green construction blueprints

Everything You Need to Know About Hiring a Green Construction Architect

Many home builders are interested in green construction, or the idea of building a green or energy-efficient home from scratch. But finding the right architect for such a project can be a challenge, considering the architecture industry is still trying to adjust to the green building craze. Some architects specialize in green construction; while others would like you to believe that they’re skilled in these matters, but they’re actually still learning their way. If you’re interested in constructing a green building, use these tips to find the right architect for the project.

Understanding Their Concept of “Green”

When trying to hire an architect for a green project, you’ll want to make sure that you’re on the same page. That means understanding their concept of the word “green”. Some architects will sell themselves as green builders, but they might not be familiar with what makes a building environmentally friendly. Ask them to describe what makes a building green. If their answer is about choosing energy-efficient appliances, they might need some more training on the subject. They should be focused on lowering energy bills and keeping the building relatively small and contained.

What Goes into Their Green Design?

Now is a good time to start asking about the specifics of what they consider to be a green design. An architect that’s well-versed in high-performance green construction will talk about insulating walls and ceilings, limiting airflow to the outdoors, and implementing self-sustaining energy systems into the building’s construction. This goes far beyond choosing an energy-efficient air conditioner or fitting your home with energy-efficient appliances.

Learning About Their Previous Experience with High-Performance Green Construction

Many architects don’t have adequate training when it comes to green construction. They may have an idea about what goes into a green building, but when the time comes to design a project from scratch, they’re flying blind. Many architecture schools are just starting to offer green building programs to their students, so finding an architect with a “green” degree might be difficult.

Try to learn as much as you can about the architect’s background and education. Even if an architect didn’t study green architecture in college, they might have a long history of building green structures. Ask for some previous work samples or existing structures they’ve worked on.

Finding a qualified green architect for your next project usually requires a little more legwork than if you were building a normal home. Green architects tend to be easier to find in places like California, New York and Washington, but there are season pros all over the country if you know where to look.

If you’re looking for a green architect in the Bay Area, contact CRC Builders Inc. to learn more about our services and past experience!
eco-friendly fireplace

Eco-Friendly Fireplaces: The Benefits of Adding a Green Fireplace to Your Property

Everyone loves to snuggle up next to a crackling fireplace, especially when there’s a fresh covering of snow on the ground. But traditional wood-burning fireplaces might not be the best choice for your property. They can release toxins into the air, decrease air quality, and make your home less energy efficient. If you want to install a fireplace in your home but without the drawbacks, consider choosing an eco-friendly fireplace instead. Learn more about the benefits of using a green fireplace from the professionals at CRC Builders Inc.

Less Wasted Heat

With a typical wood-burning fireplace, much of the heat created by the fire ends up going right out the chimney before it has a chance to raise the internal temperature of your home. Once the heat escapes, cold air from the outdoors will sneak inside your home, forcing your furnace or HVAC system to work that much harder to keep your home warm.

You can avoid this issue by using a natural gas or propane fireplace that eliminates the heat loss from the chimney. Natural gas and propane fireplaces don’t release the same amount of toxins into the atmosphere as a wood-burning fireplace, which means less smoke and you can bring more heat directly into your home.

Better Air Quality

Burning wood releases small particles into the air that can lead to a number of health issues and concerns, including respiratory issues. These fine particles can easily be ingested or inhaled, especially if you’re lighting a fire in a small space with little ventilation. This can be a danger to you and your loved ones when you’re lighting fires in your home on a regular basis.

Instead of burning wood, you can use a natural gas or propane fireplace that reduces these emissions by up to 90 percent. You can also use a pellet stove, which burns cylinders made with compressed sawdust, reducing the amount of toxic emissions in your home. Your family will breathe easier knowing that your home is not filled with toxic particles that can do lasting damage to your health.

More Savings

Switching to a green fireplace can help you and your family save money. You’ll have lower HVAC costs by not wasting as much heat and pumping clean heat directly into your home every time you light a fire. Your local or state government might also provide generous tax breaks and subsidies when you install an eco-friendly fireplace in your home. You can enjoy the soothing ambience of a real fire in your home without throwing your money out the window.

