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You know what they say about a guy with a small house

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by mad5427, Aug 27, 2012.

  1. mad5427

    mad5427
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    This is a blatant attempt at drumming up some support for my competition entry, but I also figured it could spark a conversation as well.

    I was recently short listed on an open international architecture competition. It's a pretty significant moment in my career and could lead to some great opportunities. I know only two other people who've ever done this and it can help make a career. I'm very lucky and excited.

    Here's my post in the fine art thread with images of my entry and the Facebook link for support:

    http://www.theidiotboard.com/messageboard/viewtopic.php?f=3&p=227413#p227413


    I'm very proud of my submission. It's not flashy, but it's a solid design that's more modern and it's contextually appropriate to what was originally on the site and the current sounding homes. Most importantly, it would work within the $30k budget. It's as sustainable as necessary and within reason. There are other proposals that are fantastic and I'd love to see them built. Others, while beautiful, are far fetched and could never be built within budget.

    Here is a link to all 85 shortlisted projects in this competition:

    https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.399573886759163.82201.145666808816540&type=1

    Focus: Discuss (some of) the submissions and the idea of a single occupant home overall. Is there a place for it in larger North American cities? Is it a viable housing typology? Could or would you live in one?

    Alt-Focus: What are your thoughts on "green" or sustainable building? Hyped up BS or necessary to think about?
     
  2. Dcc001

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    Two questions: can we see a floor plan, and would you like a critique of the design/structure? Because I see some red flags, depending on where the house is being built.
     
  3. effinshenanigans

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    When we were renting our place before we bought it, we paid roughly $17K/year in rent.

    If this was available and I could've gotten a two year mortgage and paid off the property entirely with a similar monthly payment, I would've jumped on that opportunity in a second. Even if I sold it for exactly what I bought it for after 5 years, I would have saved about $50K that could go towards a down payment on a larger place.

    As far as the viability of a project like this is concerned, I feel like single occupant dwellings like this would take up too much room and wouldn't be able to maximize the number of units in one area to make the project worthwhile to developers. If you can put in a condo complex that has 100 single occupant units rather than 50 of your single occupant dwelings on the same piece of land, you'd stand to make a lot more money with the condos than you do with the dwellings.

    That doesn't take away from this being a very cool idea and one that I would be very interested in if they were made available, but money talks, and developers like making more of it.
     
  4. mad5427

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    The link to the facebook folder with all of the submission photos has links to download the full pdf submissions. They are 4 A3 sized sheets in one pdf. That has more info on potential construction, rough budget estimate (very tight and some could be higher and some lower), plans, etc. Based on the keeping it as simple and as small as I could, I pretty much ended up with a $65/sf budget. Very tight but achievable. The local habitat for humanity group is building for $50/sf. They don't have all of the labor costs, but I spoke at length with one of their directors and he felt that my proposal could be done. The idea would be to utilize their local Restore, which sells reclaimed products from dismantled local homes. You'd be surprised at the selection of doors, windows, fixtures, etc. can be had at 60-70% less than new cost while still being in good condition.

    Here's the floor plan for ease of viewing, spoilered for size.

    [​IMG]

    This is a tiny tiny home and my main goal other than cost was to try to create the feel of as much space as possible. This where the clerestory comes in. It allows 2/3 of the plan, the left sides in the living and bedrooms to be vaulted up so you have more headroom and light coming in. This also allowed the exterior facade to be broken up in a few locations to give the visual appearance of a larger scale. The peak would be higher as well due to the vault and clerestory, helping without adding much additional cost.

    As you see there is no mechanical room, etc. The HW would be a very small 40 gallon unit located in the small attic space above the bathroom, which is not vaulted and could be accessed from a panel above the bathroom. The heating and cooling would be done with a 2-zone mini-split up on the walls in the bedroom and the living room, each able to heat and cool their zone.

