Tuscany Homes

Archives: February 2015

Understanding Your Builder’s Home Design Processes

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As a customer begins their new home building journey, their experience will be heavily influenced by the Home Design Process the builder uses.

In homebuilding, there are three general types of home design[1] processes: production, semi-custom, and custom design/build. These processes are the core of a homebuilder’s business model and impact the manner in which every customer will interact with the company. If you are thinking of building a new home, it is advantageous for you to understand each of the three design process.

  1. Production Home Design

In production homebuilding, the builder has a library of plans from which the customer selects a home design. Once selected, the home design is set; the customer cannot make changes to it. Additionally, each home design will have “standard” set of home finishes (such as options for different elevations[2], interior paint, hardwood floors or carpet, cabinetry, etc.) that are provided by the builder The customer will then “customize” their selected plan amongst the finish options provided by the builder. This type of home design process is most often used by large volume builders in the low-to-mid price points of a given market.

  1. Semi-Custom Home Design

In semi-custom homebuilding, the customer selects a home design from a library of plans provided by the builder. Once selected, the builder provides the customer with the option of making changes to the home design, including both the floor plan and the engineering elements. The variation in the plans allowed by the builder varies; some will accept a wide range of variations and other will be more restricted. When making changes, the customer will sit down with the builder and the builder’s home designer or architect and modify the plan to suit their needs. Once the floor plans and associated engineering elements have been finalized, the customer will then move on to modifying the finishes of the house. Similar to the Production builder, most semi-custom home builders will provide a list of “standard” finishes and fixtures for the home. The customer can then modify the finishes based on the builder’s established options or the customer can request special finishes from the builder. Low and mid volume builders across many price points often use a semi-custom home design process, but a customer can find this process at any volume or price point depending on the individual builder.

  1. Custom Design/Build

In custom design/build homebuilding, the customer works with a design team[3] to design a home with a floorplan, engineering elements, and finish elements that are unique that individual client. The process starts with an initial meeting in which the customer and the design team discuss the client’s desired home size, the orientation of the residence on the land, floorplan and room layout, and any architectural elements that the customer would like to have included in the plan. The client can bring pictures and generic floorplans and other artifacts of inspiration. After the initial meeting, the designer/architect will take all the inputs and put together an initial home design. Once the initial plan has been established, the design team will meet regularly to iterate the plans and to critically consider each plan element (to include the desired budget) and make sure that it works for the client’s desires, family members, budget, and lifestyle. The home’s finishes are developed in the same manner – as collaborative process that considers the client’s desires in combination with the budget as well as best practices for construction. In this scenario, the builder may have a “standard” set of finishes or they may provide the client with a proposed set of finishes at the beginning of the finish discussion. In either case, the final selection of finishes will be custom and uniquely tailored to the individual client. The custom design/build approach to home design is usually used by low volume builders at the upper end of the market’s price range.

The builder’s home design process[4] is a keystone element of the customer’s homebuilding experience and every client should understand the process of the builder with whom they choose to work. Customers are encouraged to call Tuscany Homes with additional questions – we will be happy to help educate you on building a new home.

Tuscany Homes is the premier custom design build homebuilder in central Colorado. You can find our custom homes in the premier neighborhoods of Colorado Springs, Woodland Park, Castle Rock, and Denver. Copyright 2015 ©.

[1] For the purposes of this discussion, home design includes the floor plan and its associated engineering elements, to include the roof, walls, and foundation elements.

[2] Elevations are the exterior elements and views of the home.

[3] The design team consists of some combination of architect, home designer, builder, and customer. At Tuscany Homes, we work with a design team that consists of: a) Stan Campbell, Tuscany Homes’ founder and award winning builder, b) one of our award winning architects, and c) the customer and their family’s input.

[4] The processes introduced above are generally true, but specifics can vary amongst individual builders.

Land – The Beginning of Your Custom Home Journey (Part 2)

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The land a customer chooses to build on also has profound implications on the technical building aspects and costs of the custom home. The design, complexity, and cost of your home’s foundation is dependent upon the soils in which it resides. As such, Tuscany Homes will always conduct a soils test on the proposed location of your home.

