16' x 16' footprint Farmhouse challenge

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Thanks to some incredible support from Kbird, Solver, Jo_Ann and Elovia I have made such rapid progress

on my design that I am not sure how I got to where I am with the plan.   Unusually,  while this is a relatively

miniature structure, my wife insists on full conventional stairway to a 2nd floor sleeping area and it has proven

difficult to shoehorn it in with a kitchen and full bath downstairs.   Arguably the space taken by the stairway

is about the same I think as the space on the 2nd floor devoted to sleeping to where it could be easier and cheaper

to put it all on one floor.  A lot of things we do dont always make the most sense so the objective here is to have

a 2nd floor.    While I have been convinced that knee walls on the 2nd floor provide a fantastic return on investment,

I want to first take the std  16x16 plan with 8 ft exterior walls and  sleeping area jammed into the attic area and see

how far I can get.  Then later look at 10ft and 12ft exterior walls to see how it improves the 2nd floor space and the use

of kneewalls may be the only way to provide the much needed head clearance in all areas of the stairway.


There are always options for enhancement and it has been pointed out that dormers could be very useful

as well as expanding laterally instead of vertically.  ie   16x18  or 16x20  footprint instead of using higher

exterior walls to raise the roof up.


In fact, a reference to some other plans has shown me that there could be some merit to a more rectangular

than square footprint such as  12x22  that might provide more utility while keeping essentially the same interior space

and could address some stairway problems without having to raise the roof.


I am attaching the latest version of my plan for everyones review and keep in mind that the stairways display option

has to be turned off to see the shower stall that the stairs pass over.


So far it seems the biggest bug in the ointment is the head clearance on the 1st stairwell landing and head clearance

at the top of the stairs as you enter the 2nd floor.I can possibly cut a hole in the roof over the lower stair landing

because over that hole will be the shed style roof that covers a front porch and intersects halfway up the regular roof.  

This is not shown in my home designer plans but I know I can do it in the real world.     Part of the problem is that I

need slightly steeper stairs than the program will allow.... OR   a second landing at the top of the stairs over the

shower that will allow a stair climber to enter the room at the highest point of the roof.

There are too many ways that this house would not meet code so I wish the CA higher ups would just allow total

manual override of the stairway parameters.


I would like to add that I intend to make this cabin extremely energy efficient.   I am already starting with 6 inch

exterior walls and the ability to control air movement between floors  ( you gotta love those full stairs in such

a pipsqueak of a structure) .    Imagine that with the 2nd floor closed off,  the ceiling R-Value for the 1st floor must

be around R-75...... so it will be super easy to heat and cool etc.


Lastly while I have not yet drawn into my plans the open front porch or the rear screen enclosed porch I plan

for them both to be full width and utilize the traditional shed roof that is seen so often on typical Farm Houses.


Hey, if we are not careful before long this will have a 3rd floor with deck on the roof and a diving board for the pool

in my backyard.  It could happen and still be a 16x16 !      Seriously thanks for all the helpful computer and

real world design suggestions.



16x16 cabin stairs-on 09H.plan

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If you would not mind, it would be interesting to know where this will be built. Just a general idea.


I've been following the tiny/small house movement for some time, and while I believe the tiny, built on a trailer places are far too small, small is still good.


You are understanding the problem with stairs in a small house, also the issue of the upper floor being warmer than the lower. The two reasons I've moved away from a multi-floor living space in my designs.


Have you considered alternating tread stairs? They help solve the space issue, and after a short adjustment period, are said to feel much like a regular stair. One of these days, I'm going to build a short set and try them myself.




Here is my Stair Dialog. Control over width, rise, run etc. I can also drag the stair to make it narrower, wider etc in plan view.




You could add winders at the lower landing.


I would add the porches to your plan too. You will need to be able to do sections of the structure to check for clearances.


