A Nation to Build a Cottage

About a week ago we posted an insightful reflection from one of our clients Kitty. Upon being asked the question “what did you learn that was totally unexpected?” she matter-of-factly and humorously responded “So…Many…People.” Kitty was commenting on all she had seen before construction started and her observation continues to be right on when you have building permits in hand, ready to break ground.

The list below runs through each element of a construction project requiring a specific professional with a specific type of expertise. It’s a master list of trade professionals that will, directly or indirectly, be involved in a cottage construction project. Though it is small, the truth is it takes a nation to build a cottage. It’s a funny thought, and illustrates a couple interesting points about the nature of construction, irrespective of the size you are building.

First, the fundamentals of the planning process and needed expertise is not all that dissimilar between a 300 unit high rise tower and a 300 square foot backyard cottage. It almost takes the same number of trades to build a cottage as it does to build a high rise.

Second, the ultimate success of any construction project, 300 units or 300 square feet, might be most simply described as the product of intelligently coordinated teamwork between a ton of professionals. At New Avenue we see our primary job as orchestrating effective teamwork between all these professionals.

  1. Foundation
  2. Plumber
  3. Electrician
  4. Termit Pre-treatment
  5. Framer and rough carpentry
  6. Windows
  7. Roofer
  8. HVAC – heating and cooling
  9. Siding type
  10. Low voltage – stereo systems
  11. Insulation
  12. Drywall
  13. Millwork
  14. Stair railing
  15. Finish carpentry
  16. Painter
  17. Cabinets
  18. Countertops
  19. Tile
  20. Hardwood flooring
  21. Appliances
  22. Light fixtures
  23. Mirrors and shower enclosures
  24. Rough cleaner
  25. Finish cleaner
  26. Prep & detail
  27. Garage doors
  28. Grading
  29. Fencing
  30. Landscaping

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!

Accessory Dwelling Mediterranean Design in Orinda, CA

Size: 674 square feet
1 story
1 bed
1 bath

At the end of a long narrow driveway this Spanish-style cottage is tucked between twisty old oak trees and towering redwoods. Spring’s new cottage is a beautiful 674 square foot home that has a double-sided glass fireplace that faces both the bedroom and the living room, large windows that overlook the Orinda hill, and a brick courtyard that connects to the main home. Extra storage is tucked in out-of-the-way places with a coat closet at the main door and extra linen storage in the bathroom and a kitchen that will make almost any homeowner jealous. You should see the soft-close drawers. 🙂

SmartPlanet covered the home in this video: Click to watch it!

The original plan was to fix up a cute little guesthouse that was built with the main home in 1932. Spring interviewed a number of local architects and hired her Ron Klemmedson directly before engaging New Avenue to manage the bidding and construction administration.

The lack of a foundation, a sewer line, and asbestos made it necessary to demolish the guesthouse. After interviewing a number of contractors and receiving inflated quotes that were way out of Spring’s price range she contacted New Avenue. One of our local contractor partners worked with Spring and the architect to figure out how to build the house she wanted at a cost that was reasonable.
The heart of the story is about the three generations that share this big, hillside lot in Orinda. Before building this cottage, Spring was living in a much larger home in Southern California while her daughter, son-in-law, and their two boys owned a tiny house in Oakland. With school starting for the elder of the two boys, space running out and housing prices being out of control in the Bay Area, this family joined forces to create a living arrangement that benefited all of them.

This cottage is much more than a home, though. It is a different lifestyle for the entire family.

Now, Spring only has to pop across the yard to see her daughter and, for the two boys, their grandmother isn’t just someone they see around the holidays for a few hours but an integral part of their daily lives. This is a change that most any grandparent would enjoy. Having an extra adult around means there’s often a babysitter or summer camp chauffeur available, and that’s a lifesaver for two young working parents.

