Archive for Green Construction Ideas
Our Power Haus project was recognized as the 2011 Outstanding Project of the Year by the Florida Gulf Coast Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council. Click on the link below to see a full list of winners.
As seen in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, this article is a good commentary about looking beyond cost and at the total value of construction.
Published: Friday, July 29, 2011 at 5:16 p.m.
The latest high-tech in the home building business is all about smart — smart houses, smart wiring, smart appliances and a smart grid.
And then there’s “smart money,” an old-fashioned concept that’s been around as long as we have been building houses. Smart money is money that’s spent wisely. It gets you the best house for your budget, not the biggest house or the one with the most trophy features per square foot.
What are some smart money tips?
1. Hire experience.
Though many people think any fool can design and build a house, you need years of experience to do this well.
An experienced residential architect has taken the proverbial “sketch on the back of an envelope” and developed it into a finished house many times. She won’t waste time on ideas that are too costly to execute within your budget, and she will have the guts to set you straight when something you really want is a bad idea.
Likewise, an experienced home builder has taken many projects from a pile of construction documents to a finished house. He can work with grace under pressure and deal with screw-ups quickly and efficiently (every new house always has a few). He treats his subs so well they will follow him to any job, and he has a real office, not a pickup truck. And, most importantly, he doesn’t promise a great price. He promises a great house.
If your spouse suggests economizing by hiring “a young architect who’s eager but still wet behind the ears and won’t charge much” and an “experienced carpenter who’s just starting a home-building business and promises a great price” put the kibosh on it immediately.
2. To control costs, hire the architect and the builder at the same time.
This unconventional approach, called the negotiated bid, can help you control both design and construction costs. It’s called the negotiated bid because you negotiate the architect’s fee to design your house, the builder’s fee for building it, and determine your construction budget before you start the project. The architect and builder work together as a team. During the initial design phase, as you work with the architect to design your house, the builder monitors the work to ensure that he can build it with your budget. An experienced architect will have a good sense of costs, but a builder is out in the marketplace everyday, and his information will be more accurate. Another plus with this arrangement: a builder can often spot ways to achieve the architect’s desired effect that are simpler and less costly to execute.
Despite the advantages of the negotiated bid, many homeowners are convinced that competitive bidding will produce the best (read lowest) price. A competitively bid price may well be lower than the negotiated price, but the bid price will not be the final price. That’s because a custom-built house is a unique prototype with hundreds of details.
Even the most conscientious architect can, inadvertently, make an error or an omission in the construction documents that form the basis of the competitive bidding. The bidding contractors are supposed to confer with the architect if they spot a mistake, but this doesn’t always happen.
When the errors or omissions eventually come to light during construction, the builder will issue change orders, and he’s not obliged to give you his best price. Besides adding to your cost, change orders can poison the atmosphere at a time when you want everyone to do their best work and you have several hundred thousand dollars on the line.
With the negotiated bid, the builder’s job is to catch errors and omissions during the design phase and he has every incentive to do this. He knows he will be getting the job, he knows upfront how much profit he will make, and he wants to keep things on track.
3. Focus on lifetime cost, not first-time cost.
First-time cost is what you’re paying to build the house. Lifetime cost includes both the initial cost to build the house and the maintenance costs you’ll incur over the 20 to 30 years you expect to live in it.
This distinction will become clear when you begin to select building materials. For example, you can save a bundle with cheap windows, but when you factor in the cost to replace them once, or more likely, twice over the 20 to 30 years of your occupancy, they become your priciest window option. Skimp on insulation to save a few bucks and you’ll saddle yourself with higher utility bills every day you live there. Purchase cheaper but less efficient heating and cooling equipment, and you’ll not only be paying higher utility bills from day one, you’ll also be replacing the equipment long before you move out.
4. Cost per square foot figures are a useful tool at the beginning of the project, period.
When you start, the cost per square foot is a useful tool for helping you understand what’s possible with your budget. A low cost per square foot is not the hallmark of a good deal.
In fact, it can be just the opposite — a sure indication that a builder is using inferior materials or subcontractors known for shoddy work or that the builder is so desperate to get your job, he has cut his own costs to the bone, and he may go belly up halfway through the project.
Initially, when most homeowners are trying to match their budget with realistic choices, the cost-per-square-foot figure can provide useful information. Divide the amount of money you have to spend (say, $375,000) by the size house you want to build (say, 2,500 square feet), you get $150 per square foot.
Using this cost figure, an experienced architect or home builder can tell you what finishes and features are affordable for the size house you want. You may quickly realize that you will have to build a smaller house to get the features you want or accept modest details and finishes for the 2,500-square-foot-sized house you envision.
The cost per square foot is averaged over the entire house. It does not mean that every foot in the house will cost exactly that amount.
