Friday, December 31, 2010

Letters from Sweden - A closer look at the Swedish wall

Today we're going to take a closer look at common wall construction in these Swedish factory houses we've been studying. The Swedes build their energy efficient homes using fairly ordinary materials that are not very different than what we use in the US. Ultimately we would like to propose a analogous wall system composed of materials widely available in the US - an American version of the Swedish wall. But first we have to look closer at what they are building.

Several of our earlier posts in the Letters from Sweden series touched on this. Most recently we looked at an automated assembly line, and through observing the assembly process we could see the various layers of the wall. Now we'll look closely at each layer using examples from a few factory web sites. Some Swedish factories market themselves as being green and some offer passive house options straight from the factory. What we will look at here is what I've found in my research to be very typical of Swedish house construction. A baseline if you wish of what the average wall in a Swedish house looks like.

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Monday, December 27, 2010

MoTrad House - finishing up under foot

Everything that needs to happen below the ground floor is finishing up this week while we all enjoy the holidays. Posts and beams to support the existing ground floor, and what will come above are now in place, and they are preparing to waterproof the foundation so the earth can be backfilled.

There are a bunch of new photos of the nuts and bolts of this work in the extended post below. If such things interest you then by all means click on through.

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Texas Plat House - Owners still working that house!

A nice surprise today in my email was a group of photos from the Owners of the Texas Plat House near Austin. They've been busy putting the finishing touches on their house and wanted to share!

Outside the deck has been sealed, and has taken on a deeper wood color. Inside they have tiled their backsplash with some great looking horizontal bar like tiles.

More photos of the finished kitchen and the rest of the work can be seen in the Texas Plat House flickr set. Remember - they are in the woodworking business, and built this kitchen themselves. Hook up with them for your project!

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MoTrad House - making quick with the foundations

Just thought you would want to know - foundations and basement walls racing along. Next the new beams and posts in the basement, new first floor deck at the addition. Then the fun really begins!

Get the flash player here:

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Letters from Sweden - Automated panel building in the USA

We've looked at Swedish examples of an automated panel building line, and a largely manual panel building line, but how about in the USA? There are some manufacturers here that have imported these machines and run automated panel building lines. The difference? The Americans do not do closed panels, meaning panels finished inside and out. In fact they don't finish them at all.

Well why not you might ask. If they are buying the machines from the same company that makes them to build finished closed wall panels, then why don't the American companies do the same thing? The obvious answer is that the rest of the construction materials that need to be incorporated don't lend themselves to being installed off site - this was the focus of many of our earlier Letters from Sweden posts (read back to see the detail). Hence the effort to build closed panels here becomes more difficult, expensive, and finally does not offer an advantage over completing the walls on site.

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

MoTrad House - going, going, gone

Things are moving right along with the MoTrad House project, that is if moving right along means leveling the existing house down to the ground floor, then yes, its moving right along in spades.

I know the idea here is to rebuild the house anew. And I know that this is what the owner wants, and I've actually helped him do that. Yup, but all the same there is something a undeniably disconcerting about seeing an existing house come down. Its like the 5 second rule when you drop a cookie on the floor. If you pick it right up - hey, that's still a good cookie. Right. Too late here. That cookie is gone.

Lots more pictures on the Flickr set. Demolition of the basement garage walls has happened, and prep for new foundations at the new bearing points is underway. You can see photos of that work as well as more of the demolition.

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0751 RS House - settled in for the holidays

I received some current photos of the completed house from the Owner today. Its very gratifying to see an xmas wreath on the dining room wall, and the house participating in the life of the owner's this way.

This is what modern is about for us. Its not some minimal and stark photo in a magazine, its not unhappy hipsters ruminating about the pedigree of their design accessories. Its living a life like anybody lives in a modern home that is true to your values and represents who you are. And this time of year that means holiday decorations, sharing your home with your friends, and finding comfort and rejuvenation at home, something beyond the need for shelter and refuge. That by all means happens in a modern home as much as any other, don't let anybody suggest it is not so.

So for all you lucky enough to have your modern home, and all those still wishing for one, keep that hope alive for each other and have a good holiday. More new photos of the RS House are posted to the Flickr set.

