Sep 19, 2019

Modern Prefab Cabin House New CornerHouse Project NEWS!

Looking for a home in Prescott?
Justin can help

For our latest modern prefab house project update, let's check in with our client Justin who is building the modern prefab CornerHouse from Green Cabin Kits in the southwest.

Justin is a Realtor, investor and serial entrepreneur originally from Phoenix, but he has lived in Prescott since 2001. He is a native of Arizona and a graduate of Arizona State University, where he studied Business.

In his free time, Justin enjoys trying the latest restaurants, thrift shopping, and enjoying the beautiful northern Arizona weather while exploring the many lakes and trails with his pup, Ted.
"Hi Ted!"
When it came time to build his future retirement home, Prescott was an obvious choice for Justin because of its small town feel, friendly people and abundant recreation and natural beauty. For those unfamiliar, Prescott is a historic old west town dating back pioneer days. It’s home to the worlds oldest rodeo and world-renowned for its idyllic town square. Visitors can often be found wandering Prescott’s winding roads of Victorian homes or exploring the many historic saloons and former brothels of ‘Whiskey Row’ - the town's main entertainment district.
This project will be a learning experience for Justin, and he hopes to leverage it, along with his current knowledge of Real Estate, so that he can become an area expert in the green design-build space. 

The site itself is located in a recreation area called the “Granite Dells”, an area of exposed precambrian bedrock which is over 1.4 billion years old. Over time, the rock has eroded to form spectacular vistas of boulders that seem to be delicately balanced into most interesting formations, which are very popular with hikers and rock climbers alike. The area is also home to 2 lakes - Willow Lake and Watson Lake, which are both popular destinations for visitors taking in the scenery.

The first residents of the Dells were Prehistoric natives who settled in the area over 9,000 years ago, and built an early network of dams and irrigation systems to support their agrarian lifestyle. In the 1800’s, the area passed into private hands and was part of the Payne family ranch and became the site of one of Prescott’s earliest resorts - compete with swimming lake, picnic areas and lawn bowling.

If you’re a fan of Westerns, you may recognize the landscape from some of your favorite films, featuring actors such as John Wayne and Buster Keaton.

The uniqueness of the geography does not come without its challenges, as homes in this area often require significant engineering to account for the granite outcroppings and silty, decomposed granite soils. As of late, the area has also become known for its unique architecture, with several Modern homes dotting its otherworldly landscape, as well as geodesic domes, cave castles and earth ships.

When undertaking this project, Justin put great deal of care into finding a design that would complement the unique beauty of the area and when he first discovered the CornerHouse plan 2013, he knew immediately it would be a perfect fit. 

The site itself sits prominently elevated above the granite basin of the Dells, nestled in a small ravine and visible to the streets below. To access the site, you must ascend a narrow gravel drive to a secluded cul-de-sac where the residence will sit atop 13 concrete piers, providing panoramic views in almost all directions.
To build the home, Justin is working closely with the Yavapai County development services department to obtain the extensive reports and engineering required. Due the the diverse geology of the area and often problematic soils, he was required to submit a full soil analysis, topographic report, as well as the typical site plan and fully engineered building plans. He selected Red Butte Engineering for the soils report, Granite Basin Engineering for the site plan and topographical analysis as well as Wright Engineers for the structural side - the partner firm to the SIPs manufacturer, Premier SIPs.

In order to prepare the site, it will be necessary to excavate and grade a steep slope of silty-type granite and eventually build a retaining wall to control erosion of the roadway above. This will be done in several phases, starting with the foundation and working closely with the local municipality to ensure all local standards are met.

This residence will differ from the standard CornerHouse prefab modern house in a number of ways... more details on this modern prefab house project, coming soon!

Jul 29, 2019

Modern Prefab Cabin Project News: Wolftrot Update from Green Cabin Kits!

Our own off grid passive solar prefab house from
Green Cabin Kits's sister site, Green Modern Kits.