With better air quality, more energy efficiency and less wasted heat, switching to a green fireplace can make all the difference in the world. Contact the pros at CRC Builders Inc. to learn more about the benefits of going green.
attached vs detached garage

Detached vs Attached Garages: Which Is Right for You?

Garages are considered standard for some people but for many others, they are deemed a luxury. If you are a homeowner who is debating whether to have an attached or detached garage installed, you’ll want to become familiar with the benefits and drawbacks of each type in order to make the best-informed decision possible. You’ll want to start with determining the extent to which you’ll need to use your new garage, whether it be for extra storage for items or just as a cover for a vehicle. The average cost of new garage construction is $21,000, but many factors can raise or lower your final costs. Following are some of the pros and cons of each type of garage for you to consider:

Benefits and Drawbacks of Attached Garages

Probably the biggest benefit of having an attached garage is convenience – especially during inclement weather. When moving from your house out to your car, you won’t have to get rained on, snowed on, or anything else. This also applies to belongings you may have stored in the garage; many people keep an extra freezer or refrigerator in the garage, and to get to them, you won’t have to leave indoor comfort with an attached vs. detached garage.

Another advantage to building an attached garage is that the builder can use a pre-existing wall in the process of construction. This is going to save you money not just on construction materials, but also on HVAC and insulation materials, as well. Laws dictate that all garages must be ventilated; however, it is much easier and less expensive to accomplish this with an attached garage.

Many homeowners look to use their garages as workspaces or even an extra room; therefore, electricity is already present in the home and can easily be expanded to include the garage, as well. With a detached garage, the same process is much more difficult.

Attached garages do also come with a few disadvantages. To start, space is the main down-side. Many lots are narrow and don’t have the room required for a sufficiently-sized attached garage on the side of the home. This is often the case in older neighborhoods and in places like downtown areas. Zoning is another potential issue when adding an attached garage; it’s not always easy to obtain permits for existing structures and even when they are easy, they are often expensive.

There are two additional potential disadvantages of attached garages: security and health. If someone breaks into your attached garage, they would have access to your home as well. However, if you had a detached garage, they would have access to it and nothing else. Health concerns of an attached garage include inhabitants of a house being in close quarters with garages and breathing in dangerous gases from them.

Pros and Cons of Detached Garages

As far as health goes, the American Lung Association suggests that a detached garage would protect homeowners from breathing oil fumes, pesticides, and carbon monoxide. However, as is the case with attached garages, the number one benefit is the extra storage and space. In addition, many detached garages easily can provide a living space above them. This space could also be used as additional storage area.

Many houses that are situated on narrow lots are ideal lots for detached garages because they stretch long for detached units to be placed somewhat behind the homes. Many homeowners add a deck or patio above, which is usually not possible with attached garages. For people who don’t have a lot of yard to their property, the detached garage provides much spatial potential.

A final advantage of detached garages is the fact that they are easier to expand than attached ones. Whether you might look to expand a one-car detached into a two-car detached or you’re starting with a structure that was designed initially instead for storage, you’ll have an easier time expanding when you’re working with a detached structure. Permits for detached garages are also easier to obtain.

That being said, detached garages do have a couple of disadvantages. You’ll have to deal with the weather elements outdoors as you go from your house to the garage, which can be difficult to handle sometimes, depending on circumstances. In addition, you won’t have the advantage of having an existing wall to build upon like you do with an attached garage. Running electricity and venting is easier with an attached vs detached garage, too.

If you’re looking to add an addition to your home, whether it’s a detached or attached garage (or even if you’re not sure which type, yet) contact us today. CRC Builders can help you with every stage of the build, from the design to the actual construction and beyond!

A Better Way to Build

Why the System for Custom Home Construction is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It

The predominant paradigm for residential construction today is based on intense competition and limited responsibilities among the parties involved in a custom home construction project. This results in a lack of trust, greater conflict and a final product which is often compromised in design and quality. There is another approach which I call “Collaborative Construction” which creates a more efficient design process, a cost effective construction project and a final product that is often superior to what was originally designed, while also creating quality relationships between all of the parties involved.

