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Advanced Design/Build Services

The Design/Build Concept - Custom Homes - Spec Homes - D.I.Y.ers - Insulation Services

What is the Design/Build Concept?

In the simplest terms possible, this means that Advanced Design/Build draws our own plans. The corollary to this is that we do not build plans drawn by others. There are several reasons why we operate this way.

The primary reason for building from our own plans is that home designs need to be suited to this location, both in the largest sense (our severe climate) and the smaller sense - choosing the best design for a given lot. Trying to build a home designed for a warm or arid region will be disappointing when it comes to how the home performs. Thin exterior walls or a lot of glass facing the wrong direction will drive up heating and cooling costs. Ventilation details not suited to Manitoba will result in water infiltration which tends to destroy roof and wall systems over time.

Vancouver's well-known 'blue tarp condo' fiasco was partly due to building details borrowed from California designs. Water entered roof and balcony systems very quickly after the construction was completed and plastic tarps were put over the buildings while crews figured out how to fix the design errors. Local construction crews may have spotted the defects even as they were building them, but the responsibility for proper details lies with the architects - builders are supposed to build according to the plans they are given. The overall lesson learned was that it is unwise to introduce designs that are not tried and proven for the area where they are being built.

The second reason for using only our own plans is that the building details we prefer to use are rarely used by others, although many of these details were developed in Canada as far back as the mid '70's. They are known and proven in the community of builders who work on advanced energy-efficient homes, CMHC's 'Equilibrium' homes, and passive solar homes, but they are not widely adopted, especially by larger building companies who are slow to change their methods.

Thirdly, during the process of drawing our own plans, we are also planning all the mechanical details (electrical, plumbing, and heating/cooling) and we can foresee potential problems at the design stage. By the time the plans are done, we have already noted all the necessary details and changes that are required from the very earliest stages of construction. That makes the whole construction process run smoothly and gives us a high degree of familiarity with exactly what we are building and how we're going to accommodate each stage of the process. As noted earlier, for an experienced builder, all the structural and mechanical details of a single family residence are well within the grasp of a single person and each building detail and system can be coordinated with every other detail and system if enough forethought and planning are done.

custom house

 

Custom Homes

Advanced Design/Build can provide design and construction services for a client on a custom basis. That is to say, the home is specifically tailored to the wishes of the client. In this case, we need a series of meetings during the design process in order to understand exactly what the client requires. This is a typical situation for a client that wants wheelchair access, or has environmental allergies that will dictate the use of certain materials and the avoidance of others.

In general terms, we anticipate clients who have a high regard for the environmental impact of their home, are interested in obtaining low heating and cooling costs, and care about durable and responsible building methods.

 

Spec Homesdraft plan

A 'spec home', or 'speculative home' is a home that is built before a buyer is found. Builders determine the style and floor plan for the house and construct something that they believe will suit the market. In some cases, if the builder advertises the home for sale before completion, a buyer can specify some of the finishing details and have a least some custom features.

A spec home is typically the least expensive way to buy a new home because the builder has refined the plan and process and realized as many savings as possible during construction.

When Advanced/Design Build constructs a spec home, we use our best details and methods, and this is evident in how the house performs after completion. Potential buyers are welcome to inspect the home under construction and see where our methods differ from other builders'. And, as noted above, a certain level of custom finishing details can be specified by the buyer if the home is purchased before completion (paint colours, hardware, light fixtures, cabinets, etc.).

Assisting 'Do It Yourself' Clients

Some homeowners choose to act as project managers for their own home building project, and this is certainly possible and likely to succeed if the person does the right research and plans the project carefully. Advanced Design/Build can provide specific services for such a project. For instance, we would pre-build truss walls, erect them on site and clad them. Then we would return to insulate the walls and roof structure. Such a 'framing + insulation' contract would make good use of our specialties, while leaving the homeowner/builder to use other suppliers for the rest of the construction. It is typically the framing of thick walls and the insulation of them that are obstacles for conventional builders. Foundations, siding, window installation, roofing, and so-on for an energy efficient home are very similar to conventional practice, so a homeowner would find many options for having this kind of work done.

Insulation Services

insulatingAdvanced Design/Build is experienced with the installation of cellulose insulation for wall systems and we have our own specialized equipment for the work. Cellulose insulation is an excellent product and has many environmental virtues, but proper installation is critical.

Cellulose is often chosen for attic insulation where it is simply blown into the attic space where it surrounds structural members (often roof trusses) and fills up all the odd-shaped voids - a much better and easier insulation method than trying to fit fibreglass batts around many obstructions. In an attic situation, it is typical to use any sort of blower at all and simply apply extra material to allow for settling. If you wanted 16 inches of depth (giving approximately R58) you could blow in 20 inches of material and it would settle out to be roughly what was intended - 16 inches. Blowing cellulose into an attic space is basically unskilled labour and that is why building material stores will lend or rent a simple blower with the purchase of the cellulose insulation.

However, using cellulose insulation in a wall is completely different than application in an attic space. It is critical that enough material is forced into the wall space to prevent settling of the cellulose over time. Manufacturers specify 3 pounds of cellulose for each cubic foot of wall volume. Correct installation of the material to that level requires accurate measuring of the wall volume and the use of special netting that is stretched over the face of the studs. The netting allows air to escape as the cellulose enters the wall space. It is typically not possible to achieve the correct density of cellulose by blowing it into a space covered with polyethylene vapour barrier or vapour barrier and drywall - the air cannot escape effectively and the insulation is installed too loosely to avoid settling. In addition to the netting, a powerful enough blower and the correct hoses need to be used to achieve a density of 3 pounds per cubic foot. An experienced installer knows how to achieve this and the skill is acquired over many jobs.

Although we typically only insulate our own houses, we can supply installation services for a project involving thick walls, if local installers cannot handle the work. As noted, attics are simple enough for the do-it-yourself approach, but wall systems require a specialized set of skills and equipment.

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