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

XHouse3 - Construction Prints Done!

Its always a good day when we get to announce the availability of a new set of Construction Prints. This means there is a new design that somebody could build, more possibilities, more opportunities, more options for folks who want a modern house.

The XHouse3 is part of our XHouse Collection, our group of designs intended to be responsive to current design trends. Furthermore the XHouse3 is our first houseplan in what I'm calling a MoTrad design theme - a fusion of traditional massing and form and a modern handling of space, detail, trim. The result is a house that lives comfortably with traditional houses side by side, but surrenders nothing in its commitment to living in today. It remains fully a modern house. There was a great mini review of this design on Ready Made Magazine's blog, written by one of their editors.

We had begun the Construction Prints in earnest back in March 2010. But it was delayed due to other activities, the complete redesign of the houseplan catalog, and following that the redesign of the web site for our local practice. We also worked on our new collaboration with Bensonwood during this time, so although the XHouse3 has been delayed, much has been accomplished in the meantime. We hope for the XHouse3 to also find its way into the Bensonwood offerings so that there can be a highly energy efficient option for this house as well.

But for those waiting for this home, the wait is over, plans are available now.

Continue reading "XHouse3 - Construction Prints Done!"

Friday, December 10, 2010

Letters from Sweden - A look at a simple assembly line

Last time we looked at a near fully automated closed wall panel assembly line. I said that you really don't need all that automation to build houses the Swedish way, so today we'll look at a much simplified process. This is the way most houses in Sweden are built.

What we are about to see is the Swedish Flip Table - a hydraulic tilting table that allows you to easily turn a wall panel over so you can work on both sides. That is the key really - keep the panel on a table so you can reach everything without ladders, and be able to flip it over so you can work on both sides. Each side of the Flip table is a workstation where you can complete both the inside and outside of the wall. We saw this table in the full automated line, but here we can see how just this table allows a factory to set up a simpler and effective work flow. In this example it is supplemented by an additional work table on either end of the flip which expands the total workstations to four. Smaller factories often use just the flip table, or two.

Here is a diagram of the line, not labeled as with the automated line, but its so simple we'll explain below:

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Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Letters from Sweden - A closer look at a closed wall panel assembly line

We've described the Swedish method of building off site in several past blog posts, but today we will take a closer look at the assembly line to get a better idea of how you build walls this way.

The first thing I have to explain is that a fully automated line like this is not needed to build houses the way they do in Sweden. In fact most of the small factories do not have these complex machines, and are using a simpler process, more manual, less automated. But what they both have in common is a reduction in wasted effort, a lean process of building. In the next few days we'll also look more closely at how they build without all this machinery.

But first this machinery. The Swedes build wood houses in a particular way, and so a Swedish company named Randek Bautech builds machines that automate the way the Swedes build houses. They can't expect a German company or a Japanese company to do this, so they invent their own. Makes perfect sense. What exactly do I mean by that though? Well for instance the Swedes use solid wood siding when they use siding on their houses - not vinyl as common in the US. So they create a machine that can nail their solid wood siding. Obviously this would not have much use for a large US builder who primarily uses vinyl siding. Ok, got it?

Randek Bautech provides a great video of this line in action which I will post here. But first lets look at the line:

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Saturday, November 20, 2010

MoTrad House - demolition begins

The first step is taking apart the old house, so the foundation can be expanded and the new house built on top of the new and old. The owner has been posting a non-stop stream of photos on their project blog, and we've loaded them in a photo browser for you here.

Get the flash player here:

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

PreFab is Dead - the staggering FAIL of US Housing

As we enter Day 18 of my expo of Swedish Factory Houses on the LamiDesign Idea Log I can barely contain the magnitude of my outrage. I had to write this blog post simply to stop myself from going to the window of my studio, sticking my head out of the opening and screaming "I'm mad as Hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!" You have to understand the staggering, colossal, and tragic scale of the FAIL of the US Housing Industry to serve its customers.

