Q: I would like to live in the 5x5 house or something similar. Is this possible?
A: Yes! If this house sounds like something you would like to live in, the first step is to contact me. From there we can discuss your vision and how to move forward.
Q: How much do they cost?
A: $20,000, exclusive of additional design fees.
Q: Why should I buy these plans?
A: The short answer is that if you like them, you can save a lot of time and stress. Typically, if you are interested in new construction, you will hire an architect to take you through the process, from ideation to completion. This model, however, has flaws. First of all, it takes a lot of time, like 6-12 months, even longer. Secondly, it is inherently difficult to communicate design ideas. Third, if you have your heart set on the perfect, bespoke product this can get expensive. I've been working around construction sites long enough to know it is never easy. In our fast-paced world, there are not many people who have the patience for it. Instead, if you like the product, you can trust that it has already been refined over hundreds of hours of painstaking work, and run with it immediately.
Q: What happens after I buy the plans?
A: With the plans in hand you can go directly to a contractor who specializes in pre-construction services, and get started right away. They can put you in touch with the surveyor, and structural engineers, septic specialists, road builders, and all the other people who will prepare the site for building. At the same time, depending on your jurisdiction, you may need to contact a licensed architect who will get the plans permitted (a $10,000 allowance is included in the budget), although this may not be necessary though depending on where you live.
Q: Can the plans be modified?
A: To an extent, yes. The best thing to do would be to contact me and discuss what you are looking for. Certain elements are easy to adjust, others are more difficult.
Q: Can I chose the finishes?
A: Yes, almost all of them! Some kinds of roofing and exterior siding may present challenges. Inside, it's all up to you.
Q: I know I'll need more space, how do I get it?
A: The house has been envisioned with a garage, which has been left out of the discussion for simplicity's sake. There is also the option of excavating a full-height crawl space to create a basement.
Q: Are you reinventing the wheel?
A: This model of building actually existed many years ago, if you recall the Sears and Roebuck Homes from the beginning of last century. These were pre-designed and the materials came shipped out on train cars. The ultimate vision for this project is to be able to send all the materials to you directly, but the project is still in its early stages.
Q: Why should I buy pre-designed plans for a "custom" home?
A: There is a value to you as the end user because you are able to take advantage of the economy of scale. If you contracted directly with an architect, to get to this stage would cost three times as much, it could take up to a year, and there is no reason to believe the product would be any better. In a way, it is quite similar to moving into an existing house. The only difference here is that you would like to build on land that hasn't been built on yet.
Q: How "Green" is this home?
A: Sort of green. To keep costs down, no fancy technology is included in the budget. That said, nothing whatsoever is stopping you from adding solar hot water, solar electricity, heat pumps and heat exchangers, etc! However, the most integral part of lowering your energy footprint is taken care of, namely: insulation. There is a layer of 2" rigid foam around the entire structure (except the south façade, which is full of glass) -- which exceeds code requirements. Similarly, the roof structure is over-insulated. Washington State, for example, which generally has progressive code requirements, calls for R21 in the walls and R49 in the ceilings. The 5x5 house has about R30 in the walls and over R70 in the roof.
Q: How "Affordable" is this home?
A: Kind of affordable. The project began as a commission for a particular program and for a client who wanted the feel of a luxury home at a reasonable budget. The 5x5 house was developed from this platform. The 5x5 house is not intended to be an "affordable" project or fulfill any particular social need. There would be much better designs for this — ones that I hope to develop some day!
Q: What kinds of sites does the 5x5 house require?
A: It is a long, linear building, which requires a generally southern orientation (assuming you are building in the northern hemisphere). If your site is over a couple acres, this should be no problem. Below an acre, which is roughly 200' square, things could get tight with privacy requirements, setbacks, septic systems, etc., but that's not to say it is impossible. In general though, a larger site will allow more ideal placement and orientation. If it faces towards the west and you live in a place where the summers are remotely warm, the low setting sun will blast through the front façade. If there are prominent views toward the west, this may just be a sacrifice you are willing to make as almost all coastal buildings do. The same problem occurs if it faces east, though the morning sun is not as warm and the building can more easily tolerate an eastern exposure.
What is included in the purchase?
A: At minimum, the following, annotated and dimensioned where applicable:
Q: Do you have any other designs?
A: Not yet! But they are always germinating. A project like the 5x5 house takes hundreds of hours to produce at this level of finish. If you have a vision for something else, it is possible we could work together to design it as the next iteration. I would like to develop a building for a tight urban site, as well as an ADU / micro living office that can be used as urban infill or a remote retreat.
Q: Are you an architect?
A: No. I graduated from architecture school but this does not make me an architect. Three years of "apprenticeship" are further required as well as a battery of tests.
Q: How does your personal experience add value to this product?
A: I have been building most of my life, since I was sixteen working summer jobs. I have worked at every station in the building process: as a laborer, picking up scraps and pulling nails, to a finish carpenter and superintendent on residential remodels. I ran a small business in Seattle and was a licensed General Contractor which is required in Washington State. My experience running small jobs is what makes me almost obsessed with efficiency, for when your jobs are counted in the tens of hours, losing a day here or there can explode the costs by up to 10%. On a small job, a mistake is magnified disproportionally, even though the absolute costs may remain low.
My experience as a builder is reflected in every design decision that is made, because I literally envision everything being built. I know the tools that will be needed, down to the gauge and length of fastener. I know where the difficulties will arise. A lot has to do with measurements and tolerances. A lot has to do with risk management, i.e. avoiding situations where mistakes would be costly, thus requiring you to move extremely slow and triple check your work, a lot has to do with avoiding complicated sequencing of the building trades (hence, the focus on coordination) and finally, a lot has to do with making decisions early, to avoid logistical delays.
Q: What are the most important things to you as a designer?
A: I am trying to strike a balance with between the mundane aspects of life and the spiritual ones. For me, the way to accomplish this is by keeping the feeling of "intentionality" in the home to an absolute minimum. I want everything to feel like it was inevitable, instead of highly arbitrary (which of course it is). For more in depth consideration of the aesthetic philosophy behind the work you You can read more here (A Good Building is Inevitable), and here (The Cult of Japanese Aesthetics).
Anything else, just ask!