As for insulation, have you considered a REMOTE or PERSIST house. Both methods place all the wall insulation outside the structure using ridged foam. You could do (from in to out) exposed framing, T&G sheathing,  insulation, then your exterior siding. Giving a rustic, cabin look, but still very well insulated.


The bath under the stairs could have a reduced ceiling height. The top landing could be a step or two down from the bedroom floor. You don't need full depth joist there either. 2x4 will work for the short span and give you a bit more room.

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Eric, I am building this as a weekend getaway on a stream about 20 miles north of Atlanta, GA.  20 years ago I bought some rural land crazy

cheap because the the children of parents were squabling over inheritance after parents passed away.  They wanted their money now and were

in a hurry to sell the family property.    I like all your ideas and apologize for not immediately implementing all of them.  The problem is

that I dont really know what the program is doing and since head room space on the stairs and in the shower and on the 2nd floor is my

biggest problem,  I need to figure out exactly how the program is figuring heights and whether the cross sections are reflecting my

inputs as far as 2nd floor joist size etc.  I lowered the 1st floor ceiling a little and then added back 11.25 inch for 2x12 joist size plus

about .75" for plywood subfloor.  These are what I set my defaults to for 1st floor and I dont know if the photo cross sections

and under roof clearance and stairway generation is reflecting these values as the roof rafters will be sitting on the wall top plates etc.


I took your advice and have continued to play with the stairs and now have three treads leading to the lower landing which gives me

a higher takeoff point to clear the shower and to enter the 2nd floor room at the highest point of the roof.


I plan to add back the top stair landing and I think I need one or two steps in a top 3rd section of stairs to enter right under the peak

of the roof.   Again I am not sure how low the upper landing can go before it interferes with a minimum height of 76 inches in the shower

below.   I am really down to fine tuning this plan to the inches which I want to do..... to see how close I can come to acceptability

before I explore 2ft and 4 ft kneewalls.   I want to fine tune several different exterior wall options and then pick the overall best in terms

of mostly my wifes desires.     She is demanding the stairs otherwise I would go with a ladder or alternating tread stairs going up and a firemans

pole coming down ! etc.    There is something to be said for the safety and insurability of stairways.    A best kept secret is that insurers will

not insure  homes with ladders and absence of fire barrier throughout etc. 


You are right in a way about multi story dwellings but I have tamed them and used their disadvantages to my benefit.   I have owned and lived

in a couple of townhouses and homes with cathedral ceilings and balconies etc.  just terrible all !    But  I have built a couple of 2 story homes

with stairways and doors shutting off air movement in the winter and summer time.   When most of the occupancy is spent on the lower floor,

the entire top floor when closed off then becomes another layer of insulation barrier resulting in unbelievably low utility bills.


Right you are about the 2x4s under the top stair landing......  Sometimes I am so close to the forest I cannot see the trees.


Let me go back and wrestle more with the stairs to try to get them to do what I want.    Over the weekend  I had a 2nd top stair landing

and one or two steps to the 2nd floor and then took them away and now I am adding them back again.  When all is said and done

we can always say we had a couple hundred versions before we got the plan right.   Wonderful stuff this modern technology.

But sometimes and maybe this time I will have to resort to pencil and paper to draw ironclad cross-sections for dimensions.


I havent played with the CAD in the program yet and dont know how capable or flexible it is but I will get there still.


Porches are a definite for this structure is just that I have come so far so fast I am out of breath.  But I will be adding them.

I expect problems with getting a shed roof to intersect up on the regular roof however.


I am not familiar with REMOTE or PERSIST insulation  but I would not like interior exposed framing.   I cannot see how they

could get the thickness needed on the exterior to get some really good R values.   However,  whatever they are doing on the

exterior, I would consider adding to what I do between the 2x6 studs on the interior for a super insulated structure.


I am not familiar with the term "winders" on the lower landing.   I now have three treads leading to the lower landing which is

raising the landing  off the main floor about 32 inches.


Here are a couple of camera views.  













