Sunday, July 29, 2007

House plans almost finished!

We used a designer/architect (Ted Mengers, Pyranak Design Group) to design our house plans as opposed to ordering ready made plans online. It was a VERY long process (took almost 1 year), but it was very much worth the effort. We did this for several reasons:

1. We searched several hundreds of plans online and none fit our needs. I wanted a guest room downstairs and the rest of the bedrooms upstairs, including the master bedroom.
2. We tailored the plans to our lifestyle. I love to cook and entertain, but don't like to be apart from company, therefore we have an open layout (no walls and halls!).
3. We wanted a modern home that is unique. None of the plans simply did not fit our style.
4. We wanted a higher standard, energy & space efficient plan. We don't think bigger is better and we are building with energy efficient SIP walls/roof, so we needed plans that were designed green.

We just got word that our plans are just about finished, and we have to approve the electrical and acoustic plans. In the electrical plan, you decide where the light switches, electrical outlets, lights, ceiling fans, cable/dataports and phone lines go. Though we will do wireless, Jan thought it was good to always be able to plug into the network for stability reasons. He's a total computer geek, so I believe him :-). Here's a sample pic of how an electrical plan looks like:

The $ are light switches, the filled triangle is a phone connection, the empty triangle is a data port, the circle with 2 slashes is an electrical outlet, etc...

In the acoustic plan, you decide where you want extra sound insulation in your walls. In the following picture, it is denoted with squiggle lines on the walls:

Next, we have to get the Structural Engineer to finish the structural plans. This should only take 1-2 weeks and then it's time to submit for permit approvals and financing!!! Can't wait!!!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Choosing the U-build It Program

Owner-builder programs can save you huge amounts of money (in our case, we would easily save $60,000) because you are basically taking over the builder's job of managing your house project and controlling cost and choice which suits us perfectly fine. We are extremely picky about design and quality, due to our backgrounds, so this type of program is very appealing. You have to spend at least 1-2 hours a day and keep track of the schedule, do daily site visits, keep on top of things, etc... but it is a rewarding thing for us and many others...

Sound daunting? Yes, but you have plenty of support and information available to you and it's not rocket science. At the minimum, it is at least worth the investigation to see if you want to do it this way. Check out the various owner builder links I have listed and read up on it if you want more details.

After researching 3 owner-builder programs, we decided to go with U-Build It. They ended being the most thorough, responsive, and professional of the 3 networks. We also checked their references, and they received stellar reviews here in the Austin area.

So here is the cost breakdown to join up (in the Austin area, at least).

2419 square foot home x $5.50 per A/C square foot = $13,304

This includes:
- 20 site visits throughout the process
- Advice and guidance from professional builders
- Comprehensive manual on what to do next
- A list of reliable/tested subcontractors that we can use which is completely optional
- Financial backing when getting financing for your construction loan (they basically are responsible for your home if you don't end up finishing it!)

All 3 networks are listed on Better Business Bureau, and you should meet with them for an hour or two to see what kind of vibe you get.

I'll post our bids for our house in the next few days. You will see how costs have risen considerably since last I posted about our budget!!! I hope we can make it :-)!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Unique rock wall for drip cooling can be made affordably

Our architect, Ted Mengers, recommended making this gorgeous and unique pebble wall enclosed in wire mesh for catching and cooling breezes on our landscape. The possibilities are limitless, and we're considering using these dry pebble walls for surrounding our carport and storage for our rainwater collection tanks...




They should be cheap to make with wire mesh and odd size pebbles... and it looks beautiful in a very organic way.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Swedish toilets - why they rule!

I think the following story sums up why Swedish toilets are superior to American ones (and why my Swedish husband insists we get 3 of them for our home). It's a hilarious, yet honest take on poorly designed American toilets. By the way, if you're easily sickened, don't read :-).

Anonymous post on a message board (only corrected spelling):
"I have apparently used low-flow toilets here in Sweden all my life. I
have no problem with them. They have the water level lower so that the
flushing water gets higher speed when falling down.

So then I went to the US for a trip and found that not only do you pull
carpets into the bathroom and around the toilet (EWW!), the toilets
themselves are totally stupid! They hold a gallon of water in a bowl so
close to your ass that you have to hold your penis while taking a shit
so that it won't hang down into the water! Then when you flush, the
toilet pours another two gallons of water slowly into the bowl so that
you get to watch your turds carousel around and around for half a minute
before exiting the drainpipe. That is just plain silly!

Our low-flow/high-speed toilets go SLURP! and all the crap is gone and the
porcelain is washed clean from the aggressive burst of water in five
seconds. And we use less water too."

We found these Swedish toilets here in the U.S.:

Mainly, they are superior because they have a much larger pipe and use very little water. My husband says that they NEVER need to be plunged. In fact, he has never even used a plunger before in Sweden! Not only that, it's eco-friendly because you're saving that precious resource and getting much better performance as well. I'm sold.

Anyway, we are definitely going to buy these, they're worth their money.