Sunday, January 27, 2008

Jargon: Frost Line

Frost line and frost line (Wikipedia)

I was listening to the radio program Living on Earth and heard about The Home Ground Project which collects evocative definitions in their series The Language of Landscape. I heard Eva Saulitis of Homer, Alaska define frostline in a wonderful way, new to me. [Listen here.] It prompted me to give you my definition as well.

In architecture and construction foundations are critical to the success of any project. In this context the frost line is the depth below the surface that the ground freezes. I understand that the term originates from visual inspection of groundwater wells. You could actually see frost down the walls of the well.

Knowing the depth of the frost line is important in foundation design because soils increase in volume when they freeze (just like that soda that exploded in the freezer). If the primary foundation elements are above the frost line your whole house will move with the freeze and thaw cycle. If it is too expensive to dig below the frost line your structural engineer can look into shallow foundations intended to work with the freeze thaw cycle. For practical purposes the local building code may set an official frost line based on the worst freeze in the past 99 years.

If you are interested in more definitions from Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape check out their website The Home Ground Project or listen to previous entries from Living on Earth.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Research 03: The World Where We Live

The house, neighborhood, city, and region we pick all interact with other critical choices of how we want to live. Work opportunities, safety, transportation, access to services; these factors and others must be addressed when committing to make a community your home. What can we use to make the best decision?

Here are my suggestions.

Do your best to live in a neighborhood that demonstrates it values people. Be interested in how people in various roles might interact with you if you choose this or that community. Try and evaluate the limitations inherent in the neighborhood. Look out for transportation. Are there sidewalks? Bike paths? How far are things you need from your home? Think density. Can you buy groceries without getting in your car? Is there somewhere you could stand on a soapbox and speak your mind? If you succeed in finding a community that values people you will have neighbors who are friends and playmates for your children, opportunities to meet and know people, and more freedom to be yourself.