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Breathe In | Breathe Out 

High-performance homes are not only energy efficient, they also allow for "rooms to breathe"

When someone says “air pollution,” is the picture that comes to mind cars spewing exhaust? Maybe smoke billowing out of a factory? Or is it smog hanging above a city? In all of these scenarios, the air pollution is outside, but recently more research has been done to understand what air pollution looks like inside. And it doesn’t look good.
 
On average, humans today spend 90% of their time indoors. (Ninety Percent!) We work inside. We workout inside. We eat, sleep, and socialize inside. Our light comes from artificial sources…inside.
 
A recent New Yorker article follows a group of scientists who are studying exactly what indoor air pollution looks like. It comes from gas stove igniters, cooking fumes, cleaning chemicals, body sprays, and particles tracked in when we enter from outside. This recipe of indoor pollutants is made worse by keeping windows and doors closed tight, which we often do in an attempt to keep heat either in or out of our homes. When indoor climates also have excess moisture, the climate is ripe for mold and other insidious invaders, making our indoor air quality up to 5x more toxic than the outdoor air we’d presumed to be more hazardous.
 
Since we’ve imagined air pollution to exist in the outdoors for so long, our indoor spaces have come to be seen as healthy havens free from the most dangerous contaminants. Yet turning on the stove to cook or taking a long relaxing bath are not innocent activities. They in turn affect the indoor air quality – the air you are breathing 90% of the time.
 
Here at BrightBuilt Home, part of our tag-line reads “You can breathe clean air,” and we’re not kidding about that. All BrightBuilt homes are designed with air exchange systems, which effectively means the home is equipped with a healthy set of lungs that breathe out the toxins of your home and breathe in filtered fresh air. Historically, homes have relied on draftiness around windows, doors, and through chimneys for the inside air to exchange with the outside air.  For anyone living in a home of older vintage, one can only imagine what that air is passing by before reaching the interior spaces, and next, our lungs.   
 
High-performance homes are thoughtfully and well-crafted objects unto themselves. Walls are tight and insulated, along with close-fit windows and doors. This allows for ventilation to be more focused and controlled. There aren’t unexpected holes that air can enter and exit. Heat Recovery Ventilators and Energy Recovery Ventilators control the filtration and ventilation of air in both directions for a more streamlined and clean exchange of air.
 
We have designed our homes to be places that invigorate, spaces that feel fresh, and rooms that quell allergies or asthma rather than induce them. Plenty of sources of natural light and warmth from the sun help foster a strong visual and emotional connection to the outdoors, while the efficient heating, cooling and air exchange systems maintain thermal comfort. Home should be somewhere you feel happy and comfortable, not worried about toxins in the air. Cooking is going to happen. Baths should be a luxurious and calming experience. In a BrightBuilt home, you can do this and more, all while breathing good, clean air.

To learn more about how a home constructed using sustainable building practices can keep your indoor air clean and healthy, read our free Introductory Guide to Building a Green Home in New England.

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Next Open House - May 19th! Come see this stunning work-in-progress!

While the image above is from this house's day of assembly, we assure you the house will have more than just a roof when we open it to walk-throughs on Sunday, May 19th. 

Location: Cape Elizabeth, Maine 
Date: Sunday, May 19th 
Time: 10 AM - 1 PM 

With expansive views out to the gorgeous surroundings, the first floor features an open concept living-dining-kitchen, mudroom and powder room, and a cozy away room for quiet movie nights.  Upstairs, 4 bedrooms, 3 baths, and a laundry room make for both good living and good functionality.  With the addition of a partially finished basement, there will be much to explore, and many ways to envision different options for a possible future version of your own BrightBuilt Home! 

Please RSVP below for details and directions.  We hope to see you there! 

More on the Sebago Ranch

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We rolled out our new Sebago Ranch design a few weeks ago, and we were thrilled to see a very enthusiastic response.  Some follow-up questions are answered below!

I like a more contemporary look, is that possible? 
Indeed!  As indicated by the very different renderings shown above, you can "dress up" your Sebago in the clothing (or cladding!) that befits your style.  Whether you prefer a steeper-pitched roof with more cottage or classic lines, or a sleeker, low-slung frame with clean contemporary lines, we want you to have the aesthetic you like best.  Between the renderings above, the basic floor plan of the home is largely unchanged - showing the potential in simply changing the exterior look & feel of this design. 