16x16 cabin stairs-on 09Jb.plan

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In the above images I wanted to upload three camera shots that I had and then go back and delete the two worst ones but I cannot

find how to delete any of the images.   Anyway while not pretty because of my ineptitude with the program it is pretty

evident that the top stair entrance in unacceptably and needlessly low.    So my decision to create an upper landing one or two

stair treads lower on the stair section which should place the entrance very close to the peak of the roof ceiling height.


Also see the 1st floor camera shot showing my additional stair tread to the landing and  gazing into the bathroom to see

the bottom of the stairway sticking through slightly into the shower stall at an agreeable height.  Amen !

Further you can see the tip of the toilet and the sink in the bathroom. and a slight glimpse into the kitchen with

the fridge and counter showing a bit.   Wow this is really turning out nicer than I expected.


Long term I predict that I will be totally sold on probably a 12 foot exterior wall ( 4 ft knee wall )  with the full bath moved

upstairs like a couple local geniuses recommended.   In that case I will place a toilet where the shower

now resides  and giving the bathroom space back to the living area.    An advantage to this is that beside the

toilet would be a cabinet door offering access to under the stairway for storage if not a door from the living

area accessing the under stair area.     The hazard is that someone could get lost wandering around in all

that newly found excess  living space.  


Maybe I could build a whole subdivision of these..... not  totally kidding.   Anyone ever hear of Levittown and the

thousands of Cape Cod  design homes ?     This little cabin is very very close to what was known as a "Half Cape"

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Is there a reason your images are not showing the bedroom floor?


Don't forget Glass House view if available. This one shows a small office and half bath.










Consider 2x6 floor joist. You don't need to span the entire space.






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To manage your attachments (images), click your user name at the top of the page, click My Settings, click Manage Attachments on the left.

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Plan with kitchen and bath reversed. Trying to use all the space under the stairs. Room for water heater left of refrigerator. Stairs are 2' wide and fairly steep with an 8" rise. In my local, stairs leading to space less than 200 sq ft don't need to meet code.


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Clearance under stairs. Stairs can be built to save space, especially smaller ones like this. no need for large stringers hanging down below.


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You would need to allow for headroom over the stairs, but reversing the runs so the longer one is on the bottom, opens up some additional possibilities.


I'm also showing exterior doors as out swinging. Only real problem is if you want screened doors. I would to keep all the bugs out  :) .


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Park Model homes have some good, compact floor plans. You might get some ideas looking at the ones with lofts. They all have small stairs leading up, but the loft is not high enough to stand in -- unless you are 3' tall.

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Moving stairs and kitchen. Allows access to most of under stair space. Water heater under landing, drawers etc under lower flight.



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Eric- please step out and take a bow. What fantastic design ideas.  I try hard to think outside the box

but you are really talented in that area.

You have also shown me that I was not specific enough when I said 16x16 as a target.  You have presented

1. an economy car model with efficiency and lowest cost,  2.  a Maximum Social Accommodation model, (BMW) 

3. an SUV model I think which is an upscale Pickup Truck with comfort and 4. a Pickup Truck model

for maximum occupancy and utility.


In time I would like to take each of these approaches and fine tune them within the 16x16 footprint

but thanks to a few of your brilliant suggestions,  I am bound to pursue the economy car model first

as a test of my creative abilities to see just how far pure design ingenuity can take us.


Specifically the economy car model being the structure with 8ft exterior walls and the bare minimum sleeping

area on the 2nd floor although maximized as much as possible through optimum design choices.


Let me introduce a few ideas before continuing...


It was mentioned that higher ceiling heights create a bigger feeling but I want to point out that it

is inefficient in terms of heating and cooling and utility for cost.  Further in our case higher ceilings

presents more problems with stairway headroom clearances.   So let me go in the opposite direction

and propose that "lower" ceilings can create a cozyness and certainly is more efficient than the

high cathedral ceilinged rooms we have all seen.    In the 1800's in the Northeast,  Cape Cod homes

were popular for reasons of efficiency and durability.  I'd like to show you some actual interior

photos of Cape Cod family rooms with 7 foot ceilings.   This dovetails right in with Erics  suggestion that with

a certain floor plan layout the joist spans are short and 2x6 can be used as 2nd floor joists.

