Many homeowners are finding that what they really want are flexible dwellings that can expand and contract with them as their physical, relational, and financial circumstances ebb and flow.

A Home for the New Economy

Many homeowners are finding that what they really want are flexible dwellings that can expand and contract with them as their physical, relational, and financial circumstances ebb and flow.

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    Charleston, S.C.
    Right Roofing: The simple gable roof is easy to build and maintain, thus decreasing the chance of callbacks due to leaks from inadequate flashing. Slate-look tiles from Inspire Roofi ng are made from a 100 percent recyclable blend of natural limestone and virgin resins. The tiles feature large nail guides and accuracy alignment tabs to ensure fast and proper installation. www.inspireroofing.com

    Pretty and Practical: An 8-foot-deep porch offers shelter from the elements and a usable outdoor space.

    Deluxe Door: The Straightline series model 181 full-panel entry door from Andersen Windows’ Architectural Entranceways features a rectangular glass panel with 3/4-inch chamfer profi le muntins that create six simulated divided lites. www.andersenwindows.com

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    Flex Time: The living and dining area is open enough to accommodate different furniture arrangements, but not so cavernous that it requires giant-sized furniture to feel appropriately scaled.

    Fantastic Floor: The Bellawood collection from Lumber Liquidators, specified in a 5-inch-wide plank, covers all of the common areas and bedrooms in the house. The 3/4-inch planks feature a multi-ply, cross-layered wood core and a 3.5 mm solid, dry-sawn top layer for dimensional stability. A UV-cured aluminum oxide fi nish in natural American walnut eliminates sanding and refinishing and carries a 50-year warranty. www.lumberliquidators.com.

    Furniture Finds: The Reese Sectional sofa in Tula Cream anchors a collection of furnishings from Room & Board. The 70 percent polyester, 30 percent acrylic micro-boucle fabric is stain resistant. www.roomandboard.com.

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    Whatever You Need: Verastile as a Swiss army knife, the adaptable suite can serve any number of purposes, from first-floor master to family room to home office to rental apartment. It's even got its own private entry from outside.

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    Efficiency Apartment

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    First-floor Master Suite

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    Porch Landing: An engineered composite porch decking and railing system from TimberTech features the company's Earthwood plank and Radiance Rail system. All components are made from recycled wood and plastic waste blended with adhesives and UV-inhibiting color pigments to resist damage and faading from sun and moisture exposure without paint, stain, or seal. The planks are available in 12-, 16-, and 20-foot lengths, and can span 20 inches on-center, and can be installed using a proprietary concealed fastening system. www.timbertech.com

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    Tall, Not Grande: Nine-foot ceilings give bedroom areas room to breathe and allow space for transoms, but still maintain a feeling of intimacy and coziness.

    Designer Doors: TruStile’s TS2020 stile-and-rail interior doors feature a simple, two-panel design that exudes elegant practicality. Specified in a paint-grade MDF, the line is also available in 14 stain -grade wood species. Panels can be substituted with glass, grooved, or louver panels. www.trustiledoors.com.

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    Storage Room

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    Reading Room

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    Counter Measures: The quartz countertop from DuPont Zodiaq features a black base highlighted by large yellow ochre and translucent particles with a slight refl ective shimmer for a durable and distinctive surface. The quartz-based material achieves a hardness rating of 7 (on a scale of 10), resists heat and scratches, is non-porous to retain its luster without sealants or waxes, and can be custom fit to your exact specifications. www.zodiaq.com.

    Cool Coating: The Duration line of interior latex coatings from Sherwin-Williams provides superior washability and fi nish retention even in bold hues, according to independent testing, and a cross-linking technology that repels stains. The low-VOC (42 grams/liter) coating formulation also contains anti-microbial properties to resist mildew. www.sherwin-williams.com.

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    Kitchen Upgrade

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    Ship Shape: Making the most of limited square footage, this plan includes no hallways. Stairs provide circulation space, and the cavity underneath them contains a coat closet, as well as a “clutter closet” loaded with outlets for cell phone, Blackberry, and iPod chargers.

    Picture This: Windows on opposing walls bring in daylight and crossbreezes, reducing the load on artifi ciallighting and air conditioning.

    Ship Shape: Making the most of limited square footage, this plan includes no hallways. Stairs provide circulation space, and the cavity underneath them contains a coat closet, as well as a “clutter closet” loaded with outlets for cell phone, Blackberry, and iPod chargers.

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    Water Wise: Consolidated plumbing means shorter mechanical runs. This translates into savings on construction materials, as well as water bills.

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    Austin, Texas
    Climate Friendly: Simple in form, the Home for the New Economy can be clad in multiple configurations to suit different weather conditions and vernacular styles.

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    Des Moines, Iowa

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    Olympia, Wash.

Builders tend to define themselves by their buyers. Who’s your target market? Move-up families with kids? Downsizing empty-nesters? Millennials? The creative class? People who love smooth jazz and wire-haired fox terriers? During the boom, psychographic preferences were parlayed into what builders hoped would prove to be market-differentiating features, from pet-washing stations to wine caves to poker dens.

