Green Building

The Green Movement has been building in earnest for many years now.  Some simple steps were taken and demonstration homes were built 30+ years ago.  Throughout time everyone has been working to build an energy efficient home in order to stay warm in the winter.  Recently the global community has been rallying to mitigate the effects of what is now labeled global climate change which in and of itself would help make our winter warmth a bit easier to achieve. To that end home builders and community activists are pushing green building initiatives such as Green Globes, Leadership in Energy Efficient Design (LEED), and Earth Craft Home certification. These programs seek to achieve energy efficiency thru a variety of check lists and points system and rise to environmental stewardship as well thru the use of sustainable and recycled components. Many of these choices have been incorporated into homes by builders because they last longer and create fewer warranty calls for the builder to have to address. By doing so the building community has begun creating better products for the homeowner and is helping to make the environment better.

What do you want to achieve?

Environmental friendliness? Sustainable building materials? Less carbon footprint? Lower energy bills? Safe worker environment? Low Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) allergy tolerance mitigation? These are a few of the areas where a green building initiative can come into play.  You can do very simple things that will make the home energy efficient or you can do very invasive things that will go even further. It truly is up to you and making sure that you have a builder that is capable of providing this service to you.

I’ll write more on this subject in the ensuing weeks.

Thanks for your time and consideration.

R.Home Nov/Dec 2012 Issue

Page 46 of the Nov/Dec issue of R.Home magazine features the award winning whole house remodel design of C. L. Shade Drafting with Davidson Builders. Check out the photos and the rest of the winners of NARI Central VA’s 2012 CotY Awards.

Does your Home Suck?

As a home designer for the past 10 years and a believer in energy efficient homes I feel pretty confident in how to design and implement an energy efficient home.
Insulation R values are a valuable tool but are not the end all be all of keeping energy costs low. Even doubling the R values required by the code (especially with batt fiberglass) will not have a cumulative effect if air-sealing is not part of this system. Too many builders ignore air-sealing of the exterior envelope to make the most energy efficient building systems.
Good holes, i.e Windows, Doors, Walls tightness; is the best way to create an energy efficient home. $150 vinyl windows are not the way to achieve this regardless of their NFRC ratings. They will fail.
Testing of the system when implemented by a Builder who has decided to create an efficient home thru the use of quality windows, doors, air-sealing and HVAC is the only way to achieve any long term energy efficiency in a home.
Retrofitting old homes with “new” “energy efficient” windows is a band-aid at best and will be money thrown down a well for the most part if the space between the jamb and the framing is not air-sealed. This can be done well if a balance pocket is present (something you see on Grandma’s windows) but is not present on more modern windows. The only way to do this is to remove the trim on the interior or the brick mould on the exterior. Education of the public may help but don’t count on there being a critical mass of purchasers making the change to informed consequential home design and building.
The use of Green Building in the industry has become so abused that it is now for the most part feckless in determining whether or not a home is built well or efficient. And the illusion of payback over time can be demonstrated for some systems and product choices but these are few and often have too many variables to predict. One of the energy efficiency gurus that I have worked with over the years likes to point to a spot in the house and say “My house leaks right there!” He knows where he has controlled the movement of air in the house and knows that what he has put in place will work. There are far too few looking at this level of design or implementation. Don’t fall into the trap.

Contractor of the Year Award

R-Home MagazineNews/C.L. Shade Drafting/October 2012: Contractor of the Year Award. National Association of the Remodeling Industry Central VA Chapter: C. L. Shade Drafting won the Grand Prize Contractor of the Year Award for a whole house remodel in the Richmond home market. This home will be featured in the upcoming November/December issue of R-Home magazine. Thank you to all who made this possible.

In other news, our latest addition has started construction in Westham. Please check back for updates on its progress.

New Homes: These homes have been created especially for clients who are looking for a unique and personal space to raise their family. Careful attention to detail and listening to the needs of the client are the hallmark of our success. (please see our Custom Homes section for details)

Additions: When a family finds that it needs more space C. L. Shade Drafting has the experience and knowledge to provide design for these spaces that will meet the clients growing needs.

Garages / Outbuildings: If you need a Garage for that special car, RV, or just a place to put all the kids bikes, C. L. Shade Drafting knows how to help. Or maybe a Pool House or backyard studio for relaxing is what you need? Give us a call so that we can help you create these spaces to your specifications!