How many square feet? 
The design offers 1,345 square feet of efficient living space. It is compact and smart, while still offering the rooms and amenities you would expect in a 3 bedroom, 2 bath home.  

What is the footprint? 
As a ranch, it's long and trim. Our footprint falls within 28' x 72', with the garage in-line with the house. The footprint lands within 52' x48', if the garage is adjacent to the north (as in the third rendering above).

Can the mudroom and kitchen be swapped? Or bath 2 made smaller for a larger laundry area? Or can a closet be added by the garage entry? 
You bet! We're here to help align our designs with your needs and your site orientation. Modifications to interior layouts are always an option. 

How much does it cost? 
While there are many variables when it comes to building a new home (it's kind of like trying to get a price on "a bag of groceries"!), we anticipate this design will be one of our most cost-effective offerings, starting in the mid-$300k range. The final cost depends greatly on your site conditions and your finish choices, but if you're looking for a 3 bedroom, 2 bath, net-zero home + 2 car-garage for under $400k, this might be a great fit for you!  Give us a holler today to see if it is indeed aligned with your budget and/or your site. 

The Top 3 Financial Incentives For You to Build Green Now

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For many homeowners, the decision whether to build a high-performance home is a financial one. If you have to make the decision between installing solar panels or getting a few more of the amenities on your wish list, it can be a difficult choice to make. However, if you look at your home as the long-term investment that it is, building green just makes sense.

If you compare two homes with the exact same layout and finishes, the high-performance one will indeed cost a little more to build than the less efficient home. One reason for this is that it requires more materials to construct super-insulated walls and to tightly seal the home to prevent air leaks. However, your overall savings in other areas make going green a good financial investment. Here we list the top 3 reasons why building green makes financial sense.

1. Reduce Your Monthly Expenses

High-performance homes provide immediate and significant savings on utility bills. In recent years, there’s been an upward trend in fossil fuel costs and, correspondingly, utility and electricity expenses. Oil prices have more than tripled in the past 20 years. And the oil we use to heat the majority of homes in New England is not likely to get any cheaper. Likewise, in just 14 years, the average price for residential electricity has increased by 65%—and it continues to trend upward.

If you have a typical home that uses an oil furnace and gets electricity from a grid that is fueled by coal, you can’t predict what your utility costs will be, but you know they are going to continue to increase over time as those resources get depleted. On the other hand, if you have a home that is powered by the infinite, free power of the sun, the monthly costs to heat, cool, and power your home will be predictably low as long as you live there.

2. The Technology is More Affordable

Early adopters of green home technology did pay more for the many benefits of a green home and took some risks on its performance. However, energy efficiency and solar technology have improved dramatically in the past couple decades, so this is no longer a valid excuse—the technology is proven, it’s better, and it’s more affordable.

Air-source heat pumps—the most common heating and cooling system for high-performance homes—can now operate at outdoor temperatures well below zero. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, they can deliver one and-a-half to three times more heat energy to a home than the electrical energy it consumes. You can’t say this about your oil furnace.

Solar panels have also vastly improved in their capacity for power production, while the cost to purchase and install them has decreased. These improvements have made building green not only affordable, but also potentially less expensive than a comparable newly built home that meets only code-minimum energy standards.

For a family of four, a net-zero home—a home that generates as much electricity as it uses—would offer an estimated savings of $400 per month, or $4,800 per year (based on the Department of Energy’s calculations for average energy costs for New England). Considering that the average time homeowners stay in their homes is 10-13 years, the cash savings over that time period is between $48,000 and $62,000. If factored over the life of a 30-year mortgage, the accumulated savings would equal $144,000 to $186,000 (not adjusted for inflation or compounding interest).

Given these projected savings, and assuming 10-year ownership, a net-zero homebuyer would have an additional $50,000 for the project at the outset. In other words, you get an extra $50,000 to spend up front, and yet you’ll still be spending the same as you would monthly if you had built a comparably sized home to code-minimum standards. This also assumes that there will be no change in fuel and electricity prices over these 10 years, which is an unlikely scenario.

