Heating and Cooling

I’m writing this post now mostly so can show this cool diagram — which I don’t completely understand.

Underfloor heating areas Click image to enlarge
Underfloor heating areas
Click image to enlarge

It shows the plan for the underfloor heating. The different groups of pipes are shown by the colors. They come together in a ground floor zone and a top floor zone which can be controlled separately.

Cooling the house will be done by a progression:

  1. Open the windows.
  2. Use the ceiling fans in the bedrooms.
  3. Use the portable A/C units in the bedrooms.

portable air conditioner to be used in house in Le MarcheThese portable units and only cost a few hundred euro, so using them is MUCH cheaper than building an air conditioning system for the house. We’re building vents into the walls in the bedrooms so the units can exhaust the warm, moist air to the outside and we won’t need drain pans that have to be emptied.

First image: Copyright © Our Big Italian Adventure
Second image: Sears.com

Lavanderia e Locale Tecnico

In the original rough floor plan, we had a laundry and utility room adjoining the stairway on the ground floor. This left a nice-sized closet underneath the stairs.

Original rough plan - click to enlarge
Original rough plan
Click image to enlarge
First detailed plan = click to enlarge
First detailed plan
Click image to enlarge
Revised detailed plan - click to enlarge
Revised detailed plan
Click image to enlarge

Kevin asked the geometra to do a more precise layout of the laundry/utility to include the needed utilities and mechanicals. Besides the water heater, these include some of the elements related to the underfloor heating and the renewable energy system.

The first layout he drew included all the key elements, those above, plus a washer, dryer, and space for counters and storage cabinets. The problem, as I saw it, was that we had lost the closet under the stairs to some of the technical apparatus.

As I looked at the plan, I noticed that the space under the bottom part of the stairway wasn’t being used. While this is a triangular space that only gets about 5 feet high at maximum under the landing, I thought maybe something could go there. So I asked Kevin to look into it.

He returned from the geometra with a much-improved plan. It restored at least a coat-closet-sized space and gave us some extra storage space. And he did it by using that space under the stairs for the photovoltaic converter and for some elements of the underfloor heating system.

Image source
Copyright © Our Big Italian Adventure

Good News: We Receive a Variance on Our Construction

We awoke this morning to an email from Kevin, titled, In his typical, get-the-news-across style, “POSITIVE Opinion Colmurano Technical Office, Proceed with VARIANCE.”

A letter from the geometra saying the project can go forward as a variance, rather than as a new project.
Our preliminary opinion Click image to enlarge

The email confirmed that the geometra, Jimmy Stefoni, had met with Verdicchio Saverio, il tecnico comunale di Colmurano. Jimmy had received the good news that our design could be considered a variance on the previously-approved plan, not a whole new plan. This should speed up the approval process dramatically; in fact, the projection from Jimmy is that he will have the needed documents back to il tecnico within 7-10 days and then the final approval process can begin.

One important point was not mentioned in the letter: could we build a pool? I wrote back to Kevin asking for confirmation that we are all set on the pool.

I thought I’d hear back right away that are good to go, but no word. My guess is that they forgot to ask about it.


This morning brought some clarification and confirmed the good news.

First, it is a final decision, not just an opinion, that the project can be evaluated as a variance, and it seems that the final approval to build requires more or less just the submission of some project details. (I had asked because I was uncertain of the translation and the terminology.)

The letter said:

Il Tecnico Comunale di Colmurano … riguardante la richiesta di un VARIANTE in corso d’opera per il progetto di ristrutturazione … per cui lo stesso ente a rilasciato PERMESSO DI RICOSTRUIRE … “

Kevin provided his translation:

The town technical office director confirmed that the project, as a VARIANCE, with the presentation of the new/modified project details, will allow the project to commence with a new PERMISSION TO CONSTRUCT.”

Second, while the pool wasn’t mentioned, it’s because it’s not part of the variance. Kevin assured me that pools are permitted by the Comune di Colmurano.

So, unless Giovanna, our avvocato, has identified a problem with the legalities, like the title or another of the pre-commitment issues (put link here), we’re good to go to proceed toward a final approval.

Very good news.

Image: Copyright Our Big Italian Adventure

Our House Plans Are Ready for an “Opinion”

This has been a busy week working on the floor plans, and we’ve made a lot of progress toward having a design we like and that can be submitted to the local government for approval.

house blueprint of floorplan with pencil and rulerMonday morning we received two options for designs at our desired size of 190m2. These were based on the original concept plan at 160m2 and our general design direction. We wanted some room sizes and placements adjusted.

