Construction on the observatory started the beginning of August 2002 during a very dry and hot summer. This is not recommended! The new home was well underway and it was time to get serious. The biggest advantage at this time was equipment and material already on the job. What really brought this project together is a dear friend and then President of our astronomy club, John Turchi. John is a truly wonderful person and one of the most enthusiastic people I know. You get him talking astronomy and watch his eyes light up. He has been a mentor to many a new member and was awarded a green laser by a club member so that when he pointed where to look in the sky there would be no question. Needless to say it was dubbed the Turchi Finger and believe me anyone trying to find a faint object was glad to have John and his "finger" around.
So with plans in hand and John's dedication, we started this project. John is a very skilled carpenter and has the tools and knowledge to really help things along. What he didn't have was a backhoe to dig the footers for the post and piers. The post sit on concrete 3' in the ground and the piers supports are 5' deep. Our intent was to dig these by hand but after a very long, dry summer and attempts with digging bars and picks only scratching the surface, I felt that the contractor building my house was probably the person to help here especially since the backhoe was parked about 10' away from where we were trying to crack the earth. Seemed like digging by hand was a good idea back when it was 60˚ but by now the temperature was seldom below 90˚ with extreme humidity.
Next the lumber was ordered and delivered. I thought I was getting a really good deal on lumber till the day it was delivered. The delivery came on a morning that I could not be there and the driver simply dumped the banded bundles. Did I mention the heat and humidity? When I got there both bundles were scattered on the ground and I had to move each piece and stack. Not such a good deal after all. At least the lumber wasn't busted.
The overall dimensions of the observatory is 10'X26'. This allows a 10'x10' conditioned control room and a 10'x16' observing area. The roof over the observing area is a roll off truss roof. The trusses allow a 1' overhang on the sides and the pitch is 12/2. Due to the low pitch for clearance, I used a commercial white rubber roof covering over the plywood. This allows for maximum heat reflection, lighter weight and cooler interior temperatures. The control room roof is a shed style with the same material. The truss roof rolls to the north over the control room roof on rails made of 1 1/2"x1 1\2" galvanized angle iron. The support railing extends past the control room for full opening. Wheels from McMaster Carr were used to carry the roof on the rail. Theses cast iron wheels have greaseable bearings, are 4" diameter and "V" grooved. A wire chain is used to secure the roof when closed up. The interior walls in the observing area are 6' tall and there is a step down into the control room allowing for 6' in the lowest area.
The pier supports are isolated from the floor structure and insulated around to eliminate any floor movement from disturbing the telescopes. I had a trencher on site for the underground utilities so we dug an additional trench to the observatory from the house. I ran 2 - 2 1/2" and 1 - 1 1/2" PVC conduits from the house to the observatory. When the house was framed and before sheetrock, I installed a Siemens Home Wiring system which took care of TV, satellite, telephone and networking. Every room in the house less the bathrooms is wired with 2 - Cat5E and 2 - triple shielded coax wires. I used a wire that has those four wires pre-wrapped into one cable which made the cable about the physical size as the 6/3 SEU I ran for power. I included 2 runs of the communications wire in one conduit and the power in the other 2 1/2". This gave me 60 amp service for the observatory and 1 - Cat5e for phone and 3 - Cat5e for networking. This left the 1 1/2" conduit for something else if needed later. It also provided the coax for 3 - TV's with satellite if I want them! Possibly a monitor feed should I decide to operate the equipment from my home. Not yet.
I installed a separate 100 amp main lug panel in the observatory for electrical needs. In the control room there are 5 separate 115 volt circuits to deal with small fridge, microwave, lights, an A/C and 2 computers stations. The only 220 volt circuit is for the 6' baseboard electric heater. The observing area has 4 - 115 volt circuits. One for each pier, one for the laptop computers and one for lights. All circuits are ground fault protected except for the baseboard heater. There is also an outside receptacle.
The material used is as follows:
2x12 Floor framing
2x10 Side walls
2x4x12" 12/2 pitch roof trusses
3/4" Ext. Plywood Floors
1/2" Ext. Plywood Exterior walls
R-19/R30 Insulation Control room walls, ceiling and all floors
3/0 ThermaTru Ext Door 3' Fiberglass exterior door cut down
1/4" 4x8 Luan Interior observing area
1/4" Panel Control room interior walls
Laminate Floor Control room floor
Various trims for base and corners, 24" Luan doors for desk tops, bolts, washers, nuts, nails, calk and so forth. Don't forget electrical and communications. Look over the web and see what others have done and draw your plans from that. If possible, get a competent carpenter to review your plans and always check local building codes and neighborhood restrictions. Your project may require a building permit.
The best advice I can offer is to really plan your design for now and whatever future plans you may be thinking of. It is generally less expensive to build using standard lengths rather than having a lot of scrap in the end. Your overall dimensions can be of help here.