Green Design

In the last years we heard a lot of Green opinions and solutions regarding all the aspects of our life like food, medicine, building, etc. But sometimes, the origin and essence of the green issues is clearly missed.
When we are researching about construction, checking design magazines, and newsletters as well as the manufacturers’ websites we find hundreds of green materials. This can be because they are developed using green technologies, because they do not harm the environment or because they use recyclable components. This is very important, but it is only a part of the problem because the use of these elements is not enough to create a green building.
As a matter of fact, a great green building starts with a great green design.
Let’s review some design techniques and parameters for smart green design.
In my opinion, the good design starts avoiding waste in the use of the materials. The wastage rate should be less than 10%. How could you do this?

Modulate: adapt the dimensions of your project to the standard materials, using standard lumber and drywall dimensions. A good framing plan is useful!
Also, choose the finishing materials in advance and set the rooms’ dimensions to fit the material dimensions. For example, if you choose 12″x 12″ tiles, modulate your room to fit the exact number of tiles; otherwise, you will need to cut the tiles, wasting time and money.

Specify: detailed plans and specifications are necessary. Clearly define your materials and instructions, in order to avoid misunderstandings, rework and waste. If you have a Custom element, visualize it in 3D using different angles. Writing a detailed specification helps too.

Study the energy issue to save the environment as well as you money, by checking the sun light and your home. In addition of the amount of light, if you live in a cold region, take advantage of the sun remembering that the glass is a heat trap, because the heat can go in but it can’t get out. Therefore, analyze the sun positions during the day and place windows facing the sun. Also, you can place sun collectors to reduce your energy bills. If you live in a warm region, place the windows in the walls opposing the sunshine.

Insulation: keeping the heat (or cold) air inside is important in order to avoid the waste of energy (and money) that would be necessary to generate more heat or cool air. Therefore, don’t save money with the insulation! Use recognized products, quality materials and get a flawless installation.

Design: we cannot forget the importance of the design and the location: sometimes, homeowners design a house based on a dream project or style, however, the impact of this project in the environment should be analyzed: for example, check if the project is creating interference regarding rain drainage, ground levels, water sheets, or casting shadows, etc.

Visualize: visualize your project in 3D, with sun, shadows and materials to avoid costly misunderstandings and confirm the feasibility of your project.

At last, a good recommendation: try to recycle the remaining elements, recovering reusable materials. Remember that some manufacturers and suppliers accept back materials in good condition.
And don’t forget! Green practices start with green … Trees, plants and flowers.

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Do I need an Architect

Should I hire an Architect or a Builder? Should I buy a home design software and design my house? Why do I need to pay a professional? Why building elements aren’t calculated automatically?

Usually, people don’t realize all the factors and responsibilities involved in the design and building process. This article intends to explain how this process works and offer help with the choices in each stage.

1 – Build a house… but, what house?

Take your time to make a program for your project, don’t hurry, the planning time saves money. List all the family’s necessities and activities as a “What we need” list. Then, check sites, magazines, walk around your neighborhood, take photographs and write a second list “What we want”

Start to imagine….and at this point you can take advantage of your Punch Software. Draw what is your mind, freely, you can draw the entire house or just draw pieces (“I wish a kitchen like this”). Try options; explore styles, materials…and prices.

Now, make a realistic budget as the third list “What and when we can spend.”

2 – Some definitions and facts

A Building Code is a set of regulations established by local governments that control design, construction, and materials used in construction. Each county follows a certain Building Code, with its specifications for safety and sanitation. Also, if necessary (mandatory for commercial buildings), ADA norms must be followed.

The interpretation of codes and norms is a serious subject and your project must follow these regulations. It is not the same a house in Florida than a house in Texas or Ontario. Only a professional can evaluate / apply a Code in the same way than only a licensed Surgeon can perform a surgery.

Architects and Designers, as trained professionals, know how to manage and balance functionality, good design, codes and budget

In addition, houses need foundations and structures, and the dimensions of these elements are based on calculations. The foundation’s calculation, for example, is based on the house’s own weight (structure, roofs, furniture, people, etc), snow load, special conditions (tornado, seism, etc.), and the lot condition (type of soil, resistance, water levels, etc.). An Engineer, to certify the structure’s safety, must perform these calculations.

3 – A professional? Do I need one? Which is the best professional for me?

Now you have three lists, “Necessities”, “Wishes” and “Financial Resources” plus your design ideas. So, is time to transform these elements in a real project, including codes, materials, structure, etc. As stated above, unless you have training and experience, call a professional for a consultation.

A good (and inexpensive) idea to start this stage is to hire an Architect to elaborate with you a 3D studio model. This draft model will combine your design ideas, plus the codes and some design improvements suggested by the Architect.

Which is the best professional? Is the one you feel comfortable. Experience and knowledge are very important elements, but prices and flexibility are also significant items. Choose a professional accepting your home design images as a start point, but be prepared to explore new and creative ideas. In my opinion (and this is the way I work), the Customer must be part of the design team, because the project must reflect his/her necessities, wishes and budget.

4 –Time to make decisions

Therefore, you have your 3D study model, improved and following the codes. What’s next? At this point, you have several options: you can play with your model and add different design alternatives, or you can work with your Architect to develop the design. If you are not sure about your ideas, be direct with your Architect about how you want the results of your project.

Remember, this is the time for all the design decisions, but watching the budget carefully. There are several resources to stretch your budget, take advantage of them: Use intelligent design concepts; use standard and inexpensive materials with creativity to obtain visual effects; avoid superfluous circulations; use windows and doors as part of the heating system, don’t fight with your lot’s characteristics, use them in your project! .

Note that professional is trained to help you with these items, so your best investment is a final design review with a trained specialist. Check with him / her every point: Does the design fit your necessities, wishes and budget? Are the circulation patterns running well? Are the materials according with your style? Visualize each room, colors, textures, lights, shadows, etc. With a final 3D model, you will be able to check the project’s interferences before the real construction begins

5 – The project, finally!

Each county has its own requirements for approval. At this point, is a good idea to invite the Engineer and the Builder to the design team for the elaboration of the construction documents. The main idea is a soft transition between project and construction. In addition, the Engineer and the Builder may suggest changes to improve the structure, building system, etc

As described, design and build your home must be a pleasant experience. Making the right decisions (tools, professionals, etc) and following the right steps, is the shortest way to create an unique design: your dream project.

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