Facts are What this Website is About

June 4th, 2017

Facts are What this Website is About.  This website is mainly intended to provide useful information to homeowners and want-to-be homeowners, so that they can make good decisions.  The majority of the content on this website has been written by a licensed Architect who specializes in the design of residences.

facts are what this website is about

(C) 2015, HOME ARCHITECT, PLLC, All Rights Reserved Worldwide.












Everyone’s decisions are their own, made on all available information and each person is responsible for the directions they take.  However, HOME ARCHITECTS ® performs and reports research, monitors and reports on new developments, creates designs, administers the construction of projects and then reports the results on this website: what works best, what doesn’t work and what appears to make sense for the future of residential architecture.  Some of that is professional opinion, much: facts.


How does this help people like you?  Well, if you’re thinking about having a new house designed and built in the future (soon, medium-term, or into the future), the information obtained on this website may be of assistance in helping you make better decisions to help you achieve your objectives. 

facts are what this website is about

This is why this architectural company continues to refuse the participation of non-Architects in the creation of new articles for this website.  They phone or email the company nearly every week.  But this architectural firm wants the information to be solid.  Non-Architects may be able to write well about many subjects, but they simply don’t understand residential architecture the way that licensed Architects do. 












And the advice of anyone but licensed Architects about architecture can be worse that just “puff-pieces”, they can be dead wrong.  And we want good information here.


So that’s what you’ll get on this website.  Never starry-eyed over-reaching about something untested, but rather, down in the dirt, gritty facts about products, materials, practices and quality-oriented construction and design. 


Sometimes the articles are about septic grinder pumps being installed along sewer lines.  Other times, more rarefied high-profile design considerations (dealing with mass and void, space and solid, the best view orientations, color schemes, and other design subjects).  And sometimes articles about materials, such as a recent one about a drainable housewrap.  Very useful information. And don’t forget the BookStore on this website: several online e-books written by this Architect, providing detailed information about how to hire an Architect, how to hire a Contractor, a Home Planning Guide, Client Centered Architectural Design Process, Specifications for Residential Architecture.


There is also helpful information about the cost to build a house.   And why most people delude themselves about the true cost to build their future residence.   Once people understand this, they can begin to approach their projects more realistically.  There are also useful articles about why it is best to have an Architect design your new residence, like: What’s In It For Me














And here’s an oldie but a goodie: House Plans on the Internet and Why Free Doesn’t Mean Satisfied.   Probably 50% of the people approaching this firm may start in utter frustration, with pieces of torn bits of “plans” that they have taken off the Internet, then struggled mightily trying to put them together to create on their own floor plan, from preconceived floor plans created by other Architects and designers for other Clients in other locations with different needs.   Through several discussions, this firm explains why this approach doesn’t work.  Check out that article to understand why and save yourself this struggle.  Sort of like trying to tell a cardiac surgeon how to handle an upcoming heart bypass surgery, or telling your Attorney how to keep you out of jail, or telling your Accountant how to prepare your taxes. 


There’s more than 1,000 pages on this website, the largest residential architecture website in the world.  More information than you’ll find anywhere else on the subject.






tags: facts are what this website is about, residential architect, custom, Cashiers, Highlands, Lake Toxaway, Hendersonville, Sevierville, Atlanta, Lake Tahoe, Aspen, Telluride, Asheville


Drainable HouseWrap

May 29th, 2017

Drainable HouseWrap is about recent technology developments in WRB (Water Resistive Barriers) and exterior water draining behind cladding.

drainable housewrap

Image courtesy of Benjamin Obdyke, (C) Benjamin Obdyke

HydroGap by Benjamin Obdyke (B.O.) is a major step forward in drainable housewraps with integral WRB (Water Resistive Barrier) and water vapor breathability/ protection.

HOME ARCHITECTS ® is in the process of shifting from more expensive multiple step/ multiple component High Performance Rain Screen system/ materials to the more value engineered B.O. HydroGap.  It appears the B.O. has created a better “mousetrap” for a more effective price point.