Spring made the following references the following about New Avenue:

“I talked to at least half-a-dozen contractors, all of whom gave me ridiculously inflated quotes – way out of my range. Then I talked to New Avenue, and they worked with me and my architect to figure out how we could build what I wanted at a price I could afford.
I think one of New Avenue’s main strengths is dealing with planning departments – they are absolutely amazing. Orinda told them this would have to be considered a new build, not a remodel, which would have bumped the fees up to about $50,000. They found a document showing that the house and the guest house had been built in 1932 (long before Orinda existed) and that the guest house was an independent dwelling, with kitchen and bathroom. So the city had to accept that. They brought up one idiotic quibble after another, all of which was dealt with with astonishing patience and we got the results we wanted.
The team New Avenue put together for me is terrific, friendly and hardworking. I couldn’t ask for a better crew. When they were almost finished the forms for the foundation I was very impressed with the meticulous placement of each plank, the careful bracing, the minute attention to each detail. I had never considered how important this part of a building was, but this cottage won’t go anywhere for centuries!

All building projects seem to come with unexpected problems. We discovered that we would have to put in a new sewer line and a new water line, both having deteriorated with age.
One thing I really appreciate about New Avenue and their partners is that they are very flexible, willing to work with me on ways to cut down on costs, etc. They are perfectly happy if I want to do the painting (or anything else) myself, buy the materials (using their contractor’s number), and even offered to pick up heavy stuff that I can’t transport easily. They really seem to care about me and my budget, and I feel very fortunate to have found them. And of course their green philosophy is a huge plus.”

This project won an award from the City of Orinda! Click to read about it!

Downsizing to an eco-friendly home

New Avenue Homes founder Kevin Casey is rethinking how we live by focusing on multi-generational living, where grandparents, parents, and kids share one piece of land with two homes on it. The parents and kids live in the main house and the grandparents live in an eco-friendly backyard cottage that his company designs and builds. SmartPlanet visits Casey on one of his construction projects in Orinda, Calif.

Continue to full article: http://www.zdnet.com/article/downsizing-to-an-eco-friendly-home/

26 Families in 2011

For New Avenue, 2011 started with nearly 500 people attending our first open house in Berkeley and by year-end we were working on 15 new homes that will help 26 families enjoy a new and better lifestyle.

Why are there nearly twice as many families as homes? Because when a homeowner hires New Avenue, we change their single family house into two homes that two families can share.

The stories about the families and friends that hire us are the most important part of what we do. Having an old best friend, a new good neighbor, a parent, a child or grandchildren nearby creates an almost endless list of benefits.

Here are three stories from our 2011 clients that illustrate who our clients are and a few examples of the benefits of their new lifestyle.

Three Generations in Orinda

Our first client in 2011 is a grandmother whose daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren moved to a beautiful hillside property in the Orinda Hills. The grandmother helped buy the home and then moved in with them so she can be an active part of their lives. The property had an asbestos filled, run down and literally collapsing guest house that we tore down and in place rebuilt a beautiful new cottage. Now this family is living comfortably, with privacy, but together in the same place. The grandmother sees her two grandkids every day and shuttles them around to summer camps, school and other activities. The children are enjoying a beautiful home with space for their kayaks, woodworking hobbies and hosting big family get togethers. With the grandchildren now attending Orinda schools, they may be the greatest beneficiaries of this new family compound.

Flexibility in Berkeley

The second client is a parent in Berkeley with a daughter who just had her first child. The daughter, son-in-law and grandkid will be splitting their time between Lebanon, where the son-in-law is originally from and currently works, and Berkeley, where they will eventually be moving into the main home that the daughter grew up in. Thinking of her growing family, then looking at the old garage full of junk, this new grandmother decided to replace the garage with a cute, 2 story cottage tucked away at the end of their driveway. In the immediate future, this new home will provide some income as a short term rental, will be a guest house for the children and grandchildren on their extended stays. In the distant future, when the daughter, son in law and grandchild move into the main home, this will be grandma’s cottage.

An Annuity for College/Retirement

The final story is about rejuvenating a great old home. This Berkeley client lives in the Elmwood Neighborhood in Berkeley and inherited what was once a beautiful carriage house in the backyard. Over several decades the early 1900 construction wore down and rotted into an unusable structure that was unsafe and barely fit for storage. However the space is perfect for a second unit, between several trees with a large yard extending to the main house. We worked with them to give it new life, in compliance with the zoning rules, keeping some of the original walls and building a new eco-efficient cottage in place of the old. This home is a pure investment strategy for the owners. With three bedrooms and two baths it will be a prime rental apartment for UC Berkeley students or young professional couple. The monthly financing cost for this home will be approximately $1,500 per month, while the rent for similar apartments on this block is over $3,300 per month. For this family the cottage will be a great annuity that will help with the tuition bills for two soon to be college students.

