Blueprints are on the table!

It’s taken a few months of hard work for us to get to a point where my wife and I finally have a home design that we like - one that’s functional, makes use of renewable energy and has other eco-friendly features, and incorporates a design with creature comforts in mind.

You’ll see in the video that the design is for a two-story home, with most of the emphasis on the first floor - our children are grown, so the bedrooms on the second floor will be there for when they come to visit, but mostly this home will be for Debbie and I, and our friends and guests. We plan to put the master bedroom and bathroom on the first floor, with French doors opening out of the master bedroom to a patio area where we can enjoy the sunshine and nature in our backyard.

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Q&A: Useful experts and homebuilding professionals

If you’re anything like me, you like to consult with as many experts and licensed professionals as possible during the course of a major project, especially when it comes to building an eco-friendly home.

From the land surveyor to your town officials and contractors, each professional you work with during the various stages of your project will have something unique to offer to your homebuilding process. Many professionals you’ll work with have many years of experience, and you can learn something from each of them.

For this week’s Q&A, I’d like to know who the most useful expert has been to you when it comes to homebuilding projects. If you have built an eco-friendly home or are building one, what were some of the most important takeaways for you from your consultations? Who do you think the most important person to learn from is, or are they all important?

Leave your comment below, and help my wife and I make this eco-friendly homebuilding project one we can learn from and remember for the rest of our lives.

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Excitement is building

My wife and I have had a few meetings with our architects so far to discuss the particulars of our new eco-friendly home. Out of all the home building projects I've done, this one is definitely the most comprehensive and the most fun. Not only are we doing something we enjoy, but we're building something we believe in - a home designed with both comfort and sustainability in mind. We're really looking forward to seeing what Point One Architects has in store for us... stay tuned!

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Positioning your home the right way

One big advantage of building a custom eco-friendly home on a lot that hasn’t been built on is that you can control nearly every detail and plan your home to come out just the way you like it.

When it comes to energy efficiency, the devil’s in the details. One item that many people over look is the positioning of their home on the land that they plan to build on. If you have a few acres, like we do, you’ve got some wiggle room as to what direction you’d like your home to be facing.

Since the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, we’ll be placing our home relative to the position of the sun on our land so that when the sun rises, we can capture and store as much of the sun’s energy as possible.

Right now, I’m not really sure what the particulars are for this part of our project. To accomplish this, we’ll be needing the expertise of a solar expert as well as our architects - we’ll explain what decisions we ultimately made in an upcoming episode.

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Getting the best deal possible for your project

When I first began considering building an eco-friendly home, one of the first things I did was do some research on the cost of adding energy-saving features into our new home. The bottom line is important for any homebuilding project, because many times your budget dictates what type of features you will be able to add. I plan on putting photovoltaic solar panels on the roof to help us reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. A four-pack of 265-watt polycrystalline PV solar panels costs $1,399 at Home Depot – that's a cost that not every homebuilder includes in their budget, but there are some important things to know before you make a final decision about what eco-friendly features to include.


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Q&A: What "shade of green" works for you?

When all is said and done and our new eco-friendly home is finished, I want anyone who visits our home to feel physically comfortable - not too hot, not too cold, but just right so that they’re not fixated on adjusting the temperature or scratching at their skin because the air is too dry.

The decisions we make about which comfort systems to install and the way we construct the skeleton of our home will ultimately have a big impact on our overall comfort level. My goal in this project is to balance being comfortable with sustainability by using comfort systems and construction methods that maximize our home’s use of its natural surroundings, and that minimize our use of fossil fuels or other non-renewable energy.

One item that’s really important to me in this project is balancing the eco-friendly aspects our new home with a good quality of indoor comfort, but not sacrificing either. What would you do if you were in my shoes? Let us know!

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Don't be afraid to ask questions

In a way, each part of the homebuilding process is like a self-contained module, each with its own unique set of opportunities, challenges, and things to learn about.

If you’re building an eco-friendly home for the first time, learning the language of homebuilding can seem like a daunting task. Most of the time, however, the licensed professionals you work with are aware of this and should help you if there’s a term you don’t understand or if you need clarification on something. If they don’t or they deliberately try to confuse you, that’s something to look out for.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions - the more knowledge you have during the various stages of your project, the more likely it is that your homebuilding project will be a success.

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The planning stage of our homebuilding process

I finally had time to take a break from the undertakings of planning out the particulars of our new eco-friendly home, and think about our progress and some things to keep in mind going forward. So far, we’ve selected a 2.2 acre lot in Eastern Connecticut where we plan to build, and we’ve consulted with an architect firm, Point One Architects, who are beginning to draft blueprints and 3D models.

The planning stage of our homebuilding process is a series of conversations more than anything else. I’ve spoken with the architects about nearly everything — the features of our land, what the home will look like, and the potential for its inner workings. My meetings with the professionals who are helping us build our home are something I enjoy the most — each time I’ve built a home, there are takeaways on both sides that stretch beyond walking through a brand new front door.

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On knowing what you want

Even if you don't have much building experience, it's a good thing to have a good idea of what you would like to get out of a home building project. The goal might seem obvious (to build a home), but building a quality home according to your wants and tastes will require you to have an idea of what you want to include in your new home, what you want it to look like, and have a rudimentary knowledge of the building materials you want to use. If you do your research beforehand, you can walk into the home building process well equipped to deal with things that may come up during the project.

The more knowledge you have, the more you will be able to work closely with the professionals that will be building your new home. Setting expectations and doing research before you start will help ensure that the home you build is a quality structure built according to your wants and tastes.

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Q&A: What would you do?

When my wife Debbie and I met with Point One Architects for the first time to talk with them about our home building project, we already had an idea of some features that we want to include in this new home. This may be our retirement home, so we want our master bedroom to be on the first floor, with a nice view of the mature forest that will be the backdrop to our home.

We want to include energy efficient HVAC and electrical systems, a tight building envelope and photo-voltaic solar panels on the roof. I still need to work out what kind of insulation we’ll be using and a lot of other details about the home’s construction, so I’d like to put this Q&A out there and get some advice from you about what you think would be good features for our new home.

Please comment below and let us know! So far, your emails and comments have provided us with some useful information, and can be a learning experience for everyone.

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