So here is the deal. Sweden, a small country with the population of NJ, the size of California, manages to offer within its limited market dozens, I'll wager hundreds of modern house designs to its customers. And its not like each home builder has one or two token modern houses in the catalog. They all have a dozen or more. Even if you are part of that smaller margin that likes a modern house, you still have choice of dozens of houses where ever you might look to build a house. Yet here in the USA our corresponding mainstream home builders offer none. Nothing. Nada. Something is clearly wrong here. Our home builders say "if its not what most people want, then I won't offer it." In Sweden the mantra is completely reversed: "if its something that somebody will want, then we'll certainly offer it."

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

MoTrad House - a new local client build

I don't often share projects from my local clients, unless they are modern or they have some connection to our Modern House Plans. In this case the project is a local build in Pennsylvania just outside Philadelphia. Its technically a renovation, but in truth is starting at the ground floor and rebuilding from there up, and adding to the back of the house. The new design shares a lot of DNA with the XHouse3 house plan, which is why we are going to watch the construction here.

Above and below is the existing house. A masonry one story houses, with a cape cod like proportion. One and a half story you would call it, as there are a couple of bedrooms under the rafters on the second floor. It has a companion detached garage to the rear, and its on a corner lot. Most of the house's neighbors are taller, with greater stature, so part of the brief was to give the house more presence. Owner also wanted the house to be compatible with the neighbors at the front, but modern in the back. Sounds like a job for a MoTrad Stealth house!

And this is what the house will be transformed into. In front the house respects the geometry of the existing historic homes, the Cape Cod roots of the house even more evident now. Yet the house and its dog-house shaped dormers will have a stark minimalism to their detailing.

In plan the house has much in common with the XHouse3, although the scale is slightly larger here. A centrally located stair takes you up to the bedroom level, and another short stair takes you up to the Master Bedroom level. Another couple of feet above the second floor, it affords the main living spaces a high ceiling.

The owner spent a lot of time getting to this point. Several other architects were engaged and ejected before we set to work on the design. He traveled to modern home tours in California and Atlanta all to collect ideas and take pictures of modern home inspirations. We worked through the schematic design, and advised as he applied his engineering background to preparing the construction drawings himself.

Here you see a section through the core of the house where an atrium extends up to the attic level above. This chimney ventilation will aid in venting warm air in the summer.

More images of the house design can be seen on our web site. The owner is self contracting, so we expect the pace to be slower than a full time gig, but follow along. It should be fun to watch this come together.

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Coming In From the Cold - the story behind the story or How the nations top scientists gave up on US home builders

As much as my Swedish housing industry research colleague Scott Hedges and I would like to think we discovered the success of MMC in Sweden, we have to credit work which has encouraged our thinking and research. The methods we are examining were described years ago by much greater minds than ours.

During the 1980's scientists working at the Lawrence Berkley Energy lab noticed that less energy was being used to heat homes in Sweden than in other industrial countries. Was the data wrong? No, Sweden was outperforming other countries. A man named Henry Kelly, who was director of a group called American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, along with a Berkley scientist Lee Schipper, and colleague Stephen Myers, realized that the Swedes weren’t just building a few energy efficient houses. Rather they had managed to make the average house, the kind built every day much more energy efficient. The Swedes had changed housing though a comprehensive effort encompassing the building products industry, the construction industry, national building codes, national lending practices, and trades unions.

The USA had just passed through a severe energy crisis that rocked the entire economy. Our band of researchers saw what this could mean to energy policy in the USA. Determined to quantify the progress in Sweden, they secured a grant from the German Marshall Fund and cooperation from the Swedish Council for Building Research to do something that is rarely (if ever) undertaken by the building industry: an international collaborative study to find out what actually went on in Sweden and how it might inform the way we build and structure our housing industry here in the US. Their report was done in 1985 and the results distilled into a small book called Coming In From the Cold: Energy-Wise Housing In Sweden.

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Sunday, November 07, 2010

Greg Lavardera's Modern House Plans + Bensonwood

All week we've been talking about factory house building in Sweden, and American timberframer and house manufacturer Bensonwood. The good news is that Bensonwood has begun to offer our house designs in their energy efficient building systems. The first house to be offered is the XHouse2.