But as we enter a new age of pragmatism, the goodies that were once deal-closers are backfiring. Fully loaded homes are unsellable now that buyers can’t afford houses built around their hobbies du jour. They’re no longer treating home as an ephemeral commodity to be swapped out with each life change or whim.

Instead, many homeowners are finding that what they really want are flexible dwellings that can expand and contract with them as their physical, relational, and financial circumstances ebb and flow. It’s no longer feasible to uproot when that second baby is born, when grandma moves in, when the kids leave for college, when one spouse launches a home business, or when the other gets laid off.

At the same time, builders looking to mitigate risk are realizing that in order to stay afloat, they must build smaller, less prescriptive homes that can appeal to a broader swath of the population—all the while value-engineering their plans to provide more bang for the buck.

But there’s a fine line between universal appeal and vanilla design, and the need to differentiate remains. How do you build something practical and compact that still feels special? Do you shrink the entire floor plan equally, or do you abide by different rules of proportion? How do you parcel out a limited construction budget to create the most value? And how can you make one structure work equally well for buyers at different stages in their lives and in different tax brackets?

Blue Heaven: The Propane Education  Research Council promotes the use of propane-fueled products throughout the house, starting with a 500-gallon residential tank buried in the front lawn. Topped with an unobtrusive landscape lid that enables fast and easy servicing, the tank supplies all of the home’s propaneusing appliances, as indicated on the virtual tour by a blue fl ame icon.
www.buildwithpropane.com

Blue Heaven: The Propane Education & Research Council promotes the use of propane-fueled products throughout the house, starting with a 500-gallon residential tank buried in the front lawn. Topped with an unobtrusive landscape lid that enables fast and easy servicing, the tank supplies all of the home’s propaneusing appliances, as indicated on the virtual tour by a blue fl ame icon.
www.buildwithpropane.com

For answers to these questions, Builder turned to designer Marianne Cusato, who is perhaps best known as the creator of the original Katrina Cottage. Who better to ask? Disaster relief is what this beleaguered industry needs right now, and that includes a pro forma or two that skittish lenders will be willing to bankroll. Cusato joined forces with building scientist Mark LaLiberte, and came back with a no-nonsense plan that wastes little, appeals to many, and can be built just about anywhere.

Including on the Web. Unlike previous Builder show homes, this one isn’t a brick-and-mortar structure. It’s virtual. Why? Because the beauty of this versatile little house is that it can be configured in, oh, so many ways—more ways than we could possibly have space for in print. We showcase a few variations here, but for a full tour you can visit www.builderconcepthome2010.com.


Dollars and Sense

How much does our Home for the New Economy cost to build? Construction costs vary by region and the level of finish will greatly impact price, but Cusato estimates that the basic house can be built for about $110 per square foot, excluding land costs.


Simple Architecture

Let there be no doubt this is a smart little plan that faces the recession head on. At 1,700 square feet, the Home for the New Economy is essentially a saltbox with another box tacked onto the back. In other words, it’s uncomplicated massing that’s easier, faster, and cheaper to build—particularly from a framing and foundation standpoint—than a house with lots of bump-outs and undulating roof forms.

Side Benefits: HardiePlank and HardieTrim fiber-cement exterior cladding components from James Hardie satisfy the designer’s desire for durable and sustainable materials. The smooth-finish planks were specified with a 6-inch exposure while the 3/4-inch-thick trim is a simple yet substantial 5/4 board, also in a smooth fi nish. All components arrive with the company’s proprietary ColorPlus baked-on pigment technology applied in the factory for faster installation and finishing.
www.jameshardie.com

Side Benefits: HardiePlank and HardieTrim fiber-cement exterior cladding components from James Hardie satisfy the designer’s desire for durable and sustainable materials. The smooth-finish planks were specified with a 6-inch exposure while the 3/4-inch-thick trim is a simple yet substantial 5/4 board, also in a smooth fi nish. All components arrive with the company’s proprietary ColorPlus baked-on pigment technology applied in the factory for faster installation and finishing.
www.jameshardie.com

“Somewhere along the line, homeowners were told they needed 10 gables or they didn’t measure up,” says Cusato, whose book, Get Your House Right, lists this phenomenon among a litany of superfluous extras that end up devouring construction budgets.

“When you don’t have tons of gables, you aren’t putting money into extra flashing in the peaks and valleys of your roof, or in a patchwork quilt of different materials on the front elevation.”

Take away those expenses and you can spend more on features that serve multiple purposes—such as a deeper porch that doubles as outdoor living space. Or double-hung windows on all sides that channel natural light and allow cross-ventilation, thus reducing the burden on the HVAC system. Aesthetics alone aren’t sufficient justification for any one line item, Cusato cautions. There’s more value for the buyer in features that do double, or triple duty.

Apply the same value test to every other design decision and four-sided architecture suddenly becomes doable, she points out. Better to perfect one clean element—say a 6-foot window and trim detail—and repeat it consistently than to muddle up the face of the house with 10 competing pieces of eye candy that give the front elevation the fake appearance of a façade in the backlot of an old movie studio.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN.