Design is about constraints. Technical constraints, physical constraints, financial constraints, political constraints. We are at the stage in our home design where constraints are converging from many angles.
The shoes I’ve worn to meet the architect lately haven’t been worn to meet the architect. They’ve been worn to meet the builder and the money man instead. Because before we can finalize the drawings, we have to secure the cash.
Washington Federal Construction + Remodeling Loans (I think I need to download these eBooks).
We chose a builder – Hammer & Hand – mainly because they have a lot of experience with passivhaus technologies and energy efficiency. We showed them our drawings and they came back with a number: $874,000 for a 2,300 square foot house plus 400 square foot garage. Which comes out to about $360/sq ft (within range for custom construction). And a $5K+ /month mortgage which is not okay (our current mortgage is only $2,100/month; you can understand our reticence, no?). Even if we qualify for a loan that big, we don’t want it. We want to design a house below our means.
Here is one of the few effective keys to the design problem — the ability of the designer to recognize as many of the constraints as possible — his willingness and enthusiasm for working within these constraints. Constraints of price, of size, of strength, of balance, of surface, of time and so forth. — CHARLES EAMES
Which means back to the drawing board. Keeping the essence of the house we initially designed, but thinking more industrial loft than row house, smaller rather than larger, modular over time, major remodel over tear down. The next time I don shoes to meet the architect, it won’t be to meet the architect. It will be to meet the structural engineer. The person who can tell us whether it’s worth it or not to keep any of the existing house and foundation so the job qualifies as a major remodel (which will make the financing simpler).
To design and build a house, one must be dedicated. And working with architects and builders who love a good constraint.