About this project
I am building a new house in my neighborhood. This will be my fourth. Here's the last one I did: www.115petersonave.com. This next one will be even better.
We live in a very hilly part of South Pasadena that is unusually difficult to build in both because of the terrain as well as the logistics and highly charged political atmosphere. Each time the effort has been difficult but worth it. Every new house brings a new neighbor to share in our peaceful and happy existence in this small canyon. The excavators and dump trucks, concrete trucks and framing lumber deliveries, the plumbing and roofing and drywall installations are all my daily insistence on doing something positive; doing work that is about creating a better place to live. I believe we all help to make this life better for each other by taking positive actions. Building low carbon footprint homes is my way of expressing this. This new building will use lumber recycled from the "urban forest" not just for framing but for the flooring, siding, counters, wall paneling and cabinets. It will be a passive solar home: all windows face north to avoid the south sun and the concrete acts like a thermal sink keeping the temperature around the ground temperature. It will use recycled gray water taken from a large cistern that stores rain water. Many materials will be recycled including plumbing pipes, electrical lines, metal roofing, some windows, doors, hardware and even some appliances. The concrete will come from a local yard that crushes waste concrete into gravel and then reuses it to make the concrete for retaining walls and footings. By the end of this project I hope to show that the building industry can turn itself around by building with a light carbon footprint while still making structures.
Just as important will be the impact such a structure has on the industry for residential building overall. The project is made with three separate smaller structures that can be prefabricated offsite. In this case they are set side by side and joined to make a 2000 s.f. home but each could easily be set on their own somewhere else. It may be that in the near future housing densities will need to be built up throughout the Los Angeles area since there is an acute housing crisis that squeezes everyone but the very rich out. Building inexpensive, prefabricated, vertical structures is one solution. Each structure could be a home for a small family. In this case the project will be sold as a single family home to satisfy the local planning department. But all it would take would be a zoning change and suddenly it could be transformed into a four unit apartment or even four condominiums.
Risks and challenges
A construction project of this scale can be overwhelming for most people. One can be physically injured or even die. The unforeseen is a constant worry for the developer, the contractor, the architect. In addition, there are unique challenges for the architect that stem directly from the client. When we designed the first home on the other side of the canyon from where we live now the contractor (I wasn't the builder) convinced the owner to drop the height of the building by one foot. They made the lower floor ceiling height shorter to save money. This made the stairs that connected the two levels pop up into the already small living room. A huge mistake. I was not allowed to participate in the construction process since the owners did not want to pay me to supervise the contractors work. They took my drawings and made whatever changes they wanted and so ended up with a wreck at the end. They soon after moved and sold it. This is a perfect example of arrogance joining forces with ignorance. To make "Karmic Amends", I subsequently sold my own home on the other side of the city and bought the empty lot across from the "little wrecked house." I designed then built the big brother to the first little house: a vaulted arched roof with a modernist take on the barn style but with large picture windows. I made this house with recycled lumber, dug it deep into the hill and faced it north, then finished it with pre-finished siding and a roof that will last 100 years. Once we finished we organized an LLC for investors to buy and remodel the house right next door (117 Peterson) using the same kind of architectural approach. And once that one was finished, we split a piece of that property off from 117 Peterson and built an entirely new house, again, with the same idea in mind: recycled materials, dug into the hillside, using passive solar design methods. There is a fifth house above us that I designed but did not build and there is a sixth house two lots up that I designed but which has not gone into production yet. They both take the same design approach. Now there is this one, my "intentional community" for a single site. You may be wondering why I'm telling you all this. I am giving you this history to describe the level of perseverance I bring to my projects as well as to show my passion for environmentally sensitive design.
I have been an architect for twenty years but I was a contractor and builder for two decades before that. I have four decades of experience and good returns to prove it. More importantly I feel a deeper responsibility to make this particular project be successful. This is a beautiful neighborhood in a bucolic canyon. I want to enhance it. This city is where my kids grew up then left to go to college but came back to when they wanted to settle down. I want to improve this world for my children, my neighbors and my city. This is what will keep this project on track.
As for the spreadsheets, construction schedules, permits et al. they all exist in a prospectus that I've developed for this project as I have for the last three projects. Each project had its own difficulties but each was profitable and was ultimately a joy to build. If you would like a prospectus I will post it on line at this website: 2120hanscomave.com. See the "about" section on the pull down menu.
PROPOSED FIRST LEVEL PLAN
PROPOSED SECOND LEVEL PLAN
PROPOSED THIRD LEVEL PLAN
PROPOSED SITE AND THIRD LEVEL PLAN
PROPOSED SECTION 1-1
PROPOSED SECTION 2-2
PROPOSED SECTION 3-3
CONSTRUCTION TIME LINE