Stillwater Blog

Building On A Slope

May 2019

The challenges and rewards of a sloped site.



Choosing a sloped site for your new home can be both challenging and rewarding. A sloped lot can offer amazing views of distant landscapes or forest canopies, extra light and the possibility of a walk-out lower level. However, there can be extra costs and challenges depending on the steepness of the slope, the approach to the site and the consistency of the ground. Luckily, we have plenty of experience successfully designing Stillwater homes for some of the most beautiful and challenging sloped sites. Our signature glass wall of windows and doors is ideal for making that indoor/outdoor connection with the amazing views a sloped site allows.

For those interested in building on a sloped site, here are some additional points to consider.

Slope Characteristics

The biggest hurdles boil down to two main factors: the gradient of the slope and whether the lot is upslope or downslope.

Less than a 10% incline is considered slight and is the easiest to build on, while 11-20% is considered moderate. Anything above 20% is steep.

Additional Foundation Work – Time & Cost

Even moderately sloped sites typically require more foundation work.

Drainage & Sewage

Proper water drainage from rainfall, as well as relative placement to sewage lines need to be carefully planned and designed.

Removal or Fill Soil

Depending on your specific site, you may need to haul soil away, or deliver soil to the site for filling. Either way, transportation of the soil to and from the site will need to take place and this can add to the cost.

Access to the House

Access to the property — for both you and your contractors — is an important factor to consider in your calculations as well. Using our panelized building method allows us to vary the shipment sizes and methods to accommodate your lot.

Soil Type

The type of soil your home will sit on must be taken into consideration. Granular soils drain well and can bear high loads compared to clay soils. Some clay soils can damage foundations due to expansion and contraction during seasons.

Rock ledges near the surface can also present difficulties with drainage and septic systems and solutions will need to be discussed. Having a geotechnical report for us to analyze is helpful in determining foundation/retaining wall costs for a new home.

Landscaping

You’ll want to put down plants that can take root on an incline and can help reduce erosion and prevent weeds. Retaining walls, rock gardens, and terracing are also good options on sloped sites.

JOIN US AT OUR FREE SEATTLE SEMINAR

What’s all the buzz about luxury prefab homes? Come find out!

Register today to attend our free seminar in Seattle where you’ll learn about our modern homes, customization and the prefabricated process. Find out why our designs and process and becoming the popular option over traditional methods. Meet Stillwater team members and local builders and get your questions answered.

Register Today – Space Limited!

WHEN: June 22nd, 2-4pm
WHERE: Seattle Public Library, Central Branch

Details & Registration



We’re all work… and some play!
Not only can we design homes, we can curl! We had a great day spending time together and developing a deeper appreciation for the sport of curling. #teambuilding


Finding Land

April 2019

Finding A Home For Your Home

Useful tips to help you find the perfect piece of land to build your new home.

Before you build your dream home, you must find the dream location. For most, finding residential land can be a daunting and difficult process. Here are a few basic tips to help you get started.

Finding Land

Whether you already know where you want to buy land, or you’re still in the early stages of planning, finding that perfect plot can prove to be the most difficult task of all. Here are a few options to explore:

  1. Search Online Land Listings
    • Traditional real estate sites like Zillow and Redfin display MLS listed land sites available. These sites provide search filters that allow you to locate land within a specific area and within a set price range.
    • Visit land-specific sites like LandWatch.com, LandCentury.com and LotNetwork.com. While these sites provide listings for all types of land, including residential, commercial and farm lands, they are easy to filter and sort. For more information about a specific listing, you can reach out to the individual land sellers or agents.
  2. Reach Out To Local Real Estate Agents
    • Your local real estate agent will have access to all MLS listings for land and maybe even know of some that have not yet been listed.
  3. Scout Established Neighborhoods
    • Driving through areas in which you’d like to live, and even talking to the neighbors, can provide valuable information about the area and possible available land.
  4. Use Google Maps
    • Use Google Maps to view locations in 3D before heading out to see the site. You will be able to get a sense of the shape and size of the site, the distance from street and views from the site, etc.
  5. Visit The Site
    • Once you’ve narrowed down your selection, be sure to visit the sites in person to get a better sense of the location, topography, views and surroundings. Ask if there is a survey/topo map available to gain an understanding of potential site prep/foundation costs.

Things To Keep In Mind

Finding the land is half the battle. Here are some additional items to consider before purchasing your dream site.