A soils test is a test conducted by an independent geotechnical engineering firm. They drill two cores approximately two inches wide down to a depth of 15-20 feet. The geotechnical engineers then examine and test the soils in order to determine the geological composition of your soil and how it will affect the foundation of your custom home. The soils report is normally completed within 10-14 days of the test and includes not only information about the soils, but also the engineer’s recommendation on the design of your home’s foundation. If the soils test results in a finding of expansive[1] soils, additional design elements will be added to your foundation to account for these phenomena[2].

Expansive soils are soils that have the potential to move, heave, or expand (usually through water absorption, although other causes do occur) to the degree that it will cause the foundation of the house to shift, often causing moderate or severe damage to the house.

Unfortunately, in Colorado, and specifically throughout Colorado Springs, there is an abundance of expansive and unstable soils. As such, many of our home designs require additional foundation design elements to address these conditions. The two most common methods of addressing expansive soils in Colorado Springs are overdigging or caissons.

 These two techniques are summarized below:

  • Overdig. The most common method for addressing expansive soils is overdigging. Overdigging is the removal of additional soil material around the proposed foundation of the house and replacing it with “clean fill”; that is soil that is not expansive or unstable. In this manner, the house sits on soil that will not move, and any movement from expansive or unstable soils is absorbed by the “clean fill” and not transferred to the foundation.
  • Caissons. A caisson is a reinforced concrete post that transfers the load (weight) of the home directly to bedrock[3]. The foundation of the house sits on the concrete posts and holds the weight of the house off the unstable or expansive soils. This technique allows the soils to move around the house without moving the foundation and causing damage to the custom home.

Unfortunately, any mitigation of expansive soils is an additional expense in the budget of the home.   Overdigging requires additional excavation and trucking of material to and from the job site. Caissons require specialized engineering techniques and significant drilling. Both techniques add both costs and time to your custom home project. Such costs and delays however, if they are required, should be considered against the value of the land as described in Part 1 of this discussion.

Tuscany Homes is the premier custom design build homebuilder in central Colorado. You can find our custom homes in the premier neighborhoods of Colorado Springs, Woodland Park, Castle Rock, and Denver. Copyright 2015 ©.

[1] Also referred to as active soils, unstable soils, or by specific soil types.

[2] Additional tests and inspections are done at the time of excavation when the entire building envelope is viewable by the geotechnical engineers. At that time, additional modifications may be made to the foundation design by the engineers.

[3] http://www.home-building-answers.com/caissons.html

Land – The Beginning of Your Custom Home Journey (Part 1)

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A common question that we get here at Tuscany Homes is, “Where do I start on my custom homebuilding journey?”

Our answer, and the first step of our home building process, is to consider the Land upon which the home will be built. For the purposes of this discussion, we will assume that the client has already purchased (or agreed to purchase) the land on which the home will be built.

At Tuscany Homes, we like to start the consideration of the Land with a consultation and deliberate consideration of the Land. Stan Campbell, Tuscany Homes’ award-winning builder, along with our architects, will physically walk the lot with the client. During the “muddy boots” walk, the Tuscany Homes team (builder and architect) will work with the client to identify:

  • The view corridors and scenic options of the Land
  • The options for locating the home on the Land
  • The topographical considerations of the Land, including:
    • Drainage
    • Size of the Land, Building envelope, and Site access
    • Excavation requirements
    • Utility access to the home location
    • Locations for septic systems (if required)
  • Implications of the topographical considerations of the Land on the building of the new Home. This can be…:
    • …beneficial considerations, such as extra tall ceilings in the basement if the slope of the land supports it.
    • …building challenges, such as a lack of drainage options for the land.
    • …other considerations, such as locations for retaining walls.

As the Land is considered by the client and the Tuscany Homes team, the following questions will be explored by the group:

  • Why did you buy this land? What attracts you to the land? What do you value about it?
  • What do you want to emphasize about the land as it relates to the home?
  • What do you want to emphasize about the land as it relates to your lifestyle?

At the end of the initial consultation, the Tuscany Homes team and the clients will have a thorough understanding and initial concept of the home’s location and how the Land will support the client’s vision of the residence and their desired lifestyle.

In Part 2 of this discussion, we will consider the technical impact of the Land on the building process.

Tuscany Homes is the premier custom design build homebuilder in central Colorado. You can find our homes in the premier neighborhoods of Colorado Springs, Woodland Park, Castle Rock, and Denver. Copyright 2015 ©.

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