In one layer, they have integral bulk water protection and drainage plane.  They have integral 1mm plastic spacers spread over their housewrap, that keeps the exterior wall cladding spaced by that 1mm from the housewrap, thereby facilitating drainage of water that penetrates the cladding and out the bottom of the wall system.  All in a one-layer application.

1mm = about 1/25th of an inch.  This means that no field installed insect screening is necessary (as is required with the more costly HP Rain Screen systems) because the default insect grid screening protection used in architectural projects is 1/16th inch. 1mm is smaller than this, which means it should be almost impervious to normal insect infestation.  Certainly better than the typical insect protection grid used by most Architects designing houses and other projects. And once again, more costly field application of insect screening is avoided, as is required with the 1/4″ thick HP Rain Screen systems. 

Perm rating of HydroGap: 16.  Now then, the IRC calls for a WRB (Water Resistive Barrier) of 15# asphaltic felt.  And this has a Perm Rating of around 5.  That’s for vapor permeance.  And you really shouldn’t be using anything LESS permeable to vapor (a lower number) so that water inside the wall system can breath and dry out (either toward the interior or exterior).  So, the B.O. HydroGap, while resistive to bulk water, also helps the wall system to breath and dry out better.  Once again: a better mousetrap.   Architects can make this informed change.  For instance: while our firm is not a fan of Tyvek, which is the main housewrap used by Builders these days, it has a Perm Rating (per Dow) of 58.  The fact that building departments across the USA and world allow this perm rating of more than 11 times that of what the IRC indicates, leads us to believe that we would be just fine, in terms of code issues, specifying a quality membrane like HydroGap with its Perm Rating of 16.  Do Not confuse water penetration with vapor penetration; they are Not the same.











By the way, HydroGap’s Water Resistance: PASS, per ASTM D-779 (Boat Test), PASS, per AC38 Section 3.3.2 (4.2.1) (Hydrostatic Head), PASS, per CCMC Guide MF07102 (Water Ponding).  No Penetration.  In other words, in no less than 3 different WRB (Water Resistive Barrier) tests, HydroGap successfully holds back water from entering the system.  See B.O. website page: http://www.hydrogap.com/

Now then, let’s also throw into the mix the fact that many Architects and higher quality Builders are now using Continuous Insulation.  In our firm’s practice, we specify 1″ of Formular XPS t & g closed cell Styrofoam (and don’t tape it).  This Styrofoam product has a Perm Rating of 1.1, which means it doesn’t breath very much, which is another reason to not tape it’s t&g joints, in hopes that it will breath a little better.  Also, if you tape the joints, you are introducing reverse shingling, which means that as the adhesive of the tape breaks down over time (and shrinkage of foam boards), that water hitting the face of the foam can run down behind the tape, onto the foam board, then into the wood (or other material) and into the wall system, wreaking havoc. 

You want to put the B.O. HydroGap immediately under your exterior cladding, in order to help drain rain water penetrating the cladding and keep it outboard of your wall system, that means the HydroGap will be located outboard of your C.I. (Continuous Insulation).  The HydroGap as a 16 Perm Rating and the 1″ XPS thermal sheathing has  Perm Rating of 1.1.  So, the combined result will be not a very breathable wall, mainly due to the thermal sheathing, which is required by IECC (International Energy Conservation Code) as one of the main options to better thermal performance.  That’s an issue that has not really been adequately addressed.  But for the time being, we believe that’s the method we’re going to be using henceforth, based on current technology.












We’re betting that by ELIMINATING  the likelihood of water penetrating our future walls from the exterior, we’re not going to be terribly concerned about getting potentially non-existent water out of the outer layers of our walls, which will have that drainage plane. And for any moisture already in the wall system when built or coming from the interior, the wall system should be able to breathe and dry towards the interior, as long as the recommended integral kraft paper (asphaltic coated paper on the rear of fiberglass insulation) is used as recommended toward the interior, which does permit some breathability.  This was mentioned for the very likely fact that more and more framed (and other types) walls will be using C.I. in the form of closed cell foam insulation rigid sheets over the structural sheathing.

