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house from scratch1

Designing a Home from Scratch

I built a house from scratch. One of the smartest things we did was ask our interior designer to create furniture layout drawings in conjunction with our architecturals. Right away we knew if windows weren't place well, where plugs and lights outlets should go, and lights. I wish we would have done elevation drawings without designer since we would have know that the cabinetry was too close to the window to install drapes. We also toured a house that our architect had already designed so we could see how to modify it. It is really hard to look at architectural plans and see that a certain size room is going to fit your needs. I would definitely advise a homeowner to tour an existing home designed by your architect and tweak that plan. Lastly, don't skimp moneywise on what you install in the walls. It is a lot harder to upgrade or fix repairs once you close up those walls. You can always add more molding later.
green certification

Evaluating Green Home Certifications

It depends on the area where you live. Certifications are costly so in my opinion, they aren't necessary unless the homeowner believes in the certification. Upgrading your heating/air conditioning system, appliances, and caulking around windows and doors reduces your energy bills. Lower utility bills will make your house more attractive. However, you have to weigh the payback with the length of probable stay in the house. Having sold a few of my own homes, it all seems to come down to the kitchen and bathrooms. The electric bills seems to be secondary. Updating these with new energy efficient and green appliances, fixtures, and toilets goes a long way.

What is the season’s effect on design?

I am from the Northeast so we have all four seasons. My favorite trick is to landscape your home with plants that flower at different times of the season. In addition, plant bushes or trees that have different interesting aspects as well. Some are breathtaking from bloom to bare wood.
acting green

Acting Green vs. Buying Green

Green behavior is more important than green products. There are so many options now to reuse or re-purpose products that consumption should be the last resort even if it is green. Many green actions are learned behavior just like Adam mentioned. Turning off the lights and facets. Locking the windows for better energy efficiency, Reducing paper consumption by altering your computer settings or not printing at all. Using tap water rather than buying fancy bottled water. All of these options are low/no cost items that reduce your footprint without buying anything.
home show

How can homeowners make the most out of home shows?

I happen to love home shows because it gives me ideas and inspiration. I do talk to the salespeople and get information but go home and research the product first. So, my advice would go for inspiration, keep your mind open to new possibilities, but do your homework after the show.
project pride

What projects are you most proud of?

When we decided to build a eco-friendly house in 2003 before green had become popular. Our focus was to use low or non-toxic products, so this was quite challenging with all the adhesives, stains, and other products used in a house. Even the purple primer for the plumbing was low toxic. The house was rated as an energy star house complete with a geothermal system. LEED for homes was not around yet. But the fact that we stuck to our guns and limited the amount of toxic products in the house was the true accomplishment. We had to convince a lot of subcontractors and cabinet makers to use the eco-products that we found. Now a days, it is so much easier.
confessions of professional

What do homeowners not know about your industry?

In the green industry, a buyer must always do their homework and know what they are willing to spend. Simply stating they want a green home is very nebulous and can range from simply energy efficiency to the whole pictures which include everything from inside the walls to the furniture that is put in the home. I highly recommend if you are thinking of building green to hire a green professional which can include an architect, green designer, and/ or building consultant. He or she can save you alot of money in the long run helping you evaluate how you want to green your home and keeping you within your budget. There are many choices available now so if one option doesn't work, another might. I also would encourage you to hire a professional or professionals during the planning stages since making changes during construction can be costly. When I work with a client I focus on the mechanics of the house and leave the design to the architects and designers. We all serve an important function and should work like a team.
Home Design

What elements are overused in home improvement?

Designing rooms with single purposes. So many people design house with traditional living room and dining rooms. They are hardly ever used. Focus in rooms should be multiple uses which will lead to smaller efficient spaces. In turn, furniture will become for multiple used orientated. For example, tables that function as coffee tables become dining room tables when needed.
obligation green

Should professionals promote the green movement?

I think it depends on the business. I am a sustainability consultant so of course, this is what I do; however, the biggest turn-off to clients is preaching. If your company promotes a certain aspect of the green industry or is well versed in that area, then offering a greener alternative is totally acceptable. Many times, clients may not even know about an alternative. Educating our clients is the first step. That being said, if you are going to offer green alternatives, make sure you are knowledgeable yourself and not simply jumping on the band wagon. Be aware that there are varying degrees of green so you should be well versed in all aspects (light green to dark green.) There is so much green washing out there, that no wonder the public doesn't trust "green." I do believe we can educate our clients but in the end, the client makes the final decision.
home improvement technology

How is technology affecting the way we live at home?

I think the smart grid will have a great impact on the technology of the house. We will be able to control when we use certain appliances. We already have lighting controls for lights, blinds that can go up and down based upon the sun's position, lighting and heating that can be controlled via our smart phones. Touch screen that do many tasks. People want everything at their finger tips so consumers are going to push for technology to run their homes and daily functions. At one point a smart phone I bet will be enable (if it isn't already) to start your oven and start cooking your food.

How will our homes change in the next 5-10 years?

Here are some the changes that I see: More multi-use spaces and build smaller, more energy efficient houses. Think about the typical living room or dining room. How many times do you use either? Furniture will reflect multi-functional elements as well. Technology will rein were people will be able to control more household functions through their smart phones. We might see more ranches or master bedrooms on the first floor as baby boomers age. Urban development will increase because more people might want to live in a city where transportation is easier, less commuting time to increase quality of life, and more cultural opportunities will be available. More use of sustainable materials with less maintenance in construction as those materials become more mainstreamed. I also agree with DeAnna's assessment of the use of universal design to include ease of aging. Quality of life is going to become more of the driving element in the next 5-10 years. No one is going to want to be a slave to their house with constance maintenance, high energy bills, and cost of living.
house facelift

What preventive maintenance tasks are essential?

Four things come to mind: 1. Clean your dryer vent! You may have to figure out what schedule you need to be on since everyone's amount of laundry is different. 2. Change or clean your filters regularly in your heating/air conditioning system. I clean mine every 6 months but you may have to change your every 3 months depending on the the filter instruction. Also, you should routinely every 6 months have your heating/air conditioning checked. Usually this is done before start up of the heating or air conditioning system. Again, my system is checked every 6 months to make sure everything is working fine before the system is used. 3. In the Fall, check your weatherstripping and outside caulk before winter begins. I tend to do this in September. 4. If you use your fireplace, have it checked every year in Fall. If you have a gas fireplace, you should also have this checked every year to make sure everything is working properly.