We went through a detailed redesign of the XHouse2 with Bensonwood's engineering staff in preparation for this offering. The Bensonwood version of the house is subtly different on the outside. The front porch and rear deck framing is updated to be built with their timber-framing prowess. The wood cladding on the house reflects the products they have incorporated into their material stream. Internally the framing and details are completely revised to be built with factory made wall panels for a tight and energy efficient house. So although the design is clearly the same house, this is a unique edition you might say, only available through Bensonwood. Our house plan version remains designed for generic construction methods for the widest possible suitability. In fact its this generalized nature of my designs that allow them to be so readily adapted to Bensonwood's systems.

We're very excited to be able to offer our designs with such a high performance building system. Now you will find a new house plan group on our site for Bensonwood offerings, and the dedicated catalog page for the Bensonwood version of the XHouse2. From that catalog page you can click over to their site and land at their XHouse2 page.

Bensonwood will offer packages in different stages of completion from fully finished panels in their high performance Open-Built® format, to open framed panels only. This is a first step, although admittedly a small step, towards establishing a foothold for these new MMC/OSM manufacturing methods in the US. Look for us to expand the influence of these techniques in the future.

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Thursday, November 04, 2010

PreFab is Dead - When can we expect MMC/OSM?

For the past week I've been writing about what is wrong with PreFab in the US, and I've been writing about what is right about OSM in Sweden. The inevitable question is when will that come to the US? Is there anybody building like that now? The answer is while there is nobody working precisely as the Swedes do here, there is a builder who works with a very similar process, and even more importantly is an active student of Swedish and German building techniques. That builder is Bensonwood out of Walpole New Hampshire and we've just begun to offer our house designs built by them. But before the big announcement, let's look at what they are doing.

There are a number of US builders that have imported the various machines that are like the ones used in Sweden and in Germany, and they have used them for fabricating houses in panels - panelization as its called. But these builders do not attempt to finish their walls on both sides. Few even attempt to finish them on one side. Hence much of the great advantage of the technique is lost as a great deal of the work is still sent out to the field. There have even been attempts to import houses from Sweden, shipping them in their flat panel form to be assembled here in the States. A small quantity of houses were built and sold, but the designs of the Swedish houses admittedly did not make a clean fit to American expectations. For the most part the American housing industry has ignored Sweden's great achievement. A government funded report on the Swedish housing industry from the 1980s called "In From the Cold" documented the progress and results of the change to housing in Sweden. They presented this as a model for the US industry to follow, and then it largely fell on deaf ears. The researchers that conducted the study and wrote the report threw up their arms and moved on to other research topics. The few that have taken up some of these lessons have never carried them very far into the building process. They've done open panels, little more.

Bensonwood's journey into this was somewhat different. Coming from the American timber framing craft, Tedd Benson was quick to adopt computer driven milling equipment that he saw being used in Germany. This led him into the other types of automated fabrication techniques that were being used there, as well as leading him to be being present for the birth of the Passive House movement in Germany. Benson has been steadily taking this technology and the lessons of how they were building back to his shop in New Hampshire and evolving the way he builds homes here in the States. He's faced the same stumbling blocks that we've reviewed in examining the Swedish factory. Our building products here don't help you to panelize your walls, never mind make a high performance home. So along the way Bensonwood has been diligently adapting American products, importing european products where practical, and inventing what was missing, all in the pursuit of an intelligent manufacturing process. There is that word again! Intelligent! They have been connecting the dots where American component suppliers fail to, and building more and more value into their product. This is their form of MMC and OSM.

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Tuesday, November 02, 2010

PreFab is Dead - Long live MMC and OSM

This is going to be the mantra: MMC is Modern Methods of Construction. OSM is Off Site Manufacturing. PreFab just does not cut it because transposing conventional construction activities to under roof is only a tiny step towards removing inefficiency from the building process. So much more can happen, and it can all build value for the customer.