For more information, please contact Charles Shade.

Welcome to C. L. Shade Drafting

Welcome to C. L. Shade Drafting! We are located in Richmond, Virginia (RVA), and we provide residential drafting and design services. C. L. Shade Drafting creates fully engineered plans for new and existing homeowners, contractors, builders, real estate professionals and architects.

Owner Charles L. Shade, has over thirty years of residential drafting, computer aided design, contracting, and framing construction experience. All work is completed to YOUR specifications!

We offer a variety of drafting and design services for custom homes, additions, garages, and more.

CAD Drafting

  • New residential homes that include detailed construction drawings and roof plans
  • Stock plan conversions
  • Outbuildings
  • Additions & Renovations

Construction details for other plans, including plats and interior sections are also available from C.L. Shade Drafting.

For more information, please contact Charles Shade.

Tips for Garages

Garages are very personal buildings. In the nine years I have been designing I do not believe that I have created the same Garage twice. Some want access to a second floor for storage or an apartment. Some need to stack cars on lifts to feed their auto Jones and others just need a place to park all the toys. Thinking about what you are hoping to achieve from your Garage may not be as simple as just saying “Honey, we need a garage”.

What is the main purpose of the Garage?

Most are looking to park a car for dry and warm access in times of inclement weather. For this you need to ask if you want to attach to the home or have a covered breezeway. Local jurisdictions will have say over how this breezeway can be attached and limitations to its size for the zoning in your area so having a knowledgeable designer and builder is helpful at the beginning. How many cars, what type of car, what type of toys, and how much storage are questions that need to be asked before and during the design process. The size of the garage may most depend on the potential vehicles that it will house. Think about the parking lot at the local grocery store. Are you comfortable getting in and out of your car? An average parking space is eight feet wide. Would you like more room in your Garage to get out with the groceries and the baby seat?

A quick calculation would look to have six feet +/- for the car and three feet (think of your homes front door) to either side for door swing. This would be a space of 12 feet per car. Making a two car garage at least 24’ wide to the interior! Add a typical foundation wythes to this mix and the Garage should be 25’-4” to the exterior. This exterior dimension also plays well with the current Residential Building Code when using a 16’ or 18’ overhead door. The doors themselves could add to this dimension and we will talk about that in another post.

Keep in mind that this has left no real room for storage to the sides if you want complete access although this is rarely addressed as part of the design despite what you may be told. The depth is usually pretty good at 24’ although as little as 22’ can be done. Keep in mind your vehicle when thinking about depth. You may be driving a midsize car now but the family van or SUV could be in the future. 22’ can get a little thin for that type of vehicle.

Interior stairs to a second floor will usually take up a side wall and generally rise to the center of the upper floor perpendicular to the ridge so that there will be sufficient headroom at the top of the stairs. This stairwell will eat into a bay of the garage fairly well and needs to be considered during the design process.

When designing a garage, there are certain building codes that can affect the design. For example, the overhead door sizes and the building code drive the width of your garage. The space required on either side of the door to meet the braced wall panel requirements of the Residential Building Code can drive the overall width of the Garage. It may not be as easy as having a 24’ square garage with two nine foot wide doors; it may need to be wider to accommodate the intent of the code.

There are several ways to meet the intent of the building code and each has their advantages and disadvantages. A particularly tall garage may have to have an engineer provide for the wall bracing. A tall foundation may need to be shortened to make the proscriptive method work thus resulting in a frame wall that is too tall and needs to be reviewed by an engineer. On the other end of this there are ways to work within the building code that can be implemented easily in the field and these are spelled out ad infinitum in the building code but these methods may limit how the Garage can be built. The builder and framing contractor should be aware and follow these methods but if more information or knowledge is needed then the designer should be able to answer the questions or these choices should already have been made during design.

Universal Design

Universal Remodeling and Design

As we grow accustomed to our homes we find that our needs change in the spaces that we have been living in. Windows are not as easy to open, doors seem a little too thin, and stairs just keep getting steeper.

It may be time to think about Universal Design, a concept by which the home can be remodeled to be easier as we mature. It may be time to move the master bedroom to the first floor. Is there a room (or rooms) that can be converted? Do you need to add on for the space? Is there a bath accessible or do you need to add one? There are lots of ideas and directions that you can go to fulfill your needs. Spending time to answer a few simple questions can lead to a world of satisfaction.

