Thursday, January 29, 2009

Architects Have Great Tools!

Architects have many great tools that they can work with.  And under skilled hands they can be a great benefit to their clients.  One such tool is a software program called Google Sketchup.  Sketchup is a 3d modeling program that is surprisingly easy to use.  The images you see below are of a house designed by Ron Brenner Architects in Stillwater, Minnesota.  The images represent a series of color studies that were performed with Sketchup.  The basic design had already been completed and we were now at the stage of finalizing materials and colors for the roofing, walls, windows.  The top image is pretty much where we ended up and the images below represent the various intermittent studies.

Pretty cool huh?  It is a great way to visualize your end product.  For more sketchup examples you can see the plans at 

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Architects are Sexy!

I ran across this totally factual article the other day.  Could not resist posting the link.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Top 10 Green Things to Do! When building your new home.

In my real job (non-blogging) I am finding that more and more people are interested in building a more environmentally responsible and healthy home.  Leaving political discussions and arguments about “climate change” behind (I don’t like being preached to and I don’t like preaching), I believe there are many common sense reasons to build a “Green” home.  Here are two pretty good ones:

  • Save you money $$$ in the long run
  • Reduce your stress level – improve your quality of life

If you want to build a Green Home there is an abundant amount of information available to you.  But start investigating Green and you begin to realize there can be a daunting number of decisions to make – and they all impact your construction budget in some way.  Building Green can start to look incredibly complicated and expensive - and neither of these notions is inherently “Green”.  Well it does not have to work that way.

So what I want to do, starting with this posting is to help you simplify things.  I am starting out with a top 10 list of green things to do.  This will give us some focus for more detailed discussions to follow.  Those discussions will provide more detail on my top 10 list.  So here goes.

Top 10 Green Things to do! – When building your new home.

  1. Hire an Architect or a very competent designer that understands “Green” (and is not a jerk) – They will be able to assist you with all the following items and help you in sorting out priorities.
  2. Hire a Builder who is committed to your Green house (and isn’t a jerk).  In the end you will be much more successful if your entire team is on the same page.
  3. Build close to your work and / or close to community services.  A short commute means less stress, less gas money and more time for your fam.  That’s good isn’t it?
  4. Build a “just the right size” house – The classic “Goldilocks”.  Size and surface area significantly impact heating, cooling and maintenance costs – not to mention construction cost.  So don’t build too big.  But don’t build it too small either or it might not be functional and that’s not green.
  5. Build a home with quality.  Remember the 3 little pigs?  A quality home lasts longer, costs less to maintain and definitely holds up better when the big bad wolf is blowing.  Ok, that’s enough of the kid stories. 
  6. Build a thermally efficient home.  Warm is good.  Believe me, I am writing this on a 20 degree below zero day in Minnesota.  I have relatives in Phoenix that say Cool is good!  Thermally efficient also means less money from your pocket to the local Utility.
  7. Use an energy efficient Heating, Ventilation and Cooling (HVAC) system. You don’t have to spend many dollars here to reap some good $$$ savings.
  8. Develop a landscape plan that reduces erosion and water use. Who wants to spend the entire weekend mowing and watering?  I’d rather be playing Guitar Hero, or Twittering or something.
  9. Consider your homes building product and material choices.If it smells bad don’t use it.  You are going to be married to that floor for a long time.
  10. Install energy efficient appliances and electrical (lighting) systems.  Once again small investment for good gains.

So that’s my Top 10 Green Things to Do list.  You may notice that I don’t specifically mention solar panels, photo-voltaics or geo-thermal systems.  Well those items might be a great addition to an overall sustainable building plan, but the initial costs are high and the payback is longer.  I’ll discuss more in future postings.

