News

September 29, 2014
BuildSense's Spring Residence Wins AIA NC Design Award

September 26, 2014
BuidSense's Randy Lanou Featured in TecHome Builder

September 09, 2014
Come See the Work of NC State Design|Build and Support the Benevolence Farm - Sept 20 - 2:00-4:30pm - 18 Seaboard, Raleigh

August 15, 2014
BuildSense Home Featured on Upcoming NC Modernist Home Tour in Duke Forest - Sept 06.2014

August 07, 2014
BuildSense Earns Durham Magazine's Best Builder Gold Medal

August 02, 2014
BuildSense Leads Another Successful Summer Design/Build Studio for NC State School of Architecture - Yields Vegetable Washing/Packaging Barn for Non-Profit Benevolence Farm

May 01, 2014
Architects + Artisans Features Raleigh Home by BuildSense in Green Home Tour Preview

April 27, 2014
BuildSense Hosts 2014 Green Home Tour Reception at Ultra Sustainable Office in Durham - Thursday May 1, 4:30-6:30PM

April 26, 2014
Three BuildSense Homes Featured on 2014 Green Home Tour

April 25, 2014
Kendall Glaze now Business Manager at BuildSense

April 15, 2014
BuildSense's 502 Rigsbee Featured in Metal Architecture Magazine

March 20, 2014
BuildSense's 502 Rigsbee Featured in Retrofit Magazine

March 13, 2014
BuildSense's 502 Rigsbee Featured as Cover Story in Roofing Magazine

December 24, 2013
BuildSense Home Featured on Yahoo Homes

December 21, 2013
Roof Panel Manufacturer Praises BuildSense's 502 Rigsbee for Aesthetic and Sustainable Sensibility

December 20, 2013
BuildSense Home Featured on BobVila.com

September 27, 2013
Randy Lanou Earns Master Certified Green Professional (MCGP) Status

September 12, 2013
BuildSense Work Featured in Rural Modern by Russell Abraham

September 09, 2013
Butner Athletic Park opens featuring Community Center designed by BuildSense

August 28, 2013
BuildSense Awarded Presence on Upcoming AIA Triangle Residential Home Tour

August 16, 2013
The Floating Lab is complete and Kickstarter was fully funded - We thank you on behalf of Durham Public Schools Hub Farm and our students at NC State's School of Architecture

August 01, 2013
Jeff Andre' appointed Chairman of Triangle Clean Cities Coalition

July 28, 2013
NBC 17 covers the launch of the Floating Lab - NC State's Summer Design/Build Studio led by BuildSense

July 15, 2013
Durham Public Schools' HUB FARM releases Kickstarter Campaign for NC State's BuildSense led Summer Design/Build Studio - Help with your donation today!

June 07, 2013
BuildSense wins INDY Week's Best of the Triangle 2013 Green Builder and is finalist for Best Green Architect. The only firm represented in both categories.

April 26, 2013
502 Rigsbee Avenue Earns 2013 Triangle CREW Champion Award for Sustainability

April 19, 2013
Studio B | BuildSense receives AIA Triangle Residential Tour Award for North Raleigh Residence. Home to be on tour October 5th, 2013 10am-5pm. aiatriangletour.com

April 05, 2013
BuildSense features two homes on this year's Triangle Green Home Tour April 13+14, 20+21 Noon-5PM

April 04, 2013
BuildSense to host Triangle Green Home Tour Kickoff Reception Thursday April 11 5-7 PM

April 03, 2013
Randy Lanou, Erik Mehlman, and John Price head back to Nicaragua with the South Granville Rotary to build another school

March 26, 2013
Randy Lanou and Erik Mehlman present at Design Your Home 2013 at NCSU's McKimmon Center

February 28, 2013
Megan Patnaik appointed to UNCG Interior Architecture Department Advisory Board

January 23, 2013
Randy Lanou helps lead the ReSpace build out. The whole BuildSense|Studio B crew provides volunteer construction effort. Thanks to all for lending a hand to this great competition and event.

January 16, 2013
Randy Lanou awarded DIrector of the Year of the Home Builders Association of Durham, Orange, and Chatham Counties

January 15, 2013
Jeff Andre' appointed Vice Chairman of the Triangle Clean Cities Coalition

January 14, 2013
Erik Mehlman elected to Board of Directors of AIA Triangle

December 06, 2012
502 Rigsbee Avenue Earns 2012 Downtown Durham Inc Outstanding Renovation Project

October 19, 2012
Studio B Historic Restoration and Addition at 204 North Dillard Earns Preservation Durham's Pyne Award

October 13, 2012
Studio B | BuildSense Designs/Builds, Donates, and Raffles a Custom DogHouse to Raise Funds for the Coalition to Unchain Dogs

October 05, 2012
502 Rigsbee Avenue Earns 2012 Golden Leaf Award for Sustainable Properties

October 05, 2012
Studio B | BuildSense Led Design/Build Team Earns 2012 Golden Leaf Merit Award for Community Properties

October 05, 2012
BuildSense | Studio B to present at Trinity Park Home Tour Vendor Fair this Saturday, October 6th from 2-5. Come Join Us!!