  1. Consider Utilities: The cost to run power to your home could be a large percentage of your budget and should be estimated on the front end. If a lot you are considering does not already have utility connections on the site, you will need to get estimates from local providers to understand the costs.
  2. Consider Site Restrictions: Most building sites have restrictions that dictate where, and even what you can build. For more detailed information about this, read our site restrictions article: https://stillwaterdwellings.com/how-site-restrictions-may-affect-your-new-home-design/
  3. Permitting: Get information about wind ratings, snow loads, easements, protected areas, and whether the land is in a flood plain or wildfire hazard zone. Understanding the associated permitting requirements will help you learn about any additional costs and potential delays.
  4. Architectural Consultation: Obtaining the advice of the home designers is immensely valuable in these beginning stages. If you’ve identified a site you are seriously considering, we will be happy to offer advice about building your Stillwater home on that specific location. Once you’ve purchased the land and selected your Stillwater design, we will guide you through all permitting and other processes involved to make sure your home is designed to sit perfectly within your site and meets all requirements.
  5. Prepare Your Financing: Unlike purchasing a home, many banks and lenders will not issue mortgages or other financing for empty land. Although some banks do offer land loans to finance the purchase of an empty parcel, these loans may have higher interest rates than a traditional mortgage and can require as much as 50 percent down according to Bankrate. Instead, if you can come up with the cash to buy the land outright, many lenders will issue construction loans using the land as collateral. These loans are easier to secure and generally have more favorable terms.


Welcome to the team, Jerry Wang!
We are excited to welcome Jerry to the Stillwater family as our newest Senior Architect. We can’t wait to see the amazing designs Jerry creates for our clients!

Welcome to the team, Nathan Bonk!
We are so happy to have Nathan join our team as our newest Architectural Drafter. We are grateful to have someone so talented who is already hard at work on our newest projects!

Stillwater employees have some of the cutest furry friends – and many accompany us to the office! Check them out on our site under the Barkitects & Purrduction section.

Front Entry Design

March 2019

Making An Entrance

The Importance Of Front Entry Design

The importance of the front entry is often overlooked by those who are building a new home, but it’s an essential feature that should be designed with great care. The front entrance not only provides exterior appeal, but it is the main welcoming point for visitors and serves as the first impression. It’s also considered a very important feng shui feature. According to this design philosophy, the house absorbs energy and nourishment through the front door. When the home has good energy, the people who live there experience higher levels of well-being.

Front Pivot Door on a Stillwater Home on Bainbridge Island, WA

The Stillwater entry of a home is a transitional feature that provides a greater indoor/outdoor connection than traditional entries. Our high-end pivot glass door is impressively larger than a typical front door and is hinged approximately 12” from one edge. It allows light and air to enter the home through a spacious opening.

The high-performance hardware allows for smooth operation and can be adjusted in both traveling speed and closure speed allowing customization for each household.

Front Pivot Door Interior View from a Stillwater Home in Windsor, CA

This style of door also harmonizes perfectly with the universal design of a Stillwater home, with its extra wide entry providing an uncrowded, easy pass-through.

To top it off, the Stillwater signature, solid steel canopy graces every entry. It weighs in at an impressive 800+ lbs. yet seems to float effortlessly overhead providing a sleek, modern flare and shelter from the elements.

Stillwater Dwellings’ Signature Steel Canopy

What is Organic Architecture?

February 2019

An Environmentally Integrated Approach To Design

The term “organic architecture” was first coined by American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) when describing his specific approach to architecture. It was a natural evolution from the previously standing “form follows function” design notion of the time. Wright believed that form and function should be integrated. Organic architecture is a philosophical design approach that strives to achieve a harmonious environment by blending interiors and exteriors. The buildings should have a connection to the sites within which they sit while providing the occupants with a connection to the environment. This concept is achieved through a well-integrated approach with the site, building, furnishings and surroundings as they all become part of a unified composition.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater exemplifies his revolutionary approach. Designed in 1935, Wright referenced the surrounding natural forms, materials and colors that would later become part of the home. He took inspiration from a rock that jutted out over the streaming waterfall, and designed the house to hover over it and appear part of the setting while the water flowed beneath.

Stillwater Dwellings Boring, OR

At Stillwater, our architects skillfully refine each home design based on the unique characteristics of the site and the homeowner’s lifestyle thereby unifying form and function. With each design, we make an effort to not only capture the views of nature, but to evaluate the surrounding elements. Some of these include light, wind, and color, which are blended into one harmonious environment – all while maintaining the unique Stillwater persona our homeowners cherish.

Stillwater Dwellings Portland, OR

“Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.”
-Frank Lloyd Wright

The Butterfly Roof

January 2019

Mid-Century Elegance in Modern Day Design

There’s no doubt that one of the most distinct characteristics of a Stillwater home is the elegant butterfly roof. The origin of this design element dates back to the early 1930s and yet, it remains a prominent feature of modern architecture today.

