Friday, November 14, 2014

Pocket Doors

When trying to take advantage of every square foot in your home, pocket doors can really make a difference. Generally, this space saving technique is used when doors start to impede the flow of traffic or as a means to facilitate greater storage capacity or space for furnishings. They are ideal for doors that will remain in the open position the majority of the time (or could remain open the majority of the time). Perhaps your closet doors stay open or you’d like them to stay open for general access, but are only closed when you may be straightening up for company. Does your bathroom or laundry room door swing in and block part of the vanity or counter space? Wouldn’t it be nice to free up that space and not have to swing the door open and closed around your actions?

The majority of the work for pocket doors is done during the framing phase of a home. The door slides on a metal track with wheels along the top of the doorframe. Once the drywall is hung, this technology is hidden and easily forgotten about. Below are some behind the scene pictures of what pocket door hardware actually looks like.

Top 5 Preferences and Tips:
5) Pocket doors are very easy to install in new framing conditions, yet require a tremendous amount of demolition and reconstruction to place in an existing home.
4) Pocket door systems will cost more due to time and complexity of installation.
3) Though pocket door kits are available for 2x4 wall framing, our experience is they tend to fail more easily over time. We prefer to layout 2x6 walls for all our pocket door locations.
2) Cheap hardware and parts generally fail more easily leaving you with a more difficult repair as the system is hidden in the walls.
1) And the #1 Pocket Door Design Tip: Pay particular attention to your electrical layout as switches and receptacles cannot go in the wall where the door takes up the space behind that wall.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Designing Within The Lines

BuildSense was happy to recently complete the design and build of a custom home on the last remaining lot at Durham’s Solterra Co-housing Community. Our client and the neighborhood shared the common goal to build an environmentally friendly house.
Our client came to us as a custom home veteran. She had already designed and built two homes in Austin, Texas before moving to Durham. With this experience she knew what she wanted and what she could live without in order to stay within her budget. She provided clear parameters for the project including a fixed budget, high-energy efficiency goals, a passive solar assisted design, and to have an open floor plan with two entrances, one to the street and one to the back path that connects to the community house.
Unlike many neighborhood associations, Solterra welcomes diversity in the style of homes with a greater focus on issues of site and solar orientation. Allowable eight-foot setbacks are shockingly narrow between houses but further enhance the connection among neighbors. With such tight distances between the houses, the neighborhood wants to make sure that the solar access is maintained when a new home is built. Solar models and documentation were submitted to the association in order to illustrate how the home would not inhibit solar access to neighbors.
The client and BuildSense explored design options to achieve a high performance home on the desired budget. A concrete slab floor surfaced with ceramic tile was desired for its thermal mass qualities of soaking up sun from large southern windows. This in turn made sense for the flat site.
The client wanted a well-insulated home with the intention of using insulating concrete forms (ICFs). While ICF construction suited many goals of the project, it was determined it would cause cost overruns in other areas. As such, an advanced in-line framing system was chosen with exterior 2x6 walls filled with open cell spray foam insulation and an exterior spray applied house wrap. This combination of systems reduced air infiltration to less than 0.6 ACH50 (which actually meets passivhaus standards).


The last major way the client was able to save was by choosing finishes, fixtures, and appliances that had a good level of quality without going over budget. Using splashes of color, standard cabinetry sizes, mid level appliances, and accent tile were excellent decisions to stay on budget.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Readings + Resources for the Intern Architect (and all) – PART II

Did you study up? I hope you enjoyed those resources. Here are two more of my favorites.

A Pattern Language – Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa and Murray Silverstein
This book was also on our reading list when I was an architecture student. It was, and still is one of the most informative, comprehensible and timeless books regarding architecture, construction and urban planning. I love this book and often reach for it for insight and advice. It’s a guidebook on sociology of human nature and the language of our environment, which the authors of the book defined as patterns. The layout of the book is unique too as the patterns of this book are phrased as design challenges that yield discussions, illustrations and solutions. 

Life of an Architect – A blog by Bob Borson
I began to follow Life of an Architect this year as I read in a magazine article the honesty and humor Bob provides as being a practicing architect. Like all professions, the job has its good and bad parts. And Bob has a genuine way of providing a truthful account of all manners associated within the profession. In fact he often says what I believe many of us feel, and he has no qualms in doing so. I suppose that’s only fair since he’s licensed, been practicing architecture for a while now, and most likely sleep deprived like most of us. His blogs make me laugh as well. Whether he’s searching for an intern that speaks Klingon or poking fun at reasons to become an architect, he delivers the silly kind of crap I like. Most importantly though, Bob should be applauded and recognized for the time he dedicates as a professional to provide guidance and knowledge to the young minds of this profession. 