So, HydroGap appears like a very good direction in which to go.




tags: drainable housewrap, post and beam, timber frame, Cashiers, Hendersonville, Lake Toxaway, Glenville, Highlands, Sapphire, Sevierville, Aspen, Telluride

Dreams and Truth

May 17th, 2017

Dreams and Truth is about a couple of diametrically opposed things: what a homeowner dreams and the reality of the truths facing them.


There is a company (not this one) that designs houses for its clients and it believes that it is wrong to tell them the truth about their dreams for their new residence.  Let’s call the person to who runs that other company “Bob.”  Bob’s way of doing business is a real policy that is going on all over the USA and world (not at Home Architects).  Bob is not a bad person.  He believes he is right about this.  Mainly in terms of not wanting to offend his clients or correct them as to their financial belief.  In other words: Bob doesn’t believe he should tell the client that they really can’t afford as much house as they are telling him they want.  And once again: Bob believes it is wrong to set the clients straight about what they want early in the project, during the middle of the design, or even near the end of the design. 


Let’s be specific: most clients believe that they can have any of the types of houses seen on any design company websites, with all the bells and whistles for around $100/HSF (Heated Square Foot).  They are absolutely convinced of this. 


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Because they heard somewhere, perhaps about 30 years ago, that someone in a busy large area did that (like Orlando, Houston, Tuscon, Raleigh, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, or other large metro area).  Even then, it was probably tract housing (no, it’s not “track” housing).  Tract housing is when a very large development company buys a very large piece of ground (often called a “tract”), near a large metro area (where they can find ample supplies of economical labor and materials).  And then they buy materials literally by the railroad boxcar load for much less than regular builders pay (cheaper in bulk).   And they have little cheap designs for little boxy houses that are repeated again and again and again (tract housing, not custom houses of the sort that today’s home buyers want designed by an Architect). 


Now then, imagine that you are Bob’s client (the one who believes that your mind is so delicate that you can’t be deprived of your dreams for your new house by the shattering reality of the fact that what you think you’re going to pay is simply nowhere near realistic).  Let’s think about that.  You might be happy from the start, believing that you’re only going to be paying $100/HSF.  And you further believe that this will include large and gracious front and rear porches (on your very steep mountain land), 3 car garage, 24′ tall cathedral ceilings, beamed ceilings, wood plank ceilings, stone-paved custom driveway 1,000 feet long, Wolf and Sub-Zero appliances, heart pine wood floors, geothermal HVAC system, solar photo-voltaic power, slate roof, 5 fireplaces, any kind of landscaping that you can conjure, stone walls on the house and maybe even a barn or two.  Really?  And Bob “doesn’t want to harm your delicate sensibilities and destroy your dreams” by telling you the truth? 


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Would that really be what you want?  To be sheltered from the truth until you one day obtain a bid from a Contractor who’s going to tell you the truth “big-time.”  That’s called the “Come To Jesus” meeting.  Because it will be akin to a religious experience, as all the blood drains from your face when you finally do hear the truth.


And do you really think that any Contractor (let’s call him “Pete the Builder” will be concerned about popping your bubble and damaging your dream of getting a 3,000 HSF house with all the trimmings for a mere $300k?  No siree.  And why’s that?  Because Pete the Builder isn’t in business to go bankrupt and pay more to build your house for less than it’s going to cost him to build it.  In fact, Pete the Builder HAS to make a reasonable profit, over and above his costs so that he can pay his workers, material providers,  subcontractors and his own company.  That doesn’t come cheap.


Therefore: wouldn’t you rather that your Architect tell you the truth in the beginning, instead of allowing you to believe something that has no possibility of happening? 