By the way, if you want to buy a “green” house plan that you can build.  You might start at Simply Elegant Home Designs.  All of the plans in their portfolio have been designed keeping many of the green principals listed above in mind.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Bayport Bungalow Animation

Another new animation has been added to the Simply Elegant Home Designs website and to You Tube.  You can get more information on the "Bayport Bungalow" as seen below by following the link.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

New Animation Added

Simply Elegant Home Designs has added another Animation to their website.  The animation is of the "Bayport Bungalow" in their design collection.  The company plans on providing animations of their entire house plan design collection.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Exterior Animations of New House Plans

Simply Elegant Home Designs is now providing a new and better way to visualize new house plan designs.  They are creating 3d animations of their designs.  The animations will be posted on the Simply Elegant Home Designs website and on You Tube.  The first animation to be published is this Modern Farmhouse plan design.
Simply Elegant Home Designs will eventually be able to provide animations of their entire house plan inventory.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Adapting architectural house plans to your needs

Hiring an Architect to design a one of a kind home for you can be a time consuming and expensive endeavor.  The design process will take at least several months - maybe up to a year.  And the fee can run from 8% to 12% of the construction cost or even higher.  That being said I believe it is well worth it - but not everyone has that luxury of time and money.  So what I want to do here is present you with an alternative approach that can work for many people.

The basic concept is to purchase a set of plans "off the shelf" directly from an Architect, and then work with them to customize that plan to your specific needs and tastes.  The two images below depict a house designed by Ron Brenner Architects in Stillwater, Minnesota.  
It is a beautiful Cape Cod design.

The client loved the design inside and out.  But the plan would not fit on their own lot configuration, the room arrangement did not satisfy 100% of their needs and their aesthetic tastes tended more towards the contemporary.  So Ron Brenner Architects sold the plan to them for a flat fee, and then worked on an hourly rate basis to modify the plan to reflect their needs.  The images below reflect the modified design.

The client loves the new design and they were able to reduce the design schedule and design costs significantly.  The house is now under construction - I'll update this post with photos of the project when available.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Top 10 house plan websites

There are probably a million house plan companies selling zillions of plans through the internet.  Most are terrible.  In my business I create one of a kind custom homes.  I can't tell you how many clients of mine have come to me after being frustrated looking through one plan book (or plan website) after another.  After exhaustive searching they will eventually break down and hire a competent house designer or an Architect.

I definitely believe that if your needs are truly unique then you should hire a residential architect.  But if your needs and tastes are less specific you might be able to save yourself some time and money by going the pre-designed plan route. So I decided to publish a list of the top 10 house plan websites that I have run across.  Here goes.

8. Southern Living House plans - Large collection of traditionally styled house plans.  All shapes, sizes and configurations.
7. John Tee Architect - Architect designed homes in predominantly southern american styles.  Plans in this fairly extensive collection are well executed.
6. Rick Thompson Architect - Collection of traditionally styled house plans.  Most of the collection is under 2000 square feet.
5. Coastal Living House Plans - A large collection of plans, many of which designed with a lake or coastal property in mind.  The architectural styles again are mostly traditional.  There are a good number of more "quirky" plans however, which makes for more interesting surfing.
4. LaMiDesign Modern House Plans - If you are looking for a truly modern home online, your choices are limited.  LaMiDesign is the best that I have run across.
3. Good Fit plans by Ross Chapin Architects - Modest collection of very well designed smaller homes.  Modernized cottage aesthetic.  Simple, clean and well done.
2. Architectural House Plans - This site specializes in unique Architect designed homes.  They started out being very selective and only published great plans.  The quality seems to be starting to go downhill a bit as the collection increases - but it is still a great source for architect designed house plans.
1. Simply Elegant Home Designs - Ok, I know this is shameless.  It's my own site after all.  This site does not yet have very many plans - but we are definitely going for quality.  We are going for a more edgy and more modern look.

I'll bet you are wondering where number 9 and 10 are.  Well it really is just that hard to find quality plans online.  After you spend a few hours browsing you realize that almost all the plans start looking alike.  In fact quite literally many of the plans are identical.  So I decided to spare the list down to 8.  

Final note.  If you run across any other great house plan web sites please let me know.  I'll update my top 10 list.