At almost 6 weeks into our home project, the guys are busy working outdoors these long, hot, windy June days to frame out the new addition.
Paul, our project manager at Loop Construction, describes framing as the most important phase of the build. He likens it to putting the skeleton -- the bones -- in place, so that when it's time to layer on the "guts" (plumbing, electrical, interiors, etc), we know we're all in good stead, having laid solid groundwork with a strong, well-built frame. He also speaks of it as a test of sorts -- a real-world interpretation and execution of what's described in the architectural plans. Case in point: yesterday, when Stan (the leader on our construction crew) found that one of the walls they'd erected was 1/4 inch off from the blueprints, he called for it to be redone. That said a lot to us about how critical framing is to the integrity of the project (and about how good the crew we're working with is!).
We are new to this construction thing, and it is literally mind-blowing -- especially at this very visible stage -- to see marked transformation from one day to the next as the framing phase progresses. All this talk of framing causes me to think back and review how we got here -- how our project was framed and re-framed, more than a couple of times, in our minds. What were the bones, what was the skeleton, that drove our thinking, our objectives, and now the realities of our project?
At some point about 2 years ago, baby #3's arrival put us in the frame of mind of needing more. More space, more kitchen (we love to cook and do a lot of it; we enjoy entertaining), one more room for kids and our large, sometimes-visiting family -- So during Nana's trips, she wouldn't have to sleep on the basement futon, like a college co-ed, anymore. Maybe a first floor powder room so great-grandpa wouldn't have to traipse cautiously downstairs or upstairs to use the facilities when over for dinner.
Now, we're forging ahead with our (green) home addition, but with the economy and ecology being what it is -- it seems silly, outdated, to be pursuing More.
A year or so ago, our friends David and Beth introduced us to a concept, and the book after which it is named: "The Not So Big House" by architect Sarah Susanka. This great read (and the beautiful, descriptive photos that accompany it) focus on the notion of not necessarily expanding a home, but making it more functional and personalizing it for its inhabitants with details that "express something of your inner spirit and passion for life." With our architectural plans well underway by the time we encountered the school of Not-So-Big-House-thinking, it was a little late to backtrack.
I have to admit -- even though I'm excited about our project and especially the sustainable features we've built in -- some part of me wonders what would have been the outcome of gutting the house within its existing footprint, and reapportioning the space for better functionality: necessarily modest rooms, but in fitting flow and good configuration for our busy family of 5. Chief among the arguments against retrofitting Not-So-Big-House adjustments into our existing addition plans at that time, was the argument about resale value. As appropriate as it seems to be downsizing, living more simply, believing that less is more and that what we have really is Enough -- we were dubious about the sale-ability of a smallish house with a (granted, decent number) of ubermodest rooms. Perhaps in time, our architect told us, others would be hip to the notion, but maybe not soon enough for us to recoup such a (still seemingly) renegade-type approach and significant investment.
In any event, we are embracing what we can of Not-So-Big-House philosophy, customizing our home with details that fit the lifestyle and needs of our busy family (laundry chute, anyone?!?), and hoping it "expresses something of our inner spirit" when all is said and done. Our new home will have a larger footprint, but we are inspired as ever to ensure, if we can, that it is more efficient and more environmentally responsible than its smaller, draftier, former self.
So our thinking, framed, re-framed, and perhaps to be re-framed yet again through this process and over the years -- remains fixed on functionality, sustainability, and spirit as our guides.
To stay tuned and see if we remain true to this goals as we've framed them, you can keep following my blog posts here: http://oakpark.patch.com/users/greenhomemama/blog_posts