The cost of a specific square foot depends on what’s in it. A square foot in your kitchen or bathroom will cost a lot more than a corner of your living room or bedroom that’s merely “raw space.”
Questions or queries? Katherine Salant can be reached atwww.katherinesalant.com.
Click here or on photo above to read about our Power Haus featured on HomeDSGN.com
Josh Wynne Construction wins SRQ Magazine’s Best of Local 2011 for Best Builder and Most Innovative Thinker. This is the second year in a row that Josh was recognized as Sarasota’s Best Builder. Josh was voted Sarasota’s Most Innovative Thinker this year after being the runner-up in 2010.
Asheville is an inspiration.
My wife and I just returned home from a short trip to Asheville, NC. Michelle has been trying to arrange this trip for quite some time and I had been reluctant. Her primary motivation was to visit the Biltmore. Ironically, my lackluster interest was also because of the Biltmore! I am a pragmatic guy and I am devoted to sustainable homes and lifestyles so the idea of a 175,000 square foot home was basically appalling to me.
For those of you who are not familiar with Biltmore, it is the largest home in the US with 4 acres under roof. It is located on what was once a 125,000-acre estate. The home was completed in 1895 after 6 years of construction. George Vanderbilt, who was a 33-year-old bachelor at the time of completion, commissioned Biltmore for use as a family retreat. Richard Morris Hunt designed the home. Frederick Law Olmstead, the most famous landscape architect of all time, designed the landscape using 3.2 million plants and trees of over 130,000 varieties. While these are impressive numbers, they are definitely less than sustainable. At least I thought so.
Michelle and I arrived in Asheville at lunchtime, so after checking in to our hotel in downtown we decided to walk to a nearby watering hole for some food and drink. Lexington Avenue Brewery is settled into the old General Store building. We decided on a beer, which was brewed in house, and started chatting up the bartender. The food and beer was incredible and the people were passionate. It turns out that all of the beef and lamb served here is grass fed and grown on their own farm just outside of town. The spent grains from the beer brewing process were fed to the livestock. All of the other menu items, including produce and cheeses, were grown and made in Asheville and all table scraps are composted for use in these farms. Obviously, I was interested in figuring out how this historic little town in the mountains, known for a home that in my opinion was the least sustainable in America, had become more progressive than Northern California.
The next day we visited the Biltmore. The approach drive was nothing short of breathtaking and I am certain it was two miles long. Not one plant was out of place and yet it was completely natural. Pulling into the courtyard was akin to opening a massive door to Wonderland. The home is nothing short of incredible. Still, while I marveled at the level of detail and craftsmanship I couldn’t help but consider what a waste it was for one man. We started the audio tour, which is rich in history and is, in my opinion, completely necessary.
It turns out that Mr. Vanderbilt’s dream was to build a sustainable home for his family and the home’s 35 workers. He built a masonry plant on the property to supply the clay, concrete, brick and block for the home. The stone in the house was quarried from the home’s foundation. He built a hydro-powered sawmill on the river where the trees he cleared for the road, the home, the garden, and the pastures were milled for use in the home. He built the home to be fire-resistant using all block walls and floors and steel trusses. The proximity to the high flow, French Broad River allowed for running water in all bathrooms and the kitchens. Wastewater was diverted to the gardens. All of the food served in Biltmore was grown on site. He started a cattle operation, raised sheep and stocked the land with game, which was hunted for food. Beer was brewed on site and local grapes were used for wine making. He built the Biltmore Villages to house the people tending to the home’s many needs and founded schools for blacksmithing, woodworking, pottery and more. Even in 1900 Vanderbilt felt there needed to more effort to keep life local. George Vanderbilt understood the value of local goods and services perhaps more than any man of his time. By his death in 1914, George had built the most amazing home in the America, started the first sustainable forestry operation in America, had a world-class dairy, had the most diverse horticultural operation in the world and had built a community. Soon after he died, his widow, Edith, sold 90,000 acres of his estate to the federal government to establish the Pisgah National Forest. It was George’s life dream. In 1930, George’s family decided to open the home to the public to ensure his legacy would be kept and to establish a basis of preservation.
The entire community still seems to embrace George’s sustainable concepts. Most homes built in Asheville exceed green building standards. Local food is the rule at all restaurants. Artisans’ shops line the downtown streets selling blown glass, pottery, metal work, and even clothes. The list goes on and on.
While there is little doubt that a 175,000 square foot home is beyond excessive, I admit that I misjudged. Vanderbilt’s misdeeds with resources have been paid back in spades by his legacy and his contribution to what is absolutely the most sustainable community I have ever visited. Asheville is an inspiration.
[singlepic id=42 w=320 h=240 float=left]We were interviewed for our Mission Valley project as part of an article discussing building green on a budget. Read about it here!
