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Our Smart Green House

This is my effort to journal our home building process.  It is a dynamic post to be added to as we grow.

Digging Deep

The bids are in.  And ouch is about all I can say.  It hurts – it’s bruising my spirit.  When we ask the builder what is out of line, what is throwing our numbers off the charts, the answer is everything that makes our home a smart green home.

Feeling wounded, we go home and soul search.  What is our purpose in building this home?  What is in our end in mind?  What are our highest values, and is this home congruent with them?

To create a family haven in harmony with nature; to create a retreat for body, mind, and spirit; to create room to breath and space to grow; to use sustainable products when possible; to create an environment for more creating and less consuming; to simplify life; to instill a love of learning and adventure.

To be in sync with purpose and intention, is a wonderful thing.  Hubby had returned to work and several hours had passed since our meeting with the building.  When hubby came home from work that day, we hugged and I whispered, “So when do we dig?”

My purpose is not to be compromised and my values are not negotiable.  This is a spiritual decision, not a money one.  This is my creativity, my energy – my life force.

With the end in mind, we begin this journey.  For guideposts in decisions, we placed the stakes in this order:  Green, Smart, Aesthetics.  This will hopefully keep us aligned with the spirit of our home, and keep our egos in check.

The trees are tied off and the camera is in place, we’re ready to dig.

A Small Footprint

They dug the hole today.  Steve went out to see it.  His first comment, “I could pee across our living room!”  Let’s not give Henry any ideas.

We nixed the circle drive.  Instead, one long drive meandering through the woods.  It is our reminder to slow down and breathe – I have arrived.  I am home.  Maybe we could add a speed bump.


First purchase for our new home.

I bought this over the summer.  It is an original calligraphy of Thich Nhat Hanh.  I just had it framed.

A Strong Foundation – the secret additive

We are hedging with Mother Nature to get this foundation laid in January in Missouri.  So far, we are winning.  The soil is good, and no additional rock is needed.  Now the goal is to get the foundation in without the calcium additive and heating blankets.

But those are just details that really don’t matter.  What really matters is the foundation that has already been laid – the 20 years of trust that lies between us.  While we joke, and even had a few minor melt downs at the architect’s office, the level of trust is rock solid.

Yesterday, I designed the mailbox/entry way; he redesigned the driveway.  I’ve designed the kitchen, he the electrical and lighting.  He has researched roofing and siding; I have created a custom mantel and dining table.  We each have our best to contribute, stronger together than separately.

Build with the Land

That’s the builder’s euphemism for go with the flow.  Well, it’s easier said than done.  I’m trying, that’s the intention, and all these questions about grade, run off, exposed foundation, and build-up.

This reminds me of our final meeting with the architect.  Steve and I thought we had thought of everything, until those words, “Let’s start at the front door.”

Here we are again.  We think we have our final plans, and the architectural plans do not take into account topography.  Last week I had a perfectly symmetrical house on paper.  This week I have a below grade garage, a side walk-out basement, double the stonework, and a three-tier rock retaining wall.  And yesterday’s, “What do you mean step into the sunroom?”  As much as we have studied the plans, we never saw the s-t-e-p word.  Fortunately, Bob the Builder likes me.

I am trusting the process, AND it is testing everything about me.  At this point, I have no idea what my zen barn is going to look like and on some level I know it doesn’t matter because I know exactly what it feels like.

Framing Changes

Bob the Builder called to say he is framing on Monday; second floor is scheduled to be delivered on Tuesday; any framing changes need to be decided asap.

So, we played hooky today. We went house shopping and it was totally a date.

Hardwood floor confirmed. 4th sample and I recognized it immediately.  “That’s the one,” I said as the salesperson handed the board to me.

Stone Supplier #1.  I quickly identified two contenders.  One for interior and one for exterior.  Interesting, because I was originally thinking I needed the same inside and out.

Windows confirmed.  Who knew there could be so many window options:  sizes, styles, orientation (oh yes, from which direction will the breeze blow), efficiencies, coatings, trim, hardware, integrated blinds (and will those be up or down).  Thank goodness for Karen, our super knowledgeable sales rep, who enjoyed a triple espresso shot before our appointment.  That was a whirlwind of information that resulted in several framing changes, all in under 2 hours.

Stone Supplier #2. Total waste of time.  Sales person didn’t get out of his seat.  Pointed us to a closet with samples.  When he decided to check on us, he brought his Marlboro’s in a box and phone.  We must have been on way through.

Stone Supplier #3. They are very proud of their stone, must be gold-plated.

Fireplace & Stone Supplier #4.  One of our very first decisions on the house was a see-thru fireplace.  Today, we sent that idea up in smoke.  After seeing all the displays and becoming educated on all the options, we decided on a single unit.  Now I’m working on finding someone local to engrave the mantel and make a hearth cushion for my cat named Anna, who loves to curl up in front of a fire.

This day resulted in a few framing changes:

  • New front door size which required changing the size of the pantry
  • 2 new window sizes
  • Eliminated 3 windows and replaced with faux windows
  • Eliminated 4 interior doors and opened the floorplan even more
  • Eliminated a fireplace which gave the space for a secret cabinet
  • Changed the placement of the sunroom door for better flow

I emailed Bob the Builder our changes.  Actually, it took 3 emails.  I offered to meet if he needed any further explanation.  He emailed back, “That should keep me for a few days.”  He really could give Steve a run for most concise emails.

This was a magnificent day filled with change and synergy.  This house is ever-evolving.   Won’t
it be fun to see the original house plan next to the final product.  I am working on remodeling the kitchen now.

Insider Information

We just received received a bit of insider information.  Steve’s best-man and owner of Beilsmith Brothers called to say the trusses are scheduled for deliver on Friday.  AND, he thinks we should consider adding a few gables to the garage.  Interesting idea.  We have a lot of garage roof and we are finishing the space above the garage as an art studio.  Gables would add a lot of natural light.  We will have a pow wow today and decide.

Mistakes, or maybe not

There have been a few mistakes, or maybe not.  After being away for spring break for a week, we excitedly stop by the house to see the progress made while we were gone.

Pulling up, I exclaim, “It’s beautiful, but not the color I ordered.”

Frantically reviewing my notes, I confirm it is my mistake, or maybe not.

There was a moment of mentally going through our options.  And then I take a deep breath.  I believe everything happens for a reason.  I may not always know the reason, and so I consider for a moment.

After some contemplation, I am both thankful and at peace.  I believe the universe is working with me to create our family retreat.  And, it is the perfect color.


I stop by on Friday for my Friday photo op, and the plumbing says he doesn’t like the shower in the guest bath that is called for in the plans.  He is concerned the shower enclosure is too big for the room, doesn’t like that the door opens to a shower wall, etc.  I ask if I have to make a decision today or if I can think about my options over the weekend.

It doesn’t take that long, just a short drive of fresh air and the new ideas begin flooding in.  My first question, “Why do we have an enclosure anyway?”

Metaphorically and physically, we are well trained to put ourselves into a box.

Thank you, Mr. Plumber, for calling it to my attention.  We don’t need a box inside the box.  I wouldn’t have thought of a zero-entry rain shower without you.

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