As we know, architecture + building knowledge is a long, arduous and a never-ending educational journey. The more “seasoned” you become the more you understand the complexity of the industry. I hope the books and resources I mention intrigue you as they have me on my timeline as a young mind in architecture.  Cheers!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Projects Highlighted by Exceptional Details

BuildSense is in the midst of working on three beautiful condominium interior completions at 140 West Franklin in Chapel Hill. Check out the intricate and outstanding work by Eidolon Designs in one of our clients' homes in their recent post:
http://eidolondesigns.com/140-west-franklin/

Precision crafted built-ins at 140 West Franklin

Friday, September 26, 2014

Readings + Resources for the Intern Architect (and all) – PART I

In this two-part blog I thought I might throw out some of my favorite readings and resources. Over the years, I’ve found these to be valuable, silly and often brutally honest.  Here are two to look over this week. We’ll hit you with a few more next time.

GreenBuildingAdvisor.com - An informative resourceful website for green building, design and building science guru’s. This site contains plenty of articles, blogs or details for whatever building topics you wish to gain further insight. I’ve frequented this site for years now researching construction strategies and details for our mixed humid climate zone. I also thoroughly enjoy the green architects lounge and their candid booze infused discussions. The two architects hold great after hour sessions (with notable guests) that debate numerous green building strategies within of our industry all while getting blitzed. 

Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees: A Life of Contemporary Artist Robert Irwin by Lawrence Weschler – An inspiring chronicle of an artist who reveals to the reader his persistent goal towards the experience of perception which he feels is the foundation of everything yet the most difficult concept to grasp. The author’s account of Irwin’s life is compelling, unusual, and yet often humorous.  Irwin challenges preconceived notions, technique and his education; he strips his mind of all constraints and focuses his work on the origin of perception through self-discovery. I read this book in graduate school and I was rather fond of it at the time.  I found his lifestyle relaxing, yet his mind unsettled, and his work deeply complex. To me, Robert Irwin challenged contemporary art and his work eluded classification. Many art critics debated his career and work as even being art while others deemed him as a pioneer of minimalism

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Awesome Responsibility & Benefits of Custom Design

Only a very few people design and build a custom home. A house just for them that fits their needs and passions, family, lifestyle, self-image, and world view. Part of this relates to time, part to money, and a part relates to the emotional investment. It is an awesome responsibility to start with a blank piece of paper and design and build a home. I've heard and sensed this many times over the years but have had recent conversations with clients that have reinforced this idea (and made me laugh). My favorite comment was this: "when you walk into someone's new place and the kitchen island feels wrong, you think, 'what a dumb ass.' When you design it and screw it up, you are the dumb ass."

It is simply quicker, easier, and cheaper to buy a production house that may be close to a fit. However, there is a pot of gold at the end of the custom house rainbow. The reward for this effort is a real home (not just a commodity). A home that helps keep you and your family healthy; that is luxurious and comfortable in the way you experience comfort; that is a place of contentment, delight, and utility; that supports your favorite things to do; that represents your views and passions; and that inspires pride; a home that you love.

My wife's and my experience building a home has changed how I think when we design and build for others. In the design and building process, I learned a whole new level of empathy from the other side of the table. Now, just starting to live in our new home, we are learning first hand what the fuss is all about. One of our first mornings in our home and after a shower, my wife said that she felt like she was traveling and staying in a posh hotel but, wait, it is HER shower! We've gotten clean for years in perfectly serviceable bathrooms, but they never felt like this. Now, we have a hard time choosing between the outdoor shower with a view of the pasture, forest, and pond or the delightful and spacious indoor shower. Of course, both have hand-held shower nozzles to wash our dogs. I say of course because that is true for us and for our custom and personalized home, but not for a commodity house.

When we compare the investment of planning and building time to the decades we plan to live here, it is a minor blip that will feel even less significant with each passing year of enjoyment in our home.

While custom home design is not for everyone, here are a few examples of custom spaces or items requested by clients which provide them with tremendous pleasure, comfort, and peace of mind in their own unique and personalized homes. "It would be nice if my tub didn't feel like a bathroom, but more like a spa. It would be wonderful if I could gaze into the trees while relaxing and soaking."
This home for a boat captain on a very steep slope is three stories with the main entrance on the top floor. "I'd like something of a dumbwaiter to haul light goods up and down with ship's block and tackle."
Requests for "a light filled and open stair" and "plentiful bookshelves throughout the home" resulted in this simple, but dynamic stair. What might you want out of your custom and personalized home?

Friday, August 29, 2014

BuildSense leads another great summer of Design/Build at NCSU School of Architecture!

BuildSense leads another great summer of Design/Build at NCSU School of Architecture! In our fifth summer, we were once again blessed with a fantastic group of motivated students who completed another elegantly executed project. The non-profit Benevolence Farm in Graham NC was the proud beneficiary of this summer's efforts. Students and Instructors designed and built this vegetable washing and packaging barn (“The Benevolence Barn”) complete with open work areas, cold storage, dry storage, and tool sheds in just over 10 weeks. Benevolence Farm provides an opportunity to formerly incarcerated women to live and work on a farm where they develop farming and business skills, grow food, nourish self, and foster community. See images of the completed work below: