First Day at the Virtual IBSx: Stuff I Learned at Builder’s School
The educational programming is one of the most valuable parts of any builders' show, and this class on building great affordable homes was no exception.
The IBSx platform struggled today and many of the live events were postponed, including the opening ceremonies. With a slow connection and a few interruptions, I managed to take a class. Classes are my favorite part of IBS, and after the tech guys and gals work out the bugs, I am sure classes will highlight my attendance this year as well.
Designing Attainable World Class House Plans that Save Thousands When You Build
I’m a sucker for saving money, so when I saw Michael Walker’s session, “Designing Attainable World Class House Plans that Save Thousands When You Build”, I signed up. The session promised to answer the question, “Why do some homes cost more than others to build, even when their square footages are similar? Having worked in the affordable housing field and written three books on the subject, I feel competent to judge.
The 45-minute presentation provided some basic, sound guidance, including, know your building site and design the house to the lot. Walker illustrated this point showing builder mistakes, such as having placed basements on a site with a high-water-table (did that once, very costly!). Or placing homes on sloped lots that required excessive retaining walls because they were not designed for the specific topography. And thoughtless homes that missed the opportunity to exploit panoramic views (a free amenity) because the builder used a stock plan that did not include windows where you want to look.
Walker introduced the concept of the Golden Mean, or “rule of segments” to layout a facade. I should confess disgust when I see the exteriors lacking symmetry and balance. Essentially, the rules of classical proportion that every architect learns. Walker combines classical proportions with material sizes, laying out his homes on graph paper using a module that accommodates common building materials. He did not say it, but it’s basically the 24-inch segment. The rules of classical symmetry are bit more involved and require study. The Institute of Classical Architecture offers excellent, free courses you can audit.
Some takeaway tips
If you start your anchor bolts at 8-inches off the corner, and your joists are at 16-inch centers, you’ll never run into a conflict between the bolt and joist.
- Dimension critical foundation strap locations on the plan to avoid conflicts or having to retrofit hold-downs.
- Minimize foundation corners and use cantilevers instead.
- Layout joists in the plans to avoid conflicts with plumbing locations—whether from right or left. Sometimes, this may mean running the joists in the perpendicular direction.
- Simplify roof designs, complex, multi-sloped designs waste a lot of money. If you must have steep rooflines, use them on accent areas at the front.
- Reduce hallways.
- Leave 4-to-6-inches of framing between doors and corners to avoid having to rip down moldings.
- Size rooms to carpet widths of 12-feet.