The original design of the butterfly roof was created by Swiss architect, Le Corbusier, in 1930 as part of a commissioned vacation home to be built in Zapallar, Chile. The home was for heiress, Eugenia Errazuriz, a grand patroness of the avant-garde and good friend of Picasso.

Le Corbusier’s Design Zapallar Vacation Home

Set on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, the home was to display Le Corbusier’s trademark mix of organic design and modern innovation. “The broad, off-center V-shaped roof would resemble a butterfly in mid-flight. Where the two wings met about one-third of the way along the home, a gully formed, from which the large, winged expanses swept upward. This striking design was a distinctive departure from the flat roofs that had become characteristic of the 1920s.”

Unfortunately, Le Corbusier’s design was never realized when Errazuriz’s lifestyle left her bankrupt. It would be three years later that Czech architect, Antonin Raymond, built Corbusier’s design for his own home in Japan.

Antoniin Raymond’s Home In Japan

American architect Marcel Breuer then brought the butterfly roof to America in 1945 with his design for the Geller House on Long Island. Since then, many architects have used butterfly roofs for their eye-catching angles and eco-friendly properties, which include the ability to collect rainwater and incorporate larger windows.

Marcel Breuer’s Geller House

A Stillwater home takes inspiration from these exceptional architects. Our soaring butterfly roof is an artistic representation of the mid-century modernist spirit. Its elegance provides a distinct contemporary presence with a nod to the past.

Stillwater Dwellings Home In Napa, CA

Sources:
(1) Marni Epstein-Mervis, “Curbed”
https://la.curbed.com/2014/12/24/10009160/le-corbusiers-forgotten-invention-socals-iconic-butterfly-roof-1

(2) Elizabeth Stamp, “Architectural Digest” https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/why-top-architects-love-butterfly-roofs

A Stillwater Home – More Than Meets The Eye

The Universal Design Approach

While most people are excited about the aesthetics of a Stillwater home, there is more to their design than meets the eye. An important consideration when building a home is the planning of its accessibility, useability and convenience both for today and for the future.

To achieve this, the Stillwater team approaches architecture with the universal design concept in mind. Universal design is not a design style or trend. Rather, it’s an approach to planning a home that allows for growth and changes over time. It is our belief that the home should be not only accessible throughout these life changes, but remain a place of comfort and ease. Large doors, open concepts, wide hallways and single level floor plans are just some of the universal design elements incorporated into our architecture that help to create homes that are safe, convenient and accessible regardless of physical ability or life stage.

The seven principles of universal design are:

  • Equitable Use
  • Flexibility In Use
  • Simple and Intuitive Use
  • Perceptible Information
  • Tolerance for Error
  • Low Physical Effort
  • Size and Space for Approach and Use

Our existing floor plans have already been designed to incorporate many of these principles and, for those clients who have specific needs, we are able to modify the designs as necessary.

Simply put, universal design is good design. And that is what Stillwater Dwellings is all about.

Stillwater Dwellings – Celebrates 10 Years

It has been an exciting and rewarding 10 years creating homes for our clients. We are grateful for our Stillwater team that has grown in that time and the Stillwater families we have enjoyed working with. Read More.


Post Of The Month

The Merge of
Design and Nature

The Team
Continues To Grow

Welcome, Joseph!

Our newest Architectural Drafter, Joseph Debnar has an impressive 26 years of architectural drafting experience. We are excited to have him aboard!


7 Tips To Create An Eco-Friendly Yard

Rather skip winter? Here is a quick escape from the cooler weather as you look forward to spring gardening


More Great Inspiration

Order our planning guide for even more information about our homes and designs.

7 Tips to Easily Create an Eco-Friendly Backyard

By: James Witts

When building a new home, it’s important to customize your backyard to your own personal needs. Many homeowners quickly settle into their home but then have trouble deciding what to do with the outdoor living spaces. Additionally, many of us value the outdoors and protecting the environment, and thus should consider ways to make our yards eco-friendly. Check out these seven tips to easily create an eco-friendly backyard for your new home.

Choose Native Plants

Adding native plants to your backyard is an eco-friendly way to garden. Native plants are those that are naturally found in your area and are adapted to the particular weather conditions. They don’t require extra watering which saves on water use as well. Native plants are also widely available making the process of purchasing and delivering the plants much less taxing on the environment. Incorporating native plants into your backyard also helps provide food and shelter for local pollinators like bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies in order to strengthen the surrounding plant life.

