Community Spaces in Development: More Important than Ever

We’re all seeing it: the Zoom calls, car parades, and balcony gatherings. People are supporting local businesses, showing thanks to those on the front lines, and donating to those in need. 

Even though we are physically separated, our communities are growing stronger than ever. It’s made us think about the growing trend we have seen in new developments – one that will likely continue long after this has passed. 

Master Planned Communities

From developments with single-family homes to mixed-use construction, developers have been focusing on incorporating more community spaces over the past few years.

At 66 High Street, the pool, once installed, will be a gathering place in summer. Before the current health crisis, residents often walked downtown together, and met up in each other’s units for a glass of wine and some conversation.  

At Overland Lofts in Springfield, community spaces will be available for residents only. Since the building is mixed-use, there will also be stores, cafes, and restaurants that people from all over downtown can enjoy together. 

Developments all over the country have already started adding in more community spaces. Why? Because it brings people together. Now, more than ever, we see how important connection is. 

What to Watch For

One thing we’ve all learned recently is that connection can still happen when we are separated. While we know developers will continue incorporating spaces for gathering in person, we anticipate that builders will also start thinking about how to integrate technology. Here are some things to watch for in development, according to Best in American Living:

  1. Personalized concierge sales experiences, including a mix of technology and human interaction.
  2. New ways to access amenities so people can gather utilizing technology. 
  3. Tech-enabled events and participation, such as online book clubs, art classes, or movie nights.
  4. Greater integration between homebuilders and community developers throughout real estate transactions, including virtual tours for potential buyers. 
  5. Doubling down on outdoor spaces for walking, biking, and gathering. 

 

What would you like to see in a residential development? Let us know!

What is a HERS Index?

There are plenty of ways to make your home more energy-efficient. As homeowners, you know that with every scheduled maintenance and every home purchase, there are ways to save energy, money, and have a more sustainable household. 

With all of the options available, it can be overwhelming to sort through what will help your home run more efficiently, and what isn’t necessary. That is where the HERS Index can help.

What is the HERS Index?

The Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index is the nationally recognized system to assess a home’s energy performance. 

HERS scores are designed to calculate the energy efficiency of new or remodeled homes. If you are in the market to buy a brand new home, the HERS score will give you an idea of the energy costs for the house.

How do you find out the HERS Index Score?

A certified HERS Rater can determine the HERS Index Score of your home. They will complete an onsite energy rating of the home, and then compare the data to a reference home. The reference home is an analysis tool designed to resemble the actual house in size, shape, style, environment, and climate. 

What does the score mean?

The HERS Index ranges from 0 to 150, with 0 being a home that produces or conserves as much energy as it uses. While a score of 0 is unlikely, the lower the score, the more energy-efficient the home.

The standard new home typically has a rating of 100, while the typical resale home has a score of 130. Using these scores as reference points, you can get an idea of how efficient your home is. 

How can I improve my home’s HERS Index Score?

The greatest energy expenses in a house are for heating and cooling. Whether you are remodeling your entire home or just looking for a way to save on energy costs, you can get a programmable thermostat, upgrade your HVAC system, or simply get an annual tune-up to make sure it is working properly. 

Other energy-saving tips include: sealing all air leaks, add insulation, upgrade to ENERGY STAR appliances, and consider installing solar panels

A HERS index rating can help you determine what type of fixes will be most beneficial for your home. 

 

Fiberglass vs. Spray Foam Insulation

Insulation may be hidden behind the walls, but it plays a big role in keeping you comfortable all year long. 

The job of insulation is to keep the house warm during the winter and cool during summer. With heating and cooling accounting for about half of the energy used in the home, proper insulation can cut back on energy usage and save homeowners money. 

Keep reading for a comparison between two types of insulation: fiberglass and spray foam. 

Fiberglass

Fiberglass insulation is the more traditional form of insulation. This type of insulation comes in pre-cut rolls or blown-in loose fill. It works to regulate air temperature by trapping air inside tiny glass fibers, slowing the transfer of heat. 

Pros of Fiberglass

Fiberglass insulation is inexpensive to install when compared to other types of insulation. It comes in pre-made R-Values, and it maintains performance levels for an extended period of time. Fiberglass is also easy to install.

