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Random Cost Reduction Ideas From a Day at Barnes & Nobles

by Chad Ludeman on November 27, 2007 · 4 comments

in budget,Design,Development,inspiration

I visited my sister a couple months ago in Chicago and spent half a day at one of the lovely downtown Barnes & Nobles perusing green and architecture related books, especially those about small homes. The following is a random list of cost reduction ideas I jotted down in my handy pocket notebook. Some ideas are better than others and some are probably downright lousy but sometimes it helps to clear my mind and jot down whatever comes into it on a specific topic. Some of these are design ideas to make a small home more appealing. Here’s the list titled “Small Home Ideas”

  1. The best way to reduce cost/complexity/time is to eliminate common features or steps altogether (this is from my Industrial Engineering days).
    • Walls & Doors – an open layout eliminates a lot of walls and doors
    • Drywall – Do we really always need drywall? How about exposed concrete block, SIPs or ICFs?
    • Open Shelves vs. Full Upper Cabinets
    • Angle Stock vs. Square Stock
  2. Loft bedroom vs. Full 2nd or 3rd floor
  3. Very simple, industrial light fixtures that could be made from common parts found at a home center
  4. Courtyard in front as well as behind (this is for our Philly rowhomes)
  5. First floor half below grade
  6. Passive solar design and automated climate control
    • solar chimney from ground to top floor
    • solar orientation and shading
    • radiant on bottom floor only (heat seems to rise)
    • automated windows based on internal vs. external environment
  7. Rain collection barrel (art piece?)
  8. Small (1/3 – 1/) basement if any at all
  9. Interior courtyard
  10. Split level floors / multi-elevation
  11. Vines & ivy as awning and/or privacy fence coverage
  12. Alternatives to drywall (portions unfinished, portions pain/stain, portions earth clay…)
  13. Built-ins: shelving, storage, seating, beds, desks…
  14. Second floor plywood (or plyboo or other environmentally sensitive sub to plywood) only?
  15. washer/dryer under vanity
  16. open bathroom, no shower walls, toilet closet only…
  17. new w/ old
  18. Reclaimed materials & fixtures that are unique but can be repeatably obtained for multiple homes in any area of the country (doors, windows, sinks…)
  19. Sand concrete by hand (sweat equity)
  20. No lower cabinets in kitchen? open shelves
  21. Hardibacker & stucco
  22. Translucent material with better insulation than glass
  23. Sloped green roof
  24. Straw Bale in front & back only (rowhomes again with space to spare in front and back but not sides)
  25. Multi-shades (grey) exterior Hardi
  26. Don’t be afraid of IKEA (I just added this one and I constantly go back and forth with it)

Feel free to add to the list. You can critique is you really have to but this is really a brainstorming session first. Critiquing and narrowing in on the best ideas happens in the next step. :)

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kevin December 5, 2007 at 12:11 am

these are all great ideas… i know i’m a little late in the game, but what about progressive building? you could sell the home as a base form with a series of module “add-ons.” i’m not sure if it fits your business plan, but it could certainly help cut costs and possibly appeal to a larger audience…

2 chad December 5, 2007 at 4:38 am

Interesting idea. I’m not sure I’m familiar with the term “progressive building” you are referring to.

It is our intention to keep the model very basic in order to keep costs down and allow the owner to “upgrade” features of the home as they see fit. For instance the ground floor could be concrete and the top floor could be plywood that could both easily have a premium layer of flooring installed by the homeowner in the future.

One thing to keep in mind is that the buyer will need to get a mortgage and we will need to get a CO (certificate of occupancy) prior to selling so we will not be able to leave out major items of the home.

3 Libitina February 29, 2008 at 1:09 am

I am sorry to be behind and all – but you know I just found this blog, and I am fascinated by it.

5. Why does building into the grade save money? Is that specific to certain climates?
9. I would think an interior courtyard would be *more* expensive – with far more exterior walls and complexity.

I see that you have critique and narrowing to come later, so it’s possible I’ll find the answer then.

4 Ataurrahman March 23, 2009 at 8:04 am

I appreciate your ideas to reduce the cost of construction..We at BUDGET HOMES always try to recycle the used building material.
Second we try to complete the houseing project as soon as possible. Third we used to source the building material from the manufacturer it self.

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