Does that mean the Architect is supposed to tell you: “Oh no, your house is going to cost you $224.78/HSF (Heated Square Foot)”?  No.  Any Architect that provides an exact cost estimate, or even any sort of “range” cost estimate is doomed to be wrong.  Why: because it is a very detailed thing to do (estimating cost of construction).  There are all sorts of factors that can make it otherwise than what someone might “estimate” it to be.  And the stating of any sort of estimate implies liability, which your Architect should not have to bear.  He/she is, after all, only designing the house.  So where does one obtain the exact cost of construction? 













Pete.  The Contractor who’s going to build it, of course.  Pete is the only one who will know for sure.  And did you know that it typically costs Pete the Builder more than $2,500 to calculate the cost to build a house?  And he needs at least a month, working nearly full-time on it, usually at no cost to his customers.  And Pete will have to obtain quotes from at least 50 subcontractors and perhaps that many more in material suppliers.  So: it is a highly focused effort from a construction professional who is going to build it. Does that sound like what the Architect does?  No.  The Architect designs. The Builder prices and builds. 


Architects in general may have a round number idea of cost: $200/HSF, $250/HSF, $300/HSF and more.  But they can’t guarantee it. They don’t spend a month of their time for free, obtaining prices from a hundred different labor and material sources.  Once again: that’s not what Architects do. They design. 

For instance, this firm once believed that a very nice, large home near a lake should have cost $350/HSF.  In the end, the Builder actually charged more than $1,000/HSF.  So: it’s really not in the Architect’s best interests to provide a guesstimated quote, now is it?  What if he’s wrong?  (and he will be).  Liability.

However, the Architect CAN say one thing, without concern of reprisals: “What you’re asking to have designed and built for you is going to cost you far more than you are thinking. You need to have a much larger resource fund on which to draw.”  That’s a fair and reasonable statement to make, early on in the project.  And the above is what this firm, whose website you’re on right now tells every new Client, very early in each project.

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Because they all think (soon to be homeowners), because of the force of their dreams, who they are, their important job, their ability to argue and adopt an angry and loud voice, and their strong personality, that they will be able to coerce some poor Pete the Builder to build it for the price that the client would prefer to pay.  No.  Not going to happen.  For the reasons indicated above (Pete and other Builders need to earn a decent living and that doesn’t happen by doing things for you for free or next to nothing). 



After obtaining the much higher than expected cost to build the project, Clients will usually have to choose one of several options:
1.  Give up and not do the project. Possibly sell the steep land you had bought for the project.
2.  Work hard and earn & save money for several more years until the funds are in hand.
3.  Ask the Architect to redesign a more modest project in all respects, paying him again to do this for you, because you did not listen to him when he previously told you that what you wanted would be too expensive earlier in the project.
4.  Find and open financial resources that the Client didn’t want to use to build the project (retirement funds, loans, grandpa’s trust fund, sell other properties).



Usually, the Client will typically opt for choice 4, because, in the end, they want what they want and will ultimately pay to get it.



A.  Listen to an honest Architect tell you that what you’re thinking of having designed and built will require a great deal of more funding on your part. 

B.  Then find those extra resources, or decrease the scope of your project early on, which may include finding a different site (because steep land is notorious for making your foundations cost many times those on flatter land). 


Does Home Architects want to be mean by telling a Client the truth early in the project?  No.
Does this firm further want to pop the Client’s dreams?  No.
However, this firm believes it in unethical to allow a Client to believe that what they’re going to pay for their house construction will be 2 or 3 times more than what they are imagining, without correcting them.
How many times must an ethical Architect so inform and correct their Clients before their duty to the truth has been accomplished?  Good question?

Once?  Twice?  Three times? That is up to each Architect.  There is no legal requirement to do so.  Just a wise idea.
And by what means?  Verbally.  Yes.  Through emails and/or project programming? Probably a good idea, so that there is some record of it. 
And should this involve precise financial estimates?  No.  Just the statement that what the Client is  imagining is not realistic and will possibly/probably be much more than they are thinking.  Remember: Pete the Builder is the one to provide the exact cost of construction.

