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"Scope in a Hole" Observatory

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#1 J_D_Metzger

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Posted 27 September 2010 - 11:06 AM

I finalized the floor plan for my "sunken" observatory and signed with the contractor a few days ago. The builders are coming tomorrow to lay out the site and hopefully excavation will start shortly.

Here's the final floorplan:

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#2 J_D_Metzger

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Posted 27 September 2010 - 11:12 AM

And here's a side view of the observatory. If you read the earlier thread, you know that the reason I'm sinking the building below grade is to meet my HOA's requirement that restricts the height of any structure to less than 5'.

If all my neighbors had approved a taller structure, I could have built a standard ROR, but unfortunately, one neighbor withheld approval. So, the "Scope in a Hole" was conceived...

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#3 J_D_Metzger

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Posted 27 September 2010 - 11:14 AM

I'm still undecided about a name for the observatory, so for now "Scope in a Hole" will do. :) Any serious suggestions are welcome, by the way...

Here's the "before" picture of the site for the observatory. I'll be posting photos as the work progresses.

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#4 seryddwr

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Posted 27 September 2010 - 01:21 PM

Yaaay! :jump: I can't wait to see how this project comes along. :twitch:

#5 Paula E

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Posted 27 September 2010 - 01:36 PM

I realize that you are in Arizona, and so this will be less of a concern than in many other places, but how will you keep water out of the structure when part of it is below grade?

#6 J_D_Metzger

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Posted 27 September 2010 - 03:21 PM

I realize that you are in Arizona, and so this will be less of a concern than in many other places, but how will you keep water out of the structure when part of it is below grade?


Water? What water? :grin:

Seriously, that has been my biggest concern with the design. We do get some very heavy thunderstorms during our "monsoon" season in the summer.

The building exterior will be waterproofed up to 4" above grade, and there will be a drainage system around the perimeter, which will drain to the east, the same direction that my property drains. I will also seal the slab and interior walls. I'm hoping that will handle it.

Just in case, I'm going to store my equipment at least a foot off the floor until the building has proved it's watertight... :fingerscrossed:

#7 Mary B

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Posted 27 September 2010 - 06:14 PM

Maybe make a door panel with a gasket that could be installed over the regular door during heavy rains. An extra later of protection at the weakest link would help.

#8 Paula E

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Posted 27 September 2010 - 06:41 PM

A drain and possibly a sump pump might be worthwhile additions too. If you kept your gear slightly off the floor, you'd likely get by largely unscathed. (Although if you found you had to use the pump consistently you have real problems.) Still, might be cheap insurance against catastrophe.

#9 J_D_Metzger

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Posted 27 September 2010 - 07:29 PM

Maybe make a door panel with a gasket that could be installed over the regular door during heavy rains. An extra later of protection at the weakest link would help.


The door sill is 4" above grade, and the door is on the down-slope (and down-wind) side of the building. I don't think water coming in around the door will be a problem.

#10 ZeroID

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Posted 27 September 2010 - 07:35 PM

This sounds like a good idea for another reason, temperature. Ground temp below the surface is far more stable than being fully exposed and if your door is on downhill side with more fal then water ingress shouldn't be an issue.
Why else build wine cellars below ground ... works for me !!

#11 J_D_Metzger

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Posted 27 September 2010 - 07:55 PM

A drain and possibly a sump pump might be worthwhile additions too. If you kept your gear slightly off the floor, you'd likely get by largely unscathed. (Although if you found you had to use the pump consistently you have real problems.) Still, might be cheap insurance against catastrophe.


I really don't think I'll have a problem with water, but you're right, a drain would be good insurance. I'll talk to the contractor and see what he thinks.

One problem is that I'm not running power to the obs. It is a 275' run from the house power panel and was going to be very expensive. I plan to initially just use a rechargable power pack, and later install solar. So powering a sump pump is problematic.

I am making provision for grid power if it should become necessary, but initially the obs will be off-grid.

