Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Flywheel - Okanagan - Not so big house - Sarah Susanka

Last weekend my wife and I decided that we would go check out some of the open houses in Westbank prior to taking the kids to the beach. Our first stop had two homes side by side backing onto a golf course. What caught my attention after the asking price of over $1.3 million! was the size of the homes + 3800 sq ft. I started thinking of the writings of American Architect Sarah Susanka's series of books "The Not So Big House". The average Canadian family is getting smaller and in the Okanagan there is large number of Baby Boomers downsizing as they move to the valley. So why build a big house, especially when you have to clean, heat and cool it. You can see others may be thinking the same with the glut of homes in the 3/4 quarter to one million dollar range.

Sarah educates the reader in the importance of hiring professionals who are trained in looking at the details that make a house a home. She also states that why not build smaller but put that money back into the finishes and truly build a masterpiece set apart from the large stock homes out there. Her design principles lead naturally to building towards sustainability and use of natural products for a healthier home.

If you are thinking of building new or renovating then I strongly suggest reading one or more of her books.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Ken Kunka - Proper design or proper planning

Proper design or proper planning is the key to any successful home building or renovation project. A few extra hours or days spent on the planning side will save you days or months in the construction phase. After getting a general understanding of the regulations of building it is important to understand your ultimate goal - why am I really doing this? Are you renovating to flip or are you thinking long term, maybe even your dream house. Knowing your "why" will get you through the tough times - and there will be tough times no matter what.

When thinking about design you should be thinking about four key elements:

1. Function

Understanding your ultimate purpose of your building project. Is this a long term goal or a quick update and flip? Will this project benefit you financially? Are there different ways to achieve the end result. Should you hire a professional to flesh out your ideas and needs.

2. Form

Mass and shape define form. Mass refers to the volume defined by a structure relative to its surroundings. Mass can be controlled by your surroundings, cost and local regulations. Shape is the composition and complexity of the surface planes. Shape can be controlled by cost and the materials proposed.
3. Materials

Both exterior and interior building materials should be selected based on upon their appropriateness for the building type, durability, impact on the environment, climatic conditions, code, cost, availability and the prevailing design and character of the installation.

4. Cost

Establishing a budget and securing proper financing. Knowing who to hire and what type of contracts. Understanding hidden expenses. Establishing a time line.

When to get help?

If you have been collecting articles and magazines but don't know how to put those ideas on paper or if you know little about construction, then seek out the help of a professional designer. If you have problems visualizing 3D form 2D drawings then seek the help of a professional. It is easier and cheaper to change your mind on paper then half way through your building project. Depending on the scale the project you could hire a student designer, draftsperson, contractor or an architect or interior designer. Keep in mind that you may also require the assistance of engineers or specialists depending on your local permit requirements or complexity of project. As a suggestion - if you are thinking of spending over $50,000 on a renovation then hire an engineer and unless your building a simple box home then always retain the services of an engineer. Most building departments have reduced building permit fees when a engineer(s) is on board.

Four other key notes to remember to designing

Investigate, Educate, Communicate and Coordinate.