And so what should the Client do?  See Course Of Action items A. and B. above. 
But what is reality actually usually happens? (you’re not going to believe this):
Most Clients IGNORE what the honest Architect has told them and bulldoze ahead, believing that they instead know the truth, because it’s what they choose to believe.

So what should this honest Architect do?  All he knows is to keep telling the truth and doing the best job he can to provide the Clients what they have requested.  

Words to the wise: listen to your Architect, especially asking him/her their opinions about cost, size, features and site characteristics.  In the end, you’ll be far better off. 






tags: dreams and truth, mountain, post and beam, Cashiers, Highlands, Lake Toxaway, Atlanta, Hendersonville, Asheville, Sevierville, Aspen


Paving: Tar & Chip, & Asphaltic Concrete

May 12th, 2017

Paving: Tar & Chip, & Asphaltic Concrete is about the various stages of paving and different surface and thicknesses and preparation.

tar & chip

The image above illustrates a tar spray truck.  The tar emulsion is about 365*F and is being sprayed over either new raw gravel substrate or over an existing asphaltic concrete surface that needs repaving and repairs.  The hot tar is sprayed first over the worst sections of existing road (if a repave), or over the entire gravel substrate if a new paving project.  If this is a repaving job, first the hot tar would only spray those specific areas that are the worst in terms of cracking. 












#57 gravel (angular gravel of a mix of 1/4”, ½”, ¾” crushed gravel) would then be evenly applied from the rear of a controlled dumptruck rear gate as depicted below (only over the place(s) where the hot tar was just applied):

tar & chip


Then a heavy asphalt roller (possibly vibratory) would roll the gravel into the hot tar coating, resulting in a total thickness of about 1/2″ over the worst road bed areas (if we’re talking about a repave and repair scenario). 

tar & chip

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If this is instead, a new paving job, there would be a sub-base installed, which can vary, based on the conditions of the soil under it.  If the sub-base has a solid earth underneath it, #57 crushers run is often used by various State DOTs, usually 6″ thick and then rolled, then tack coat sprayed, then asphaltic concrete paved. 

However, when dealing with a repave, we now need to instead run the hot tar spray truck over the entire road, thoroughly coating the entire surface, including the just-repaired areas.   Then, the gravel truck spreads finer gravel, such as #89 (a mix of 3/8″ to 1/4″ angular gravel) over the hot tar, then the roller presses the gravel chips into the hot tar.  The gravel chips may be crushed granite, which is a durable stone.

tar & chip






Here you can see just such an arrangement: the old existing paved surface has had a hot tar coating, with #57 gravel rolled into it, then another pass over these repaired areas and the old main road with hot tar, then the finer gravel rolled into that.  We’re now building up a reasonable roadway.


MANY EXPERIENCED PAVERS WILL TELL YOU THAT THIS SURFACE SHOWN HERE (CALLED “TAR & CHIP”) WOULD ACTUALLY BE A FINE, DURABLE AND FLEXIBLE ROADWAY SURFACE FOR MANY YEARS.  And they’d be correct.  This is the old school “Tar & Chip.”  Which consists of the various layers described above: mainly layers of hot tar with gravel rolled into it.  You may even see some state or County roads repaired or even initially paved in this manner.  The cost: about half what a fully hard-surfaced road using asphaltic concrete will cost.  So it’s worth a thought about what you really need. Especially if you’re thinking of paving a long country driveway. Having a more flexible surface might be just the thing to save your budget.


Okay, but the Tar & Chip road surface is rougher and flecks of the top layer tend to flake loose and fly around, hitting the lower surfaces of vehicles and washing away.  But what remains should still be good for a long time.


So what’s a more refined, smoother way to go?  That would be ASPHALTIC CONCRETE (what many people simply call “asphalt.”).  What happens to add this layer is as follows: you still need the sub-layers as described above. 

