As an architect, there are many things I often suggest – some of them will NOT likely work for you. However, after building our own home in 2007, we learned firsthand several ways to build affordable. If budget is critical, stick to your guns, make the right choices; ones you won’t regret later. These are a few suggestions that worked for us. It is possible to work on a real budget, be green and still have a nice design. Many of these options favor the custom design process, but they can be adapted to stock plans. It also speaks of high owner involvement.
I always recommend hiring an architect to coordinate these items. As we look at the houses around us, we see one common problem – building too big. Just how much space do you really need? Seriously. Instead of building a bigger house, get rid of your stuff – you know, that broken appliance in the basement, those old outdated clothes, and do you really need 3 coffee pots? This one is simple; most families do not need more than a 2,400 square foot house unless you’re the Brady Bunch. One common feature today (in a builder house/plan book house) is a roof line with umpteen gables along the facade with a myriad of things glued on. Rarely can anyone experience that complexity of space inside. Is it just a gift to your neighbors to stare at from across the street?
Learn to love the box. The box is the simplest and most affordable thing to build. A floor plan that zigzags with multiple corners is something else to avoid. Watch how the spaces are arranged in three dimensions. Is there a logical structural organization? In other words, do walls line up between floors? In many stock house designs, I have seen no logic between floors, which requires additional structural elements to be added to hold everything up, especially the roof. It’s a waste of expense because you can’t see it or experience it. Good design has a clarity to its parts which should make it easy (and affordable) to build and understand.
Keeping the plan simple and open accomplished several things for us. First, fewer walls equals less material. In addition, the visual connection between spaces increases the perceived space, making it feel larger. This means my family can be in different parts of the first floor (kitchen, living, dining), but still remain connected. When the space feels bigger, you can actually build smaller (s. This is a win-win situation. Insist on a good plan design to eliminate wasted space.
This is somewhat related to style but it is critical to price. Fussy details can quickly raise the price. One way we addressed this is no wood casing around the windows (and never crown molding). The jambs are wrapped in drywall with a painted wood still – quite stylish and clean. At the exterior, the brick details are limited to soldier coursing at the window heads and along the parapet.