Prefab housing still intriguing to homebuilders

Prefab homes are still garnering a lot of interest, especially amongst designers and like-minded folks. In fact, a designer friend of mine, Pete is building a home using Hive Modular (not to be confused with Hive Designs). The Flat Pak House is another firm I have covered here before but alas I cannot link to them because their site sucks and tries to control my browser and make it display full screen. Perhaps that is why “flat pak” is currently the largest search term leading people to Alt Text and why the Alt Text page is Google’s first result as well. And there are several more variations that bring in a lot of traffic to my site (flat+pack+house+minneapolis and flat+pak+house). Not surprisingly, I think that the chronicling of my home building experience [posts and photo gallery] is giving me more credibility to Google and other search engines.

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The art of homebuilding

One thing that greatly surprised me during my interactions with the actual people who built my house (as opposed to the general contractor) was the many times I would find them trying to figure out how to deal with a particular challenge. It seemed like every time I turned around there was something new that they had not encountered before. There was much learning on the fly and I learned right along with them. I would recommend that anyone contemplating building a house plan on spending at least an hour a day (broken into two visits) at the site interacting with the various sub-contractors. With our house it was the only way to keep things on track.

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Really more of an art form

It is surprising how non-scientific and exact the act of building a house is. There is a lot of guesswork and “thinking on your feet” that I really would not expect. I mean people have been carpenters for at least something like 5000 years – couldn’t they have it down by now?

Another thing that is much more art than science is putting up a boulder retaining wall. i am just hoping that there is enough art to look nice but just enough science to keep the wall in a more or less vertical orientation. Photos to be posted when I find my digital camera.

If I knew then…

…what I know now about building a house (learn from my mistakes – part 1):

  1. Don’t use the cost plus method unless you are going to get your own bids for subcontractors.
  2. If you are going to get your own subcontractors you might as well be your own general contractor and save a ton of money – just be prepared to be on site every day.
  3. Regardless of whether or not you have a general contractor or not, you should know one or more other builders whom you can contact with questions (second opinions)
  4. Don’t close before everything is done (you thought things take long to finish before you close!)
  5. If you must close prior to everything being completed, be sure to withhold enough money to act as a carrot for the builder to complete the house.
  6. A custom home (defined here as any home where the ideas and direction come from you rather than the builder) takes a lot longer (and is thus more expensive) to build than a “choose-your-options” home. Determine if it is worth it to you to be different
  7. Do stuff yourself. While taking on tasks yourself will often mess up the timing of other jobs if you cannot do it on-time, it is also a way to save money and get things done exactly how you like them.
  8. Some things to attempt yourself: a) low-voltage wiring like coax, CAT-5, and phone cables for audio, video, and data distribution. b) painting (internal) c) flooring (most floors are pretty straight forward to install) d) landscaping (this doesn’t mean skip this) e) cleaning (they will not do a good job anyway) f) putting up drywall (not taping)
  9. Some things not to attempt yourself: a) taping drywall (that is an art) b) plumbing/electrical work (too many codes you need to know) c) roofing (unless you have a really flat roof) d) framing (they can do it much faster)

Homes, buildings, and architecture

One of my passions has always been homes, buildings, and architecture. I wanted to be an architect, like many kids, but then I realized that it is a dying profession – thanks, in large part, to the cookie cutter mentality of many builders today.

It has always been clear that eventually I would want to aid in planning and building my own home. After reading The Not So Big House by Sarah Susanka, some of the ways to do it became clearer. The Not So Big House presents several very attractive ideas for home building. Most center around building a home that you would want to live in for your entire life and even pass on to future generations much like homes of the past. This idea serves as a stark contrast to the huge suburban homes being built with only square footage figures and cheap materials in mind.

Here’s a quote illustrating this point:

“The current pattern of building big to allow for quantities of furniture with still more room to spare is more akin to wearing a sack than a tailored suit. It may offer capacity, but at the cost of comfort and charm.”

Additional thoughts expressed in the book are of building simpler homes with higher quality, recycled and recyclable materials, that are energy efficient, and provide their inhabitants with practical, and in some senses, spiritual satisfaction.

The Site, though not much to look at, has some very interesting information (with links to more) in regards to concepts such as New Urbanism, the Arts and Crafts Movement, and spatial proportions and geometry (including some very interesting links to geometry related sites, including: The Fibonacci Numbers and the Golden Section, The Infinite Fractal Loop, and The Meru Foundation. When I get some time I will try to post something about “sacred geometry” – a topic I am very interested in. Here’s a link in the mean time.