Consider Xeriscaping

Xeriscaping is one of the newest landscaping techniques that adds a lot of beauty to a backyard. The focus of xeriscaping is to use rocks and drought tolerant plants instead of a traditional grass lawn, cutting down on the weekly water use and lawn maintenance. Xeriscaping is highly sought after in more modern homes with upscale styles. Many gardeners now specialize in xeriscaping and creating your own native oasis can be easily installed with the proper professional.

Solar Lighting

One of the easiest ways to cut down on your energy bill as well as support the environment is to invest in solar lighting for your outdoor living space. There are many solar lighting options available on the market that come in a wide range of styles. Place individual solar lights along a pathway for added safety as well as solar powered flood lights that turn on when motion is detected. Other ways to incorporate solar lighting into a backyard include featuring spotlights on certain plants within the garden that are unique or blooming. Solar lights can also be installed in the entertaining areas of the backyard with many string lights and permanent fixtures being solar powered.

Harvest Rainwater

Choosing to harvest rainwater is a great option for those homeowners who live in a dry or drought prone area. Rain barrels collect the fallen rain and provide an adequate water source when drought restrictions are in effect. The barrels are easy to install or make yourself and can go a long way in providing water right when you need it. Consider multiple spots within your backyard where harvesting rainwater can be done for easy access later on.

Choose Organic

Many homeowners enjoy the benefits of having a lush lawn within their backyard. Consider choosing organic products to help feed the lawn as well as control pests and disease. Compost is a great way to naturally strengthen your lawn’s soil making the grass roots healthier. Another option is to find organic fertilizers that are available as well as other natural weed controls that will not harm the environment as well.

Use Pest Repelling Plants

Pests can not only annoy your backyard guests, but can also cause long term damage to your soil and your plants. Fortunately, there are a number of plants that repel insects that you can install in your backyard, reducing the need for pesticides and herbicides. These insect repelling plants include beautiful flowers such as Chrysanthemum and Petunias, as well as tasty herbs like Rosemary and Basil.

Cover with Mulch

Organic or inorganic mulching options can be used to cover the ground surrounding plants within the backyard. Many homeowners choose organic mulch options, like grass clippings or bark dust, in order to provide an essential nutrient to plants. Inorganic options, like pebbles or recycled rubber, can also be used but don’t provide nutrients to the soil. Both mulching options help prevent water run off and insulate the areas around plant roots. Mulch also helps keep plants cool which can lower the amount of water intake needed as well. Weeds also have trouble growing through mulch which saves you time and energy pulling them as well as supports the environment from the use of chemical weed control applications.

Creating an environmentally friendly backyard is easy with just a few steps. Homeowners can add instant beauty to the space by choosing to xeriscape or use native plants within the garden. Covering those plants with mulch helps retain moisture levels as well as harvesting rainwater for future use. Solar lighting is a great way to use the sun’s energy at night when needed. Consider all of these # tips to easily create an eco-friendly backyard to customize your home.

James Witts is an eco-conscious home improvement writer. He is constantly trying to find new ways to live off the grid while living in a tiny home with his wife, Andie.

Stillwater–Panelized Construction

Panelized wall and floor panels are installed on your site in a matter of days

Why Panelization?

Panelization is a hybrid building method which marries the efficiency of prefab with the design flexibility and quality of a stick-built home. Our systems-based prefab construction supports a high level of design and craftsmanship while controlling costs and eliminating surprises.

  • Precision: Using advanced MiTek technology, each panel is cut to measurements within 1/16th of an inch.
  • Shipping: Unlike a traditional modular home, our panels are shipped flat to your building site resulting in significantly reduced shipping costs.
  • Accessibility: Because are panels are shipped flat, we are able to access sites that are traditionally difficult to reach (i.e. steeply sloped, rough terrain, narrow driveways).
  • Sustainability: Our modern fabrication system reduces waste by up to 50% compared to traditional building methods. All Stillwater prefab homes are highly insulated to reduce energy costs and environmental impacts.
  • Time Savings: Using our highly refined three phase process, we are able to have your home move-in ready in up to a third less time than other building methods.
  • Quality: Panels are made of the highest quality Douglas Fir. They are constructed in a climate-controlled facility and are built to meet (and typically exceed) your local building code requirements.

Do you have questions regarding panelization? Please contact us at info@stillwaterdwellings.com.

Stillwater Plans Gallery and Planning Guide

Panels ready to go to your jobsite

The panels are built with quality materials in a controlled environment then loaded onto a truck for delivery to the jobsite

Panels going up

The walls of this home in California were put up in less than one week!