So with a combination of several of Erics suggestions.....  I'd like to propose for the economy car model

that we consider an 8 ft exterior wall as actually a knee wall application if we use a 7 ft ceiling on the

1st floor and 2x6 joists.   This would provide a further benefit with the headroom height on the stairways and coupled

with the use of Eric's winders on the landings we can have a stairway opening into the middle of the 

upstairs attic space.  This is all coming together in a way that is too attractive not to pursue.


Additionally,  In the event that we still need some help with headroom on the 1st stairway landing

I am proposing many roof options to give us the needed headroom.   Realizing we are already

gaining some small assistance from the 1ft effective kneewall with the 8ft wall and 7 ft ceiling


1.  A steeper than 12/12 roof as used with high snowfall chalet type structures.   ( also helps with 2nd floor space )

2.  A Gambrell roof  ( also helps with 2nd floor space )

3.  Partial width shed dormer   or Full width shed dormer over the stairway ( also adds 2nd floor space )

4.  Two different approaches to bringing the front porch roof up to the main structure roof. ( also adds 2nd floor space )

     a.  midway up    b.  all the way up   ( see the attachments )  ( also adding 2nd floor space )

5.  Of course extending exterior wall heights to create higher knee walls ( greatly expands 2nd floor space )

     somehow I believe that when we begin to use greater than 8ft exterior walls it then takes this structure out of

     the economy car category......   I certainly have no objection and it may well prove to be more cheaply implemented

     than some of the other options mentioned......   In fact, I hope to design a full 2nd floor model option with an attic

     space over the 2nd floor as an ultimate expression !     I'll never outgrow my kid desire to someday

     have a firemans pole to slide down and a 3 story slide would be the ultimate. [firemans pole will likely be mentioned

     in my obituary]


Further in this economy car plan,  I can see that we can make better utilization of the under

stair area by putting a sink by the understair area instead of a toilet..... Or maybe no bathroom sink

at all.   Use the kitchen sink instead and have more space for storage etc.















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I think it is time we invent a fold down sink.   I was thinking about a bathroom with just a shower and a toilet and realized

what a shame we have flowing water and a drain in the shower but it is difficult to use just to wash your hands.

We are already half way there with the shower/tub  spout valve but instead of filling a tub we turn the valve to get the water

to come out of the lower spicket into a bowl that would somehow fold down or slide in from the wall or on a shelf

for sink like use.    The prisons already have put a sink on top of the toilet bowl....   The Urapeeans already

put sinks and toilets in the shower but our shower is too small.   Maybe the super micro RV sinks that are

already mounted in RV showers is the solution.   So, jump off the toilet and step into the shower and wash

your hands in the sink.  I guess leave the shower door always open until you take a shower ? ? ?

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regarding the Cape Cod living rooms with low ceiling photos....   Actually one of the rooms has open framing

with the 2nd floor wood strips showing above even though the framing bottoms are at 7 ft height.


Open Framing is a possibility with the economy car model using the 2x6 joists overhead for aesthetics

but it would be better efficiency wise to install a regular ceiling below with insulation stuffed in between the 2x6 joists.  

This is an individual value judgement.  Efficiency vs Looks.


Remember one goal is max efficiency and by closing off air movement up the stairs  during super hot and

super cold periods the 2nd floor space insulates the lower floor space.    But if you live in a very moderate

climate area go for the looks and the open frame ceiling above might not look that really low.   The open framing

sure gives a lot of opportunity to hang things....   I mean all kinds of things.... Almost like the ceiling 

becomes a storage closet.

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Have you considered how you will condition the space? 


Folding sinks are available as are toilet tank sinks. There are also plenty of small sinks that could fit in a corner, for example. Might need to look at RV suppliers for some things as they have generally scaled down versions.


