Friday, February 20, 2009

Its the Energy Stupid!

I ran across this criticism of Architects and the green movement the other day.
It was written by Joseph Lstiburek; a renowned building science expert and royal smart ass.  Many Architects and Engineers do not like Mr. Lstiburek because of his criticisms.  I think mostly because he is all too often right; and he always has facts to back his claims up.

Lstiburek's basic criticism is this.  Architects and Engineers are creating "Green Monuments".  Buildings that are hailed Green and win awards; and yet they statistically are not saving any energy over their non-green counterparts.

I tend to agree with many of his criticisms.  I have felt for some time that we get caught up in all the new exciting technology - so much so that we forget the basic principles of good environmental design that the Ancients knew, and that Edward Mazria re-taught us over 30 years ago.  This is why I try to focus on the basics - see

I think our industry should be open to criticisms like his.  If we really want to do good, then we should verify that we really are doing good; and just not convincing ourselves of it.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Green Links

I just wanted to pass on an FYI that I have now posted links for various green resources along the sidebar of the Simply Elegant Home Designs Blog.  Over the next weeks I will be refining the listings.  Since there are so many green resources available to us I want to try to edit the list down to provide useful "common sense green" information, and to eliminate as much redundancy as possible.  I will also be adding a links page to my Simply Elegant Home Designs website.

Again, you can see the links along the right sidebar of the Simply Elegant Home Designs blog.  And by the way, I welcome your suggestions.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Architect vs. Builder

Architects and Home Builders seem to have a bit of a dysfunctional relationship.  Looking through my lens as an Architect it seems that many builders look at us as a necessary evil; and something to be avoided.  Most builders today still utilize their own in house staff or an outside house plan drafting service in lieu or working with an Architect.  The result is a lack of creativity and variety.  The evidence?  Take a drive through the suburbs and you will see thousands of homes that look remarkably similar, yet constructed by many different builders.  This cannot possibly be a good situation for the builders, because it forces them to compete mostly by price alone.  Not a good way to make a profit.

It seems clear that if the builders want to stand out and get more demand for their products; then one great way to do that is to offer great creative, unique and functional designs that stand out from the competition.  In other words they should create a design niche.  And the best way to do this might be to work with a competent Residential Architect / Designer.

So why does the builder avoid the Architect?  At Ron Brenner Architects I have bumped into many builders over the years and I can pretty much tell you why.
  • Time – Builders don’t make money until they start construction of the home.  Sometimes they don’t make money until construction is completed.  It drives them crazy having to wait for the design process to be completed.
  • Money – Going through the traditional architectural design process costs money.  Builders are constantly trying to manage escalating construction costs – and Architects represent another cost control issue.
  • Attitude – Many Architects look down on the builder; and it shows.  Our field likes to put down the housing industry, yet offers little in the way of assistance.  So why would a builder want to work with us if he thinks we don’t respect him?
There is clearly a huge market share that Architects are not currently tapping into because of the above.  I believe we can gain market share by doing the following:
  1. Try to gain a better understanding the builders’ point of view.  We also need to give them a better idea of who we are and the value that we bring to projects.  We need to get out and start talking with them and learning from each other.  With understanding comes mutual respect.
  2. Modify our process and deliverables for builders to save time and money.  I am not arguing that we should give our services away.  Our services are extremely valuable.  I am only suggesting a modification of our services and deliverables to bring more value to the builder.
At Ron Brenner Architects we a bit of experience with item 2.  I’ll try to expand a bit on that in a future posting.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

View your home in Google Earth

Simply Elegant Home Designs is offering a new service to help potential plan purchasers visualize their house plan within the context of their own site.  For a nominal fee they can provide images of the desired house plan at their site address.  The images below provide an example of how this can work.  They depict various google earth views which increasingly zoom in on a specific site address in which a 3d house plan model has been inserted.

This service can be particularly helpful for a potential plan purchaser because it allows them to get an idea of how the house plan might fit into their own unique site location prior to purchasing the full plan set.  Also, because google earth provides 3d terrain, it can also help to understand grading issues or identify special foundation conditions that might be required.  

Simply Elegant Home Designs offers pre-designed home plans that are creative, simple, elegant, unique and green to individuals, builders and developers.  Their goal is to provide the most discriminating home designs available and to be the most service oriented organization in the pre-designed house plans business.  They can be reached at or 612-669-6411.