    I wanted to stay away from repurposed shipping containers as it's been done to death and the costs are actually much higher than people realize, unless just slapped onto the ground and you put a bed in. Anything else and it's much higher than that. Also, while not as flashy as others, either going with SIP wall construction or traditional stick framing is cheapest and easiest in my area. And, it's the most contextually appropriate. I could see people wanting to live in this as it's modern, but not out of place with the arts and craft and other residential surrounding it. Here is an image I found of the home on the exact site that was demo'd 15 years ago.

    [​IMG]

    I do know that this needs some development, but that would happen if I win. It's still very much schematic. I'd welcome any and all critiques and I would love to hear critiques of the other submissions as well. Mine is not the flashiest, but I feel it's pretty sound and reasonable when factoring a construction budget of $30k. Land and other fees are not included.
     
  5. Nicole

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    Alt focus: Define what you mean by "green". I can answer for the board though: residential homeowner market research studies show, time and again, that homeowners care about 1) saving money, and 2) comfort. What kind of climate zone does this competition assume? In some CLZ's, a highly energy efficient dwelling could be big savings for the homeowner over the long haul. Is there some creative way of incorporating future energy/water savings into the to-build $/sq ft, or have you already done that? Could you incorporate a better resale value for the dwelling being "green" (ie with higher HERS index, potential water savings)? Could you incorporate any area (looks like Raleigh is the assumed location) energy/water utility new construction rebates into the $/sq ft?

    Out of curiosity, how many infill lots per sq mile does this competition assume? Are you limited to considering the dwelling on a standalone basis, or can these dwellings be co-located at all (and therefore be potentially integrated)?
     
  6. mad5427

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    I fully agree about the viability of free standing homes this small as it does take up a lot of space. It's that reason that I proposed using infill properties that are already existing and too small to build almost anything else. Lots of these properties exist in Raleigh. They had homes on them decades ago when zoning was less restrictive and homes were smaller. With today's trends and zoning this couldn't happen. This property is only 25' wide with 5' setbacks. Very difficult to do anything on those properties. Some are completely surrounded by homes that have already been rebuilt. Others have empty lots next to them as well but all the properties are owned by different people. They are zoned for mixed use, so if somebody could buy adjoining properties, they could build bigger, but it's really tough to get that done.

    Oddly enough, another proposal takes advantage of new Raleigh zoning that allows freestanding accessory structures on existing properties. Mother-in-law type buildings that would allow most typically zoned residential to now have two families on one property. You could own one and rent another. This is being done all over the US. It's a decent idea for increasing density, but a lot of homeowners are gonna be pissed about that. Taking a neighborhood with, say 2000 living units and now allowing 4000. Traffic, parking, all sorts of things can get more difficult. This is brand new and the firm who submitted that proposal actually was a part of the team that helped develop the new zoning regulations.
     
  7. mad5427

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    In the years I've been working single family residential, I can't agree more with that market research. Saving money is all 99% of clients I've worked with care about. I had one client really care about "green" and when it came down to construction, all the money she needed for her bells and whistles came from all of the interesting energy saving options we developed. It's just too expensive still to truly build advanced green elements into a home. The homeowner has to really care about the environment and not the initial costs or know they will be in the house long enough to make their money back and very few are like this.

    The competition was really open ended about everything. We were given some data about single occupant households growing at a huge rate worldwide and some rough suggestions in regards to program. Location was only limited to cities with 100k or more residents in a developed nation. The proposals are literally from all corners of the world from many US cities to Canada to South America, all over Europe, Asia and Australia. Many are fairly regionally specific with some proposing ideas that can be done anywhere. I don't have specific infill data but was thinking it would be a one off as they are going to only build one with me pursuing the possibility of more if successful and my proposal would work in many US cities that are mid-level.

    Raleigh actually has a small neighborhood nicknamed "tiny town" that was built in 1950. They are all 400-900 SF and are rental properties. They all look so tiny as they are four walled boxes with a simple gable roof. My design tries to create the illusion of bigger scale, but it's essentially not much different in idea to what was done in the city once before.