#12 J_D_Metzger

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Posted 27 September 2010 - 08:29 PM

There are several potential issues with a below-grade slab, and having the scope close to ground level:

- water seepage during summer downpours
- ground heat effects on seeing
- increased humidity during those rare winter nights in the desert when the dew point gets out of control
- and probably some I haven't thought of...

But what the heck...nothing ventured, nothing gained... :)

#13 1965healy

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Posted 27 September 2010 - 08:41 PM

Just as an aside, they make 12v bilge pumps for sailboats that could easily be adapted to use as a sump pump. A deep cycle marine battery and a 5 watt solar charger should keep you in business.

#14 1965healy

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Posted 27 September 2010 - 08:56 PM

Short Stack Observatory.

The Bunker Observatory.

Deep Sky Observatory.

Down Under Observatory.

Step Down Observatory.

#15 John Fitzgerald

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Posted 27 September 2010 - 09:31 PM

You also will want to make sure someone (yourself included) does not walk into the side of the open roof in the dark. With people of 6'2" and over, that is a problem with mine too, and it's slightly above grade.

#16 Mary B

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Posted 27 September 2010 - 09:36 PM

They make 12 volt sump pumps.

#17 mikey cee

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Posted 27 September 2010 - 11:26 PM

If he gets to the point of needing a sump, I'm afraid the party is over! :shocked: :grin:Mike

#18 Kaizu

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Posted 27 September 2010 - 11:26 PM

I have a bilge automat in my boat. It's behind 15A fuse and takes 10A when running. The capacity is ca.10 liters/ minute. If there normally is sunny and it rains rarely, the solar cell may work. Here in Finland it would work only at summer time (boating season).

Kaizu

#19 J_D_Metzger

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Posted 27 September 2010 - 11:49 PM

If he gets to the point of needing a sump, I'm afraid the party is over! :shocked: :grin:Mike


I agree...

#20 Paula E

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Posted 27 September 2010 - 11:53 PM

If he gets to the point of needing a sump, I'm afraid the party is over! :shocked: :grin:Mike


Agreed, but it's disaster insurance. If he ever needs it, the observatory is done for. Hopefully it would save some gear. The ideal situation is to never need it in the first place.

Initially the structure, if built properly, will likely be just fine. But over time the walls could begin to seep.

The drainage you're putting in can make a huge difference though. I have a neighbor here with a section of his house below grade. It leaked really badly - but they installed some french drains that channeled the water away from where it entered the house. So far it's been dry in there, I'm told. Previously quite a lot of water seeped in between the wall and the foundation. (No doubt your builder will do a *much* better job of building the walls / foundation than these guys did - famous last words here "well there ain't no building code out here...")

#21 RoundStars

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Posted 28 September 2010 - 06:23 AM

J.D.:

Consider installing perforated ABS drain tile around the outside of the foundation, buried in a gravel-filled trench (a so-called "French drain), to collect any ground water. Drain these to a sump well inside, in the floor of the structure. Install both an AC-operated sump pump, and a battery-operated emergency pump. This arrangement will prevent groundwater from seeping into the structure. I've seen this commonly used in the Kansas City area to prevent basement flooding.

Check with a foundation expert, but I think the drain tile should be installed near the foundation footings, not at grade level.

For peace of mind, install a flooding alarm that sounds inside the house.

The sunken observatory is a sharp piece of thinking!

-Joe

#22 nytecam

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Posted 28 September 2010 - 07:29 AM

The sunken observatory is a sharp piece of thinking!

;)

#23 Doug76

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Posted 28 September 2010 - 11:21 AM

If all my neighbors had approved a taller structure, I could have built a standard ROR, but unfortunately, one neighbor withheld approval. So, the "Scope in a Hole" was conceived...


Some neighbor. :mad:

Still, it is a design I contemplated myself. I think you'll find it very serviceable.

#24 Doug76

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Posted 28 September 2010 - 11:25 AM

The Bunker Observatory.

Down Under Observatory.


I like these!

Some others could be the Subway, or Underground, or Crypt. :lol:

#25 J_D_Metzger

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Posted 28 September 2010 - 11:37 AM

A "french drain" system has been part of the design since day one.


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