Yes, we are extremely overdue on prefab house construction project updates from Green Cabin Kits!

There are a lot, so let's take it over a few prefab house construction posts instead of all at once.

As I have mentioned, I used to post all the time, but have lost my joy of writing.
Not because of work, but because...
we're in the teen years.

Teen 1 and Teen 2 are great,
doing well, flourishing...
but they're teens.

(However, I did get a few pictures of them smiling! Here you go:)

Ok fine he's super cute...
She's cute too...

But they're... teens.
So... I don't feel like writing!

Thankfully, our wonderful clients are interesting, kind, and happy to provide us the words for the next few Green Cabin Kits prefab house posts!

Let's start with the prefab modern home in the Pacific Northwest, then next up will be the Arizona CornerHouse, then the Dogtrot Mod underway in Austin, and then an update on the Lake Tahoe projects, and on.

Without further ado, I present updates on our *modified* Dogtrot Mod in the pacific northwest, Wolftrot, from my favorite English-engineer-moved-to-the-USA-once-lived-in-a-castle-now-wants-a-prefab couple!

For reference, you can see the original prefab modern cabin house Dogtrot Mod, here.

This update is in two parts, one from April, one from June.

The clients were encountering delays because of site-specific issues like grading challenges, and local material challenges. Let's start with the local material challenge: CONCRETE.

On a sloping lot, with a desire for slab -and- a half basement, our clients have run into some concrete vendor and application issues, one of them being that a British company has purchased all the local concrete plants and, upon taking ownership, significantly increased concrete costs.

So they were looking at alternatives.

We are always interested in green building solutions to construction dilemmas.
In our own prefab home, we used fly-ash to offset our concrete's carbon footprint.

Our own prefab house is on slab.

Some green building alternatives to concrete foundations include
 From SmartCities Dive:
"Screw piles also take a lot less time to install and this makes for a shorter project time. In turn, they also require far fewer people to install than a traditional foundation. Fewer people means less energy required and a lower carbon foot print.
The process is also safer than the one used to install a concrete foundation, which means there is less risk for the work force. Of course, the reduced costs of all of the aforementioned is also something that needs to be mentioned.

Concrete foundations do have their place, however screw piles can be used for a vast amount of the foundation work in modern building. They offer a far more eco-friendly alternative to the traditional methods and are also lower in cost and thus have become increasingly popular in the last decade or so."

They are also looking at creative solutions for their grading challenges to make them financially feasible.

The cool green building solution items of note is that, my client states,

"First, I believe I've found a grader that will provide a better lot contour that will reduce the need for importation of additional materials.  Second, I'm getting a quotation from Goliath Piles for screw pilings to be installed for the building foundations.  This can eliminate all or a significant portion of the concrete required in the construction.  At least one builder we're talking with sees this as having huge potential here in the local market where most homes get built on sand that has historically required concrete raft foundations."

These grading challenges also present added costs with lugging construction materials to the job site, including the SIP.

Now as you know I am totally okay with a client not using SIP *if* they are choosing an energy-efficient, reputable, green building, LEED-embraced solution.

BUT you have to understand comparing apples to apples, and oranges to oranges, if you want your organic fruit salad financial numbers to match!

Boy do I appreciate SIP's energy efficiency
in extreme temperatures!

So if you're considering not using SIP, make sure you not just factor in the material cost "to frame" or "to insulate" but to frame *and* insulate, projected cost savings through efficiency, and even then, how do you guarantee that an alternate insulation method was done correctly and at what R value?

That is why we sell our prefab house kit package as not just the design documents, but design documents hand in hand with SIP, so that you *know* your home will be evenly, consistently, and guaranteed at a good R value, with proven structural integrity.