    "Green", to me can encompass quite a bit. Anything that saves or limits resources, lowers costs or environmental impact, etc. or is highly renewable. Reusing land previously built upon is highly green. Sourcing materials locally to limit travel is green. Orientation to take advantage of passive solar is green. These aren't expensive to do either, just smart decisions. Renewable materials, energy efficient appliances and fixtures is green. Solar is green but it is still too costly for many applications. A few submissions are proposing photovoltaics and that is just way beyond a $30k budget. Green as hell but just not feasible here.
     
  8. katokoch

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    There's one problem in itself. It seems next to impossible to apply a single standard measure of the "green-ness" of something today, or at least manufacturers and marketers have stretched the definitions of "green" to the limit.

    I did an internship with a company that developed and manufactures a very "green" product and doing a couple of Life Cycle Inventory/Assessment* studies was eye-opening, or at least I am a lot more skeptical of products marketed as such. You have to look at the entire picture of things and not just one aspect that is changed to be more environmentally friendly.

    Because the product (building materials) was significantly more expensive than existing products a lot of consumers and contractors were turned off. More durable, much more "green," but they didn't wanna pay for it.

    *Quick rundown on LCI/LCA
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life-cycle_assessment
     
  9. JWags

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    I think it depends on the form and function. For example, the ones that look like storage units or are incredibly sparse have little appeal. However, lofted units (like the 3rd submission) and sub modern units with clean lines and ample lighting greatly appeal to me and I'm a classic size whore. I'll readily agree that projects like this show true architectural talent because layout and spacing are key to making these seem like cramped matchboxes.
     
  10. Rush-O-Matic

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    I liked your submission more than many of the other ones. Some of them are awful and ridiculously impractical.

    For yours, the first thing that jumped out at me, was that there are three porches, but none of them are covered in any way. Even a pergola or something would be useful. I grew up and live in Georgia, where it's really hot a lot of the time. Shade makes a big difference, especially when you have small homes. People go to the outside "spaces" to give them more living area. (I'll admit that I didn't read the rules and the detailed submission info carefully, so if that was explained as a part of that, I apologize.)

    And, if I were judging the floor plan, it would bother me that a full size bed is shown, but it doesn't fit between the windows. Looking at the elevation views, it looks like those windows extend close enough to the floor to conflict.
     
  11. Dcc001

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    Here are my initial reactions:

    ***Caveat: I design for Canadian homes, specifically Manitoba. We have a much different market, building codes and design practicies than the U.S. I'll speak as if this house was being built in Canada, but I fully realize that there might be construction practicies down south that I'm not aware of.***

    1. If the focus is economical construction and cost savings, I'm afraid that the roof and the footprint don't reflect either. I agree that it's a tiny, tiny house but when I see roof lines like what you have and jogs in the foundation, I immediately add cost. Square boxes are inexpensive; lots of corners and turns and bumpouts are not.

    You mention vaulting the roof for more space. The roof you've drawn can be built one of two ways: with a ridgebeam running top-to-bottom and trusses or rafters hung off the sizes of it, or with a goofy looking truss that looks like two different sized monos placed together. Neither of these options is as cheap as a basic common truss, or if you want to get fancy, a basic scissor. You'd get the vault but it would greatly reduce the joints and build cost on the trusses.

    I dont' know if the house will be sitting on piles, a grade beam or foundation by all the corners are going to be expensive when it comes to laying out that concrete.

    2. The middle of the roof, where the "big" side overhangs the "little" side is a roofline that, in my years of experience, causes many problems down the road. That overhang jutting up into nowhere tends to rot off, and when it comes time to actually construct it on site details like that never seem to get sealed properly. There's eventually a water leak somewhere. In fact, I have one on my desk right now that I'm quoting that has an almost identical roof line. The entire roof has to go, because all the trusses are rotten.

