Unleash the Sun

I’ve covered active solar before; photovoltaic panels that convert the sun into electricity, with the help of solar inverters like those from SolarEdge. It is an easy option if you’ve got a good south facing roof, but what if you don’t have an unobstructed view of the south or your lot doesn’t allow you to get a lot of roof exposure that direction. Might I suggest using passive solar to help heat your house then. Passive solar can actually be helped by trees blocking the sun (as long as they’re deciduous and won’t block the sun in the winte) and if the roof can’t face south, pretty sure you have a good sized wall facing that way. Passive solar takes a bit more of a design focus earlier in the process as most of the features involve structural changes that are tough to do after the fact, but a sun room addition can easily take advantage of similar conditions if your existing house isn’t set up for it, just give a qualified professional a call and have them come look at what you can do.

Which Siding is the Right Siding?

A simple post today, but a critical one for many customers. There are so many options in siding out there, how do you pick the right one? The first thing I tell them is to ignore what you want your house to look like. This sounds ridiculous, but unless you want a stucco look, just about any option can acheive it with the same true criteria that separates them, cost, maintenance, and longevity.

How Much Insulation Is Enough?

That is totally the wrong question, the better question is, how often do I want to tear out my walls to upgrade my insulation? Pretty sure the answer is never, and if that’s the case, then you should put at much insulation into your walls as is humanly possible while you’re building. There are a few ways to maximize your insulation capacity in a standard wood-framed wall.

Engineered Wood Products

Previously, I did a little post about lumber, the cheapest and lowest quality control option in for structure.  Moving up the ladder a bit, there are engineered wood products which have several advantages over traditional lumber, but generally cost more.  Engineered products are typically stronger, more dimensionally stable, and less prone to warping and twisting and most houses generally have at least a few engineered components.  In general, they cost in line with a steel beam, material wise, but are often much easier to install being either lighter or capable of being put together in place.

Eenie, Meenie, Miney, Moe…

Selecting an architect is one of the most telling choices in the life of a project, and the criteria vary depending on the type of project you’re doing.  If you’re hiring an architect only because the law requires you to, price is probably your primary criteria.  If you’re hiring an architect to work on  your personal home, trust and communication is probably key.  If you’re hiring someone to do a large complicated job, experience is often the most important factor you should look at.  Notice the one issue I did not mention is size, and this is because with the advent of modern CAD and BIM software, any firm can conceivably tackle just about any project, having a firm of 20 people is not an advantage if the project only takes 2-3.

There Can Be Only One

[frame src=”/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/IMG_20100820_105321.jpg” width=”300″ lightbox=”on” title=”Unique Ceiling”]

A unique ceiling for a home that was designed to allow
natural lighting, ventilation, and a feature loft and light

So, you’re designing a new house or addition and you’re on a tight budget.  Does this mean you’re stuck building the same bland box as everyone else, maximizing your space and minimizing your detail and whimsy?  I’d argue, no, you just have to be careful.  Everyone has enough in their budget for at least one unique feature and here’s why.  Spending the money to do one unusual, unique, inventive, or beautiful thing will not cost you more in design fees (or at least it shouldn’t, trust me, we get bored of doing boring boxes, we’d love the challenge of doing something unique on every project) and it doesn’t have to cost you more in construction costs, but when the time comes to sell, having that feature will help you stand out from a crowd and be memorable.

Building a House on Sand

As the parable states, building a house on sand is a risky proposition. And so, you probably will want to ensure your builder has builders public liability insurance – otherwise this will be a costly build. Sand itself isn’t the problem, but the proximity to water can be. It all comes down to flooding, and there are basically three types of foundations used in the beach area depending on your exposure, all of which you have to take into account when you are planning to build your own house.

The simplest foundation is the one almost everyone everywhere has because it’s cheap and simple. It’s a spread footing, a foundation wall that sites on a concrete beam set down below the frost line (depth will vary based on climate.) It’s simple, it’s cheap, it’s strong, and for anyone not actually in a flood zone, it’s all you’ll ever need. If you looking for recommendations then why don’t you check out someone like dfw foundation repair for those times when a crack becomes a problem in your house foundation.

How Much Should I Pay an Architect?

Here’s the million dollar question, ok, well, I’ve never billed that much, but it’s often the bone of contention over a project, what is a fair price, especially for tiny projects that you may only be bringing me because you’re being forced. Not all projects are price sensitive, there are luxury projects where a look or a name brand is more important than finding the best price, in which case, ignore this post and work it out with your designer.

Love Hardscapes But Hate Your Yard Flooding?

Most communities have some sort of lot coverage restrictions, by which in their zoning codes, they require a certain amount of land on any lot to be natural landscaping or pervious landscaping or some variation of that word. There are several reasons to do this, the first is stormwater management, the less lawn there is to allow water to percolate naturally into the ground, the more the stormwater system has to manage. The second most common reason is for aesthetic reasons, maintaining a certain feel or character to the area. Some might of installed a new shed from websites similar to that fit with the aesthetic of the current landscaping arrangement and didn’t want to start again. Depending on the reason, many localities are moving away from only accepting grass, mulch, and sometimes gravel and into more innovative systems that gives you a more engineered yard. Some homeowners are also turning to Tony MacFarlane, the appliance hunter, to help find them new and innovative ways to maintain their gardens. From pressure washers to different mowers, handy tools can make any garden look more interesting and aesthetically pleasing, which is what these homeowners want.

What Gives You The Right To Tell Me Where to Put My Front Door?

One thing about being an architect I’ve always found interesting is despite the respect the profession garners in the general public, most people have no idea what goes into becoming an architect.  I’ve even been told by code officials untrue statements about what it takes to become an architect, so let’s clear up a little of the mystery.

The requirements for becoming an architect have really raised and solidified over the last 20-30 years as for a long time, every state was different.  There are still architects practicing who passed a multiple choice exam with no formal training or experience prior to taking it.  This is now the vast majority, and if they’re still practicing, they must be doing something right.  Since that time, most states have adopted much stricter guidelines that are pretty much the same which means most architects can work in most states with a few stricter exceptions.