This sum also does not account for the added lifestyle value of building green: filtered fresh air, consistent interior temperatures, and the peace and quiet of a well insulated home, to name a few.

3. Boost Your Home’s Resale Value

Several studies have shown that green homes for sale capture an average of 8%, and up to a whopping 30%, of added value over a conventionally built home of comparable size and location. That means that in the current market, high-performance homes are selling at a premium. Given that code-minimum home construction continues to outpace construction of high-performance homes, it stands to reason that high-performance homes will likely gain further value in years to come.

If you’re planning to build a new home and financial concerns are holding you back from going green, it’s time to let those concerns go and take a closer look at the true value of a high-performance home. Contact Brightbuilt Home today and find out how we can make your green home dreams a reality.

 

Features from our Latest Photo Shoot

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We've been having some fun with drone photography lately, and are gaining an entirely new perspective on our designs and net-zero in general.  We thought it would be fun to share some of these recent bird's eye views (and of course some pretty shots of the interiors, too!). 

If you'd like to learn more about this design, check out our Little Diamond online - where you'll see images from a different variation on the interior layout for this BrightBuilt Home.  Just goes to show that our base plans are simply a starting point - after which you can go in the direction that best suits your needs and lifestyle. 

Every single one of our homes is different. We've never built the same exact version of our plans twice! 

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Ask BrightBuilt

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Janis G. asked BrightBuilt: 
Do you have one level houses?

And BrightBuilt is delighted to say: 
Thank you for this great question, Janis! We do indeed have 3 designs that are specifically one level, and another 4 that are primarily geared toward single-level living, with ground floor master suites. Some examples of these designs are shown in the images above, and to learn more about each of them, you may see more images and download plans via the links below.  

Our original ranch, the Foxbird, makes good use of its 1700 square feet of space, with an open concept kitchen-living-dining area, 3 bedrooms (including a master suite with walk-in closet), second full bath, a sunny office nook, and generous mudroom. 

We’ve also recently launched our new Sebago Ranch. This design fits nearly the same amount of program as the Foxbird into a more modest package, for those homeowners who are seeking a comfortably sized family home in a tidier bundle.

And of course, the grandaddy of BrightBuilt Home, the BrightBuilt Barn was designed around the concept of compact, simple, prefab living. Within this design's typology, we offer studio, one bedroom, and 2 bedroom options, ranging from 670 square feet to 960 square feet of smart living space.   

The three designs that are not "strictly" one level, but feature ground floor master suites and thus can be primarily geared toward single-floor living include the Little Diamond, the Bungalow, the Appledore, and the Cushing.

And of course, if you're looking for something specific, and you're not seeing exactly what you need in our design portfolio, you can always work with us to develop a custom design (as featured in the right-hand smaller image of the photos above).  

Bottom line is that we're here to help, and we look forward to finding you your perfect fit. 

Rolling out our NEW Ranch!

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The Sebago Ranch has arrived.

We've had numerous inquiries for a smaller 3 BR, 2 bath home, and well...we hear ya!  We've been working hard to maximize on efficiency and affordability, while keeping the design fresh and contemporary.   

We would like to introduce our new ranch design, compact yet comfortable, and cost-effective.  With a 28'x48' footprint, and an attached 2-car garage, this design delivers big on amenities, but keeps it reined-in to help keep the numbers low.

Also, while we opted to go a bit more modern (pronounced mah-dairn, of course), if your leanings are more traditional, please know that we are happy to dress this plan up in a more classical coat. 

Subzero temps? No problem.

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A frigid February day and the snow was creakingly cold, but it was not a challenge for the crew!  Modules arrived, were set and connected by the end of the day.  That crane, by the way, was about 2 inches from the top of a concrete footing, now that's skillful parking! 
 
The top photo shows incoming module number 2. We always love watching the crane operator and boots on the ground maneuver the modules.  

The center photo shows the south orientation of the Living Room.  The room has been primed and is ready for finish paint.  Window and door casings are finish painted and we see a temporary ceiling, that will be opened up and, when finished, will reveal a lofty vaulted ceiling.  The windows on the floor, strapped in for transport, will be set into rough openings in the Basement Level.  