Under the traditional “Competitive Construction” approach, an architect designs what the client thinks they want, but not necessarily what they can afford. Once the architect has completed this design, they feel obligated to put it out to bid to three qualified contractors. However, the client is generally not willing to pay for enough detail in the plans to make them actually biddable which results in the architect presenting incomplete plans to the bidding contractors. As a result, the contractors are forced to make their best guess on what it will actually cost to build the custom home. In this competitive bid process, the contractor knows that the client will probably choose the lowest bid so this encourages him to be overly optimistic in his pricing. The client then generally chooses the lowest priced, most optimistic and most unrealistic general contractor to build the custom home. Often times, the cost of the project comes back higher than the client expected. This forces the client to give up part of their dream home in order to build something they can actually afford. With this process, the client starts in a state of disappointment knowing they can’t have what they really want. It’s like test driving a Mercedes all day and then buying a Kia! They are never really going to be happy with the Kia because they didn’t get what they actually wanted to experience in a car.

The original plans are now incomplete because the client did not want to pay the extra architectural fees to spec out every detail. This forces the building process to become a series of change orders and ongoing negotiations filled with conflict until the project is completed. Each party is defending their position in order to build the custom home while maintaining their own financial interests.

Under the traditional “Competitive Construction” approach, the project evolves amid this very stressful process that can damage the relationships between all of the parties involved. In most cases, the custom home project goes over budget and exceeds the schedule as well. This is a broken process and needs to be changed. All the parties involved can be great people with good intentions, but by the time they finish building a project using this process, they’re stressed and exhausted, with relationships permanently damaged. There is a better way.

An approach which I call “Collaborative Construction” is used by many design build firms but is still not the industry standard in custom home construction. This collaborative approach is based on trust instead of fear. Using this approach, the entire building team is chosen at the onset of the project. This team consists of the architect, the builder, the interior designer, the owner’s representative and the client.

One key team member that is often overlooked is the Owners Representative. Even if the homeowner plans to be actively involved in the process, they usually lack the experience and ability to navigate a custom home construction project. Often the other parties think the Owners Rep role is covered by the project managers for the architect and the builder, but this is not the case. The Owners Rep plays a critical role in advising the homeowner, guiding their decisions, managing their expectations and uniting the entire team in the Collaborative Construction process.

In this approach, the client states up front how much they want to spend on the project, enabling their budget to drive the design process. The Owners Representative is the team leader who manages project costs and with input from the builder, ensures that the architect does not design something that the client can’t afford. The design is completed with every detail and real pricing for all materials, labor, supervision, profit and overhead. In other words, the project is completed before it started.

In this “Collaborative Construction” process, the team is committed to using their creativity, both individually and collectively, to ensure the client can get the very best product for the lowest possible cost. Custom home projects following this process almost always come in on budget and on time, while maintaining positive relationships between all the parties involved.

The building industry is full of talented people with wonderful ideas and great intentions. The competitive process they are forced to use, because it is the industry standard, brings the worst out in everyone involved. I think it’s time that we change the industry standard to something that simply makes more sense. I have used the “Collaborative Construction” process very effectively for over 15 years in the construction projects which I have been involved. I have many happy homeowners, builders and architects with solid, lasting relationships to show for it. I think it’s time to make this process the industry standard.

sdsaddEd Earl is the principal of Priority 1 Projects, an Owners Representative and Construction Project Management firm based in San Diego. Ed has 25 years of construction experience and an MBA from Stanford University. He has represented owners on a wide variety of construction projects from a 27,000sf estate home to a safari camp rebuild in Africa. Ed is also a business coach working exclusively with contractors to help them increase both their profitability and enjoyment in their construction company. He promotes an approach to construction project management he terms “collaborative construction” which is based on open communication, trust and shared objectives. Ed has been nicknamed the ‘Zen Builder’ as a 20 year practitioner of Zen Buddhism and the project manager for the construction of a nunnery complex at Deer Park Monastery in San Diego which incorporates sustainable design and green building techniques including straw bale construction. Ed is also an energetic, talented national speaker with a passion for green building projects and helping contractors reduce conflict in their business and eliminate drama with their customers. You can watch his presentations at Ed Earl can be reached at [email protected] or 858‐232‐3677.