Wednesday morning the email brought a new set of plans. These had our desired changes and were just about what we were looking for. We had a couple of minor changes, but one big question: was a hallway between the entry and the main room wide enough at 1.00 meter (3.3 feet)? And, if not, could we widen it without making a mess of the plans?

The possible problem was that the space was constrained by structural support columns on one side and rooms that we felt were already at minimum width on the other.

Today’s version brought good news. By sliding the columns over about a third of a meter and making the stairway just a tiny bit steeper, the architect was able to give us a hallway of 1.35 meters (just shy of 4.5 feet.) Now I think we’ll have a nice wide connection from the front door into the main room.

Design for a house in Le Marche
“Approved” option

Also adding to the open feel we want will be the ceiling heights. On the ground floor, we’ll have 2.7 meters (8.9 feet.) On the top floor, they will peak at 3.5 meters (11.5 feet) and be 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) at the walls.

We also got a door from the kitchen on the front of the house — Anne and I had considered it but not mentioned it. This should make it easier to bring in groceries and supplies. It also opens up the possibility of storing firewood outside that somewhat hidden corner of the house.

exterior drawing of house in Italy

We’ve all but got the plans we’re comfortable going forward with. Just a clarification that all three openings on the view side of the house are French doors and we feel we’re set for now.

Next steps? Details and timing unknown, but from what we understand it’s a trip by Kevin to the town planning office. He’ll ask for an “opinion” whether we can build this house and a pool on the plot. The right head nod, without too many “I say you need to change this or I’m not earning my pay” kinds of comments should give us about a 90% assurance of final approval of the complete plans and blueprints. Or that’s what we’re told.

After the flurry of activity this week, I think we’re in for some waiting.

First mage source: www.pixabay.com License: CC0 Public domain. Free for commercial use. No attribution required. Other images: Copyright Our Big Italian Adventure

Progress on Our House Plans

Earlier this week we received two proposed designs for a 190 square meter (about 2000 square foot) two story house. (All these numbers are as quoted in Italy: gross size including the exterior walls.). There were elements of both designs that we liked.

home architect's toolsNote: in all of this, we were constrained by the 190 square meter limit. The amount of space we could build is based on the size of the original building, now a ruin, that is on the property. So we’re making trade offs and shaving a dimension here and there to make the plan fit.

Option A

This had a good general design on the ground floor: lots of open space; kitchen/dining room, living room, and master bedroom all on the “view” side of the house; good sized baths and laundry/utility room. The biggest change it needed was to expand the study/fourth bedroom by taking space — but not too much! — from the master bedroom. It could also be improved by rearranging the kitchen and dining space and removing an interior wall to open the space up even further.

Option B

The biggest strength to option B was the sizes of the two upstairs bedrooms. While option A had one large and one small bedroom, option B had two rooms about the same size. In addition to the main terrazza that was in both plans, B also included a small terrazza off one of the bedrooms — a nice little touch.

We discussed our options with our general contractor Kevin. We decided to work from the option A design and try to redo the top floor to include option B’s strengths. Off he went to the architect.

Floor plans for a country house in Italy
Revised plan @ 190m2 Click image to enlarge

This morning we awakened to find a new set of plans in the email. Happily, on the whole, they addressed the issues I mentioned and in a good way. The ground floor study was enlarged a bit and the main area rearranged. On the top floor the bedroom sizes had been adjusted and we even had space for a linen closet.

We had a couple of small tweaks to this plan: French doors instead of a window in the master and a smaller window in the kitchen to provide wall space for cabinets. We also identified some missing information, in particular the ceiling height and the shape of the corner fireplace. (It was drawn as a trapezoid.)

However, we noticed one measurement that gave us pause. The hall from the entryway to the main room was exactly 1.00 meter wide. This isn’t a long hallway, but that seemed to be a bit narrow — but maybe not. We measured some openings in our current house and couldn’t tell for sure. Maybe that’s standard in Italy.

So today’s plan went back to Kevin and the architect, mostly with just the question about this entry hall. We’re hoping to feel comfortable with this 1.00 width, as we have an absolute constraint of one of the structural pillars defining the space, so to widen this opening might mean a total redesign. That’s not what we want to do, but we don’t want to be disappointed later.

First mage source: www.pixabay.com License: CC0 Public domain. Free for commercial use. No attribution required. Other images: Copyright Our Big Italian Adventure