Josh Wynne Construction, Inc. is proud to announce that its recently completed Mission Valley Estates Home has been awarded a score of 242 by the FGBC (Florida Green Building Coalition). With the certification of this home, Josh Wynne Construction has constructed 3 of the top 9 FGBC certified homes in the state, including the current best score of 267. Josh Wynne Construction is the only builder in the state with more than one home in the top 10.
This home is especially interesting because of its value. Great care was taken to reduce the electrical load on this home. In spite of having no gas available, and installing a swimming pool, this home achieved a HERS index of 52! This was enough to qualify this home for the DOE Builder’s Challenge. It is quite remarkable considering the total build costs were under $100/sqft!
The site has a rustic, native feel reminiscent of old Florida. The neighborhood features acreage lots, many of which are used as horse paddocks. These details, along with the client’s taste, steered the architecture toward a new Ranch style. Carriage style garage doors, lap siding, open rafters, and a covered front porch complete the feeling that this home inspires.
Long eaves, large insulated, impact patio doors, and intelligently located windows of the same construction make the most of Florida’s offerings while maintaining indoor comfort. The beautiful and durable polished concrete floors help to regulate the temperatures as well. Of course none of these design features can completely replace a well designed HVAC system when the Florida summer arrives. An advanced dampering system is the heart of the Bryant Evolution installed in this home. Two zones and two fan speeds help this 22 SEER Puron system maintain a comfortable home while sipping energy.
The HVAC requirements of this home are exactly half that of a code built home of the same size! Quality windows, doors, and insulation systems along with quality construction techniques make this home air-tight!
Durability was not sacrificed for cost! The roof consists of a secondary moisture barrier and solid soffit designs to control wind driven rains in the worst of Florida’s hurricane seasons. All roof decking was glued and nailed to ensure a solid adhesion. The foundation features installed tubes for combating any future termite/pest issues with minimal expenses. All wood members from the floor to the roof peak are treated with Bora Care, a natural, safe termiticide with mold inhibiting properties. For easy maintenance, a TAEXX tubular pest control system was installed throughout the home.
Indoor air quality was addressed in all areas. The duct system was sealed at installation. A MERV 10 filter cleans the air as the HVAC system runs. Sherwin-Williams Pro Green low-VOC paints make breathing easy and alleviate concerns of toxic off-gassing associated with other paints. Even the cabinet finishes are low-VOC!
Materials management is a major factor in smart construction. 75% of the waste from this project was diverted from the landfill for recycling! Construction techniques to reduce material usage were employed including smart design, stack wall construction, and good estimating practices. Many of the products in this home contain recycled materials. Concrete countertops with 98% recycled material content, fly ash, recycled content drywall, and engineered wood products are just a few examples.
Water usage is a major issue in Florida. 520 gallons of rainwater storage capacity severely cuts the need for supplemental water in the already drought tolerant landscape. The overflow even feeds the raised bed vegetable garden! Toilet technologies allowed for the use of 1.28 gal/flush toilets while maintaining a MAP rating of 10 (out of 10) in flush power. Aerators made it simple to use our favorite fixture designs while being responsible with water flow rates.
In addition to FGBC, the home is certified by Energy Star, FPL Build Smart, and Florida Yards & Neighborhoods. It was constructed in just four months. The price included site work, fees, pool and cage.
The FGBC is a nonprofit 501(C)3 Florida corporation dedicated to improving the build environment. “Our mission is to lead and promote sustainability with environmental, economic, and social benefits through regional education and certification programs.” For more information on FGBC visit www.floridagreenbuilding.org.
You can’t escape it! Everywhere you go retailers are trying to sell you ‘green’ options. Some promise a better product, others a clear conscious but most promise nothing. It may be a safe assumption that they deliver nothing as well. ’Green’ has become the catch word for selling anything these days. Cars, food, bags, flat screen TV’s, furniture, paint, carpet, knives, cookware, xmas lights, bulbs, landscape, etc…..are all available as ‘green’.
So what is ‘green’? How can it describe so many things? Will it make you live longer? Will it make you healthier? Can it make you happier? Green is a secondary color on the color wheel located between primary blue and primary yellow. That’s it! ’Green’ is not a standard, criteria, benchmark or certification. It really is just a color that many people have associated with any effort or perceived effort to reduce pollution and/or live healthier. At first it was innocent enough. It is certainly easier to describe your new home as ‘green’ than it is to define the qualities of your home that may or may not make it somehow superior to most others. Today ‘green’ as a label is being abused.
Most of you have likely already heard the term ‘green washing’. This term is used to describe a product or service that has somehow abused someone’s interpretation of the label ‘green’. Absurd isn’t it? An absurd and generic word like ‘green’ has now earned it’s own absurd retort. I am still uncertain how there can be ‘green washing’ at all since the word ‘green’ describes no specific standard for which to live up to.