So what happened in Sweden? We've gone over many of the details of how their building practices differ in prior posts. But what happened that enabled them to get to this point? In our LamiDesign Idea Log we've been posting images of Swedish Catalog House designs that are Modern. We've posted dozens so far, and there are more and more and more to show. How is it that a small country like Sweden can offer such a range to a market of limited demand like Modern? Yet here in the USA our larger merchant builders can offer none? Even if the percentage of buyers interested in modern in the USA is less than in Sweden, if you added them all up it would be larger than the entire market for the whole of Sweden. Yet our builders here can't even address this market with a single viable product? Not one modern house offered by the big builders that represent the majority of our market. Can you grasp the enormity of this failure?
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Sunday, October 31, 2010

PreFab is Dead - How Architecture Failed PreFab

Today I've asked my correspondent from Sweden, Scott, to layout how the confluence of "Modern Green PreFab" and Architecture has profoundly missed its mark.

You are right Greg, “PreFab” as discussed in America by architects who are passionate about “modern” is dead. The chronic and seemingly unshakable idea in the architecture world is that there is a relationship between how a building looks, and how a building is built. We have to come to terms with this and move on.

I think we need to lead a 12 step program for the “modern green prefab” enthusiast. First though, there has to be an admission that these enthusiasts can not control their compulsions. They must surrender to a higher power (the logic of manufacturing), they must examine the past, make amends, and learn a new code of practice.

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Letters from Sweden - PreFab is DEAD

Shocking headline intended to get your attention? Guilty. But its true.

Modern PreFab burst on to the scene 10 years or so ago. Before we knew it everybody was a-buzz about PreFab. Magazine articles, newspapers, cable tv shows. Lots of ideas were being tossed out, and some houses were being built. Everybody was hopeful - this is it! We might finally see modern homes priced competitive to standard production homes, all thanks to PreFab. And then just like every PreFab cycle that came before, it was over - again - with little to show for it. Yes, some nice houses were built, and yes, a few are still being built. And capping it off MOMA had a PreFab exhibit, one that should have embarrassed any architect. It was the crown jewel to announce that PreFab had arrived! But was actually more of a postscript on why it had died, again. So here we are on the other side of the cycle and what have we learned? The housing industry is largely unchanged. Design of status quo homes has not improved. Modern is still not readily available. This time around lets just see it for what it is. Call a spade a spade. PreFab is dead.
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Friday, October 22, 2010

0751 RS House - painted!

The NJ RS House has been painted, and it is a rich and creamy milk chocolatey brown! We just want to run up to it and take a big bite out of the corner!

The movers are schedule for next week and we can both happily, and sadly, call this one done. We will have more pictures, however. I think in the spring when the trees leaf out again I'll try to get another round of photos on a day with a nice blue sky.

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

XHouse2 - New version breaks cover.

I have been working on renderings of this new XHouse2 version over the past few weeks, and I'm finally ready to show them. I'm not ready to reveal all the details of what this is about yet, but we can look at the images and at some of the differences.

The Construction Prints for the XHouse2 include three different cladding schemes. There is a simple fiber-cement scheme combining lap siding panels and board and batten panels. There is a plastic laminate panel option which features exposed flashing at the joints. And there is the rain-screen cladding option which is the appearance which was featured in the renderings of the house. The first thing you will notice about this new version of the XHouse2 is that it is not sporting any of those cladding schemes.

The cladding on this new XHouse2 scheme is a combination of ship-lapped horizontal panels, and flush vertical siding panels, all in solid wood. You will also notice that the steel framing from the original version is now replaced by timber post and beam framing. Similarly the cable railings are framed in wood rather than angle irons.

Lastly you'll notice that the foundation wall at the basement is now clad in corrugated metal which will be protecting an external insulation layer at the basement level, all designed for greater energy performance. Which will be key to this new version. Stay tuned, we are working to reveal this as fast as we can.

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Sunday, October 10, 2010

0751 RS House - no longer a construction site

The project has officially turned the corner, with the sodding of the lawns it no longer appears like a construction site. Many loose ends to tie up and details to finish or correct, but the movers have been scheduled and its nearly time for the house to start its life.

What a difference to see the house with a blue sky! The siding still has not been painted, so there will be at least one more great transformation outside before the big transformation that comes inside when the owners occupy.

Remember the RS House is offered in a two story version as a house plan through our catalog. Note, plans for this house design are offered at a much lower price than the rest of our collection.