  • Access to kitchen
  • Access to bath
  • Access to the exterior
  • Access to bedroom
  • Dealing with stairs
  • Wheelchair or scooter access
  • Low or no threshold showers
  • Door handle-sets

Consultation with an home designer who has had these questions asked of them before can help to guide you in your future needs. Universal Design is not all about making the house look like an institution. It is about wedding different aspects of accessible and adaptable design. It is oriented around all age groups in a family being able to comfortably live in a home together.

Why Are Homes Expensive?

Among the obvious reasons are commodity, material, and labor prices as well as the run up in number of homes that where built and the availability of money. Among the lesser known reasons is the building code, minimum lot sizes, and expected amenities.

I have two 150 square drawings that I like to show clients. One is 10 x 15 has four corners and a 50’ perimeter. The other has an 86’ perimeter and 22 corners. We used to build them quick and inexpensive now we build them complicated and expensive. In the first 20 years I have been building it was rare to see a concrete pump truck visit a job-site. We used wheelbarrows and our backs. Now I’m not one to impede progress but that is a $500 item tacked onto every house. Granite was reserved for the well-to-do. Now it is in homes down in the $200k range. Irrigation systems are becoming normal, jetted whirlpool tubs, three and four bathrooms, and on and on and on. There is a point when the cost of a home outweighs the value of the home. That is part of what we have been seeing in this housing downturn.

The building code is designed for the safety and welfare of the homeowner. While it seeks to create a balance between cost and safety it generally errs on the side of safety. The most recent major change concerns an item known as Braced Wall Panels (BWP). More engineers and the plywood industry are making a bundle because of these regulations and for the most part the requirement is superfluous at best. But this requires additional work on the part of the home designer, the builder, the masonry contractor, the framing contractor, possibly the drywall contractor, and the building official at both the plan review stage and conducting inspections of the home during construction. Permit fees and construction time has increased because of this which leads to additional finance and carrying charges.

Many factors contribute to the cost of a home and most will ask for a cost per square foot. This can be terribly misleading and difficult to pin down because a lot depends on the choices of the homeowner. Most commodities that do fluctuate tend to not change the cost structure by too great a degree but a home owner never has a hard time finding a $600 sink that they just can’t live without.

Conditioned Crawl Space

Conditioning a crawl space along with air-sealing the exterior envelopes are two items that should be implemented by all homeowners and builders that would like to bring “Green” construction to their project. These two items alone can account for the most energy saving benefits that you will see as a homeowner.

One thing is true especially in older homes: There is a forced air heating and/or cooling system that was either added 30 years ago or placed when the home was built and it is in the crawl space or the attic. Either way one of two things is happening. 1. The system’s ducting was never insulated or was built using duct board. (If it’s duct board run away!) 2. The duct system was held together using Duct Tape, now called Duck Tape because it did not work on ducts and this tape has failed and the ducts are leaking air all over. A third option especially with 30+ year old systems is mechanically fastened galvanized ducting that is not sealed in any way but also is not potentially coming apart. Trust me this stuff would stay together in a tornado. This latter type of duct is a great candidate for a conditioned crawl space. It is already leaking enough air to keep the crawl space pressurized therefore keeping ground borne pollutants at bay. And it’s easier and better to condition the crawl than it is to mastic seal and insulate the duct. Create a conditioned space around the duct; allow it to be brought into the building envelope that is already full of conditioned air much as a Mechanical Room inside the building envelope is.

Most old homes (and a lot of new ones) are leaking air around windows, doors, walls, electric outlets, light boxes, overhead fixtures, at wall corners, thru plumbing penetrations, floor joists at the exterior, attic access stairs and doors to attics, fireplaces, chimneys, kitchen and bath exhaust fans, dryers, what did I miss? Because of this the home is essentially one big chimney where hot air rising creates a need for cool air to fill this void. Conditioning the crawl space is one way to help plug this chimney and keep ground pollutants out of your living space.

Parade of Homes Gold Award

The 58th Annual Parade of Homes (2009) showcased 71 new homes throughout the Greater Richmond and Tri-City areas. These homes feature the best selection in home designs, construction techniques and materials.

Click here to visit the Parade of Homes website.

The Gold Award Winning Home was created by C. L. Shade Drafting for J. R. Walker and Co. Jim Walker’s unique vision for homes brought this design to life and we are happy it received recognition from the building community.