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Then the hot tar truck sprays a tack-coat which is hot tar, but not as much as for the previous gravel in the middle of the road, and heavier at the side 18″ or so.  Then, a special paving machine (one manufacturer is LeeBoy”) extrudes the hot asphaltic paving at various thicknesses over the tack coat (1-1/2″ is often considered correct, over the 1/2″ tar & chip, for a total of 2″ total), followed by the heavy roller to compact and consolidate the final paving.


Usually, dumptruck loads of hot asphalt (around 320*F or so) are dumped every so often down the street onto the tack coat, then front end loaders pick up those piles of hot asphaltic concrete and dump that into the LeeBoy paving machines. 

asphaltic concrete


If a dumptruck happens to be in the right position with some hot asphaltic concrete, it may just dump directly into the paving machine, as shown below:

asphaltic concrete

Note how the LeeBoy paving machine was engineered to be just a little wider than the dumptruck, so that the truck’s dumping load of asphaltic concrete doesn’t go anywhere else but into that big hopper.  The LeeBoy machine keeps the asphaltic concrete mix about 280*F as it hits the road (see below):

asphaltic concrete

asphaltic concrete

The even finer angular gravel used in the mix can vary, but for a very smooth road surface, this particular job used #9 and #10 (which are often referred to as screenings, crushed gravel smaller than about 1/4″ in size).  You see how each successive course of material becomes finer and finer until you have a smooth final surface?  Of course, the heavy roller compactors drive over the surface to compact and consolidate it.  And sometimes certain spot locations need reheating when dealing with things like manhole covers.

asphaltic concrete

Before this final paving, often a couple of inches of #57 gravel is dumped all along the road shoulders, for about 18″ width, to give the road edges a bit of support along the sides.

asphaltic concrete

This usually requires hand & shovel work to scrape into final position (note: the larger, tan and beige landscaping rock is not part of the paving operation). 

asphaltic concrete

And so this brings us to the final, hard-paved surface.  Done.

This sort of thing isn’t cheap.  This particular project involved about a 20′ wide road, about 3/4 of a mile long.  The price was a little more than $150,000. 







tags: mountain, tar & chip, asphaltic concrete paving, Cashiers, Highlands, Lake Toxaway, post and beam, timber frame, sevierville, asheville, Glenville, Sapphire, Aspen, Telluride, Virginia, Pennsylvania





Levels of Security: Clem, Cletus & James Bond

April 11th, 2017

Levels of Security: Clem, Cletus & James Bond is about how this Architect of custom houses adjusts the level of security to suit the intrusion risk.

security precautions

(C)Copyright 2017, Home Architect, PLLC. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

For instance, the custom designed gated entrance (above) was designed by the Architect to handle low to medium level security on a large estate in the country.  And it will likely keep out Clem, Cletus and other casual thieves.  Why?   (see below)












1.  GATE: There is a gate, which causes you to stop and consider.
2.  FENCE: There is a fence attached to the gate portal, which means you can’t just easily go around the gate.
3.  HEIGHT: both the fence & gate at 6′ tall.  In order to get over it, you’re going to have some means that’s going to attract attention.
4.  DETECTORS: there’s a motion detector light on the protected side of the fence on both sides.
5.  CAMERA: there’s a real-time video camera on the protected side, looking toward the entrance gate, that ties into the owner’s TV channels in a closed circuit.
6.  GATE OPERATION: the gate does not part in the middle (like most residential gates).  Which are fairly easy to open using a nasty old truck and brute force forward, which damages the beater truck, the gates and the operating mechanisms.  No.  This gate is a horizontal rolling type, which means its much stronger.  Will it resist a 20 year old F-150 ramming it at 80 miles an hour?  Probably not.  But that may take out the radiator and engine of the truck, make a very loud noise and could possibly bend hard and heavy debris in the exit portal.  Not a wise thing for a thief to do.  But the horizontal rolling gate could probably resist other, less aggressive attempts, depending on the thickness of its members.
7.  DOGS: there also just might be some mean dogs running around on the property looking for trouble.