Personally I try to avoid the word ‘green’ when referring to my homes. Instead, I refer to the specific standards that my homes meet/exceed. In my business these standards include: USGBC LEED, FGBC, Energy Star, FPL BuildSmart, Florida Yards and Neighborhoods, NAHB Green, WaterStar Gold, and National Wildlife Federation. While meeting any of these standards on a home may make you believe that the home is in fact ’green’, there is a world of difference between these standards. For instance, a home that meets all of these standards could be considered ‘green’. Also, a different home that meets only the FPL BuildSmart standard could be referred to as ‘green’. Does that mean that they are the same? Absolutely not! The point is that it is important to determine the standards by which a product or service might be measured rather than simply settling with the ‘green’ label.
There are a lot of local businesses who go way out of their way to make you believe that they are dedicated to your salvation and that of the earth. Some go so far as to use the word ‘green’ in their company name! Do not assume that they are in fact ‘green’. Ask them if the follow a set of standards with regional credentials. Ask them if ALL of the their projects or products meet those standards. There are many builders locally who claim to build ‘green buildings’ even in their names and marketing and yet most of their projects do not meet any standards! In my opinion, this is the bait and switch using our favorite word….. ‘green’.
Ask your purveyor or service provider what their intentions are regarding their choice to be ‘green’. Is it to save the Earth? Reduce electric and water bills? Create a healthier person? A healthier environment? Or is it just marketing pressure in a down economy. I have been labeled by others as a ‘green’ builder because I only build homes that meet the standards associated with our favorite word. I have no designs on saving the Earth one home at a time. I build the way I build because I believe in building my customers’ the best homes that their money can buy. I believe that they deserve to live in the healthiest homes that technology allows. I believe that if I can find value in water and energy conservation for my customers, then they deserve my effort to create that value. I believe that my customers deserve low waste service fees, low home owner’s insurance costs, low maintenance costs, and low landscape maintenance fees. For those reasons, I build durable homes that have native landscapes and I manage my waste during construction. I won’t recommend anything ‘green’ to my customers unless it is free or it creates value in some way. These points qualify my homes for the toughest standards generally associated with the ‘green’ label.
‘Green’ is NOT a bad thing! It is misunderstood because of the reasons that I have stated. I don’t suggest that you run away from everyone and everything that uses the word ‘green’ as a hook. I propose the opposite! Stand and ask the tough questions. Ask them why. Ask them how. Ask them how often and by what measure. Ask them to explain why you should give your green in exchange for their ‘green’! If you see red (as in blushing) turn and run!
I hope this helps your understanding of the word ‘green’!
From cement and water, a niche industry is born
As I write this blog, I am returning from a long weekend visit to Key West. Being among the oldest cities in Florida, Key West offers a rare glimpse into Florida’s past. Most Notable to me is how their lifestyles, weather, trade skills and material availability sculpted the vernacular architecture.
Key West is an inspired place. The fact that for over 50 years it was the wealthiest city in America per capita, is apparent in the intricately crafted woodwork on the oldest of homes. Being a maritime society gave Key West an unusually high number of skilled woodworkers, most of whom had worked in the construction or salvage of ships. It is amazing to me that in spite of the fact that there were no power tools, high tech mills, routers, and other modern conveniences, such incredible consideration was given to each home’s adornments. In my opinion, it is a testament to the pride of ownership that is nearly lost on America today.
The Key West vernacular architecture is, naturally, a blend of many traditional schools. Since there were indigenous peoples here, residents brought with them their knowledge of the prevailing architectural trends from their homelands and infused it with the local conditions, and materials that were available. As such, you will find Cracker, Bahamian, Antebellum, Greek Gothic and other styles. They are generally infused with the period popular, Victorian style. It is the Victorian element that most people associate with Key West, often referred to as “gingerbread”. The unique balustrade detailing that is so common on the island always enamors me.
It is hard to imagine ever building a home that is easier on the environment than these old homes. Most of the homes were built using the existing cypress and pine trees, present on the intended home-site. Many more were built with materials salvaged from the steady supply of shipwrecks present along the coast. These guys were recycling 180 years ago! No power was available on the island until the 1940’s so every home was designed using passive ventilation and cooling principles. The foundations were built from the quarried limestone that was removed to make way for the cistern. Cisterns were the only source of fresh water on the island so every home and business had one.
Leaving Key West leaves me feeling a bit sad that people now consider homes as assets that are to be traded or sold rather than the treasures that they once were. Those homes were built to house a family for generations. The pride and commitment to build an heirloom such as those homes, is rarely present today. The craftsmanship required to fill that need is rapidly being lost as we strive to live faster, bigger, cheaper, and more disposable. Do yourselves a favor and visit any historic city. When you look into those magnificent homes that still remain, consider the effort, pride, quality and commitment it must have taken build them in their day. Perhaps you will find yourself driven to build a home worthy of a conversation 150 years from now. If you do, I’ll be ready to assist you!