    Depending on how much insulation it needs, it can be difficult to get that little wall on the upper roof correct, and squeezing windows into the roof always makes me nervous. They ALWAYS leak, eventually.

    Is this the fault of the designer? Certainly not...if it was sealed properly during construction and maintained over its life, it likely would have been fine. But like I said...these kinds of roofs rarely get built properly, and if we can give the trades (especially if we're talking volunteer labour, who have no expertise) easier designs the overall outcome will be better.

    3. I'm floored at that build cost. About as cheap as I'd quote someone if I was just ballparking is $180 - $200/sq ft. That includes lot, foundation and finish. I'd quote building materials alone at $38ish/sq. ft. Personally, I could build a basic house if I GC'd it myself, bought the materials at cost and hired the labour on the side for cash at about $100/sq.ft. If you can build that cheaply, that's awesome.

    As for sustainable building and single family dwellings, I think the big focus should be on mixed-residential zoning rather than the individual house construction. Have a look at all the suburbs that are getting thrown up: similar houses, with a collection of big-box stores a few kilometers away, everyone works at least 20 minutes drive from where they live, etc. If there was a focus to try and create smaller communities that had closer ammenities, it would be better, I think. Mix in multi-family dwellings with bungalows and small businesses and have good public transportation, bike paths and sidewalks.

    In Calgary, at least, they weren't even building sidewalks in the new communities because no one was using them and the cost was obscene.

    Instead of trying to re-invent the wheel, I'd like to see better drawn blueprints that are actually buildable and have good use of space. I'd like to see cities stop clustering the suburban communities and try to mix up the zoning. The money saved in these two points would far exceed, at least in the short term, any cost savings generated from "green" building.
     
  12. ghettoastronaut

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    My first reaction to single-dwelling homes is that it combines all the spaciousness of a condominium with the population density of a suburb.

    I'd rather a townhouse or condominium, personally. I don't want to live in a suburb, and do want to live within walking distance of your basic necessities (subway, groceries, beer store, liquor store, you know) and ideally walking distance of work.
     
  13. mad5427

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    Your points are all valid. I struggled so much with the budget. $30k was the main aspect of the design. In a developed nation, that's almost impossible. My number for just the building alone was $65/SF. With the land, you are at around $100/SF. As I mentioned before, the local habitat for humanity group is building at $50/SF. That's without labor and who knows what other cost saving measures. This competition is sponsored by Habitat along with the YMCA, so I'm sure there will be other benefits to achieving the cost savings. As for a viable push to build this on a larger scale for profit, impossible. As mentioned above, multi-tenant developments taking advantage of the higher density will make so much more profit and be cheaper to construct per unit. Pretty much all of my work is in the DC area, which is similarly priced to Raleigh here as well. We pretty much tell every client that $200/SF is going to be standard for custom built work. Middle of the road pricing. Not too high end but not cheap materials. That's standard. We've gotten some simple additions for as low as $100-125, but they were very simple and utilized existing structure among other things.

    There is good and bad aspects to competitions like this. It's fun to do as you can try to create something cool and different, break free a bit from the monotony of the every day stuff. But, at least with this one, still need to be as grounded in reality as possible. The problem with this is that it's so hard to do something that's even remotely exciting and still affordable, hence what's probably a too expensive solution. You're right, I did stretch it a bit and I tried to do the design I liked the most yet still stayed as close to realistic as possible. Too dull like four walls and a simple roof and you won't have a hope of winning. Too elaborate and fancy and you've created a beautiful image, but it can't remotely be built. I'm hoping that I'm somewhere in the middle which could allow me to win. If that happens, the realities of getting it to the budget number will truly set in and it will be refined as such, hopefully keeping as much of the idea and intent as possible. Some solutions have so much glass and intricate details that it's beyond comprehension. I keep bringing this up but I cringed at every solution that had solar panels all over the place. Not going to happen. One of the craziest submissions has all sorts of people loving it. It's wonderful in idea, but would be so expensive and could never be done. It uses shipping containers that need to be cut up and joined and clad, etc. It has solar hot water and photovoltaics. Both out of the price range. Also, it proposes a system for grey water reuse. Just lots of things that are great ideas but not for a 30k house. A couple don't even seem to propose projects, just ideas.

