Home in the woods


This project was originally designed by a great architect. And that is fine as long as you don’t have to deal with it. This was to be a passive solar home so efficient that you wouldn’t really need to have an HVAC system, but the bank requires it – banks deal with reality much more often than great architects – thank goodness. Great architects usually just think they have to do a cool design and the construction people take of the details – which in this case were horrible, as is the case with several other of his projects. We took out many large dumpsters full of “green” building materials. Solar doesn’t work in the woods – even a little tree canopy causes incredible decrease in solar gain potential – this is why there is snow on the ground in the woods long after it has melted in the fields. I have a solar addition – I close it off from the main house when it is not gaining – the thermal liability is far greater than the gain in most places – they need to be carefully planned and executed to be worth the effort and I’ll add they should be multi-functioned.

Within eight years of being built the hot tub had to be taken of the deck so it would not end up on the forest floor – the roof was rebuilt three times in 16 years. The forests of Iowa are essentially temperate rain forest most years and are very hard on materials – a belt AND suspenders is recommended to make them last. We worked on this for three years before they said enough – we did not renovate all that needed to be done by a long shot but they just really wanted to sell the house not rebuild it to new condition for the next owners. I started working on another of his projects (he has retired) – the owners – after the lawsuit, moved out of town and finally after sitting empty (with the heat/water on) for years, sold the house for 75% of the value of the lot. A house flipper bought it and it wasn’t too long before I figured out he was going to put a heavy coat of lipstick on the pig and sell it. I backed out quickly and told him of an architect that would do the work to get the permits and was interested in the money more than anything – that is the direction he went. I’m giving it two years if wet and four if dry before it starts to fall apart again. So sad.

Rather than go for great design I go for timeless design – this serves the client’s needs better and for what it might lack in portfolio punch it makes up for in referrals. I like to think the deck and railing redesign was an upgrade to the original as it were.


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April 17, 2017