Thoughts on Building a New House, Part Six: Things I Wish I Had Done Differently

1. I would have spent more time researching “green” building systems.  I don’t dislike the SIP panels we used but they didn’t save labor as advertised.  They perform well now that we are in the house.  But they certainly didn’t snap together—maybe they do snap for spec houses, where the systems are more standardized.  Getting the electrical thru the “existing chases” was a challenge.

2. I would have spent more time trying to simplify the work process.  Most everything that we built had to be skimcoated, painted, re-worked, finished, modified, coddled, or cut-to-fit.  I’d like to do a house where, once an element is installed, that’s it, there’s nothing more to do: what you see is what you get and things actually do snap together.  This would take more up-front time with the design and with shop drawings.  It may be that I’m asking for too much, that the construction tolerances inherent in building will not accommodate such a vision…but if we’re not there yet, we’re getting close.  Machining and manufacturing, aided by new technology such as BIM should be close to achieving this end.  In a small town in West Texas, our local manufacturers are not yet there.  Modern architects in the twenties dreamed of such an architecture (eg: “a machine for living”) but the dream turned out to be difficult to realize on a budget…are finally getting there?

3. I would simplify the electrical switching.  We couldn’t afford to buy higher end automated lighting systems so we ended up with too many switches trying to do too many things.  There are too many circuits and dimmers and knobs and plates and you have to remember what is what or you’re likely to hit four switches before you get what you want.

 -Tuesday, May 31, 2011 at 3:06PM