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What is Keene Castle?

Keene Castle originally started off as just a dream home to live in.  But along the way it became much more than that.  It became a source of inspiration, not just for achieving one's goals in life but also to teach the world about alternative energy and alternative building. Can a 1 man construction team build a castle? With perseverance, absolutely!

Goals of Keene Castle Project
  • An inspiration to others that you really can achieve your dreams
  • A demonstration of green building and alternative energy
  • A place where kids can learn that science is fun and interesting
  • A beautiful home for my little prince & princesses
Castle Construction Progress June/July 2017
I'm currently working on the footings for the castle. Just a little bit more to go and I can move onto the foundation. That will be infinitely easier than the footings because I can use BuildBlock ICFs (Insulated Concrete Forms).


Marking the height of the footing with my laser transit.


Bending rebar for the footings


This is the form solution I came up with for building a footing on uneven granite. I drill holes to place rebar that holds the forms in place. Wire attaches the plywood to the rebar. The gaps under the plywood are filled with concrete which is left to dry before the footing is poured. Height of the footing is determined by the tape on the center rebar.


This day we poured 98 bags of concrete in about 7 hours.


I keep telling my wife that if she wants to help pour concrete, she really needs to wear appropriate footwear.




A freshly poured footing.


Footings after taking the plywood forms off.

The big room will be my workshop and the small one is a closet. The round turret on the right will be part of a huge closet.


Starting on the next section of footings: the round turret for the home gym.


I marked the footing for the corner of the kitchen onto the granite.


This project takes a lot of blood, sweat and tears. Some days, more blood than others. Cut myself on a sharp knife while sharpening a pencil.


Marking the footing with masking tape for the round stairwell.


The stairwell footing is now marked.


Just placed the rebar for the dining room wall.


Here you can see how far down we had to blast last year to get the stairwell footing where it needed to be.


I got the round turret for the family room marked on the granite.


The dump truck went into a ditch and I had to pull it out with the excavator.


Looking toward the dining room footing. I designed the castle around that glacial rock because I really like it. It's a piece of history.



Here the footing forms for the home gym are almost done.

The 2 round turrets on the left straddle the front door.
Excavator Accident April 2017
May 1, 2017

I went over the cliff in the excavator last week. I contracted Rusty's Towing to pull my excavator back up on the cliff. They did a great job!



April 24, 2017

The 2017 build season started off with a bang! I was working a bit too close to the cliff, the excavator slid and went over with me in it. Almost killed me. I was stopped by a few thin trees right before going over a 200 ft. cliff. But I'm not deterred, I will persevere. I'll pull the excavator back up this week and be back to work as soon as possible.

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Castle Construction Progress in 2016

This is what I accomplished in the 2016 building season:

Finished filling the two terraces
Brought in more fill in front of castle
Castle design mostly done
Septic design done
Got permits
All brush & dirt removed from ledge where footings are going
Footing lines marked on ledge
Blasting on cliff for staircase
Footings finished for round entrance turrets & staircase turret
More brush removed from parking area to prepare for blasting in 2017

Click on pictures to enlarge:

This is the 20 acre lot plan showing the road I built from the town road.

Satellite pic of the 1100' road I built. I learned a valuable lesson: don't tell road contractors you are building a castle or they will think you are some sort of nut case. After 5 of them blew me off I got so pissed off I bought a full size excavator and did it myself! Best decision I ever made because it saved me about $150K, was loads of fun and now I have an excavator which is a really handy tool to have in a project like this.


I bought a Phantom III Drone to take shots of the cliff.
In 2015 I moved the cabin to a different cliff because it was sitting right where the castle livingroom turret needs to be built.



I blasted in July '16 to make space for a stairwell on the lower level. See the blast video above.



My design of how the castle will look on the cliff. I used Home Designer Pro to do this. It was a good package for prototyping but it can't the detailed work like the crenellated parapets.
The small terrace took 4 years to build. It went painfully slow working on it on weekends driving up from Massachusetts. I had to be strapped into a climbing harness to do that one which actually saved my life once when I slipped on wet mortar and went over the cliff. The grand terrace took 5 years. When we moved to the area in 2008, the project really took off and I finished 3/4 of the grand terrace in only 2 years.


The stairwell turret in this picture has actually been lowered to account for out height restriction in Thornton. We are limited by the size of our largest fire truck.

Footings and foundation design from my structural engineer.



I hired a professional architect in to take the drawings I did in Home Designer Pro and turn them into real Autocad drawings with full detail. This is the first floor plan.

Second floor plan.


Family room / recreation room under the living room.

AutoCAD rendering of the side view showing the split level.



I am modeling the entrance after Le Château de Vigny in France. I used Photoshop to remove one of the stories to accommodate our height restriction. See the original.

Design of the front of the castle.



Here you can see the lines I panted on the ledge to mark the positions of the footings.

This drone shot shows the plan to scale with the actual build site. You can see the footing lines marked on the cliff.



It took we a lot of trial and error to come up with a system of forms that would work for a round turret being built on a granite slope with the goal of reusing some of the form plywood.

Rebar placed for the stairwell turret footing. This is an early shot and I was misreading my structural engineer's drawing. I was using 1/2" rebar epoxied 16" deep into the granite. The plan calls for 1" rebar so I had to go back and add more bar.



The left entrance turret footing

The right entrance turret footing.



Finished the '16 build season with 3 round turret footings done. These are the hardest of the footings.

My architect took my drawings and did a rendering of the inside of the living room. The view through the windows is the actual view.
Progress in 2015: Back Filled the Two Terraces

Over Columbus Day weekend I finally backfilled the lower terrace. There was just no good way to do this so I resorted to sheer brute force and determination.  The only solution I could come up with was to fill the wheelbarrow with my excavator and fill the terrace one wheelbarrow load at a time!

Lance Keene
This is my John Deere 190. My wife refers to it as "the other woman."

Lance Keene

Lance Keene
Finally finished after 3 days of back breaking work. Every muscle in my body was sore. Thank God for Ibuprofen!

Castle Design
Keene Castle
Castle Photo History
Lance Keene

See progress photos 1998 to now.

Stay hungry, Stay foolish

"The youth gets together his materials to build a bridge to the moon, or, perchance, a palace or temple on the earth, and, at length, the middle-aged man concludes to build a woodshed with them."
-Henry David Thoreau

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition… Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”
-Steve Jobs, Stanford University, 2005

Lance Keene
If you have a dream, a burning desire to accomplish something great in life, then go for it! Don't believe the rest of the world when they tell you it can't be done. You may not have all the answers but you will find them if your goal is clear and your desire is unwavering. Believe in yourself! Yes you can build your "castle"!
- Lance Keene

Dream no small dreams for these have no power to move the hearts of men.
-Goethe


The economy is turning around. Think big, don't cut corners and plan for the long term.  We are at the beginning of the next major economic boom period.  The processes we put into place this year will pay dividends for the rest of your life. The future is bright! Seize the moment! -Lance Keene
 
Lance Keene
President
Keene Systems, Inc.