    The one that has the most support is a Chinese submission about old people and train rides. Crazy beautiful images and renderings. I'm not sure if they are proposing old people to spend the 30k and ride trains around all the time or what. It's very strange and then they show what looks to be a train car overlooking some water with some lifetime network, gooey phrases about life. Maybe it is brilliant and I'm not smart enough to get it.

    I appreciate your comments, Dcc, and I'm glad that you did comment as I know from past comments that you have a vast amount of construction experience. If I win it means that the jury saw the realistic potential and development can commence to make it a reality, taking comments like yours to make it work.
     
  14. Crown Royal

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    I remember when I was a kid we had this weird shit everywhere called "affordable housing". It was so messed up. Houses were one floor (with basement), still had all necesary function rooms, three bedrooms, and could be afforded by middle-class people. Such a thing does not exist these days. Houses must be FUCKING HUGE with no space for lawn, and two furnaces and two air conditioners to jack up those bills into the stratosphere for you. With homes, bigger is not better. You aren't more important with a larger house.I you need a four-car garage and you own two cars then you're a huge asshole. People don't need to live in places the size of airplane hangars.

    I support small, afforable homes and think they should be brought back immedietly, not just "single dweller". I'm a house owner who has lived in the suburbs almost my entire life and it's good to have land, so why not give so many more people the opportunity? And single people should be able to afford houses as well. That's practically IMPOSSIBLE to do on a single salary unless you're in the upper class these days.
     
  15. joule_thief

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    I'd suggest that anything built as a small space like this needs to maximize storage. Start thinking like a RV/travel trailer and how things are stored.

    Were it my design, I would lose the side patio and make that an office/study type space. You could then extend the bedroom to match. It seems like that should reduce cost in the roof design assuming it follows the current floor plan.

    I also agree that at least one of the patios needs to be covered. Should be relatively simple to extend the roof to cover it. Another option would be to leave the design as is, but extend the roof to cover part of the side patio.

    I don't like the split level roof design. It just seems like that would begin to rot after a while, but that depends on where it's built I guess.
     
  16. lhprop1

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    I have a bigger than normal 3-car garage (about 800 sq ft) and it's not nearly big enough. We only keep my wife's car in the garage while my truck and boat sit in the driveway. With all of my weights and strongman equipment, a work bench, tools and woodworking equipment, a fish house, snow blower, lawn mower, fishing and hunting gear, etc, the place is hardly big enough for her car and my garage is immaculate.

    If you're a man who likes to do man stuff, your garage will never be big enough.
     
  17. mad5427

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    One of the main reasons I did this competition was for my sanity. I have been working on a house for a few months now that is 10,000sf of heated space. Basement, first and second floors. Ten foot ceilings everywhere. There is another 2,000sf of exterior deck and covered porch. There is 2,000sf of garage, two total garages. One four car garage on one side of the house and a single "car" garage on the other that will only be used by their kids for toys, etc. This is going to be built after demolishing a BEAUTIFUL home that is around 5500sf. Studying small scale architecture or entering little competitions like this help keep me balanced.

    I couldn't live in a tiny home, but I feel 2,000sf of nicely laid out spaces is more than enough for a family to be extremely comfortable and not lack any necessary space.

    The suggestions about one of the porches being covered is spot on. In this area it would be so essential as well. I spaced on that one. Focus was elsewhere but if I'm extremely lucky enough for this to win and move forward that's somehow going to be fit in.

    Properly flashed, the clerestory area where the lower level hits the wall shouldn't cause any problems. I can see where the upper overhang that continues upward could be problematic and develop a leak without proper flashing as well as adequate construction and sealing the area. There would need to be some sort of cap at the top right corner to make sure water either goes down the fascia onto the lower roof or goes down the left side of the upper roof toward a gutter.
     
