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:







Friday, August 15, 2014

Gabions Rock!

Why pay for organized fitness classes when you can install gabions?? It’s both a great work out and a means of enhancing one’s physical environment! Amongst the multitude of today’s retaining wall options remains the handsome gabion. Ideal for erosion control, this modular system demonstrates many benefits; particularly strength met with flexibility. 

“Gabion” translates to “big cage” which is typically made of steel wire fabric that is welded, twisted, or woven closed once filled. The baskets can be filled with rocks, stones, or even concrete. Ideally, one can reuse material such as concrete from a demolished structure. 

While a finished gabion system appears to be monolithic and does indeed provide retention, the wall is also flexible to ensure structural efficiency, and permeable to allow for drainage. Last, if you are willing to put forth your own efforts, collect suitable materials, dig a lot, break and stack stone, and sweat real hard, then gabion walls are quite affordable. Upon completion, this seemingly elemental system will surprise you with its rustic yet undoubtedly elegant appeal. Here’s the basic overview of gabion installation:

1) Excavation
A couple of good shovels will certainly do the trick, however a few hours with an excavator will greatly reduce time and energy spent during excavation.

2) Leveling the ground
It’s important to make sure your ground surface is nice and level before placing the baskets.  While hand levels are, well, handy… a transit is a nifty surveying tool that assists greatly in leveling.

3) Basket assembly
Next comes the unfolding and assembly of gabion baskets.  This takes patience, but the pay-off will be very rewarding.

4) Filling the baskets
Once the baskets are properly set, it’s time for the fun part – filling the baskets with your chosen material!  Options range from taking a sledge hammer to the concrete foundation of a previously demolished building to create chunks of desired size as reusable fill, to ordering pre-sized riprap, stone, etc.  Inherent beauty of the retaining wall structure will be achieved as long as the fill is thoughtfully placed.

5) Fastening baskets
This step can be tricky; using zip ties to first close the gaps between seams is extremely helpful.

6) Backfill if necessary
A layer of landscaping cloth between gabions and earth further prevents erosion.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Explore Your Senses

video
                                                              Sound

Smell

Sight


Touch

Explore your senses

Explore your senses

Explore your senses





Friday, July 18, 2014

Hardscapes and Pavers: Beautiful Yard Improvements

As with many construction processes, installing paver hardscapes is challenging but rewarding. Preparation takes time and can be difficult, but yields the best product. As always, use the right tools for the job. Digging may be the most difficult portion if it needs to be done by hand. Assure you slope even gravel and paver hardscapes away from your home to a runoff location to complete positive flow in this direction. Typically a bed of 4” of gravel is laid on stable soils, followed by 1 to 2 inches of screenings. We usually set edge point elevations and use a screed bar and tamp to pack a solid sloped bed of screenings. A slope of 1/4” per foot is recommended for walkability and drainage. Gently lay your pavers to the desired pattern using a rubber mallet and level for secure placement. Incorporating edging and/or gravel bring it all together as a beautiful addition to your home and landscape.
Start digging. Ughh, the tough work!

Gravel bed, edging, and tamped screenings set nicely.

Finish work: setting pavers and decorative gravel.

Wow! What a nicer way to approach the front door.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Contruction Waste Recycling - Avoiding the Landfill

Have you ever wondered what happens to all of the construction trash that is created from a renovation or new construction project?  Being that about a third of all waste created in the United States results from the construction industry, BuildSense finds it most appropriate to utilize a local sorting/recycling company to make sure our trash is dealt with in a sustainable fashion.  Our waste removal trade partner takes our waste to a Construction & Demolition facility where all recyclables are sorted out and sent to the appropriate recycling facilities.  Construction waste that is recyclable includes:  clean wood, gypsum wallboard, cardboard, metals, shingles, and concrete.  The remainder is landfilled.

Recently in Wake County, about 30% of all waste was categorized as "construction and demolition" waste and of that 30%, about 15% was recycled.  In North Carolina in general, only about 10% of construction and demolition waste is currently recycled.  The rates could be upwards of 90% per the composition of typical construction waste.  The 'recycling report' from our current renovation project in Wake County states that about 80% of the waste was recycled and 20% was landfilled.  Each builder and developer can help extend the life of current landfills and reduce the need to create new landfills by hiring a qualified Construction and Demolition waste removal company for every job.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Modular Homes

What have you heard? What preconceived ideas do you have? Let me tell you what we think and what we can do.

Most clients who walk in our door cringe when they hear the words modular, manufactured, or prefab. It takes some time for us to change their minds. In our nation the majority of modular homes are indeed of poor quality. But, then again, the majority of all homes in our nation are of poor quality. It is not inherent to the philosophy of modular, it is inherent to the demands of the US home market.

There is tremendous potential in the prefabrication process. In a factory, workers have advanced technology on hand. They work in a climate-controlled environment to tolerances far superior than those achieved in the field. Studs can be laid straight, cuts can be extremely precise, walls can be plumb, and actually set at right angles. It may sound like I am undermining the custom framer but his job is simply more difficult. Would you request to have your new car built of a pile of miscellaneous parts laid in your driveway, or would you prefer it be assembled in the factory?

Enter expert architects and builders. Enter a detailed drawing set, a properly laid foundation, and precise factory-framed floors, walls, and roofs. The finishing process can proceed with ease crafting your own beautiful home. The walls are straighter, the construction time is faster, and the overall cost may be lower.

When you build your next home, ask us about the potential of a hybrid modular and site-built project.
Hybrid Modular Home: "Boxes" delivered and set on site.

Hybrid Modular Home: In this case the site framing included a roof stretching from "box" to "box".
Hybrid Modular Home: Completed home exterior.
Hybrid Modular Home: Completed home interior.