The lower photo is another fun shot of module number 2 coming in to meet the first placed unit, where you can see the Living Room on the right and a Bedroom on the left.  Pretty cool, huh?  We think so, in more ways than one!

Looking to Build? The time is now!

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The number of building permits issued post-recession has grown steadily nationwide, according to a recent article in Maine Biz. It’s not often that retirees and Millennials necessarily find themselves on common ground, but these two groups are working together to drive this trend. What does this mean for you, a forward-thinking person wanting to build a net-zero home? Open your planner, your smart phone calendar, or just grab a sharpie and write “START PLANNING OUR NEW HOME NOW!”

 

You see, according to the Census Bureau’s 2016 Survey of Construction, custom home build times are estimated to be 10-16 months, while production homes are estimated at 4-6 months.

 

That may be well and good, but as we enter this new year, certain trends in the industry may have an adverse effect on these estimated times.  For one, low unemployment – good on many fronts – has led to labor shortages in construction companies – bad on the home building front. As the Washington Post pointed out, increased tariffs on building materials means their price and availability have become less stable and less predictable. In addition, the construction industry has reported an 8% increase in backlog, meaning many companies are in the midst of finishing the old before being able to take on the new.

 

Up here in Maine we’ve experienced that many quality site-builders are booked out one to two years, and their subcontractors can be even further out. (Your house may be standing, but you’ll have no bathtub or shower for another year. Nobody wants that.)

 

Let’s also remember Mother Nature – her unpredictability is trending every year and 2019 is no exception. Weather - snow, sleet, rain, hail, excessive heat, strong winds, lightning - will happen.

 

Modular construction is subject to some of the same pressures of this year’s construction trends. As more people are enlightened to the ease, speed, and efficiency possible with modular technology, the demand for this building style has grown. There are a limited number of manufacturers making pre-fabricated buildings, and they now have a greater strain on their current capacity. The build time for a modular home will be short, but the “begin to build” could be an additional several months down the line.

Never fear! Though we don’t have a magic wand to wave and eliminate all of these pressures on the industry for you, we do have built-in solutions to help navigate around some of them. Off-site construction has the benefit of being sheltered from the elements, so production happens regardless of what Mother Nature throws our way. And even with the slightly longer waits for fabricated pieces to come out of the factories, the build time on site is not affected.

 

Trends often generate long lines. We’ve all witnessed the phenomenon of people waiting down the block to get a table at the most recent trendy brunch spot. As we’ve seen for 2019, trends in the construction industry have the same effect, but instead of waiting in line for one meal, you are waiting for the literal roof over your head! Let’s act on that note you wrote to yourself at the beginning of this article. Get in touch with us today and we’ll find a spot for you at the front of the line, helping your net-zero home become a reality this year. You can pass right by all the lines at those trendy breakfast places and make delicious waffles in the comfort of your own beautiful home.

Ask BrightBuilt

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This week's question was fielded by our founder, principal, and architect extraordinaire, Phil Kaplan... 

"I sell new construction, and am seeing homes that are steeply increasing in price due to rising costs in materials. Since BrightBuilt is made in a controlled environment, does this help offset some of these increases?"
                                                                    -B. Morrison, New Hampshire
 
There are a few reasons why offsite construction can save costs, and it comes down to both materials and labor savings.
 
For one, the bulk of the construction happens indoors (as you point out) which allows tradesmen to work efficiently and with greater accuracy, particularly through our New England winters. All processes are systematized and streamlined, with consistent quality checks.
 
Also, our factories who can work on up to 30+ houses in some phase at one time, and can order supplies in bulk and use them more efficiently. Less product waste and tremendous purchasing power means some of that savings can be passed on to you.
 
And for builders, not bringing building materials to a different site each time, or having your employees drive there, particularly in more rural locales, can be a huge relief. The burden of having to coordinate quality subcontractors, who are increasingly harder and harder to book, also goes away. If the day-to-day logistical scheduling became a thing of the past, how much time would that free up? Wouldn’t you pass off some of those savings to your own clients if it meant you got to work on well-designed, net zero homes that you could be proud of, that saved the planet at the same time? That’s exactly what our best builders are doing, and they’re increasing their output at the same time.
 