Thank you

We had an amazing turnout for both our seminar and open house in Santa Rosa last month. Thank you to everyone who attended! Keep an eye out for future event announcements.

Embracing the notion of Prospect and Refuge

Prospect & Refuge

A Stillwater Design Philosophy

At Stillwater Dwellings, we design your home to bring a balance to your lifestyle. We’ve learned that most people enjoy a mix of both excitement and escape within their homes. This concept is known as “Prospect and Refuge.”

Prospect can be defined as a feeling of anticipation or expectation. The environment is in a constant state of change; light, textures and movement offer a new perspective at any given moment. Allowing the seamless connection to the outdoors through carefully planned windows and doors, brings the opportunity for you to capture these visions of nature.

Refuge is thought of as a place of shelter, protection and safety. There are moments when you desire the comfort and relaxation of a private, safe space; a part of the home where you can curl up with a good book, or have a quiet moment of solitude. An escape to both recharge and relax is vital to healthy living. Every Stillwater home provides these places of refuge.

The balance of exposure and privacy are key to the design of a Stillwater home and bring a sense of harmony to the living space. It is this thoughtful approach that is well appreciated by our clients.

Post of the Month

View from an in-progress Stillwater Dwellings home on Orcas Island.

A Warm Welcome to Lukas Myers

This month, Lukas joined the Stillwater Dwellings team as our newest Production Drafter. Welcome, Lukas!

More Great Inspiration

Order our planning guide for even more information about our homes and designs.

Rebuilding after wildfires – where to begin?

“One of the great beauties of architecture is that, each time it is like life starting all over again.”
– Renzo Piano

A Stillwater California Rebuild Under Construction in Glen Ellen, CA

Rebuilding California

As the anniversary of the October 2017 Northern California wildfires approaches, we want to take this opportunity to thank those who turned to us to help them rebuild the place they call home. We were honored to be entrusted with such great responsibility. Understanding the desire and sense of urgency our clients faced to return to some semblance of normal, we immediately brainstormed ways in which we could get them back into a new home as soon as possible.

Tapping into our archive of designs, we found several that would work well given that they had been pre-engineered to meet California’s strict code requirements and, these plans were easily adaptable to several sites on a fast-track timeline. We worked closely with local jurisdictions and expediters to get the new plans approved as quickly as possible.

We are so happy that the first of these rebuilds is already nearing completion and we’re eagerly awaiting the moment our clients step through the door and know they are home, again.

What can we do to help you move into your new beginning?
info@stillwaterdwellings.com

Resources

Marin Magazine recently posted an article on the local relief efforts, highlighting the work of the Rebuild North Bay Foundation.

Most Popular Post

This photo of a recently completed sd161 home garnered the most “likes” on our Instagram page for September. See this home and more here

9/28/18 – The First Of Many Traditions To Come In A New Stillwater Home

Each Stillwater family is unique and we have the pleasure of getting to know each and every one of them. They come from all walks of life and, when we are lucky, we get a peek into their traditions. This month, we were invited to a Hindu house blessing at our clients’ new home in Kingston, WA. The ceremony was filled with vibrant colors, delicious food and many prayers for an auspicious beginning. We add our wishes to the family for a very happy life ahead in their new home.

Site Restrictions That May Affect Your New Home Design

Most building sites have restrictions that dictate where, and even what you can build. Commonly, people who sell land are not familiar with all of these restrictions, which leaves you with some homework. We suggest you tackle this, if at all possible, before you purchase a building site.

Once you’re ready to put an offer on a property, contact us at info@stillwaterdwellings.com and we’ll be happy to provide initial site feasibility feedback. If available, please provide us with the address of the potential site, a site survey, and topographical map. Since each site has its own set of opportunities and challenges, it is impossible to provide a simple checklist to what makes a “good” site overall. That’s why we like to be involved early in the process to help you evaluate all of the criteria, and either recommend or steer you away from the property as a suitable setting for a Stillwater home.

Here are some common types of regulatory restrictions to research:

Zoning Restrictions:
A trip to your local zoning department will enable you to get a copy of the zoning bylaws that affect your site. Those that you should look for are:

  • Setback requirements: how far from the front, side and rear lots lines the structure can be built. Will the remaining building envelope be large enough for what you want to build?
  • Lot coverage restrictions: How much of the site area can be covered with the structure and with impervious (e.g. asphalt drive, tennis courts) surfaces.
  • House size limitations: sometimes local zoning restrictions limit the size or height of houses

Utility Restrictions and Easements:
If your site is serviced by water and sewer services, you simply need to find out where they come on to the site. If, on the other hand, your site will require a septic system or a well, many restrictions may apply. The best thing to do here is to engage the serves of a local site engineer who can walk you through the requirements and handle the administrative work of getting permits and designing your septic system. Here are some considerations that will affect your house design:

  • How far away from each other do the septic system and the well have to be? (this also applies to the distance from neighboring septic systems and wells).
  • Has a percolation test been completed? Is the septic system already designed?
  • For how many bedrooms has the septic system been designed or is there a limitation on bedrooms?