We’re looking forward to working with many more families in 2012 and helping more homeowners transform their properties from one home into two.

New Avenue at PCBC 2011

PCBC was launched in 1959 as a small educational conference at the Sheraton Palace Hotel in San Francisco. Since then, then show has evolved to become homebuilding’s most innovative event on the Pacific Coast, where the industry’s most influential trendsetters gather to share ideas and information. The PCBC community, has led the way to integrating new technologies into the home and embraces the idea that community is more than a collection of homes; it’s a feeling of belonging and feeling connected.

Two New Avenue designs were on display from June 22-June 24 2011. This exhibition was New Avenue’s first demonstration in the national spotlight and was very well received. Roughly 100,000 people toured the two homes over 3 days earning New Avenue press coverage from the SF chronicle, Dwell Magazine and an assortment of Green Building and Home & Garden blogs. Both homes were built in partnership with the innovative co-sponsors listed below.


‘Home of Innovation’ – PCBC 2011

Second Units for Stronger Communities: B the Change New Avenue

New Avenue Homes of Berkeley, CA is taking a small approach to solving a big problem. Most of us live in more space than we need, and sink more time and money than we would like into maintaining these large spaces. A practical approach to solving that problem is putting more people within big spaces or otherwise put – increasing the density of our living environment. This doesn’t mean packing too many people into one house, it means getting more utility out of the space that we have.

Building a second unit on a single family property makes sense in several ways. First, property becomes more useful and less expensive. Adding a second living space gives families flexibility to accommodate older parents, young adult children, live-in care takers and nannies, or the option to take an entrepreneurial route and become a landlord in their community. Each of these actions minimize the cost and maximize the benefits of owning property.

Continue to full article: http://blog.bcorporation.net/2011/08/stylish-second-units/

Clean Tech Accessory Dwelling in San Jose

New Avenue Homes, builder of a popular NZE tiny house in Berkeley, has a new Clean Tech Exhibit home on display in San Jose. The home has a living room, kitchenette, bedroom, bathroom, storage, and all sorts of green technology and sustainable materials. New Avenue prefabricated the structure and estimates that a home of this size costs about $70,000 to build and permit, not including upgrades or special circumstances.

Continue to full article: http://www.jetsongreen.com/2011/08/clean-tech-exhibit-home-san-jose.html

Get income from accessory dwelling units

During retirement, sources of retirement income typically come from Social Security and a retiree’s own savings. But seniors around the country are finding that adding a second, independent living space to their homes can provide welcome extra income as rentals. Called accessory dwelling units, or ADUs, these in-law units or cabins can also serve as private living quarters for aging parents or an adult child in transition.

Michael Litchfield, a certified green building professional and author of “In-Laws, Outlaws, and Granny Flats,” a primer on planning and building ADUs, calls them an intelligent solution to the problems of urban sprawl.

Continue to full article: http://www.bankrate.com/finance/retirement/get-income-from-accessory-dwelling-units.aspx

New Avenue Homes: Going Big with Small

Green Corridor entrepreneur Kevin Casey is proof that the biggest ideas come in small packages – and in the field of energy efficiency, the smaller the better.

Casey was a graduate student at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business when he first became inspired by the idea of “net-zero” homes: dwellings that would emit no carbon dioxide and would create their own, self-sustaining energy source. His interest was two-fold: as a student and professional, Casey wanted to learn more about the potential intersection of modular home construction and clean technology. As a young person in the Bay Area (where 85% of families cannot afford a median-priced home), he was also motivated by the desire to create affordable housing. Casey had no substantial housing design experience in 2008 when inspiration hit, but that did not deter him from launching what is now New Avenue Homes. Three years later, Casey’s idea is a thriving clean tech business with big plans for very small houses.

Continue to full article: http://ebgreencorridor.org/newavenue.php