Was going to suggest lowered ceiling with open joist. I think your primary focus should be air sealing between floors (exterior walls and roof too), and unsure about insulation being needed there. 


Winders don't work well on a narrow stair, unless the landing area is expanded. My stairs show a 9" tread, 8" rise and are 2' wide. Winders as shown in my 2nd image above are best.


Consider moving the landing and/or upper flight of stairs outside the 16x16 space. 


Thinking about the design process. I often design from the inside out, especially when there are few constraints on the exterior -- need to conform to setbacks, height restrictions etc. While trying to design within the 16' square is a good exercise, a goal of staying within the 256 sq ft might result in a better layout.

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Here are some ideas for the tiny house.

Raise the 2nd floor walls by 24" (as Eric suggested?), but raise the back wall an additional 66" (lower roof pitch on that wall).
This solves headroom problems for the stairs and the shower, and makes the 2nd floor SO much more functional.

Close off the 2nd floor?  I can't really see the point for that in such a small footprint (especially if you want the 2nd floor to be readily usable at all times).
But, if desired closed,  I would put a pocket door at the 2nd landing, thereby leaving a more open feeling to the 1st floor room.
The stairs have about an 8" rise, and a 9" tread .  My own basement stairs have this rise/tread, and they are not uncomfortable to use.

Tiny appliances and fixtures?  You want a tiny HOUSE, otherwise just buy a camper and park it on the property.
Use an apartment size range, fridge.  I would use a full size double bowl sink in the kitchen area,  and a minimal sink/vanity in the bathroom.

Please keep the bathroom upstairs.  Sounds,odors,and line-of-sight to the toilet in the livingroom/kitchen area  (a tight space)  would not be a very desirable experience!

With this type of layout, I think you can kick back on the sofa to watch tv,  without feeling claustrophobic:)







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Good ideas and plan Jo Ann.


Here is my twist on your idea.




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Just chipping in two more cents with respect to Jo_Ann's suggestions ...


Consider re-arranging the downstairs or placing the upstairs bathroom in closer proximity to (i.e., over) the downstairs kitchen.  Your design can be more efficient with plumbing and vent lines if they share a common plumbing wall.


Good luck. :)

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I thought about that, but couldn't figure out how to manage it without compromising spaciousness (due to the headroom issues for the stairs and shower).  The original bath also takes advantage of the sloped ceiling, to create a bigger space.


Moving the kitchen (pic #1) under the bath, works....but the living space downstairs suffers, and becomes an uncomfortable pass-through between the front and back doors.


Moving the bath instead, seems to work better (pic #2).  Although the bath now sucks up the 90" ceiling area upstairs, it still seems to leave enough 90" ceiling area in the bedroom.  If Perkins47 opts to not close off the stairwell, the bedroom would feel even bigger, especially if windows  (overlooking the back yard)  were added.



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I am very sorry for my extended absence as you all know life sometimes interferes with our fun.   I hope everyone here is learning and having half as much

fun as I am with this collaborative project.   It occurs to me that many people go through life without ever being able to be part of a collaborative team

of highly talented individuals and being able to take part in development on a deeply intellectual project that one person could not do by themselves.  

For some reason our minds are fixed and cannot always see all the alternatives I think because we are genetically inclined to pursue a path.  

Twenty years ago I had a software development company and I would have regular staff meetings where I would ask for all the craziest wildest ideas

so that we could record them for analysis as at some point in the future some of the crazy ideas in a different circumstance would seem to be a very

good idea.


I regularly go back and read over the many different suggestions to see if some of them now fit better in our "evolved" structure or solve

some problems or represent better tradeoffs depending on an individual occupants priorities etc.


Certainly is always a good idea to consider the practical technical aspects such as trying to align downstairs plumbing with upstairs plumbing

etc....  I also want to mention that we can sometimes design things that cannot practically be built... the program we are using as good

as it is does not have much experience framing a house as we have to always be asking ourselves... yea really neat but how do we build it ?


