Transition: Design Phase to Construction Phase

December 14, 2011

We’ve transitioned from design phase to construction phase in the last 2 weeks.  We’ve selected Santa Cruz Green Builders as our general contractor and we did our due diligence in setting up an agreement.  Now when you drive by the house it looks like a construction site — the temporary fence is up, porta potty and dumpsters are in place and you hear the noise of deconstruction going on during the day.

Last month we donated the couch, bed, dining room table and chairs, dresser, microwave, tv and stereo to a nonprofit organization called, Furniture for Families.  Then in the last 2 weeks we had a fire sale on Craigslist for the refrigerator, stove and oversized desk.  The house is now empty.

Our building permit application submitted on 7/26/2011 had many milestones.  On 8/4/2011 it was approved by Green Building, then Planning approved it on 9/6/2011.  We went through 3 rounds of “comment and response” exercise with CSG Consultants, the external plan checker contracted by the Building department and finally approved on 11/21/2011.  Public Works approved it on 12/7/2011, then it took another few days for the building department to calculate the fees and everything.  So after 4.5 months of follow-up and $6K later our permit was issued.  Phew…

Plans Submitted

This morning we submitted our plans at the City of Santa Cruz Building Department.  5 sets of plans along with energy calculations and archaeological reports were submitted.  The archaeological report was needed because the house sits in a zone that is archaeologically sensitive.  Fortunately the archaeology found nothing interesting.  The city’s green building program require plans to have the green building checklist as part of the plan.  The checklist is used to tally the green points.  There is a minimum number of points required for the permit to be issued — 20 points for new construction and 15 points for remodel.  If the total number of points on the plan is above 45 for new construction or 35 for remodel the plan is eligible for accelerated building permit processing.  If you rack up more than 75 for new construction or 45 for remodel then you receive the green building award and move up to the front of the queue.  Our plan easily exceeded the number of points for green building award so we expect the processing to move along quickly.  By the way, when we spoke with the city’s green building specialist a year ago, he mentioned that about 30% of the permits received green building award.

So, what’s in the plan?  Well, the size of the living space remains at 1569 sq.ft. and the roof has about 10-15 years of life so we are not changing that.  Just about everything else will be touched. These include –

  • Replace all windows (single pane to triple pane)
  • Replace all existing exterior doors and add french door to the master bedroom
  • Expand the kitchen area and lay it out to accommodate 2 cooks in the kitchen
  • New kitchen cabinets
  • All new energy efficient appliances
  • Replace all plumbing fixtures
  • Replace all lighting fixtures
  • Rewire the entire house
  • Re-plumb the entire house
  • Refinish the hardwood floor where possible
  • Remove all existing floor covering and either refinish hardwood floor or put new covering
  • Insulate walls, ceiling and floor
  • Remove siding and replace with Hardie planks
  • Remove floor furnace
  • Install Heat Recovery Ventilator
  • Plumbing to make it gray water ready  
  • Most challenging part will be to make it air tight to meet Passiv Haus standard

It’s taken us a while to get to this stage because we did a lot of research and education in this past year to get educated on various things and shopped for appliances, fixtures, insulation, door, windows, sidings, etc.  So we pretty much know what we want and what we don’t want.  We’ve kept a list of materials we’ve selected on a spreadsheet in Google Docs so that we can share it with the other people we’re working with.

Now we will turn our attention towards getting bids from general contractors.

About a year ago is when we first saw the house for sale.  We thought we’d move along quickly through the design process but it took much longer than we originally anticipated.  Now, if we can just begin construction by the anniversary of our escrow close on September 17th, we’ll be pleased.