Friday, April 11, 2014

Creative Reuse - Repurposed Materials - Whatever you call it, it just makes sense!

One of our crew often relates stories of how his grandfather used to hammer straight all the old used nails he'd find or pull out of old projects and use them again. Yes, there is a little extra effort to make that happen, but over the course of a lifetime he saved a lot of material from going to the dump and a lot of cost on new materials. Here are some great BuildSense projects that feature reuse in big and small ways.

Lanou Shop - Tin roofing repurposed as siding brings a new texture and color
BuildSense Office Before - The shell and deconstructed building materials were reused in the renovation of this existing building. See this building May 1st at the Durham Reception for the upcoming Green Home Tour (

BuildSense Office After - We cleaned and reused bricks removed from new openings to fill in and/or repair old openings to renovate the first floor shell. We did not buy a single brick! See this building May 1st at the Durham Reception for the upcoming Green Home Tour (
BuildSense Office After - The old roof rafters were repurposed for this interior stair. See this building May 1st at the Durham Reception for the upcoming Green Home Tour (
Scappino Residence - These grain bins were repurposed as water collection cisterns. See this house on the upcoming Green Home Tour May 3-4 + 10-11(
Scappino Residence - Brick from one home we deconstructed was reused here for new load bearing columns and walls. See this house on the upcoming Green Home Tour May 3-4 + 10-11(
Smith Residence Before - We deconstructed this old A-Frame home and saved the clear fir beams and cedar planks for reuse.
Smith Residence - The fir was repurposed for new columns and stairs.

Smith Residence - The cedar was repurposed as interior flooring and exterior decking.
One man's trash is another man's treasure - We worked among these homes one of our service trips to Nicaragua where reuse is an absolute necessity. This is Pantanal. It is a community that was built after Hurricane Mitch swept through the country in 1998.

Friday, March 28, 2014

So many cabinets... ...So little time

There is a world of cabinet options out there and we use them all. We have worked with everyone from super high-end custom cabinetmakers to builder grade product installers at Lowe’s or Home Depot and everyone in between. It’s always based on the clients’ choice of style, quality, and cost. We utilize turnkey outfits that provide the cabinets and installation. We also install our own cabinets. At times we have used Ikea products in both standard and unconventional manners. Their cabinet lines have gotten much better over the years and perform quite well. The trick is that there always seems to be at least one or two unexpected issues. We fortunately have the skilled craftspeople necessary to address these unexpected items when they arise.
Ikea cabinet frames set by our crew.

The same Ikea finished cabinetry installed by our crew.

Ikea Expedit shelfs (to the right) installed in a non-standard manner by our team become quite a beautiful detail

Friday, March 14, 2014

Dense Pack Cellulose Insulation

We use various insulation types depending on the type of construction, location in the home, and various other details affecting the installation. We recently installed "dense pack cellulose" insulation in the walls of a new home. Dense pack simply means the materials are applied, well, more densely. As a reference, a regular wet-blown cellulose method provides about a 2.6 pounds per cubic foot of insulation where as a dense pack method provides about 3.5.  The difference is immediately apparent upon walking in to the new structure - all the white noise from the exterior world is blocked.  The walls actually feel sturdier with the firm and rigid cellulose in each stud cavity.  Along with the tranquility of sound reduction comes a great R-value (3.8 per inch) and a good air-seal, as dense pack cellulose also prohibits the movement of air within a wall cavity quite well.

There are some downsides to dense pack cellulose - it is very hard to insulate areas like a floor band or in those unintended tiny spaces such as advanced framed corners, but both can be done. The installer must be experienced and equipped to know how to achieve the correct pounds per cubic foot so that it is not too sparse (leading to the insulation settling over time) and not too heavy (leading to bowing out the netting/sheetrock under the pressure.)