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Tuesday, October 05, 2010

0751 RS House - shower time

All the fittings and fixtures are in the Master Bathroom now, but for the glass panels flanking the shower.


The shower has a ceiling mounted "rainfall" head, and hand spray in an adjustable mount, and a couple of wall mounted body sprays.

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Monday, October 04, 2010

0751 RS House - more interior work

The dark wood flooring we showed in the early renderings is down and looks great.

Also this is shot at night, so the light in the photo is all coming from the house lighting. Given that I don't think the dark flooring make the room dark. In fact I think during the day it will look even brighter.

We actually had the flooring running the other way in the 3d model, but its incorrect. The flooring typically runs across the joists as it was installed. A few more new photos are posted over at the Flickr set.

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Thursday, September 30, 2010

0751 RS House - final stretch

Landscaping is going down, and light fixtures are going up. The RS House is in the final stretch, maybe two weeks out from being complete.

The landscaping work began this week, oddly enough before the exterior painting was done. The weather simply did not cooperate, and while the landscaping if not the landscapers can tolerate the rain, the painting simply could not happen.

Inside this cool pair of atomic light fixtures went in over the dining room table location. I love these and the strong period modern vibe they give out. To me they land in both that 1950s atomic age, and still have a bit of that 60s pop vibe going too. Its a great match for the house and I'm looking forward to seeing more of the owners choices as they move in.

Remember the RS House can be yours! Plans for the two story version of this house design are available through our catalog page. Note, plans for this house design are a bargain. We offer house designs like this one which are not part of our other collectcions at a much lower price. Check it out.

Continue reading "0751 RS House - final stretch"

Sunday, September 12, 2010

0751 RS House - new photos

I visited the house on Friday and took a bunch of new photos. There is much finish work to complete yet this was my first time walking through the nearly complete house. Now that the interior is well along, and the exterior and site also nearing the end of the work the house is revealing its qualities. Its always pleasant to see and experience the spaces that you have been so long in planning.

There were so many things that struck me upon visiting the house that I'm not sure where to start. The first thing I encountered upon arriving was the new earth form resulting from the backfill over the septic system. Although the final grade has not yet been established around the house, the rough grading is done and the house finally sits on the ground in a way that makes sense, straddling the ridge resulting from the fill required at the septic system. This was one odd characteristic of the site - the septic system occupies the highest point on the site because it was the most favorable location for its function. This is what ultimately drove us to convert the house from a two story configuration to a 1 story with the lower level day-lit on either end of the house. It is essentially two stories, but now we were building only two instead of 3 stories.

The cladding of the house is complete although the painting of the siding areas is not done. But the house has largely the look and feel it will when complete. What reads very strongly now is the reflection of the layering of space inside the house as it exerts itself on the facades. Early in the design process the owner was very interested in houses that had a dynamic and varied exterior envelope. Overlapping volumes, and compositions that appeared to be a compilation of related parts. That notion guided the sensibility of the design from early on and now as its nearly done that is showing through. At the front each individual space within becomes an element of the facade. As you move around the house to the back the house envelops and creates an outside room at the rear deck.

Inside the volume of the house returns the gesture. Essentially in what is a wide open floor plan the envelope of the house defines distinct places, the kitchen with a high ceiling lit by high windows, the dining area with a lower ceiling and pushing out of the front wall, the living space removed from the front wall by circulation and an intimate reading space. See more in the photo browser below.

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Friday, September 03, 2010

0751 RS House - deck and countertops

Inside the house the countertops have been installed in the kitchen and the master bathroom. Outside the deck builder is making haste with the deck framing.

Just a few more weeks for the major areas of work, some details to clean up, and the project will be done. Then its time to start living in it! A few more photos of the countertops were added to the Flickr set.

Plans for the two story version of this house design are available through our catalog page:

0751 RS House. Remember, plans for this house design are a bargain. We offer house designs like this one which are not part of our other collectcions at a much lower price. Check it out.

Continue reading "0751 RS House - deck and countertops"

Friday, August 20, 2010

0751 RS House - tile tile tile

Tile has really his the back stretch now, as both main bathrooms appear to be rapidly finishing. The Owner is sending us photos daily as he is really watching the finishes carefully.