In other words, this is a much stronger level of resistance for the casual druggie looking to score something quickly from the house and grounds.  Not a casual break & enter here. And would definitely be a B&E, which raises the bar for the crime and the time someone would do for that.  Clem & Cletus would probably glance at this above arrangement and keep stumbling down the road in their old truck, looking for easier pickings.












How about James Bond?  Is this going to keep him out?  No, it won’t.  Any sort of sophisticated higher level jewel thief or NSA, CIA, Seal Team 6 sort of person will be able to get in just about anywhere, with enough planning, budget, equipment and thought.  But why would they want to do that?  It would probably cost them more time and money than it’s worth. 


So what do we do?  We plan and design to keep out Clem & Cletus (and maybe their buddies from the local tavern), but not James Bond.  However, we actually had one billionaire Client for whom we were planning a permanent rocket launcher and a 3,000 round per minute military grade Gatling gun on the top of his house, if there was ever a concentrated armed assault from the property perimeter, along with various cameras, motion sensors and other detection devices, electric inner fence, along with armed guards, attack dogs and a Medieval siege trench with sharpened spears in the dead-man fall.  But your average country estate owner isn’t going to want to pay for all that (or try to acquire the permits for them, or have all of those dangerous things around on their property).


All we’ve touched on here, in this simple initial article is the gated entranceway.  There are other aspects of perimeter security, involved other fencing types, landscaping and other aspects.  Those are subjects for a future article or two. 
















tags: levels of security, residential, cashiers, highlands, lake toxaway, glenville, sapphire, sevierville, aspen, boulder, post and beam,



Decrease Construction Risk with Good House Design

March 30th, 2017

Decreasing residential construction risk with good house design is about how soon-to-be house owners can lower or eliminate many of the risks of residential construction by engaging a real Architect to design their project.


Decrease Construction Risk

(C)Copyright 2005-2017 Home Architect PLLC.














Have you ever taken a risk by selecting a cheap option, then later wished you hadn’t done that, when problems develop?  HOME ARCHITECTS = the no risk option. 


Let’s consider a guy named Bob and his decision-making process.  He considers himself to be a thrifty person.  Someone who likes saving a buck.  Hey, who doesn’t?  There Bob is, at the local automotive dealer, making choices for his family’s next vehicle.  He’s decided to get a mini-van this time, as many people with growing families these days do.  However, Bob has decided to save about $10,000 by Not taking the options for posi-traction (a locking rear differential) and 4-wheel drive.   And Bob decided he doesn’t need leather; he’s going with the fabric seats.  Hey: he’s saving around $13,000. Bob’s a savvy buyer, isn’t he?


Fast forward to winter and the first blizzard of the year.  Wait for it…let’s see: 12″ of snow and ice, which is turning the roads in Hickory Hollow (Bob’s neighborhood) into a dangerous mess of mud and snow drifts.  Bob fires up his new van and heads out to pick up his kids from their after-school girl scout and cub scout meetings at the school cafeteria meeting rooms.  On the way down the hill to the main highway, Bob presses the brakes, but his van continues sliding straight, on a glaze of ice, off the road and into a ditch.  Fortunately the ditch is rather shallow.  Bob looks on his dashboard for his locking rear differential button.  Damn.  Bob didn’t pay for that option, did he?  He next looks for the 4-wheel drive button. Double damn!  He didn’t pay for that option either!  Those were easy decisions, when it was summer and the last thing Bob was thinking about was snow.