Netting in place ready for dense pack insulation

Dense pack walls / loose fill for vented roof assembly

Friday, February 28, 2014

Diversity of Skills

I have always been a person who enjoys a sense of regularity in my day-to-day operations. While I am not the kind of person who carries around a day planner, I am the type of girl who enjoys knowing what time I need to be somewhere and what I need to do to be prepared for that situation. One of the many aspects of working for our small company means you have to be prepared for numerous types of activities from day to day. We have an incredible staff with an immense diversity of skills. “The same team that designs your home builds your home.” As such, my roles have been expanding in order that I gain a greater understanding of all it takes to manage, design, and build a project. While my title is Office Manager and some days I may be drowning in accounting paper work, other days I have found myself learning jobsite skills such as cutting, sanding, painting, and installing trim. The next day might consist of mingling with fellow builders at a Green Home Builders of the Triangle function or assisting with IT. Some days this flip-flop is exhausting, making me long for consistency. But then I imagine a job where I do the same task all day, every day. I am then immediately thankful for my evolving role in this small company. Keeping yourself prepared for any type of task thrown at you will always keep you learning and on your toes. Just as the Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said, “Change is the only constant.”

Friday, February 14, 2014

A Front Row Seat to the Neighborhood

While working on a residential project in an urban neighborhood in Raleigh, I was often greeted by local residents and found myself engaged in conversation regarding the ongoing construction. Folks that walked by always gave a nod or a wave and I soon realized that this was a tightly connected neighborhood and our project was generating quite a buzz. As the project continued and evolved, I was pleased to see that these neighborly interactions often occurred while on the front porch. This fact and the porch design itself began to captivate me.

Its a cozy spot designed for small gatherings and given that the house is located on a corner lot it has a great view of the neighborhood. The sitting area is cantilevered and projects into to the yard. The roof has a deep overhang that provides a feeling of intimacy and protection from the elements. And, the cypress siding yields warm tones that coincide with the color palette of the house. 

All in all, this is a smart, intriguing space that was a joy to see realized. I imagine there will be no vacancies on the porch this spring and hope it’s the catalyst that enables the homeowners to feel a part of the neighborhood.

Front Porch with cantilevered sitting area.
Front Porch with overall.
Rear screened porch with cantilevered grill deck over carport and garage entrance below.
Feeney doesn't make an end cap for their hand rails. We do now.

Friday, January 3, 2014

LISTEN plan design build

Listen Plan Design Build. This is our company tag line - our motto - our mantra. It’s a synopsis of all that we do. One may say that it is an oversimplification, but knowing this process is at the core of every project, we would disagree. The order of these key words is critical. As such, “Listen” comes first and carries the most importance. It is vital to the design/build process to have clear communication with the client. This starts with the initial call from a prospective client. It continues with gathering an understanding of the wants, needs, desires, styles, priorities, budgets, and more provided by our clients. For the best results, their communication should include images, sketches, or other pictorial examples as well as verbal description. In order to design a custom home which suits the needs of a particular client, we spend numerous hours attempting to build this understanding of how that client lives and what is of most importance to them and their family. Communication can be lost when two different companies separate the process; when one is serving as the architect and another is serving as the builder. All the listening that occurred on the design end is suddenly cut off from the team constructing your dreams. The understanding between parties in a coordinated Design/Build effort aids in the smooth construction of the home. The same team that designs your home builds your home. Listening to our clients fosters a quality relationship, which carries through the entire design/build process and assures a higher quality final product for our clients.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Collecting Design Ideas

Have you ever tried to recall a wonderful place or thing, but had a difficult time communicating it to others? The adjectives don’t do it justice or you just can’t put a finger on what was so spectacular when recollecting. You aren't alone. Even architects and designers who generally have strong visual memories can struggle with this. When starting a new design project it is important to clearly communicate these favorite ideas, memories, places, or things, etc. with your design team.

Even for those with eidetic (photographic) memories, we recommend scrapbooking. For years, we’ve had magazine clippings galore from numerous clients. Today, we recommend using the better technological resources available and stepping it up to Pinterest. This is a free online service that allows you to quickly save any picture you see on the internet or upload any picture you snap with your own camera/phone. It displays all of your pinned pictures on one screen so they are easy to sort and organize. It enables improved communication between you and your design team.

At the commencement of a new project this is a gold mine to your design team. It gives all parties an impression of your taste, your goals, and what ideas may be considered successful to you. Do yourself and your design team a favor and start collecting.