You will find a few more shots after the link below.

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

0751 RS House - filled

The septic system has been placed, and the earth backfilled. The earth around the house is now finally almost at final grade.

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

0751 RS House - more progress

This kitchen cabinets are moving along, and out in the front yard the dirt is on the move to make room for the septic field.

For more current photos, follow the link below.

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Sunday, August 08, 2010

0751 RS House - septic, and kitchen

Now that the house is closer to finishing the visual progress on site is less total than when it was being framed up and sided. But there is one more big change yet to happen, and its begun this past week.

Inside the house the kitchen cabinets are getting installed, and other finishes such as tile for the bathrooms are happening at the same time. Outside is much the same as before while this interior finish work goes on. Yet the big change about to happen is the install of the septic system. Usually not a big design feature, in this case the septic system resides under several feet of fill directly in front of the house. The impact that this has on the design has to do with the way the house sits on the land. If you look back to the sketches of the house its always been shown sitting straddling a ridge of land the met the front of the house. That ridge of land is the fill to be placed over the septic system, and without that fill its left the house looking like a fish out of water. This will soon be rectified as the septic is installed now, and the fill will follow shortly.

More photos of the current state of the work follows the link below.

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Saturday, July 17, 2010

0751 RS House - drywall

And in a flash, the wall board is hung and trimmed. The rough in of electrical, plumbing, and HVAC, the insulation, and inspection all happened very rapidly as the builder has hit his stride with this familiar work.

Ducts and pipes have found their place with only a few small conflicts handily resolved with the builder and owner. The shape of the rooms, and the elements of the space are all more apparent now that there are uniform surfaces. More photos of the interior in a photo browser after the continue link below.

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The green color is the mold resistant drywall used on the lower level because it is partially below grade. Next will be the spackling of the joints and corners. Plans for the two story version of this house design are available through our catalog page.

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Thursday, July 01, 2010

0751 RS House - stucco areas begun

The stucco scratch coat has gone up, and the finish coats are sure to follow soon. I just realize I don't know what color is coming. Its nice to have a little surprise in store.

The areas under the low roof on the front here will actually receive veneer stone, and not stucco.

Here is the entry court - you can see the expansion joints which will make score lines in the stucco surface. Note the windows here are properly protected from the wet stucco work.

Remember plans of the 2 story version of this house are available from our catalog.

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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Crushed Stone or Crushed Concrete

I'm seeing a lot of crushed concrete in the material stream of projects these days, mainly as a substitute for crushed stone. I'm a big advocate of this kind of recycling, but its not always a good substitute in all situations.

It seems like a no-brainer, right? Hey, we can get crushed concrete for less than crushed stone - lets use it. That's fine, but you really have to think about where you are using it. If you are talking about the layer of stone you lay below a slab on grade for your home, then I think this is not a good place for crushed concrete. The reason gets back to why that stone is there in the first place.

The stone bed below a slab serves several purposes. First it creates a "solid" base to pour your concrete over. No soft spots, no roots or organic material to rot away in the future. Second, it allows water to drain through it. The spaces between the stone allow water to flow (and if there is water flowing under your slab it should be flowing to a drain pipe.) Those same spaces between the stone allow you to vent gases coming from the earth like radon. Crushed concrete can do all these jobs pretty well, all but this last one which is: stone provides a capillary break...! A what?

You all know what capillary action is - its how your paper towel picks up a spill, how your blood gets through those tiny vessels. In plain speak, any material with tiny tiny holes soaks up water like a sponge, and that includes the soil your slab sits on. So, when a stone layer is placed over the soil beneath your slab, it will prevent the moisture that is naturally in the soil from coming in contact with your slab. The stone has no tiny holes, only big ones, so no suction - the water stops there. Granted, your slab should have a plastic vapor barrier below it, true, but you don't want that vapor barrier to be sitting on top of wet soil. Contact with wet soil only makes it much harder for the vapor barrier to do its job keeping moisture out of the slab. Plus the placement and pouring of a concrete slab is rough work, and the chance that your vapor barrier came through without a hole is pretty slim. A hole plus wet soil would spell moisture in your slab. So believe me, you don't want moist soil right below your vapor barrier. Hence your stone layer breaks the capillary flow of water - water can not rise through the stone, and hence can't approach your slab.