Cons of Fiberglass

Though commonly used and easy to install, fiberglass is not as effective as spray foam at maintaining comfortable temperatures. Fiberglass cannot fit into every crevice, which can allow for air leaks. This is especially true in colder regions.

Spray Foam

Spray foam insulation is newer than fiberglass and is becoming more popular in homes. Spray foam is installed by spraying a polyurethane foam into walls and ceilings. The foam expands to create an airtight seal. Spray foam can be used as the primary method of insulation or as a supplement to existing insulation.

Pros of Spray Foam

Since spray foam creates an airtight seal, it protects against pests, rodents, and mold, in addition to its insulating properties. It is more energy-efficient than fiberglass, sealing off any crevices so air cannot leak in. It also has a longer lifespan, because it does not break down or sag over time.

Cons of Spray Foam

Spray foam is more expensive than fiberglass. In addition, spray foam should be applied by a professional, which increases the cost even more. The installation process can be messy, so make sure you work with a professional who has experience with spray foam.

If you are ready for new insulation, speak with your contractor to determine what type is the best option for your home. 

 

Solar Roof Panels vs. Solar Shingles

As solar roof technology becomes more advanced, homeowners have more options when making the switch to solar energy. 

Solar roofs are enticing because they harness the sun’s solar energy to generate electricity for the home, potentially saving money and energy. While solar panels have become a common sight in neighborhoods across the country, solar shingles are also becoming more mainstream. 

What is the better option for your home? Below, we compare solar panels and shingles to help with the decision. 

Solar Roof Panels

Solar panels are large panels that are installed on top of the shingles on the roof. Several panels are installed on the roof, generating electricity that can be used by the household. 

Pros of Solar Roof Panels

  • Solar panels maximize electricity production. 
  • Solar panels can be angled to gather sunlight. Some types of panels can swivel and adjust throughout the day.
  • Solar panels can be placed on your property, as well as the roof.  
  • You can have the panels removed and bring them with you to a new house.

Cons of Solar Roof Panels

  • Panels appear bulky. 
  • The installation of solar panels involves many steps and requires electrical inspections.

Solar Shingles

Solar shingles are a more recent technology than solar panels and are designed to look to typical roof shingles. Solar shingles have two functions: to protect the roof and to generate electricity. 

Pros of Solar Shingles

  • Solar singles are more aesthetically appealing, blending in with other shingles of the roof. 
  • Solar shingles can double as shingles, so if replacing the entire roof, it can be cost-effective.
  • Solar shingles are easier to install than panels. 

Cons of Solar Shingles

  • Solar shingles are less energy efficient than solar panels.
  • The roof needs a particular slope with ample sunlight exposure.
  • The lifespan of solar shingles is less than panels. 
  • Removing solar shingles is not an option because they serve as the roof shingles.

Solar energy can save money and energy over time. When making the switch to solar energy, always consult a professional to determine what your options are. 

What is MEP Engineering?

When building, people are often amazed at the floorplan, visual aspects of the structure, and the timeline.

The behind-the-scenes (or in our case the behind-the-walls) elements don’t garner much attention. Yet the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems keep people comfortable. 

What are MEP Systems?

MEP stands for mechanical, electrical, and plumbing. Let’s break down each system here:

  • Mechanical. Mechanical systems include heating and cooling systems, allowing people to stay comfortable inside, no matter the temperature outside.
  • Electrical. Electrical systems keep us connected. We all know how inconvenient it is when the electricity goes out. Electrical systems keep the lights on and other systems running.
  • Plumbing. Plumbing systems provide clean water for drinking, bathing, and cleaning while removing wastewater. 

 

What is MEP Engineering?

MEP Engineering is the design and construction of the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems in a building or residence. MEP engineers, or consulting firms, are often used when large buildings are being constructed. They design, estimate costs, and build MEP systems so that the interior spaces are ideal for comfort at home or work.

Benefits of MEP Engineering

It may seem pretty straightforward to install heating, cooling, lighting, and plumbing in a building. When done poorly, it can result in uncomfortable conditions: too hot or too cold, poor lighting, noisy HVAC systems, and inefficient use of energy. 

When strategically designed, MEP engineering can:

  • Lower costs
  • Improve lighting
  • Improve heating and cooling
  • Solve water or plumbing issues
  • Conserve water
  • Conserve energy
  • Automate building systems
  • Improve concentration and mood in the workplace
  • Increase comfort

While MEP Engineering may not be necessary for a single-family home, thoughtful planning and design in offices and multi-unit residences is essential. 