So BrightBuilt Home is really a win-win-win proposition. A win for the homeowner. A win for the builder. A win for the planet.  

New Year, New Designs

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We're celebrating the new year by delivering you new designs! First up, we've converted one of our custom designs into a standard offering... Meet the new kid on the block, the Modern Farmhouse. 

Blend the simple, elegant forms of Scandinavian design, with the open, sun-filled principles of high performance, and what do you get? A home that keeps you effortlessly comfortable all year round, and captures that look that you could find featured in any design publication.  And, we've done it with a layout that is tuned to feel efficiently flexible, casually grand, homey yet cool. Of course, throw in our streamlined design and prefab build process and we've really got you covered.

This home consists of:

  • 2500 sf

  • Flexible den - great for extended living space or a master suite

  • A generous entry mudroom

  • 3-4+ Bedrooms

  • Floor to ceiling southerly windows

Stay tuned as we roll out other new designs in the coming months! Happy New Year from BrightBuilt Home.

Yarrrrrchitects!

Happy Halloween from the Sawlty Dawgs at BrightBuilt Home and Kaplan Thompson Architects (oh, right, Yarrrrrchitects) 

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Every year, we mark our calendars for a few key events that we make the most of with our in-house creative genius(es). This year, Adrienne (always up to something) and Ben (our new volunteer-in-chief) led the charge to pull together the annual Halloween ridiculousness.  Everyone of course was willing to oblige.  

With the help of the salty spirit of the crew and some handy props Parlin just happens to have lying around the house (like, ya know, a cannon), we properly transformed into scoundrelly little YARRRchitects.  Puns are always worth it. 

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A Custom Fit: Design Feature, the BrightBuilt Custom Home

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If you love our designs, but have found that, due to your site, your needs, or just your spatial preferences, the designs in our portfolio don't quite work: fret not. At BrightBuilt, we can develop a fully customized house plan for you - from scratch - to be built off site and delivered to your (potentially-particular) site, and perfect for you, your needs, and your bottom line. 

The home featured above was designed for a couple who sought to build an energy-efficient "forever home" that was befitting their interests, their routines, and their desire to comfortably host family and friends visiting the area.  

Here were some of their particulars: 

  • Light-filled, airy, and efficiently sized open concept living-dining-kitchen

  • A "conservatory" room - large enough to accomodate a grand piano and a weekly gathering of a woodwind quartet

  • Ground floor master with walk in closet and generous en-suite bath

  • Guest Bedroom

  • Guest Bedroom/Office Space

  • Guest Bathroom

  • Large walk-in Pantry

  • Entry area with ample room for a small powder room

  • Large mudroom - to include washer/dryer

  • 2 car garage

  • Workshop space - to be accessed directly from the home

  • Loft space overlooking the living area below, to be used as a sitting area and play area for visiting grandchildren

You can see the results of our design efforts above.  The clients love their new home, and they enjoyed the process of designing it as well! 

In their own words...

"Our experience with BrightBuilt was fantastic from start to finish. The creativity and attention to detail throughout the design and building phases made the entire process a pure joy."

To learn more about our process, or to find out how we can help you bring your ideas to life, please don't hesitate to get in touch! 

Fa- Er..Ahem...Autumn is Here! (Because we don't like to say "Fall" when houses are in the air!)

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The cooler temperatures have arrived, so it seemed like the perfect time to have an entire house go up in a day.  The photos above show a custom BrightBuilt Home that was just set this week in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. 

Slabs of glass, tall ceilings, a ground floor master bedroom, generous open-concept living spaces, and 3 bedrooms and an office upstairs round out this tidy modern farmhouse. It's all set and ready to get its winter jacket of bright white clapboards and standing seam metal roof. 

We're happily working with Decumanus Green on this home, and are so excited to see the finishes come together inside and out.  If you're interested in learning more about our options for fully custom designs, please don't hesitate to reach out.  

ADU, ADU, to You and You and You

The ADU (Accessory Dwelling Unit) craze is gearing up to rightfully take over backyards, side yards, rural landscapes, and suburbia, with the aim to address housing needs in cities and for multi-generational households.  