October 04, 2012
Studio B | BuildSense Home For Sale in Southern Village Area of Chapel Hill

September 13, 2012
BuildSense wins Triangle Business Journal's Clean and Green For-Profit Business of the Year

September 13, 2012
Studio B | BuildSense Design and Construction of ClearSense Properties' 502 Rigsbee Building recognized as Triangle Business Journal's 1st Runner Up for Green Commercial Project of the Year

September 12, 2012
Visit the BuildSense Home Perfromance Team at the Southern Ideal Home (Sep 21-23). Booth #718, Jim Graham Building, NC State Fairgrounds.

September 10, 2012
Triangle Green Homes says "BuildSense Understands the Green Market"

August 30, 2012
NC Department of Commerce Features 502 Rigsbee

August 28, 2012
Durham Chamber Recognizes Opening of 502 Rigsbee

August 09, 2012
Studio B and BuildSense with ClearVue Glass announce Grand Opening at their newly transformed and super-green 502 Rigsbee building in downtown Durham

August 04, 2012
ClearSense Properties part of Recovery Impact Stories at NC Department of Commerce

July 18, 2012
BuildSense Teams with Ellen Cassilly and Harrington Bank to offer complete Finance/Land/Design/Build opportunities in Forest Hills area of Durham

July 12, 2012
Studio B and BuildSense again leading Summer Design/Build Studio at NC State's School of Architecture - More to come later on this year's project at the NC Museum of Art

May 17, 2012
Randy Lanou to serve as Juror for ReSpace: A Design Competition focused on Material Reuse. Register by June 15.

April 30, 2012
Meet the team at BuildSense and Studio B

April 24, 2012
BuildSense | Studio B Architecture to host Green Home Tour Reception at new building and office at 502 Rigsbee Avenue. Join us for a tour Saturday May 5, 5-7PM.

April 23, 2012
We've Moved to Our New Home at 502 Rigsbee Avenue, Suite 201. Come visit us and see this super energy efficient building designed and built by Studio B and BuildSense.

April 12, 2012
BuildSense | Studio B Architecture sponsor Triangle Modernist Houses Hope Valley Tour Saturday April 14, 1-4pm. Visit us at the Monica Hunter Residence.

April 12, 2012
BuildSense Home Comfort Specialists present this weekend (April 13-15) at the Southern Ideal Home show. Come visit us at booth #722 in the Jim Graham Building at the NC State Fairgrounds!

January 31, 2012
Randy Lanou takes part in A4A: Appetite for Architecture sponsored by Triangle Modernist Houses. Joining him will be Ellen Cassilly and Frank Harmon.

December 08, 2011
"The Leaf": NCSU Design/Build project lead by Studio B Architecture with Ellen Cassilly earns Downtown Durham Inc's Outstanding Development Project Award

September 23, 2011
BuildSense Home Performance Team to present at Southern Ideal Home show. Come visit us at booth #911 in the Jim Graham Building at the NC State Fairgrounds!

June 26, 2011
BuildSense Begins Construction on "The Leaf" Performing Arts Pavilion in Durham Central Park

May 16, 2011
Randall Lanou and Erik Van Mehlman share what they have learned on Triangle Modernist Houses website

May 09, 2011
BuildSense showcases 2 homes on the Green Home Builders of the Triangle's Spring Tour, May 14, 15, 21, 22

April 16, 2011
NC State students, under the guidance of Randall Lanou, take 1st and 2nd place at the NC Sustainable Building Design Competition

April 05, 2011
ClearSense purchases 502 Rigsbee building, future home of BuildSense and Studio B

April 01, 2011
BuildSense joins Builder 20 Club, a group of non-competing builders from across the country that advise each other on their respective businesses

March 30, 2011
Erik Mehlman speaks on the economy's impact on eco-conscious design on April 4th in High Point

March 11, 2011
3 members of BuildSense travel with Rotary Club to Nicaragua to help build school house

March 02, 2011
Visit BuildSense at the Home Buyers Fair on Saturday March 5th at The Streets of Southpoint

February 21, 2011
BuildSense & Studio B Launch New Website

Blog

September 26, 2014
Readings + Resources for the Intern Architect (and all) – PART I
In this two-part blog I thought I might throw out some of my favorite readings and resources. Over the years, I’ve found these to be valuable, silly and often brutally honest.  Here are two to look over this week. We’ll hit you with a few more next time.