ARB Restrictions:
If you are building within a subdivision, the developer may have published Architectural Review Board (ARB) restrictions that may impose design restrictions on your house. A few items to take into consideration:

  • Is there an approval process for plans? Who is involved in decision-making?
  • How often does the architectural review board meet? This is one process that you and your design professional need to be aware of from the start. Stillwater will present to your design review board.
  • What are the specific restrictions? Common elements include house size, paint color, siding material, roofline, landscaping, fencing, and garage placement.

Other Special Restrictions:
Some communities impose these restrictions, for which your local building department can provide documentation. These may include:

  • Historic district restrictions that affect the architecture that is allowed; the types and shapes of windows that can be used; even the color of the house. It _s best to verify with your local building department that no such restrictions apply to your site.
  • Seismic, special wind load and other special restrictions. Your site may be affected by certain seismic restrictions, or, if it is near the ocean, certain wind loading requirements.
  • Sloped properties. We have experience building on sloped properties, but it’s important to understand the degree of slope and the soil condition before purchasing property.

For more information on this topic or any other aspect of our custom designs, please contact us. We look forward to learning about your home project!

At Seattle Architecture Firm, Modern Homes Within Reach

The Rockwell home of Edmonds, Washington, built by Stillwater Dwellings.

A thirty-minute northbound drive from Seattle brings you to the quaint seaside community of Edmonds, home of the Rockwell family and their modern, open-concept sanctuary. Theirs is a home fit for the pages of an architectural magazine, its clean lines, natural light, and magnificent wall of glass communicating warmth and welcome. But its walls are keeping a secret: it was built off site, constructed by a team of craftsmen in a climate-controlled workshop several miles away. Their affiliation? Stillwater Dwellings, a Seattle-based architecture firm disrupting the world of high-end modern homes with their meticulously designed, turnkey homes constructed via an ingenious panelized system.

Clean, Sophisticated, and Fully Customized

The Rockwells selected their floor plan from twenty-five options ranging from a thousand square feet to over 5,200. Nods to the masters of modern architecture are evident throughout Stillwater’s portfolio, from high ceilings to special order surfaces and even handcrafted address numbers. Their generous use of glass brings the outdoors in, showcasing the outdoor living areas and landscaping that have become one of the company’s signature elements. But ultimately, the firm knows that home is where the heart is. And so every home is personalized to accommodate the unique lives of its owners. For some customers, garages are added or bedrooms eliminated. In Edmonds, modifications were made to allow the owners to age in place for years to come. All customizations are overseen by an architect and limited only by a single factor: the homeowner’s imagination.

Bringing Home Home (Even in the Middle of Nowhere)

Stillwater’s process is a more akin to a NASA operation than a construction project. Meticulous doesn’t begin to describe the efforts taken to ensure each home’s masterful completion, from first rendering to ultimate unveiling. And that includes the transition from house to home. A typical systems-built house arrives as an oversized load on flatbed trucks, precluding any destination that would require navigating narrow roads or rough terrain. But Stillwater’s process is different. Rather than arriving in a single piece, their homes are delivered in panelized sections and assembled onsite. It’s a subtle distinction that is making a significant difference in the high-end home market. One of the key beneficiaries? The owner’s bottom line.

Read full Dwell Magazine article here

Designer Homes within Time and Budget

The typical magazine cover home was the culmination of years of research, design, and engineering, not to mention significant financial investment. Stillwater’s process is actually quite similar. Each is designed and engineered by a team of award-winning architects in Seattle. What sets them apart is that the costs are recouped across multiple properties. The company says their average customer saves tens of thousands of dollars in architecture fees alone due to the efficiency of a standardized systems-built approach. But cost isn’t the primary motivator for most Stillwater customers. “Our homebuyers depend on our quality and our efficiency,” says Stillwater CEO John Morgan. “We build designer houses for people who admire fine architecture and don’t want to wait five years to live in their dream home.” In the modern homebuilding market, the impact is evident: Stillwater is making waves.

*Names have been changed for privacy.