And here we have the important difference between crushed stone and crushed concrete. Anybody that has put water on a sidewalk with a hose knows that the concrete absorbs water. You can't see the holes, but they're there. It has a porous structure that takes in and holds water. The crushed stone on the other hand does not. So if you use crushed concrete below your slab, its going to take up that water from the damp soil below, and its going to carry it right up to the underside of your slab - defeating the entire purpose of the stone layer. So, a word of advice. Don't do it. There's plenty of places to make good with crushed concrete in a construction project. Under your slab on grade is not one of them.

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Sunday, June 27, 2010

0751 RS House - siding panels complete

No matter how familiar I am with a house design, I'm still pleasantly surprised to see it take form in reality during construction. As the siding has approached completion the house is offering up fresh perceptions of its stature and proportions. An experience that will continue as the interior is completed as well.

The siding panels look to be complete now. The areas without siding at the entry wing and at the living room will receive stucco. I'm not sure what the schedule for that work is yet, but its outside the critical path for completing other work. It may happen soon, or later.

A few more photos have been uploaded to the flickr set as well.

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

0751 RS House - NJ version vs the two story plan version

There has been some curiosity about the differences between the two story house plan version of this design, and the one story, with daylight lower level. Here is a comparison of the floor plans.

The main living level is much the same - NJ on top, Two story below:

You'll note that the NJ version has a library area along the living room where this is a second floor space in the other version. The entry vestibule is also removed from the NJ version and it relies on the vestibule at the side of the house where the majority of comings and goings will take place.

Then for the two story version we go upstairs, and the NJ version downstairs.

Upstairs there is a walkway that surrounds a two story living room. The home office is to the top above the kitchen. In the NJ version you go downstairs to a hall that connects the bedroom to the home office below the kitchen. The two story space is replaced by a basement storage room. The bedrooms in both schemes are much the same, but the home office in the NJ version connects directly to the side entry by a short stair. In the two story version there is a door to roof deck above the entry, and a spiral stair down to the main deck.

Plans for the two story version of this house design are available through our catalog page.

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0751 RS House - siding and fill

Siding is going up rapidly, and the water proofing now complete earth is being placed around the house. Its finally starting to sit in the ground the way it was meant to.

The rough-in of plumbing, electrical, and HVAC is moving along. When they are complete insulation is next. Outside the siding is almost complete. The next steps outside will be stucco and veneer stone.

Plans for the two story version of this house design are available through our catalog page. Remember, this design is offered at a much lower price than the rest of our plan collection. Check it out.

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Sunday, June 13, 2010

0751 RS House - cladding begun

While all that water proofing and foundation drain is going on down in the dirt the cladding has begun up on the walls. At the same time wires and pipes are laying down inside and the duct man has his marching orders. It all spells Progress.

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Tuesday, June 08, 2010

0751 RS House - its wrapped

Now that the windows are installed, and the roof is on, the house has been wrapped and the electricians, plumbers, and hvac workers are doing their thing inside. The next task outside is the waterproofing of the basement and completion of the perimeter drain.

Now that the framing is done the progress will appear to be slower, but their is much happening. When the fill is placed around the house it will sit better as it was designed to, on the peak of the little hill in the center of the site.

Plans for the two story version of this house design are available through our catalog page. Remember, this design is offered at a much lower price than the rest of our plan collection. Check it out.

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Friday, May 28, 2010

0751 RS House - windows in, roof on

The rough carpentry is more or less done, the roof is on, the windows installed. Siding and cladding people are staging, and HVAC, plumbing, and electrical work inside is ready to begin.

This round of photos is all nuts and bolts - images of the exposed framing inside. If that kind of thing gets you going then there are more photos after the link below.

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Plans for the two story version of this house design are available through our catalog page. Remember, this design is offered at a much lower price than the rest of our plan collection. Check it out.

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