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Posted by on in Universal Design

We update quarterly our Lifetime Home Survey (LTHS) with new products, features and applications showing the latest in Universal Design for the home. Only a few changes in this release, which you can access here as well as on the dedicated LTHS page:

Lifetime Home mini-Survey 7-10-14

Lifetime Home Survey (LTHS) full version 7-10-14

If you're a first time visitor, our LTHS serves as either a wish list or assessment tool for specific areas inside and outside your entire home.

Download for free either the mini-version (2 page executive summary) or full 32 page assessment at and see our Universal Design page for pictures, ideas and a whole house tutorial.

For those with ratcheted up virus protection, the PDFs include many embedded hyperlinks to examples, resources and supporting information so your virus software may either give you a warning or inhibit the download. Most of the colored text is an embedded link, click to be taken to the source information or product.

Email me if you're having problems and I'll reply with the LTHS as attachments. I welcome any comments or questions.

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Posted by on in General

Would a "pretty good" house be good enough to earn your money? How would you feel about buying or building a "pretty good house"? That's the code standard, a Pretty Good House (PGH), would be just north of Code Minimum.

Think I'm kidding? Serious industry thinkers wonder whether PGH should be a certification or standard, like LEED,  net zero, etc. to inform consumers about what they're buying. For those who don't know, building TO code is a minimum legal standard of structural integrity, performance and safety. PGH would be just above that lowest bar. Sound appealing in exchange for your hundreds of thousands?

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Posted by on in Universal Design

Done right, it isn't. In other words, slapping a wooden ramp on the side of a house isn't technically Universal Design (more like an accident waiting to happen). You don't notice universally designed elements of a home until you're either enjoying or rely on them.

This project portfolio on Houzz represents a fine example of a few points I make regularly about Universal Design (UD). Now that more people are becoming aware of UD, traditional misconceptions come up that it is "ADA" or "will make my house look like a hospital". UD is for anyone, it's kid-friendly and, despite an obvious solution, not only for "aging-in-place" (A phrase we dislike). UD is a solution for enabling "aging" in one's home, or barrier-free living, but suited for anyone who prefers convenience and ease.

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Posted by on in Cool Products

LIFX reinvents the light bulb                                                                                                                             

Image courtesy LIFX

Our industry is innovating everything from insulation to lighting and wood screws. Construction and design are experiencing a renaissance of new products, applications and methods and I'll share what we're discovering as we scout and research for our clients.

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Posted by on in General

BuilderFish TV is live. Check out our BuilderFish Cam at Castlebrook Farm estate.

The BuilderFish Cam is live. View and manipulate the camera for our Castlebrook Farm project at BuilderFish.TV.

Here are a few basic user tips and I believe you can figure out the rest. Email me if you have questions and I'll describe more advanced features later (after I learn them myself-ha).

There are two primary tabs, Control Panorama and Control Camera. The panorama shot is compiled once daily after the camera completes an entire sweep, its software automatically stitches together all the shots throughout a 360 degree pan.

Control Camera is closer to real time and also takes time lapse photos. Control Camera is fixed to show the main house site. You move the camera by first clicking the plus (+) button and increasing the zoom. You'll notice the directional arrows light up after you begin zooming. This will make more sense once you see the building construction as you'll be able to zoom into parts of the home you want to see more closely. Right now it's zoomed all the way out.

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Did you get your monies worth in quality and workmanship? (And when was the last time you saw a big builder promote the craftsmanship of its new construction?)

At one time the house above was brand spanking new and the owners beamed. Obviously time takes a toll on everything but how long will your house last relative to how long you plan to stay?

These may seem like dumb questions. I'm certain you at least care, maybe even worry, about maintaining and paying for your residence. But I wonder more deeply about what I presume most people rarely consider. Is your current home just a roof over your head or do you intend to never leave? In any case, are some parts of your home a hassle to use or maintain? How will you adjust or rectify, or will you make due in some way you haven't yet figured out?

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Wish we had a dollar for every time we're asked, "Why are you expensive?" Answer: quality, the best or nothing, we refuse to do anything inexactly. The time, labor and top shelf materials required to do excellent work costs money. True craftsmanship isn't cheap, there are no "good deals", you're not buying a can of corn.

If you don't read another sentence, understand that, more than most industries in which you get what you pay for, most often you get LESS THAN what you pay for in construction because companies squeeze profit margins to win business and then take shortcuts racing to completion within a cost intensive industry (e.g. labor, materials, equipment, company overhead). We go against the grain because we don't want to build slop that falls apart inside of seven years.

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We've cleared the first hurdle. We have ideal wind conditions for powering a new home to be built in Madison County in Central Virginia. Next hurdle, we're going before the Madison Planning Commission seeking a special use permit to operate a wind turbine and erect a 100-foot tower on the property. We're blazing a trail for all Madison residents to explore this natural energy alternative if their wind conditions suit.

If you're wondering, that thing atop the pole is an anemometer, used to measure wind direction, speed and pressure

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You see what we see. Transparency is integral to The BF Way, particularly in our pricing. We'll show you every invoice of project costs if you wish to review, just be aware (or beware ;>) this will be hundreds of pages, but you're paying the bills so you're entitled to see them.

You pay what we pay plus a margin that covers your project costs (e.g. research, logistics, management, etc.) and a contribution to our company profit. Schedule of Values is also known as progress billing, "open book" or cost-plus. Bottom line, unless someone works for free or invents a new and better way, project pricing cannot be any more transparent. You're billed, review all invoices and pay as work progresses. We shepherd so you stay within budget. Change orders should be an exception, and only for upgrades or additions not included in the original scope.

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From the moment we begin, we adamantly adhere to a total team effort, known as Integrated Project Delivery (IPD), technical jargon for collaboration.

We call it "The BF Way", from start to finish we partner with you and everyone including vendors and trades with but one goal, your satisfaction of our standard for top quality and EXACT performance.

For example, the architect doesn't simply produce blue prints and say, "Here ya go, have a nice day." The architect (and maybe a designer too if not the same person) fly alongside us and you during design and throughout construction too. (The architect even reviews our invoices.)

The IPD method encourages and holds accountable both the design and construction teams, surprises are a rarity with everyone starting and working from the same page as the project progresses to completion. Put another way, we do NOT start unless everyone understands the plan, and we take a timeout if someone isn't 100% sure.

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