We’ve been fortunate to have had a blast of artic cold and sunny weather here in Seattle — it’s demonstrated to even the most non believer of non believers the relevance of passive solar heating! Our offices, which we lease, have old single pane glass windows that face directly south, with views of Lake Union and the Seattle skyline. When it’s sunny, and especially when the sun in low in the sky in the winter, fall and spring — it is toasty warm inside our offices and we don’t use any other heat! In the summer, when the sun is high, our office stays much cooler as sunlight is not directly coming in our windows. So for our clients, for the architecture of their buildings, we locate them very carefully to take full advantage of the potential of solar design — for heating, for electrical generation, for natural ventilation and cooling. In remodels of urban structures, we actively look for opportunities to design with the climate, such as strategically locating operable windows to take advantage of summer breezes for cross ventilation, incorporate shading devices and plantings, or utilizing geothermal heat pumps. There’s a lot one can do to save energy and live more comfortably too, more in tune with the natural surroundings, and still have lovely spaces and buildings.
A question we commonly get from clients is asking whether they should remodel or add on, build anew, or move. While we’re architects and builders and not real estate agents, but we can still speak to the some of the processes many go through in making this decision.
Typically when a home needs major updating or enlarging, the “remodel/move/build new” question arises. As a first step, most clients contact a real estate agent to determine the value of their house in the current market, and what they might be able to buy that more readily meets their needs. Next, they will contact an architect to see what can be done with their existing house, whether remodeling or adding on or both, to make it right for them. The architect (or a good contractor) can then generally price these options. Thirdly, in their meeting with their architect, clients may also discuss building new – whether at a new site or a tearing down their house and building a new house right there. Added into the mix, our clients usually give great weight to location, i.e. the neighborhood and amenities – neighbors, views, schools, walk-ability if in an urban setting, shopping, etc.
Each option, remodel/addition, build new, or move has its own advantages and disadvantages. Pricewise, if a house is in relatively good condition, remodel/addition usually wins over building new, because a) one may not remodel the entire house, or b) because the existing house is grandfathered into older, less restrictive zoning. However, remodel/addition usually requires some compromises in scope to meet demands of budget or time. Building new, an owner should be able to get a house that is really made for them, and reflects who they are and their interests. The moving option, often brings up the same old issues of the new house still not being quite right and needing some work to make it a good fit.
The decision can be a difficult one, but with good advice a homeowner should be able to figure the best way to go.