Q&A - Energy-saving features

As a homeowner/builder, I’m always thinking a few steps ahead of where my project currently is. As the concrete dries for the foundation we just poured, I’m thinking about how I’m going to save energy and money once we’re a bit further along in our construction process.

For our eco-friendly home, I already know that the building envelope will play a big part in saving energy for my home. But, there are other things to think about too like home automation, lighting, mechanicals, appliances, and other passive and active energy saving features that my wife and I can incorporate into the home.

At this point, I am undecided about the majority of which energy-saving features we’ll incorporate, so I’m reaching out to you. What did you do for your project? Do you have any recommendations for us? Let us know!

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Dave's Tips - hone your negotiation skills!

I’d like to think that I’m getting the best value for my dollar when it comes to compensating the professionals I hire for their services in a project. When a lot of money is at stake, I’ve found that it’s extra important to pay attention to every cost associated with a project - each step along the way is going to affect my bottom line, and the quality of the product I receive at the end of a project.

Whether you’re spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on a service, it’s easy to think that since a service is expensive to begin with that you’re getting the best deal up front. I’ve discovered that this isn’t always the case, and that there’s always room for negotiation.

There’s an old homebuilding saying that your home building process should follow the “50/25/25” rule. Your construction process should cost no more than 50% of the end price of your home. Your land should cost 25% of the end price, and if you’re selling the home when it’s done, your profit should be around 25%.

In order to get the most that you can out of your project, I would suggest shopping around for a range of prices on a job before approaching a contractor or other licensed professional. When it’s time to sit down at the negotiation table, you’ll have a good idea of what is typical in the industry. Depending on your individual project, you may be able to score an even lower price - only you know what factors you can use to your advantage when it’s time to hash out a price.

One thing I’ve learned over the years is never to assume that you can’t negotiate. Always be prepared to walk away if the deal doesn’t lean towards your terms - you’ll probably exercise this part of negotiation at least once or twice. As fun as a homebuilding project can be, it’s business because it involves money and negotiation.

Done well, negotiation can lead to a win-win situation for both parties. What do you think are some of the most important items to negotiate prices on? Join the conversation and let us know!

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From the ground up - construction begins!

This is an exciting time for our project - we have cleared the way for the construction portion of my homebuilding journey to begin!

From here on out, you’ll notice a few differences on our 2.2 acre parcel of land in eastern Connecticut. After a final visit from the land surveyor, we determined that it was time to remove some trees and underbrush from a portion of our land so that we can pour the foundation for our new eco-friendly home.

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Q&A - Avoiding pitfalls in the homebuilding process

Sometimes, I think of building a home like going on a very expensive whitewater rafting trip. The river is the whole project, which flows in one direction - from inception to conclusion. The raft is my plan of action - everything that I do to support the project, my level of involvement, and contingency plans help strengthen my craft. My oars are my ability to communicate - I "row the raft" by using email, a mobile device, or in-person communication to facilitate the dialogue between me and the other knowledgeable professionals who assist in the process.

If you've ever gone whitewater rafting, then you know that once you're in the boat going down the river that you'll have to make a lot of decisions on the fly. Sometimes, you can't really slow down and remain in a particular section of the river for too long and other times, your raft might get nudged by a rock that crops up along the way.

As I get ready to work with foundation contractor Mike Evangelesti on pouring the foundation, I'd love to hear a few words of inspiration from you all - what pitfalls should I look out for going forward? What did you do to make your home building project a great success? Join the conversation and let us know!

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Learning from the industry's best

I've made a point to learn as much as I can from the professionals I've encountered throughout my quest to build an eco-friendly, comfortable home. Even though I have home building experience that stretches three decades, I have the good fortune to work with some of the very best, most knowledgeable people in the HVAC industry.

My colleagues at Taco Comfort Solutions are a great resource, and they're right in my own backyard. Like me, many of them have interests that encompass parts of any home building project that include but are not limited to HVAC and indoor comfort.

One person who I've enjoyed talking to the most is Taco's FloPro Team Leader John Barba. He is well-known as one of the best trainers in the industry, and in this episode I had the opportunity to sit down with him and talk shop about this project. I found his insights to be valuable, and you may pick up a few things from him too. If you have any comments about what he says to me in this episode, join the conversation and let us know!

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Dave's Tips - Custom vs. Stock

If you’re thinking about building a new home, one important question to think about before you get started is whether or not to hire someone to design your home from scratch, or go with a stock plan - that is, a home plan that’s designed and marketed by an engineering or design firm.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches. According to The House Plan Shop, a website that assists people in their home building process, some of the advantages of building a custom plan include getting exactly what you want and you can get as specific as possible.

Sometimes it makes more sense to do a custom plan, especially if like me you’re experienced at building homes and you know what to look for when selecting elements for your project. Maybe you have an unconventional lot size and you need to develop a custom plan to accommodate this. Or perhaps you’re building an eco-friendly home and the available stock plans simply don’t match up with your vision for a home that balances energy savings with comfort.

However, stock plans can be economical for a large swath of homeowner/builders. These homes have already been designed by an architect or engineer, so usually the plans are ready to go. They can also be customized to some degree, and selecting a stock plan means you can cut down on the time you’d otherwise spend designing the home or consulting with an architect.

What did you choose for your project - stock plan, or custom home? Join the conversation and let us know!

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Q&A - Hiring the right people for the job

So far in our homebuilding project, we’ve already had the pleasure of working with a number of professionals, including an architect team, a land surveyor, an expert on green building financial incentives, and our town’s building inspector.

The keyword here, at least for me, is “pleasure”. I know enough from my experience that no homebuilder is an island - that is, working well with the experts whose help I enlist for my project and taking their advice when I need to is key to the project’s overall success.

When I’m looking for licensed professionals to do business with, generally I look for people who are knowledgable, who will listen, and who will help guide me when necessary but also take into account my needs and desires for the project. If all goes well, I may enlist the help of these professionals again if I have a project in the future, and recommend them to friends and family who are embarking on similar ventures.

What qualities do you look for in the licensed professionals you hire for a job? Join the conversation below and let us know!

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Getting the lay of the land

At this stage in our homebuilding process, I’m getting ready to make some serious modifications to the 2.2 acre parcel of land that my wife and I bought to build our eco-friendly home on. When I made the purchase, the land was categorized as what they call “raw land” - that is, land in its natural state, with no man-made improvements.

Now that we’ve consulted with an architect, discussed incentives for building green, developed plans for our new home, and met with our town’s building inspector, it’s time to take a serious look at the land on which our new home will be built.

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Q&A - Keeping an eye on the bottom line

In the entry immediately preceding this one, the architects and I sat down and hashed out what types of advanced framing/wall construction are available for this project, and weighed the costs and benefits of each one. Whichever type of wall construction I choose for this project will have a major impact on the overall energy efficiency of my home, and also on my wallet too.

I've mentioned it before, but one of my goals in this project is to strike a balance between not overpaying for the elements of my project, but not cutting necessary corners. We have some information available here on the blog about resources to turn to for financial incentives/tax breaks for projects like mine, but I'm interested to know if any of you have had a similar experience - how did you strike a balance between your checkbook and building the best project possible? Join the conversation and let us know!

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A crash course in wall construction

Now is the time for me to seriously begin thinking about some of the details of how I’ll make our new eco-friendly home as energy-efficient as possible. My wife and I have our hearts set on a design that we like for our new home, now I am starting to plan the nuts and bolts of how we will lower the energy costs of our home and reduce its carbon footprint.

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