Homeowner’s Rights to Build Accessory Dwelling Units in California

Over the past few years it’s become much easier for single-family property owners in California to build accessory dwelling units (ADUs, also known as in-law apartments, granny flats or backyard cottages) and junior accessory dwelling units (JADUs). JADUs are essentially units built within existing structures, e.g., bedrooms with attached bathrooms converted into separate rental units. Prior to 2017, local jurisdictions often used confusing and burdensome permitting requirements to impede ADU/JADU construction. Many towns banned garage conversions, or forced owners to continue residing on converted properties. But statewide ADU/JADU standards enacted over the last five years, coupled with restraints on local control, have fostered a backyard building boom. Continue reading

Slab-on-Grade vs. Crawl Space: Which Foundation System is Best?

Is it better to have a crawlspace or slab-on-grade foundation system? This is a common question among those planning to build or add onto their house. A crawlspace continues to be the more common type of foundation, but slab foundations are becoming increasingly popular. While there are advantages and disadvantages to each type of foundation, the choice ultimately comes down to a combination of personal preference, costs/benefits analysis, short-term vs. long-term advantages, and site-specific conditions accruing to where the new addition or custom home is being built. Continue reading this crawlspace vs. slab comparison to learn which one will best suit your needs. Continue reading

Straw-bale Construction

Straw-bale construction is a building method that uses bales of straw (commonly wheat, rice, rye and oats straw) as structural elements, building insulation, or both. This construction method is commonly used in natural building construction projects. Research has shown that straw-bale construction is a sustainable method of building, from the standpoint of both materials and energy needed for heating and cooling. Advantages of straw-bale construction over conventional building systems include the renewable nature of straw, cost, easy availability, naturally fire-retardant and high insulation value. Continue reading

All You Need to Know About Rainscreens

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Stopping the rain that gets past the siding. In most cases, the investment in a rainscreen siding installation pays dividends in paint longevity and siding durability.

To lower the risk of wall rot, it’s increasingly seen as sensible to provide a ventilated air gap between the siding material (also known as cladding) and the structural sheathing. As rainscreens become more common, mainstream builders are more often being compelled to ask, “What is a rainscreen? How do I know if I need one?”. This article discusses the most common questions about rainscreen gaps between the siding and sheathing. Continue reading

How to Build your Not-So-Big House

Some are now gearing up to create that long postponed new home or remodel. Yet the lessons of the past several years have left an indelible bent towards frugality in most, and so in our practice we are seeing continuing interest in the Not So Big House. Continue reading

The California Coastal Commission

The California Coastal Commission is a state agency with quasi-judicial regulatory oversight over land use and public access in the California coastal zone. The Commission’s mission is “To protect, conserve, restore, and enhance the environment of the California coastline”. The Commission was established in 1972 by voter initiative via Proposition 20, initiated in part in response to the controversy surrounding the development of Sea Ranch, a planned coastal community in Sonoma County. Sea Ranch and other similar coastal projects of that era prompted the formation of activist groups whose efforts eventually led to putting Proposition 20 on the ballot. Continue reading

What are the Characteristics of a Perfect Home Design?

Choosing your house design is one of the most exciting phases of building a new home. Essentially the key attributes of a great home include liveability, functionality, convenience, comfort and style. The layout and the way the space functions are key to a comfortable home. If you have young children or are planning on starting a family in the future, it’s important your home grows with you and retains its functionality and comfort for the time frame you intend to stay in it for. Here are some helpful points to consider when choosing the perfect house design for you. Continue reading

Glass Blocks Could Soon See Buildings Generating Their Own Power

Buildings could soon be able to convert the sun’s energy into electricity without relying solely upon solar panels, thanks to innovative new technology. University of Exeter, England, researchers have been developing a pioneering new technology that could accelerate the widespread introduction of net-zero energy buildings through the latest innovation in Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV). Their innovative glass block, which can be incorporated into the fabric of a building, is designed to collect solar energy and convert it to electricity. Continue reading

Wood Flooring 101: Types of Wood Flooring

Wood flooring is a long-lasting, aesthetically pleasing, and affordable interior floor covering. According to the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) in a national survey of real estate agents, 90% said that houses with wood flooring sell faster and for higher prices than houses without wood floors. That being the case, who wouldn’t want a wood floor? Prior to racing out and purchasing wood flooring, we need to understand what is available and keep in mind that all wood floors are not created equal. Continue reading

Transparent Wood Could Be the Window of the Future

Transparent wood composites are novel wood materials which have up to 90% transparency. Some have better mechanical properties than wood itself. They were made for the first time in 1992. These materials are significantly more biodegradable than glass and plastics. Transparent wood is also shatterproof. Continue reading