In exchange, we can help them out with a few questions that might come up during construction.
"The December sun is streaming into our home as I write this....and we so enjoy it! I have gone a year now with no KW usage at all...just the small fees of about 10 dollars a month. We do use propane, so I must count that, but after living in our old 1807 home on the hill (which I can see out the window) and paying BIG utility bills, I love seeing a negative on the KW usage. We have a 14KW system with battery back up and have been really amazed at how little power we use in this home."...This central room will be filled with 5 kids with spouses and 12 grandkids tomorrow....and we always appreciate this design that makes all that work nicely."
Earlier they wrote: "Attaching a few pictures as we continue the moving in.  The plan is perfect for us.  We had most of the family here Saturday and the kids and grandkids and grandparents all fit both inside and outside on the patio.  

"Our favorite spots are the two chairs by the windows.  We get the sunrise and by 7:30 or so we are feeling the wonderful warmth on these sunny days.

"We have used the stove a few times, and it really does not drive us out, or into summer clothes.

"The kitchen is amazing and the attached family room is large enough for all kinds of activity for the kids.  The light is wonderful throughout the house.  We carpeted upstairs and used the oak flooring in the main rooms and hall downstairs and the glue down tile in side entry, laundry and bathrooms. It looks exactly like tile but feels so much better to walk on.

"Have not done final blower door test. The initial test was about 1.5ACH50 (far above code). John will be back soon to final test and duct test.

"The 4.5 KW solar is complete now too, on the adjacent barn roof. We have been averaging slightly over 16 KwH per day since June and with not running much HVAC these last two months we have produced more than we have used!  I am really pleased with that.  It is a 4.5 KW system, done by our builder (Affordable Energy Concepts) with battery backup.  One thing I am really glad that we did was locate all of that in the barn/garage. The roof is just about right, facing due south and easy to get to, and all the noise and heat of the inverter and other components is away from the living space.   It was relatively easy to tie in and with a couple of breakers I can easily go to off grid when I need to (like in an outage).

"Power bill this month is $1.47 (zero last month).  Running the ERV at 40% and the heat of course has run very little.  In fact, on many of these November days we open 2 downstairs windows for cooling and open the gable windows occasionally to cool the upstairs.  Staying very comfortable.

"Having all the family here for Thanksgiving...and we fit nicely in the kitchen/living room.   I have used the wood cookstove a few times because I couldn't wait for real winter - cooked some apples for applesauce and just enjoyed the warmth and it didn't drive us out. In fact, in 2 hours it raised the temp about 3 degrees (with a small window slightly open).

"Such an enjoyable experience for us...and such a wonderful design for our retirement years."

Builder is David Wall

HERS guy is John Semmelhack. He designed our HVAC and all.
HVAC by Davis Heating and Cooling in Lynchburg, VA
Thanks John and Susie for sharing information and photos!
The last two photos are from Steven's off grid Ben Franklin in a colder climate.  They ended up modifying the garage orientation and placing the PV panels on its roof. They participated in the 2020 National Solar Tour.
             "We are off the grid and enjoying every minute."