Last week I had a fun day introducing a writer from Sierra Magazine to three of our clients. This is the magazine of the Sierra Club, America’s oldest, largest, and most influential grassroots environmental organization. They are writing a story about New Avenue covering the sustainability attributes of our smaller homes and the new lifestyle they provide. They wanted to really get to know a few clients as part of the story.

Over the course of a few hours we visited our clients Lorrie Beth and Larry and their good friend Kitty in Berkeley. Lorrie Beth and Larry are building a home for Kitty who is a dear friend and needed a wheelchair accessible home. We also dropped into Susan’s cottage as the framing was going up and our project in Orinda where the client has moved in and only has a bit of decorating and landscaping work left to do.

The writer had a great question for each of our clients – “What did you learn that was totally unexpected?” Kitty answered that she had no idea there were so many people involved in creating a new home.

And the beauty of Kitty’s answer was in her delivery. She added an entertaining extra bit of gravity and pause in her voice as she answered:

“So (pause #1)…. Many (pause #2)… People…(pause #3)”

This lead to a tangent where we listed out the number of people involved BEFORE the construction even began:

  1. Lorrie Beth and Larry – the homeowners
  2. Kitty the main client
  3. Kitty’s assistant/nurse
  4. An ADA/Universal Design specialist to discuss accessibility needs
  5. An architect to create a custom design
  6. A draft person to help the architect create several design options
  7. A good friend who is an architect to discuss ideas and ease some nerves about the occasionally overwhelming process of building a home
  8. A surveyor to confirm the real location of the property line and just how far the fences are off
  9. A planner from the city to confirm what’s allowed and suggest improvements and review the planning permit
  10. The head of the planning department to review the approved planning permit and provide a stamp of approval.
  11. An engineer to perform the structural and seismic calculations
  12. A builder to provide an estimate
  13. A second builder to provide another estimate
  14. A third builder to provide another estimate
  15. An energy efficiency analyst (Title 24) required for the building permit
  16. A building department official or “plan checker” to review the construction documents and approve the building permit
  17. A bank loan officer to write up a loan
  18. A bank inspector to approve the plans and budget so the loan officer and finalize the loan

And then the construction began. That will be another post.

Fortunately, our clients are building second units and that means they are defining their life by having more people around and this leads to a lot of great relationships between architects, designers, carpenters etc… I can’t say we like the bankers too much, though. That’s another post too.

The article is being written now and should be published in a month or two. We will be share the links as soon as it is out.

Sustainability Exhibit & Museum in Palo Alto – Open to the Public

The Green Vision design was built in spring 2011 for the City of San Jose’s Clean Energy Showcase to display net-zero energy living and green building products. We have now partnered with the City of Palo Alto to provide a Sustainability Exhibit and Museum for the city residents. It will be located in Rinconada Park and open to the public beginning in March 2012.

The home demonstrates how comfortably one can live in a small footprint, energy efficient cottage. Coupled with high quality craftsmanship, the EcoHouse incorporates sustainable building products like bamboo flooring, hyper-efficient appliances, hyper-efficient doors and windows, denim insulation, and recycled glass tile. This is a 500 square foot home with a full kitchen, full bath, large deck and loft bedroom accessible by the innovative space-saving spriral ee-stairs.




Under the Stairs

Stairs and Ladders for small spaces and lofts…

The most coveted design feature in a small home is any idea that will give you as much space and storage as possible. When you have a small footprint to work with, lofts and second stories are a great way to add more living space. The downside to both lofts and second stories is the need for stairs and stairs take up valuable space. That’s why we love to gather great ideas on making the best use out of the area under the stairs, and other fun ways to sneak in storage. Here are a few photos of some of our favorite ideas. You’ll see that while the stairs are a space constraint, what to do with them is rich with creative possibilities.

Bathroom Bookshelves and stair combo Bookshelves and stair combo The smallest circular stairs possible
Drawers in the stairs Office under the stairs Office under the stairs Shelves and wardrobe
Believe it or not, this is plywood!