How Much Does a Modern Pre-fab Home Cost?

There are a variety of reasons to choose a pre-fab home–energy efficiency, quality control, or a quicker build come to mind. For many, though, there is great benefit in lower costs compared to a traditional stick built home. So exactly how much does a modern pre-fab home cost? It’s difficult to compare since each home company advertises their prices differently. We conducted a non-scientific study, searching pricing online for a 2,000 sq. ft. modern pre-fab home, and summarized the results in the table below:

House 1: Heated space only, no fees included $150-$200/sq.ft.
House 2: Delivered, no site costs included $185-$225/sq.ft.
House 3: Complete house, including foundation $710,000
House 4: Total project cost $300-$450/sq.ft.
House 5: ??? It depends

Overall, we found ourselves having to compare apples to oranges. Each company includes or excludes particular aspects of the overall cost. House 1 advertises a price/sq.ft. range of $150-$200 for heated space only. This doesn’t include garage, foundation, or design/engineering fees. House 2 is delivered, but doesn’t include any site costs, which can significantly vary the cost of the home. House 3 is the most interesting, offering one price of $710,000 for the completed home, including foundation. This is surprising since foundation costs alone can vary by 100K from one site to another. House 4 offers a total project cost of $300-$450/sq.ft. If you haven’t guessed, this is the Stillwater price range. You’ll find that we don’t separate “hard” and “soft” costs. Our clients want (and need) to have a full understanding of the whole picture. Since there’s not an option to not pay hard or soft costs, they are included in complete pricing. Finally, our favorite example is House 5, which in their FAQ pricing section just wrote “it depends.” This is probably the most accurate (and least helpful) answer you can get, and we appreciate their sincerity.

Our advice to potential modern pre-fab homeowners is to consider a variety of factors that influence the total project cost, including, but not limited to:

  • Foundation (cost varies depending on topography and soil conditions on site)
  • Site Prep
  • Utilities Access (or Septic/Well system)
  • Shipment/Installation
  • Driveway and/or sidewalks
  • Design Modifications
  • Architectural Fees
  • Engineering Fees
  • Permitting Fees
  • Interior Finishes

Overall, without knowing details regarding your property (topography, soil conditions, etc.), what state/local permits are required, how much you want to customize the home, and what level of finishes you’re looking for, the “it depends” answer may be as specific a response on cost you can find. When conducting research into modern pre-fab home companies, make sure you’re getting the whole picture by asking about the items above. Having an apples to apples comparison with all costs taken into consideration upfront is the best way to ensure no surprises during the process and you can enjoy the benefits of a pre-fab home for years to come!

Just What is Prefab?

 

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The New York Times recently published an article on Revolution, a company founded by Robbie Antonio that sells precrafted tiny homes and pavilions. This article got us thinking about the definition of prefab. Mr. Antonio, a 38 year old Stanford MBA, has a taste for contemporary art, luxury brands, and big ticket architecture. Yes, these homes and pavilions are gorgeous and pre-built, but the designs are so idiosyncratic it’s hard to imagine their production with any efficiency.

I was especially drawn to the bimorphic moon pavilion by Daniel Libeskind (see above photo). It appears to be a bisected blob of molten gold, and shows the hand of a master designer–“blobs” are not as easy to create as you may think.

Likewise, Gluckman Tang’s art pavilion, made from lacquered wood and translucent polycarbonate, is a sweet, well controlled minimalist structure and the closest of all of Revolution’s “precrafted properties” to the reality of typical building methods.

There’s a lot of talk about the notion of prefab, but in actuality the dwellings in this article are more like prefab prototyping, and prototyping is likely to be the way they will stay. After all, one of the fundamental tenants of prefab is that its supposed to be affordable, mass production housing, not a couture dwelling.

An Almost Magical Building Material

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As an architect, I could specify a wide variety of contemporary building materials in my homes. But only one is totally sustainable, is flexible enough to shift as structures settle, does not expand and contract with the seasons, is energy efficient, is both a structural and finishing material, is easy to work with and repair, and is totally recyclable. Of course I’m talking about wood.
It’s almost a magical material. Trees take energy from the sun, and carbon dioxide from the air and converts them into a totally natural, renewable and recyclable product. Wood building materials continue to evolve. In the last 50 years researchers have developed ways to utilize wood to make incredibly strong beams and other structural materials. Engineered wood building systems are now being used to build midrise towers. Instead of steel and concrete, the floors, ceilings, elevator shafts, and stairwells are made entirely of wood.
It is also one of the best building materials for earthquake prone areas. In 1995 an earthquake of 6.0 magnitude hit the city of Kobe, Japan. Among the devastated traditional style houses were examples of modern wood construction and wood-frame houses. Of approximately 8000 “2 by 4” framed houses, none collapsed and 70% reported no damage at all.
Personally I love building with wood. It allows me to bring to life just about any design I can imagine. It comes from the ground and will eventually return to the ground. It’s as organic as the people who will reside in the homes built with it, and there is nothing more wonderful than the smell of a freshly framed home.

