Design Process

We’ve been quite fortunate to work with two capable guys during the design process.  Last fall we chose to work with Graham Irwin of Essential Habitat to do both the home design work as well as the Passive House consulting.  He’s been gently guiding us and patiently educating us through the design process.  We appreciate his thoughtful style.  We first started with the layout of the master bedroom and bathroom.  Kitchen area took a while because we were trying to fit in a whole lot of stuff in a modest sized area.  There will be a deck on the south side of the house as well as a smaller one on the west side to give a feeling of indoor and outdoor connection.  The hallway closet will become the laundry room and there will be a small mechanical room on the south deck to hold the hot water heater.  Soon Graham will be shifting gears from architectural design to Passive House Planning Package (PHPP), where he will calculate the building energy consumption through a software model.

Another capable and patient guy we’ve been working with is Taylor Darling of Santa Cruz Green Builders.  As we iterated through the design Taylor provided the builder’s perspective to the team as well as coming up with the construction estimate.  Our goal is to come up with a realistic, solid design that could be built within a reasonable budget — basically, avoiding surprises.  We’ve heard stories where a homeowner took the approved/permitted plan out to bid and found out that it was way over the budget.  By taking out a small consulting contract with Taylor and having him involved in the design process we are mitigating the sticker shock.

While we iterated through the design we’ve been learning and shopping.  The free classes from PG&E are terrific value and we found the the monthly Passive House meetings to be a good place to learn and network.  As for shopping, Kurt has been diligently keeping up with various window manufacturers to get quotes.  Since this is the single most expensive category with the longest lead time it’s important that we play close attention to it.  Kurt’s been doing a great job on this.  We also drove around the Bay Area to look at doors, cabinets, tiles, fixtures, appliances and lighting.  After a while the collecting and compiling shopping data got to be a bit cumbersome so we’ve been keeping the master material selection list on a Google Doc shared by the design team.

Since we tend to be very detail-oriented and ask a lot of questions, both Graham and Taylor must have been taxed on their patience every now and then. Thanks guys, we appreciate your work and patience!

About the Author

Chie Kawahara

Chie is one of the co-creator of Midori Haus. When she is not sharing her stories of transforming an old house and giving tours, she enjoys trail running and hiking.

  • would love to hear what window manufacturer you end up choosing and why! =) thanks again for all the great info!

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