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The latest addition to our own personal line of Accessory Dwelling Units - AKA the BrightBuilt Sidekicks (see our In-Law Flat & Guesthouse) - is a 420 square foot contemporary nod to accessory living.  With a minimalist footprint, the Sidekick Studio offers ample space for an individual or couple seeking to live on simpler terms, while still offering all of the comforts of a larger home.  To find out more about Sidekick design options or options for financing through a local lender contact us today. 

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Our Story

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In 2005, Keith Collins, a visionary entrepreneur (that's him on the left, below) hired Kaplan Thompson Architects (and that's Phil Kaplan there on the right, below) to help assemble a team to design and build him a revolutionary, forward-thinking moonshot of a project disguised as a barn, on his property in Rockport, Maine. It was to have ambitious goals of environmental responsibility, adaptability over time, replicability, attainability, and education potential inside what had to be a beautiful, liveable, timeless structure that looked like it had always been there.

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The result was the BrightBuilt Barn, one of the regions first truly documented net-zero energy buildings (every year since 2008), with live energy use visible online...and on the building itself. In order to spread the word and in the spirit of open-source collaboration, the plans were given away for free and downloaded over 7,000 times, inspiring a host of others across the globe to think more deeply about living more sustainably, and perhaps build their own. It was featured in the New York Times, USA Today, and NPR, earned LEED Platinum Certification, and won the LEED Innovative Project award for 2008 among other accolades.

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After the recession lifted in 2012 and energy prices spiked, there was a tremendous pent-up demand for living more modestly with less environmental impact, and protecting future investments from another economic meltdown. BrightBuilt Home was launched in 2013 as a sister company to Kaplan Thompson to capture these inquiries and give an option to their clients with more modest budgets and speedier timelines who did not want to compromise on their goals to live in a better-built home. It has been 5 years since we officially decided to hang out the BrightBuilt Home shingle, and in that time, 78 new high-performance net-zero homes have either been built or are on the boards.

Auspicious beginnings...Here's to the future! 

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A Custom Fit: Design Feature, the BrightBuilt Custom Home

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If you love our designs, but have found that, due to your site, your needs, or just your spatial preferences, the designs in our portfolio don't quite work: fret not. At BrightBuilt, we can develop a fully customized house plan for you - from scratch - to be built off site and delivered to your (potentially-particular) site, and perfect for you, your needs, and your bottom line. 

In the above images, we demonstrate that high-performance doesn't have to look flashy or modern. This home, recently set and completed in Mid Coast Maine, looks like it's been there for 200 years!

Working with the BrightBuilt design team, these homeowners developed a layout derived from modern design trends and lifestyle norms, and set within a form that is straight out of the early 18th century.  With exquisite interior and exterior detailing, courtesy of the master carpenter who calls this home, the look, feel, form, and day to day are a perfect fit.  

In their own words: 
"We would like you to know that the house design and function inside and out makes it the best house that we have ever built and lived in. It is not only well-sited on the lot, receiving ever-changing light throughout each day, but the overall layout makes the house very easy to move around in and live in. Our heartfelt thanks again to you for the excellent design work on the house!"

The custom pathway allows homeowners to marry the advantages of off-site construction with the architectural insights our office has to offer - resulting in a perfect balance of vision and execution.  

To learn more about our process, or to find out how we can help you bring your ideas to life, please don't hesitate to get in touch! 

Materials Matter: Having a Light Bulb Moment

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The humble light bulb has come a long way since its invention. Modern bulbs are designed to consume considerably less energy while producing the same amount of light and lasting substantially longer. Recent improvements in light quality and the ability to dim have made non-incandescent bulbs a viable option in virtually any setting. Energy efficient alternatives to traditional incandescent bulbs include compact fluorescent (CFL) and light-emitting diode (LED) light bulbs. They might come with a slightly higher price tag in the immediate future, but they can last for years and will help you save significantly on utility costs. 

Check out the links below for more about the latest improvements on Thomas Edison's mighty invention: 

Department of Energy: Lighting Choices to Save you Money

Consumer Reports: Choosing the Best Energy-Saving Lightbulbs