Feedback – September


Sell more green, or sell more

Interesting question you ask and this triggered some different thoughts for me. We just completed the design and construction of three LEED Gold-certified homes at the Pine Creek Reservation for the Notawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi. The client asked us to provide them with LEED Silver with a budget of $200,000 each. We were able to provide them LEED Gold for just under $200,000 each but required a tremendous amount of product research. What I think I found in my research was this. Most everyone is doing “green” because they feel it will make them more money. The amount of “green washing” in the market place is very disheartening and in some cases pushing the edge of being dishonest. In our marketplace, we find our clients are excited about going green but still unwilling to pay a lot extra to do so. Until our clients can see compelling results because of better performance, they won’t be sold. We won’t produce those results if all we do is blow smoke. I feel that the green movement may have started out with the proper motivation but now has moved to an economic motivation. We need to get back to where we want to “go green” for what “going green” does for us rather than how much it makes for us.
Jim DeVries
Rivertown Homes by Design
Grandville, Mich.

Premanufactured custom home — oxymoron or good process?

I have been designing energy-efficient custom homes for 30-plus years, and I have found that once you understand the design criteria factory-built homes are based on, it is very easy to design custom homes for the factory.

Following their criteria is no different than following the criteria of any other product, system or environment…like the site.

Insurance “problems” don’t exist. You can always find a company that will insure it without any issues. All you have to do is ask the factory. They deal with this issue all the time. In fact, this is one of the ways in which I determine which factory to use. I live in a factory-built house, and you can’t tell the difference between it and any other house in the area…except my energy bills are far less.
Joe Villeneuve
Concepts in Designs
Plymouth, Mich.

From the RD+B blog:
Curb appeal
or functionality
of space

My clients care about both and so do I. To quote Henry Louis Sullivan, “Form follows function” and it is this philosophy that is the base from which all my designs are built upon. Yes, I start on the inside but at the same time I already have a good idea of how I want the outside to look as well. Each has an effect on the other and good design requires that attention needs to be given to both.

The first and primary purpose of a home is to provide for the needs of its occupants which is why I start inside. Once I get a layout that deals with the needs of the interior spaces (eat, sleep, work, play, etc.), I move to the outside but it doesn’t stop there. Good design is an evolutionary process so after working on the outside for awhile I go back inside to massage the interior spaces to create the desired effects to the exterior forms. I use the word massage because it is important that changes to the forms must not compromise the function of the interior spaces. The number of times I need to go back and forth between the two varies from project to project. The bottom line is that I’m not done until the inside meets the needs of its occupants and the outside is pleasing for them to look at.

I have a book in my reference library titled “American House Styles” by John Milnes Baker. In this book he takes one basic conceptual floor plan and by making little adjustments to that plan he illustrates a multitude of different architectural styles (the exterior look). This is probably the best example of why I believe that there is no excuse not to have both. Anything less is simply poor design!

There is a third and very important factor to be considered in every design and it is called “affordability.” For this reason I always include the contractor in the design process, this helps avoid producing a design that the client loves but can’t afford.
Mark Devine
San Francisco

I would like to respond to your blog about curb appeal or functionality. I think developers and lumberyards these days care too much about the square footage inside and pay no attention to the detail outside. They don’t think about window placement and size and how it will look from the outside. If it makes sense to put a window in a certain spot on the interior, who cares what the exterior looks like. This thinking has ultimately gotten us to the sea of ugly split-level homes that are everywhere. The only way to distinguish your home from your neighbors is color. I would like to think that there are people out there that are willing to stand up to these ugly houses and hire an architect to come up with something that really stands out and caters to each person’s individuality. Be proud of where you live from the outside in!
Lynda Pierce
designArc architecture + design
Brookings, S.D.

Life in a recession

Twenty-five years in the business and I feel like a start up again. But that is not all bad. I went from 20 employees to 3 and I am having fun again working directly with my high-end clients. A simpler business model but it works and it is more profitable. My clients are happier because they get me and my experience. It’s a winning combination. God Bless America and the land of opportunity.
Tim Hensley
Hensley Custom Building Group
Cincinnati, Ohio

I am a residential designer who has worked behind some one else’s curtain for my entire career. Twenty years of experience and now practicing on my own. Not only dealing with the usual schedule but the learning curve of yes a start up can be daunting. Leaning how to market and do things I’ve never had to worry about or just wasn’t part of what I did over the years has definitely been a journey. Being a one man band makes time even more precious.
Paul Setti Jr, Assoc. AIA, CSI
Paul Setti & Associates
Charleston, S.C.

You’ve hit the nail on the head (and fewer carpenters to do even that). More work and less money. Our new normal found us taking on projects that would have been referred to other companies, doing more in less time, spending less than we’d like on items we once thought of as necessary (a new pc would be nice about now), and probably just working smarter. We’ve adapted and will be better for it long term, but much of the pain brought no gain.
Bonnie Pickartz
Goshen Timber Frames
Franklin, N.C.

Our new normal found us taking on projects that would have been referred to other companies, and doing more in less time.

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