Managing Water in Zone Zero

Developing on the permaculture concept home I shared on a previous post, I found myself dreaming about pvc pipe layouts at 5am and contemplating better routes to run water utilities beneath the slab. The recent freeze we had in Texas made this a sticking point in my head-trying to not add to the frustrations of folks having to deal with warping sheetrock walls and ceiling fans dripping with water.

We should manage and function stack these water utilities in zone zero with as much design effort as we do for our zone 1 to 5 water systems. We tend to neglect improving generally known construction concepts for them since we use them all the time.

The common route is to run it underground, under the slab, with lots of freedom for the contractor to install where it makes sense on site. Maybe across the dining room slab since that cuts the shortest path and avoids some rock-but this proves to be a difficult repair later when they have to dig up your terrazzo floor which they will now never be able to match.

On the other hand, I can be more mindful and design in a route for easy access and repair in the future. I could run this closer to the perimeter walls or towards more service oriented parts of the home. This is not really a unique idea, but home building plans tend to be flexible with this and so during construction the ideas put into the drawings do not always manifest. Due to their simplicity, houses don’t get as much coordination with the utilities compared to larger buildings. Sometimes where you planned for your perfect cleanout moved because a concrete footer ended up being moved there.

I want to design in reduced turns on my drainage, so you won’t have to be snaking it every 6 months from legos or baby bottle parts that washed down the sink. I will keep my main supply pipe in an accessible, non-disruptive and efficient area to minimize points of failure, save you cost and trips to Home Depot and not need you to have to dig so many unnecessary trenches in the Texas summer. Also design so it has reduced damage to the home’s interior if it does freeze.

I have to confess this idea of serviceability for plumbing also came about while I was digging up my yard to tunnel my way to some drain pipes for repair. I kept thinking why do we do it this way, is there a better way and does that better way make financial sense. I weighed the pros and cons of leaving your trench available for future servicing. There’s ways to do it, but I don’t see them making financial sense in general. There’d be added cost for rebar on your slab for one, where you would leave your trench unfilled. I like the idea, but for now it is shelved until some technology makes it worth revisiting.


Alt-Ark‘s goal is to make architecture more permaculture. We seek to empower the creation of forever homes that families can design to match the lives they choose.