Precious few of us have an unlimited budget when it comes to building a home. With smart planning you can save money so that you have some left over for that pot filler or built-in speaker system on your wish list.
Before you decide anything about the house itself, you need to consider the site where it will be built. If you are still looking for a piece of land, there are several considerations to keep in mind while looking, and if you already have the spot picked out, you can still save by matching the house and orientation to the site.
Construction is a messy undertaking involving lots of trucks, materials and heavy equipment. If your site is difficult to access or will have limited additional space to pile dirt, store materials and park trucks, it is going to be more expensive to build there. If there are a lot of trees to clear or large rocks to move this adds to the cost as well. All other factors being equal, construction costs also vary widely in different parts of the country. Building in a city generally means higher costs for labor and lots are generally smaller, but tapping into existing infrastructure is a way to save.
Once you have the perfect plot of land picked out you need to consider what house is right for that site. If you can avoid clearing all the trees on the property, mature trees add character, and can also save you on your utility bills. Think of the face of your house as the side with the most windows. In a cooler, northern climate, you'll want to face towards the south, so you can soak up the low angled winter sun and get that free heat. To your back, to block the chilly winds coming in from the north, it helps to have mature trees. Since you want them to block the wind in the winter, conifers are ideal. Put the deciduous trees in front of all those windows so they block the sun in the summer and lose their leaves to let the sun through in the fall and winter.
Building with site and region in mind acknowledges that energy costs are rising and that saving on our utility bills is the biggest impact we can make towards saving the planet.
Kenny Grono is the
president of the design/build firm Buckminster
Green. Buckminster Green
performs all aspects of residential remodeling and construction in the
Philadelphia region. Kenny is Green
Advantage® Certified for demonstrating knowledge of
environmentally responsible building practices, a member of
Delaware Valley Green Building Council and the Sustainable Business
Greater Philadelphia. www.buckminstergreen.com.