My concern is in the area of knee walls.  In these kinds of peaked roof structures, the roofs want to push the walls out  and someway we have to contain

these forces.  In simple structures the ceiling joists might tie the opposing walls together and in a lot of roofs we would put collar ties about two thirds

of the height from the floor to the peak holding the roof rafters together.     When we raise the walls with knee walls we have to work hard to

contain the forces trying to push the walls out.   One way to do this is to extend the 1st floor wall studs into the 2nd floor much like is done in

Timber Framing and the push out forces are contained by the vertical wall studs in a somewhat vertical cantilever manner.


When we get an exterior wall top plate height beyond 10, 12 or 14 ft I dont know if simply the use of 2x6s as studs is enough to contain the roof push out loads

if those plate heights mean 2, 4 or 6 ft knee wall heights..


Large houses I've built with the attic built out and with 2ft knee walls,  I've had to install braces from the floor 4 ft in from the outer wall to the

top of the knee wall.  It was not a problem because the interior walls of the attic rooms usually were about 5 ft in from the outside wall and the braces

existed in the unoccupied space.  In addition I also used collar ties at the 8 ft ceiling height of the roof structure.


So what I am saying is...... there is probably a limit to the use of knee walls in these super small structures with attics so small we dont want to use

any collar ties which would lower the effective ceiling height.     


There is kind of another technique to contain some roof push out loads and that is to use 2x10s or 2x12s as top plates or maybe two of them

as we are now creating lateral beams on top of the walls. With some fancy carpentry the inside view of these beams can look like weird

crown moulding etc. 


I realize I have hit a dead end with the limited functionality of the version program that I have but I am always trying to think of the important

structural  issues and have not been able to master the terrific 3D rendering skills that seem so abundant here.  Thank you everyone

for all these masterpieces.   When I build this cabin .... whatever the ultimate shape,  I am going to print all these design ideas on a color

printer and create a 3 ring  notebook showing the evolution of the design.


To be honest ... I have looked at all of the suggested links to other houseplan sites etc.... and I am not as impressed as I am with

the designs created here.   OF course those other sites are extremely educational and I want to thank everyone for them....


I also hope that every one agrees with my characterization of the different plan suggestions as all good,  just different interpretations

like the economy car, SUV, Pickup and Sports car etc. at different price and complexity levels.


Please give some thought as to how exactly we would frame the 2nd floor structures for each of these suggestions.


Have a good weekend all and again many Thanks  


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Structural ridge. Glulam, PSL, LSL, solid, built up.


How the roof is tied into the porch roofs may also impact this issue.

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Regarding doors in stairways.    Some here seem to be not sold on the benefits  of a structure that can close off floors

from one another from an air movement standpoint.  We have been led to appreciate the cathedral ceilings the

sky high foyers,  the balconies looking down into the family rooms etc.    I can tell you they are the stupidest things

any architect has ever done excepting those designing for folks wealthiest enough to not care about utility bills.


You can build houses with 9 and 10 foot tray ceilings and have luxurious winding stair cases in the foyer

and still have doors at the top and doors at the bottom (or top) of stairs into the basement etc. that will not make

you feel like you are in a lower tier economic class.


You lose nothing by closing off the floors but if you have the opportunity to have separate HVAC systems

on the different floors and whole house, attic or window fans, you can have different activities going on in the

different floors. It can have a monstrous effect on the need for heating and cooling the floors you are currently

occupying.   If you ever have a chance to affect the design of a structure please remember what I am

telling you here.  You will never regret it.   I'll say it again.... You can have a whole floor serve as insulation

for another floor.  The effect can be massive regardless of how big the structure is !


My other best kept secret.....   In all my properties and designs, I have installed kitchen wall cabinets in

the bathrooms.   People LUV em !   even over the toilets.   Always 12 in deep.... sometimes 15 deep on the


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