Friday, November 18, 2011

How to Engage Your Architect

For most people, owning their dream home is one of life’s’ greatest achievements. To some this home will define them in society because they will be able to express themselves by the location of the home, the size and design of the house.

As you plan to identify and meet with the architect who will help you make this dream become a reality, it is important for you to have done your homework well by among other things determining the following.

·         The location of the house, and why.   Some people may have more than one piece of land to choose from. Find out what the authorities allow and what is not allowed .There are some that will control the number of units. The design etc.
·         What size of house .The number of rooms and their sizes.
·         Determine the needs and wants of your family.
·         What quality levels of finishes do you want to achieve?
·         Have sketches and/or magazine photos to help illustrate your expectations
·         What is your budget like?
·         How much time do you have?

Try and cover as much ground as possible as you look into identifying an architect.

The right architect is the one who will help you achieve your dream home, is able to take your goals and put them on paper by demystifying architecture. He should be able to confirm to you what is achievable and what is not, offer solutions and give options.

Once the process of sketching drafts begins, Ensure to make time regularly to review the drafts. This will require patience from both of you as it may take time, however there is  a ’ times saving ‘ tip you may want to practice -  as you review the drafts with the architect, carry a copy with you and study it on your own time, making improvement changes while noting comments and questions ahead of the next meeting. This will bring objectivity in your discussions and reduce the length of meetings.

Finally remember that an ARCHITECT is an expert in his profession. Take his advice seriously! Because Architecture is a SCIENCE, but it is also an ART, so have fun while engaging him/her.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Saving When Constructing

Building a home can be an exciting adventure for a family but it can also be a financial nightmare as you attempt to accomplish your dream and still remain within budget. The good news is that there are ways of making significant savings when building your home…or anything for that matter.

Here are some ways to bring down the high costs of building.
1.    The owner:
·      Buy a piece of land with a friend or family member that can be split into 2 to make it more affordable. Do your homework to make sure that this is acceptable in the area’s building policies
·      Monitor construction allowances as the project progresses to ensure that you get what you asked and paid for-unless this comes with a cost adjustment
·      Avoid changing the agreed upon plan as this tends to be very expensive, time consuming and frustrating. Decide exactly what you want before breaking ground and stick to it.

2.    With the contractor:
·      Use a certified general contractor - his experience and connections with supplies and sub contractors will bring some good savings your way.
·      Talk about saving money with your contractor as he is likely familiar with the concept of a buyer trying to save on construction costs. Be upfront about this at the beginning and frequently talk about it during the project.

3.    With the architect:
·      Choose a stock plan (ready drawn building plan) as opposed to designing one from scratch. The savings in total are great! You can then customize it to get exactly what you want.
·      Avoid excessive site preparation such as having to haul a lot of infill dirt, grading, blasting rocks etc.  Instead, choose a plan that fits the topography of the land.
·      Be practical with the size and space utilization of your house. This should be based on the needs of the family, not just to show off.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Going Green: Alternatives to Wooden Floors

Hardwood flooring has its advantages.  It is great looking, reliable and most definitely long lasting.  However, with the global weather patterns in such upheaval it is to the world’s best interest to work with alternatives to solid wood flooring.  The idea is to keep the visual appeal of wood without actually cutting down trees.  It is also great to know that the alternatives are more pocket friendly as well. 

Here are some of these alternatives:

Laminate flooring – This is a great alternative and is almost indistinguishable from solid hardwood.  It is possible to float laminate flooring so that you do not need to use nails to fasten your floor. 

Engineered hardwood flooring – These floors have a base made from high density fiber board and only use real wood as a veneer layer.  This means that you use less of the hardwood allowing for tree conservation.

Bamboo Flooring – Bamboo is a great, eco-friendly solution when it comes to flooring.  Even though it is absolutely fantastic, there are those who do not like the knuckle-pattern that is so… well… bamboo!

Vinyl Planks or Tiles – These are available in a wood grain pattern and where need be even the texture can be incorporated so that they look and feel like real wood.  They can be laid over almost every surface which makes an added advantage.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Going Green: Tree Preservation

With the World’s population set to hit the 7 Billion mark on Monday, 31st October 2011, it is no doubt that our cities and suburbs will continue to expand.  Wooded lands and forests are being continually turned into residential and commercial sites.  Many of these buildings are being constructed in the midst of trees in order to take advantage of the aesthetic value of nature. 

However, the various processes that are involved in construction can be quite deadly to trees within the vicinity.  When constructing your home or a commercial building in a wooded area it is beneficial to include an arborist in the planning stages who can tell you which trees can be saved in order to protect as many of them as possible.  Tree preservation orders may also be put in place which would state that no tree in the area can be lopped or topped, ring barked, removed, injured or cut down.

Trees have many benefits which include erosion control, absorption of air pollutants, reduction of global warming, preservation of wildlife habitats, aesthetic value, minimization of rainwater runoff and the conservation of energy around buildings.  It is therefore in the interest of each one of us to preserve trees.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Going Green: Rain Water Harvesting

Yesterday evening the heavens opened!  I have not seen that much rain in a long time. The Nairobi CBD was flooded!  It got so bad that I had to take off my shoes just to cross a flooded road and the water came up almost to my knees!  With all that water, I wondered how many of us were taking advantage of the rainy season to do some water harvesting.  Rainwater harvesting is basically just collecting, storing and then purifying the rain water that falls on your roof. 

Rainwater can be used for various needs around the house including:
  • ·         Laundry
  • ·         Irrigating your garden
  • ·         Watering your livestock
  • ·         Flushing the toilet as well as showering
  • ·         For those with swimming pools you can use that water to replenish your pool
  • ·         Cooking and drinking

Rainwater harvesting is a great way to ensure an independent water supply for your home especially when the water company enforces water rationing in the dry season.  One great thing to note is that rainwater systems are pretty simple to install as well as to operate.  Rainwater harvesting is a great solution for the flooding and water runoff problem.  It is also a great way to ensure that you have water all year round regardless of any rationing that may be effected.