Unique planter box instead of lanai

12 years ago

I'm building a couple green/modern-design duplexes in Honolulu. They offer partial green roofs, rain catchment, solar photovoltaics/thermal (zero energy home) and a few other unique green features.

The bedrooms are made small for several reasons... air conditioning is provided by the photovoltaic system. It takes twice as much energy to cool a room twice as large and people in Hawaii generally run a/c in their bedrooms all night, especially in loud urban environments. Also, because of the high density of downtown Honolulu, very restrictive city-mandated interior size limitations and super high build cost + land ($400-$500/sq ft build incl land cost), the overall size of each individual unit must be made small. As a result I designed most bedrooms to be approx 100-125 sq ft. Lanai space is not counted toward my maximum building area so I decided to have a small lanai on each of the bedrooms. The building offers some great views of the city skyline and partial ocean but it's also being built next to a freeway (not the really big ones in the mainland) so there are noise considerations. Each unit has a lanai downstairs (accessible from the living room/kitchen area) and a large rooftop deck. Having an accessible lanai in the bedroom seemed a bit excessive, especially since it's somewhat noisy right outside. So instead of a lanai, I wanted to create a planter box.

Imagine a small lanai 2 feet deep, 8 feet wide. Now instead of mounting an 96" wide x 80" tall sliding door on the floor (typical lanai access), I would build a short wall about 14" high and then mount a shortened sliding door on top. I currently have a 14" header on top the window so it balances out well (14" of finished drywall on top and 14" of finished drywall on the bottom). I would then waterproof this 2' x 8' area, install a drain pipe and a water line for a drip irrigation system. After that, I can introduce a lightweight soil, run a few landscape lights and plant a handful of clumping bamboo or podocarpus maki (I want that modern Asian garden look). Finally, I would place a thin layer (just enough to cover the planting medium) of river rock on top to give it that finished rock garden look.

I'm concerned that some people may not like that there is no access to the lanai. Technically, there is, but you would have to step up on top of the 14" "built-up" garden and stand precariously over a lower 24" rail system. Of course the plants will be blocking you from doing this. In the future, someone could always remove the soil and plants and have a lanai, but there would be that awkward 14" wall in the way.

Should I decrease the height of this wall to 10 or 12"? I think 14" is required for plantings and to insure the bamboo plants don't blow over in the wind. I don't want them growing much past 6 or 8 feet in height.

Is this idea just whacky? I think this will look really cool from inside the bedroom, especially at night when the uplighting casts light on the bamboo. And it visually expands the interior living space a bit, making it feel bigger than it is.

Does anyone see any serious problems with this setup? I plan to put it on each of 8 bedrooms I'm building (4 units).

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