  18. LessTalk MoreStab

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    I fucking hate green sustainable legislation. I have no problem with creating new buildings to a better standard, but when it becomes more economic to destroy existing building stock and replace it with new “green” buildings because government department X requires Y standard its fucking ridiculous.

    I’m currently in the process of conducting a commercial to residential conversion and I have had some early difficulties with council, they are of the opinion that because it is a full change of use I should upgrade the whole site to a modern “green star standard” including but not limited to double glazing, better insulation etc, I’m of the opinion they can suck my dick. The really annoying part is the dumb fuck bureaucrat I’ve been dealing with is too fucking thick to appreciate my use of the existing thermal mass as a solar heat bank and thick curtains to store the heat at night will render these extra steps unnecessary. The things they would like me to do would use more energy to create than they would ever practically save in energy usage even if we ignore the fact my state is run on hydro power. Apparently they aren’t allowed to take this into consideration. It was at about this time in the conversation I was imaging myself playing with his blood.

    It’s like buying a brand new Prius because you want to save the planet. Go fuck yourself, if you want to save the planet buy a 95 Camry.
     
  19. Sully

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    I'm a civil engineer, with a background in site design and land development prior to the bottom dropping out of those pursuits in 2007.

    Probably my biggest frustration with my and your industries is the misappropriation of the concepts of green building and sustainability. There are a lot of architects and engineers that conflate the two. The problem is, to expound upon what you said, green building isn't always sustainable. However, sustainable building is almost always green.

    As an example, my old firm once worked on a site plan for a clinic where the architect had spec'd smart glass for a south-facing and fairly expansive curtain wall. It was flashy and high-tech and I'm sure that everyone who saw it thought it was environmentally friendly and neat-o to boot. However, it was also high-maintenance, expensive, and required electricity to operate. Why it couldn't have been substituted for an overhang or brise-soleil, I'm not sure, though I suspect it was because those two weren't nearly as sexy. But they would have done the job better, more reliably, and cheaper.

    Don't get me wrong; I'm all about technology and doing everything possible to help the environment. But I think a lot of designers end up scraping the bottom of the barrel to get LEED credits when a simpler, less expensive, and more sustainable solution is staring them in the face. A better long-term goal, one that's more environmentally friendly, would be to go back to basics and build buildings that are inherently low-impact rather than making up for poor design choices with bleeding-edge gimmicks.

    The next big thing for us, I think, is transit-oriented development. It combines the town-center-style commercial development with high-density housing but still allows people to live in the (relative) 'burbs nearby. Given peak oil, highway capacity limits, all that jazz, this is the future of a more sustainable and less auto-dependent lifestyle.

    My university made (still makes) a habit of this. They've never quite caught on to the fact that constructing a new, green building isn't environmentally friendly when it will save less energy over its entire life cycle than it took to demolish the old building and replace it with the current one. Just another point to add to my first one.
     
  20. Stealth

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    Melbourne, Australia (where I live) has been voted one of the most "liveable" cities in the world numerous times yet I often wonder what sort of shitholes places further down the list must be if we are considered most liveable.

    Sure, if you live within 10-15 kilometers of the Central Business District and have relatively good access to our chronically neglected (privatised) public transport system it can be okish. You even have the option of cycling to work.

    A population explosion over the last 10 - 15 years means our roads are increasingly being choked with traffic and new housing developments full McMansions have sprung up some 30 or more kilometers from the City.
    These new suburbs typically are poorly serviced in terms of public transport and other essential services.

    In the inner city, multistorey apartment buildings have popped all over the place and mostly bought up by cashed up Asian (Chinese) buyers/investors.

    Overall, the affordability of our housing is also one of the least affordable in the developed world.

    Finally, we have schzoid "four seasons in a day" weather.