Thursday, September 18, 2008

Canadian Center for Architecture

I'm in Montreal, Canada for work this week for meetings at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The U.S. Delegation met for dinner this evening and since we all share an interest in architecture, visited the Canadian Center for Architecture. The CCA had an exhibit called, "Some Ideas on Living in London and Tokyo by Stephen Taylor and Ryue Nishizawa". It was quite an enjoyable exhibit; the contemporary design of the Tokyo architecture was quite appealing to me and both architects were effective in their use of very small lots. Here's how the CCA describes this exhibit:

"The exhibition marks the first North American presentation of residential projects by Taylor and Nishizawa and reveals their ideas addressing the challenges of building homes in existing city environments. Due to their scale, extensive built environment, and existing efforts to grow the city from within, London and Tokyo face similar urban development issues but occupy cultural contexts in which themes of proximity, privacy, community, and public space take on different meanings and require distinct solutions."

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Financing in Today's Market

In an earlier post, I discussed the house design and noted we were planning 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. That's in-line with the concepts put forth by Sarah Susanka and other followers of the "Not So Big House" philosophy. However, the banks probably don't subscribe to that philosophy and we've been advised by our mortgage broker to finish the 3rd bedroom on the lower level so the house will be a 3 bedroom/2 bath house. That's a little extra money and more work for us up front, but should help significantly in the valuation of the house so we can get the necessary bank financing to make this project a reality!

Are We There Yet?

Whenever folks ask when we'll be in the new house, my standard response is, "hopefully this time next year." I've been saying that for about 6 months now. This process reminds me of the many family vacations where I sat in the back of the car asking, "are we there yet?" for hundreds of miles, driving my parents crazy. The patience that was required on my part was always worth the reward of the vacation destination. I'm sure the same will be true of the house construction project. (Of course another benefit of the house project, unlike the vacation, is there's no tortuous drive home - once the house is built, we'll already be home!)

And there are signs we might be getting closer to the construction phase. The fine folks in the City of Falls Church had some questions about the tree preservation plan and the grading plan. The companies that developed those plans finished their work in response to the City's questions/concerns at the end of last week, so the revised plans can be submitted to the City at the start of this week. Hopefully our vendors did their work properly and the City will soon issue the building permit. Once we have that, we'll schedule the closing for the land and line up the tree removal company, excavator, and concrete company for the footers and foundation prep. Hopefully, we'll be able to break ground by early November before it gets too cold and the ground freezes!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Amicus Green Building

After I published the last blog, I thought of something else I wanted to mention - that is a store in Kensington, MD that specializes in environmentally-friendly products. The store is called Amicus Green Building supply. We got a quote for our kitchen cabinets from them and we're planning to buy our soy-based stain for the concrete floor there. We're also intrigued with a product called American Earth Clay plaster. I received an email from Amicus promoting a seminar on applying this plaster yourself and called within two days of getting the email. But by the time I called the class was filled. So I'm now on their waiting list.

Check out American Clay at and Amicus at

Bad Blogger

I was reminded yesterday and today that I haven't been a good blogger. Unfortunately, not a lot has been going on with the house. The City of Falls Church had some comments on the building permit application, so the architect turned his changes around rapidly. It has taken longer than I expected for The Care of Trees to finish the tree preservation plan changes and for Huntley Nyce & Associates to finish the grading plan changes. But we hope that those changes will be complete soon and the City can then finish its review of the building permit. If no more changes are required, we could have a permit soon. Or not.

Once we have the permit, we will schedule the closing on the land (we haven't purchased the land yet, but will do so approximately one month after we get the building permit).

We've been working with the mortgage broker on the financing package details (we'll now finish the third bedroom on the lower level to have a 3BR/2BA house -- with rough-in plumbing for a third bath -- which will help increase the appraisal for the loan). The quotes for some of the work came in higher than we were originally led to believe they would by our construction manager, Chad, with UBuildIt, but we've been working to get those bids down to much more reasonable quotes for today's (slow) construction market. We want the subcontractors to make enough of a profit that they can afford to eat, but we don't want to pay them so much money that we won't be able to afford to eat once we're in the house!

I've traded messages with my insurance agent about the necessary coverages for a construction project, since we'll be the general contractors, and I hope we'll be able to
talk in real time soon.

Let me know if you have any a comment and tell me what you're thinking.