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Bob opens the door to his van and steps out.  Zip!  The first thing that happens: his feet slide out from under him and Slap!  Bob lands in an icy mass of mud in the drainage ditch there.  Jeez!  Bob has got to get his kids!  He decides perhaps he needs to get back into the van and try to rock the vehicle back and forth, to hopefully get some traction.  Bob hops back inside.  Slosh.  Looking down at  his seat, he realizes that he has just slopped all that mud from his backside onto his seats.  Well, he can just wash off the leather…Triple damn!  Bob didn’t pay for the leather!  He only has fabric.  That means his seats will never look clean again.  And his kids are still out there, waiting…


Get it?  When we are penny-wise, we can simultaneously be pound foolish.  In other words, while we may think of ourselves as “savers” and “thrifty,” we actually are being poor planners for our future selves and for the well-being of our family.  Our over-thriftiness early in a house project could well result in impossible and damaging situations later that can cause us and our families real harm and result in tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in wasted money on a house, that will need to be corrected.


What does this have to do with Residential Construction?

A lot.

When Contractors build without detailed documents several things happen:
1.  Mistakes are made.
2.  Unpleasant things occur, requiring influx of brainpower and cash to resolve.

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3.  Materials that you “thought” would “of course” be included in the project are, to your horror, Not included and cheap materials are being installed that will rot, leak, fall down and look terrible.
4.  Cheap HVAC (Heating, Ventilating & Air-Conditioning) systems are used that may not adequately heat or cool your new home, and materials are being used in a way that could aggravate COPD (and even cause Legionnaire’s Disease).
5.  Lower amounts of insulation are being used and in a way that allows outdoor air to breeze into your walls, ceiling and floors, increasing your monthly power bills and making your family uncomfortable.
6.  Your outdoor decks are being built improperly, which means that it is likely that they could fail and fall in the future, just when you have a large party on them, injuring and possibly killing your family and guests.  Google “deck fails” to see for yourself.
7.  And, the Contractor is going to demand Change Orders for all of those things you thought you were going to get in your house.  Why?  Because all those preferences were not listed in the Construction Documents.  Why?  Because you didn’t want to pay for a real Architect to design your next house.  You had someone who didn’t even have an architectural degree or license to practice.  Just someone who “draws plans.”  Hey: they aren’t worried.  Why?  Because they don’t have to do anything!  No laws govern what they do.  They may not even have a high school education. 

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So: being penny-wise and pound foolish with obtaining cheap design services will probably not serve you well.  You get what you pay for (and Don’t get what you don’t pay for).  Better to get a real Architect to design your project. Someone with a Masters Degree in Architectural Design from a major accredited university (that you have heard of), decades of specialized experience in your project type (custom houses), and a license to practice architecture.   And it’s more than just pieces of paper: a real, Licensed Architect is required by law to protect the Health, Safety and Welfare of the public.  Those whom do not have such a license have no such legal duty.   And real Architects are trained in college & graduate school (often for longer than Attorneys, Doctors, Engineers or CPAs) then must earn a professional degree, then must work diligently under the strict documented apprenticeship of other licensed Architects to properly practice architecture (often for 10 years), then pass a very difficult and several day’s long complex test to then earn a professional license (with the considered recommendations of multiple other licensed Architects whom have seen evidence of their abilities and who vouch for them, in writing), along with yearly CEU (Continuing Education Units) to stay current.  People who are not licensed have no such obligations (and probably nowhere near the experience or training of a real Architect).  Let’s put it this way: life is hectic.  If you don’t have to do something, are you going to do it?   And those who have documentation (a license) proving they’ve earned the right to practice are more qualified.  It’s documented: College.  Graduate School.  Degree.  Apprenticeship.  Experience.  Test.  License.   Experience.  CEUs.  And more Experience.


Consider your medical care.  Would you let some guy with a tool box perform your next heart surgery?  No. Ridiculous.  Same thing with your house.  Only your house is going to cost you $400,000 to a million or over!  Probably the biggest single investment of your life!  And a house is among the most complex project types an Architect can undertake (see Project Complexity).  Better get a specialist. A professional who spends their entire lives preparing to design houses like yours: a real Licensed Architect. 



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