Just plain smart building ideas
The choices that have to be made when building a home can be complicated and overwhelming. Flooring, lighting, wall covering, landscaping, and it goes on and on. I hope to provide some things to think about in the design stage rather than after the moving van drives away. Coming from someone that lived through a six month remodel living in a guest room always plan for your needs now and the future.
Look at the areas in your home that you spend most of your time, areas where you hate to be crowded. What rooms tend to be static displays of furniture that only get used once a year?
I have inspected thousands of homes over the last ten years, and it’s hard to overlook the fact that formal dining rooms appear to be a thing of the past. Days of having the family gather in one place can be counted on one hand. Be practical; multiuse areas are the way to downsize without compromise. A home office with a wall shelf’s doubling as a library provides significant space usage. It also provides an area for homework with friends, reading, music, crafts, etc. It’s a separate zone of activity but still keeping that feeling of being together. They are integrating features for productivity and convenience, such as a media system with TV, Internet and phone service, and refrigerator for enjoying drinks and snacks without leaving the room.
Things to think about while the plans are on the table. These are things I have seen in homes that make you think, “I wish I did that.”
Outlet receptacles: We never have enough outlets in the garage. Building code only requires one; consider an outlet above the workbench to mount a recoil type extension cord. Future needs for central vacuum systems, sprinklers and the LCD TV as one corner of the garage transforms into a man cave for the football season. How about at each corner in the soffit (eve) for Christmas lights with a switch at the front door, possibly a light sensor for more control. I have seen a shelf in a kitchen cabinet with multiple outlets for all those chargers we seem to collect; everything needs a charger. Half of my kitchen counter used to be for cooking now it's cluttered with iPad, iPhone, iPod, Android, earpiece, and Bluetooth keyboard all fighting for the two plugs. Tuck them away in the cabinet.
Light: Go natural, place windows in the right places. I am in Texas, large windows to the south and west are killers nine months of the year. Areas with plenty of shading (patios) get the full size for the views; others keep as high as you can tolerate so that they are shaded by the roof as much as possible. Try to design open spaces to share the natural light into the interior. Solar tubes are a great source of free light to the interior rooms. I can’t tell you how many times I walk by our hall bath a reach in to turn off the light only to find it’s the tube beaming in like a 200-watt fixture. Guests walk out shaking their head; they can’t find the switch to turn it off.
Besides the obvious need to be energy efficient, high efficacy lighting is the future. As we improve heat & cooling and water heating, the lights and appliances may account for as much as half of your monthly electrical bill. My father was always right in teaching us to turn off the light when we leave the room. While we are there, ceiling fans don’t cool things other than people. If nobody is in the room, turn the fan off, it doesn’t cool furniture or inanimate things, just pours money down the drain.