Why are We Attracted to Art and Beauty?

Is appreciation for art and its architectural component learned, inherited or a little of both?  Why do some people love specific forms of art while others don’t get it?  I have always believed appreciation of beauty was, at least partially, innate.  As an architect, working with hundreds of clients through the years, something about the look of a home and its setting on a site just feels “right”.  Was this because of the client’s highly evolved taste or something much more basic?
Denis Dutton, in his fascinating book, The Art Instinct: Beauty, Pleasure and Human Evolution argues that aesthetic taste, is an evolutionary trait, shaped by natural selection.  In many circles this seemingly logical conclusion was rather radical.  In the introduction to the book Dutton states “Charles Darwin laid the foundation for the proper study of art as not only a cultural phenomenon, but a natural one as well.”  The book provides fascinating arguments to prove the point.  It’s well worth reading.
Mr. Dutton grew up in Los Angeles, received a PhD from the University of California and spent his academic career as an art philosopher in the U. S. and New Zealand.  He gave a terrific Ted Talk on the Darwinian theory of beauty a few years ago.

At Home With Bill Bryson

I enjoyed the dry wit and content of Bill Bryson’s “A History of Almost Everything” so much that I’m really looking forward to reading his latest book At Home, A Short History of Private Life”. Bryson has an incredible knack for making nonfiction especially interesting and at times, painfully funny. The Seattle Times reviews Bryson’s latest publication:
‘At Home’: Bill Bryson Constructs a History of Private Life
By Bharti Kirchner
Special to The Seattle Times
Most people would be satisfied with a home in a village like one in the county of Norfolk, England, and simply go on enjoying it, but not Bill Bryson (“A Short History of Nearly Everything”). A chance inspection of an attic to determine the source of a drip leads him in an unexpected direction. He begins strolling from room to room, pondering domestic objects around him — a fork, a sofa, a cabinet — and also the function of each space, as well as how it might have evolved through time. The journal he keeps results in a new book, quirky but entertaining, filled with observations about the history of everyday life spanning the last 150 or so years.
“Houses aren’t refuges from history,” Bryson says. “They are where history ends up.”
‘At Home: A Short History of Private Life’
by Bill Bryson
Doubleday, 452 pp., $28.95
Read the complete review here: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/books/2013091826_br10bryson.html

XBO Mobile Structure / 70ºN Arkitektur

I particularly like the exterior of this mobile habitat with its uncompromising simplicity. Statement making architecture in a stunning setting, featured in www.archdaily.com
The xbo is primarily a result of the Rotterdam based project ‘PARASITE’ (Prototypes for Advanced/ Ready-made/ Amphibious/ Small scale/ Individual/ Temporary/ Ecological houses). The idea of the xbo is to provide a mobile habitat for 2 young people on the move. The structure consists of two movable parts in sum twelve meters long, 3,2m wide and almost 3,5m high, the xbo is an attempt to keep things to a minimum, to stick to the basics and focus on the essential.
Today many people are economical prisoners in their homes. One way out could be to change our way of living. In a small house the focus is on what is actually needed. The house may be a tool for such a change. This means that simple and basic qualities of life is the main theme for the development of this minimal space. We want to use this tool as an object of investigation and discussion. Not only while it is created, but also when it is put into use.”

Contemporary Architecture: Constraints Are Your Friend

Frank Lloyd Wright once said “constraints are your friend” and although one would think that limitations of creative thinking would be counterintuitive in the design world, it actually makes a lot of sense. Constraints define the character of the solution.
Besides the obvious constraints of topography, sun, wind, budget, etc., there are also constraints imposed by the properties of materials and systems; it’s from all of these constraints one can tease out meaningful solutions that are not arbitrary or faddish but are a thoughtfully considered response.
At Stilllwater Dwellings, modular construction is integral to the aesthetic language we have developed without dominating or overpowering it. For instance, the structural expression of the roof beams at the module ”marriage lines” create a secondary scale that define individual spaces within a larger room, giving a human scale to balance the overall dimensions.
In the Living Hall, the kitchen, dining, and sitting areas are given identity by the structural expression of the exposed wood beams which are regulated by modular dimensions.