Design-Build vs. Design-Bid-Build

You decided to build.

Do you know what type of build process you want to commit to?

Beyond choosing the right builder, you need to understand how the builder will complete the scope of work. Two methods are design-build and design-bid-build. We go over the differences between these two processes below. 

Design-Build

With design-build, the owner signs just one contract with the builder (or project manager).

Often, design-build companies have their own team to handle all aspects of the project, including design, construction, and all trades. With this type of construction process, the owner has one point of contact, making it easier to communicate. 

The contractor can also hire subcontractors for trades as needed, though they resume all responsibility for the finished project, cost, and schedule. 

Design-Bid-Build

Design-bid-build is the more traditional model in construction. Design and construction are handled by two different companies, with two separate contracts. 

Where does the bidding come in?

First, the design team works to complete a set of construction documents for the project. From there, various contractors can submit bids for the project. Usually, the work goes to the lowest bidder. This can help to ensure the cost of construction will stay low. When communication between all parties is strong, this process is effective. 

When completing new construction, it is most important to feel comfortable with who you are working with. From there, you can discuss the type of building process that best fits your needs. 

 

5 Tips to Prepare for a Remodel

You’ve met with your contractor, set a budget, and are excited to see the vision for your updated home come to life. 

Now you have to live through the remodel. 

Remodeling your home is a thrilling venture, especially if it is something you have been working towards. Knowing the changes you want is the first step, and it is exciting when construction gets underway. If you plan on living in the home while renovations are taking place, you need to prepare for life in a work zone.

Here are some tips to make the construction phase as seamless as possible. 

Prepare Emotionally

By preparing mentally to live in a home that is being remodeled, you will ease into the mindset needed. There will be a certain level of mess (after all, things are being ripped up and put back together), noise, and workers entering and exiting. Find a contractor who communicates clearly and plan extra time outside or visiting loved ones. Remind yourself that though things may get hectic, it is just a phase!

Pack Up

Pack up your belongings as if you are moving. This helps the workers, as they will not need to work around any of your things. This step will also be beneficial to you because the space you are living in will not be overcrowded. Keep your essential items, and put the rest in storage.  

Establish Living Zones

Where will you be spending your time when you are in the house? Decide how you can repurpose the rooms that are not being worked on to help you live as comfortably as possible. Perhaps the master bedroom becomes more like a studio apartment, with an area for sleeping and a space for a living room. If your kitchen is being remodeled, set up a countertop with a coffee maker, small fridge, microwave, and toaster oven for use at home. You will need to be creative when creating living zones, but it will help make the transition easier. 

Seal the Work Zone

Work zones are full of dust, construction materials, and tools. If possible, make a separate entryway for construction workers, and tape off the work site from your living space. 

Prepare to be Flexible

During a remodel, unforeseen issues may arise. Your contractor works to make sure everything runs smoothly. Plan to communicate with your contractor regularly, so you understand the progress of the project. This way, if a surprise does pop up, you can calmly decide what your next step is. 

Renovations do not have to be extremely stressful, but they do require preparation, communication, and flexibility. Are you ready to complete a remodel?

Steel: A Sustainable Construction Choice

Steel is one of the greenest materials in construction. With a high recycling content and an industry committed to reducing emissions, steel surpasses other construction materials in regards to sustainability. 

Steel in Construction

Steel has always been a popular choice of material. Steel framing is used in Type II-B construction because of its strength and durability. When framing out a building, steel is lighter than a structurally sound wood frame, and because steel is pre-engineered, it cuts down on time needed to build.

In addition, steel is flexible and can be molded into almost any shape. The non-combustible material has a long lifespan, combined with the highest strength-to-weight ratio of any construction material. This gives steel the ability to withstand all types of inclement weather.

Steel Manufacturing

Steel is made of iron, one of the most abundant elements on Earth. Even though iron is plentiful, the steel industry continues to work toward sustainable practices. Manufacturing plants use steel scrap to make new steel, which helps to conserve energy and resources. According to the Steel Recycling Institute, the industry has reduced energy intensity by 31% per ton of steel shipped, and emissions by 36% per ton of steel produced since 1990. 