In June, I received more updates from the Wolftrot project!
"We have now had our well drilled and capped at 260 feet deep.  We are seeing just 3.5 gallons a minute from around 60 feet down but got no more the deeper we went.  The well driller said we could go to 300 feet before risking any increase in salinity despite us only being around 60 feet above seal level and around four miles as the crow flies from the Pacific Ocean.  I decided to stop at 260 as that means we'll have 200 feet of water (26 - 60) down the well which equals around 300 gallons plus whatever we keep in our above ground pressure tank.  I'm thinking we'll go for at least 40 gallons in the tank (i.e. an 80 gallon tank) and perhaps more just to reduce the pump cycles and extend the pump life.  It will be a dollar trade off, depending n the cost of a replacement pump vs the incremental cost of a bigger tank.

Our planned home drawings are about final.
We've had them reviewed by the structural engineers and used their feedback to size the roof beams accordingly.  Now our draftsman is detailing the interior so we can get final price quotations for the interior work.  We're hoping to have the gross numbers in hand in a week or two for the foundations, footings, floor, walls and roof structures, with windows and metal roof and siding included.  We can't quite finalize the deal as we're still trying to get a blasted grader to come and prepare the lot ready for the foundations.  I may have to buy a 4x4 tractor, loader, backhoe and grading attachments and just do it myself!

I'm attaching the latest renderings of the house.
Ignore the colors.
Well, not all of them.

The roof is correct as shown in charcoal grey, the siding will be light grey, the rear trim (frames, sashes, fascias, etc we want mid-grey) and the decking will be stained a dark natural wood color.

At the front M. has insisted we only have the one double door to the sunroom (But I've specified we will have the lintel in place to open the wall up at a later date if I can get away with it.  I'm planning to use Dutch doors (double for the basement and sunroom, single for the entry door) so we can have just the upper panels open with removable glass or bug screen panels depending on the seasons.

I've had the RV barn eliminated from the garage structure to shrink the building outline and give us some options for later modifications.  But I've also had the garage drawn so we can build it quickly using SIPs if the price works out okay.  Getting the structure weatherproof quickly will be a serious consideration given the heavy rain historically starts in October.

We visited the metal roof and siding manufacturer last week and saw the various grades and designs.  It was well worth the trip.  We both feel better about the quality of the materials and the finishes.  I've been wanting to add a flash of color on the siding around the front of the guest room structure to 'break up' the amount of grey.  M. balked at using red barn as a shade on vertical steel siding.  I then tried a light yellow which she though better but balked at the vertical siding panels.  At the manufacturer, we saw how they had cleverly covered their large structure with roofing and siding panels in very creative ways and M. liked it!  Now I just have to get her to sit down with me and agree how we're going to create the visual break I want.  We'll get there.

The problem is I want to color the dutch door panels (not the braces) with the same color we use for the contrast on the guest house.  BTW, the trim will all be white in the front of the house.  My idea is that the rear of the structure will be modern NW style contemporary while the front is more rural/craftsman style.  We've even figured out how to create a front porch over the front deck and entryway that M. wanted.

You can expect to see a couple of traditional style rocking chairs on that porch.
I anticipate they will never get used.

That's all for now.  I'll send the pictures soon, after I've added the well drilling shots."

THANK YOU WOLFTROT clients for the updates!
(And don't ever underestimate the power of a good rocking chair! I suspect our sweet clients will find MANY quiet happy moments in them, even as busy as they are!)

I hope you all have a great summer, I promise to post much more over the summer following up on the other prefab house construction project updates.
Meanwhile, here are a few pictures of our summer back-and-for th from the off grid prefab house, to the bay.
: )
And thus, until I post the next prefab construction update (for which I now have MULTIPLE posts so I'd better get writing!), I leave you with... pictures of... teens.
Ok fine THEY are super cute...
They are ALL adorable!
We will get through the cranky teen years!

But we are having fun.
(As my English clients say: Taa Taaaaaaaaaa... For Now. : ) )
Ok maybe we'll survive this teen stuff.
Always something to work on...

Now she's working on her Papi.

Lawnmowers working hard... wait.
"Aaaaaaaa! That's my garden!!!"
 We'll be back with more prefab house project updates, soon!
 In the meantime, TTFN.