July 2019

Dream Home Thinking
The Dream Home” and its partner “Dream Home Thinking” are fixtures in the American psyche and media. They are understandable but unfortunate clichés because fanciful thinking distracts from rational decisions. A near cousin is “Gotta Have.” One example is marble countertops. A reality check says that beyond high cost the material requires frequent sealing to prevent staining. Tip a glass over and there is little margin of error. Plus, some high end materials look out of place in a budget oriented installation. The bottom line: Don’t let want trump need.

Choices and Decisions
Nothing in the building process is accidental. It’s all about choices and decisions. Informed choices and rational decisions are the engines of a successful outcome. From the large: How much money will it take and what resources will I use? To the small: What material and color for the counters?

Managing Expectations
Residential construction is a complex undertaking. Sadly the many televised home improvement shows promote a perception of simplicity by glossing over realistic depictions of project management, coordination, time and skills involved.

It’s important to adjust your expectations for the finished work. Unlike mass produced manufactured goods like automobiles or major appliances, custom homes are “one-offs.“ Expecting the finished work in a home to match a manufactured product can set you up for frustration. Don’t squander energy on small concerns especially those that realistically won’t get changed.

My Purely Personal Pet Peeves in Housing
● Flooring material change in the kitchen area. Most of our floor plans (on the ADU site) are open style which means that living spaces flow uninterrupted from one room or space to another. A different floor material in the kitchen area interrupts the visual flow. It’s usually done out of an overabundance of caution. The effect is made worse by a joint cover, often set at an arbitrary angle. Choose a floor material that will work throughout including the kitchen space. Wood floor options include hybrid materials which are moisture resistant and easily cleaned. If you are using real wood flooring, an area rug is easy on the feet, protects the flooring and is a decorating opportunity.
● While we’re in the kitchen don’t get seduced by those images of kitchens with open shelf storage. Unless you are a dedicated minimalist you need space for the myriad items required for real world cooking. Open shelves simply don’t provide adequate space. The thought of accessing and replacing everything just so and in pristine condition for any meal should make that idea less appetizing. A good alternative for displaying your special items is a dedicated area with glass front doors. Get even more impact with frameless doors and touch latch hardware.
● Wood edged counter trim at a sink. A common installation is a laminate counter top with a wood edge. Unfortunately its attractive appearance has a short life. Water degrades the finish and then the wood. There’s nothing wrong with using laminate (except perhaps for imitation wood). It’s an excellent budget choice. If you want a wood edge, say to match the cabinets, run the countertop laminate over the top edge of the trim. The wood will be less vulnerable. Another solution is to self-edge the laminate. A coordinated solid color works well to visually integrate the edge.
● Lawn edge strips. Do you really need them? Skip the edging material and trim the grass edge with a good mechanical edger. Avoid straight lines unless they match the primary house design.
● Itty bitty retaining walls of any material. Modest slopes don’t need them. Steeper slopes can be stabilized with suitable plant material.
● Stepping stones. They never end up in the right place for uninterrupted walking. The edges are an annoyance and a hazard. They’re usually slippery when wet. A continuous path is more practical. 
● Cheap looking house numbers. Installed vertically is borderline. Installed at an angle is a punishable offense.

About Architects and Building Designers
An individual can not be called an architect without a professional license. Architects are licensed by the state. The requirements vary by state include: education, experience and examination. Some architects have “AIA” after their name. Some do not. The AIA (American Institute of Architects) is the largest professional organization for architects. The AIA does not license architects to practice nor does membership confer additional training, capability or competency. Members of the AIA use the title AIA after their name to signify membership.

A Building Designer is an individual who is actively engaged in the practice of residential design. The AIBD (American Institute of Building Design) is the professional organization for building designers. The National Council of Building Designer Certification (NCBDC), an autonomous body, administers an examination and certification program. Those certified are permitted to use the title of Certified Professional Building Designer (CPBD).

Other letter credentials can appear after a professional’s name. A common example is “LEED AP” which stands for LEED Accredited Professional. LEED is an acronym for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Accreditation is certified by the USGBC (US Green Building Council). There are other organizations whose membership allows letters after a professional’s name.