Recycling Steel

Steel is one of the most widely recycled materials on the planet, with 80 million tons of steel recycled in North America every year, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute. All steel can be recycled, and because it is magnetic, it is quickly sorted from waste at recycling plants.

Recycling steel does not affect the strength and durability that is crucial to building with the material. This allows steel to be recycled an unlimited number of times without compromising the product. 

Due to its strength and sustainability, steel is a natural choice in our building developments, where we utilize Type II-B construction. 

 

New Construction: the Process of a Residential Build

New construction means you don’t have to deal with hidden issues that come with older homes, knowing you are up to code on everything, and you don’t have to compete for a highly desired home during a seller’s market. While building a new house is a process that takes time, patience, and open communication, the end result is a home built specifically for your needs and desires.

How long does new construction take?

Based on your plan, your builder or subcontractor will be able to estimate the timeline, but it’s essential to remain flexible throughout the process. The timeframe of new construction varies for every home. Factors that affect the process include the land being cleared and approved for building, the size of the house, weather conditions throughout the build, and change orders. In addition, if decisions about finishes and materials are put off, items may take weeks to arrive, pushing back the finish date.

Hire Professionals

When you choose who to work with, you can decide to hire a contractor, builder, or subcontractors for each part of the build. Contractors and builders will oversee the project from start to finish, so you don’t have to worry about hiring multiple people throughout the process. When hiring, take into consideration the experience and communication styles of the people you meet with. You will be working with these people for an extended period of time on your biggest asset, so take the time to interview and choose people you trust.

Site Preparation

Once you have a piece of property that is zoned for residential living, the first step is getting it ready for a new build. Depending on the state of the lot, this can including clearing land or tearing down an existing structure. Vacant land may also need work to reach electric, gas, and plumbing for the house.

Layout and Design

Working with an architect or builder, create the design of the home. The professionals you work with will help keep you on track so basic systems like HVAC and electrical work correctly. Communicate your overall vision, your style, and your must-have items. Once the floorplan is complete, you will be able to get into more specifics of each room. This can be a time-consuming step, as the number of options that go into the design of a home, from the layout down to the cabinet hardware, can seem endless. Be patient and begin with the overall vision before narrowing in on design elements.

Build

As the build progresses, you get to see your vision come to life. At this point, the professionals you hired take control, as they make sure the job is done correctly while adhering to code.

The build begins with pouring the foundation and framing the walls, floors, and roof of the house. From here, “the guts” are completed. This includes everything you can’t see behind the walls, including heating and cooling units, electrical work, and plumbing. During this time, SmartHome systems can also be installed. Workers will then close up the walls with insulation and drywall. At this point, you can really begin to see the vision come to life.

The next phase includes installing finishes and design elements. Starting with the floors and paint, then moving on to cabinets, appliances, and light fixtures. The final few weeks of the build include all the finishing touches.

 

Are you interested in a custom residential build? We’re happy to answer any questions. Contact us to learn more.

What are building allowances for new construction?

For new developments, builders may choose to include allowances in construction contracts. Allowances help to establish clear expectations about costs, as they allocate funds to particular areas throughout the construction process.

If your builder offers allowances, it enables you the right to provide a product or service. This cost is deducted from the total amount you owe the contractor. For example, if the price of the home is $400,000, and the builder gives you a $20,000 allowance for flooring, the amount paid to the builder is lowered to $380,000.

Providing allowances gives future residents flexibility to customize their home and contractors clear guidelines from which to move forward. Some of the usual allowances in residential construction include:

  • Appliances
  • Flooring
  • Plumbing fixtures
  • Kitchen countertops
  • Cabinetry
  • Light fixtures
  • Door hardware

In addition to providing customization for new construction, allowances can help you stay on budget. Each allowance is its own budget, helping you pick finishes you want while staying true to your maximum overall cost.

By working with tenants or owners throughout the process of the build, builders provide information about allowance options, as well as the pros and cons of choice for cabinetry, flooring, countertops, or any other selections that may be available. Also, if you go above the mini-budget in one area of the house or condominium, you can get back on track by cutting back somewhere else.  

If you know you want to be involved in choosing finishes for a new home, start working with the builder or general contractor as soon as possible. This will allow you to learn about the options you have, review the allowance for each, and make decisions without feeling rushed. If a build is almost complete, the general contractor will have to begin making choices so the job is not delayed, which would cost time and money.

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