GreenBuildingAdvisor.com - An informative resourceful website for green building, design and building science guru’s. This site contains plenty of articles, blogs or details for whatever building topics you wish to gain further insight. I’ve frequented this site for years now researching construction strategies and details for our mixed humid climate zone. I also thoroughly enjoy the green architects lounge and their candid booze infused discussions. The two architects hold great after hour sessions (with notable guests) that debate numerous green building strategies within of our industry all while getting blitzed. 

Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees: A Life of Contemporary Artist Robert Irwin by Lawrence Weschler – An inspiring chronicle of an artist who reveals to the reader his persistent goal towards the experience of perception which he feels is the foundation of everything yet the most difficult concept to grasp. The author’s account of Irwin’s life is compelling, unusual, and yet often humorous.  Irwin challenges preconceived notions, technique and his education; he strips his mind of all constraints and focuses his work on the origin of perception through self-discovery. I read this book in graduate school and I was rather fond of it at the time.  I found his lifestyle relaxing, yet his mind unsettled, and his work deeply complex. To me, Robert Irwin challenged contemporary art and his work eluded classification. Many art critics debated his career and work as even being art while others deemed him as a pioneer of minimalism



September 12, 2014
The Awesome Responsibility & Benefits of Custom Design
Only a very few people design and build a custom home. A house just for them that fits their needs and passions, family, lifestyle, self-image, and world view. Part of this relates to time, part to money, and a part relates to the emotional investment. It is an awesome responsibility to start with a blank piece of paper and design and build a home. I've heard and sensed this many times over the years but have had recent conversations with clients that have reinforced this idea (and made me laugh). My favorite comment was this: "when you walk into someone's new place and the kitchen island feels wrong, you think, 'what a dumb ass.' When you design it and screw it up, you are the dumb ass."

It is simply quicker, easier, and cheaper to buy a production house that may be close to a fit. However, there is a pot of gold at the end of the custom house rainbow. The reward for this effort is a real home (not just a commodity). A home that helps keep you and your family healthy; that is luxurious and comfortable in the way you experience comfort; that is a place of contentment, delight, and utility; that supports your favorite things to do; that represents your views and passions; and that inspires pride; a home that you love.

My wife's and my experience building a home has changed how I think when we design and build for others. In the design and building process, I learned a whole new level of empathy from the other side of the table. Now, just starting to live in our new home, we are learning first hand what the fuss is all about. One of our first mornings in our home and after a shower, my wife said that she felt like she was traveling and staying in a posh hotel but, wait, it is HER shower! We've gotten clean for years in perfectly serviceable bathrooms, but they never felt like this. Now, we have a hard time choosing between the outdoor shower with a view of the pasture, forest, and pond or the delightful and spacious indoor shower. Of course, both have hand-held shower nozzles to wash our dogs. I say of course because that is true for us and for our custom and personalized home, but not for a commodity house.

When we compare the investment of planning and building time to the decades we plan to live here, it is a minor blip that will feel even less significant with each passing year of enjoyment in our home.

While custom home design is not for everyone, here are a few examples of custom spaces or items requested by clients which provide them with tremendous pleasure, comfort, and peace of mind in their own unique and personalized homes. "It would be nice if my tub didn't feel like a bathroom, but more like a spa. It would be wonderful if I could gaze into the trees while relaxing and soaking."
This home for a boat captain on a very steep slope is three stories with the main entrance on the top floor. "I'd like something of a dumbwaiter to haul light goods up and down with ship's block and tackle."
Requests for "a light filled and open stair" and "plentiful bookshelves throughout the home" resulted in this simple, but dynamic stair. What might you want out of your custom and personalized home?



August 29, 2014
BuildSense leads another great summer of Design/Build at NCSU School of Architecture!

BuildSense leads another great summer of Design/Build at NCSU School of Architecture! In our fifth summer, we were once again blessed with a fantastic group of motivated students who completed another elegantly executed project. The non-profit Benevolence Farm in Graham NC was the proud beneficiary of this summer's efforts. Students and Instructors designed and built this vegetable washing and packaging barn (“The Benevolence Barn”) complete with open work areas, cold storage, dry storage, and tool sheds in just over 10 weeks. Benevolence Farm provides an opportunity to formerly incarcerated women to live and work on a farm where they develop farming and business skills, grow food, nourish self, and foster community. See images of the completed work below:









August 15, 2014
Gabions Rock!
Why pay for organized fitness classes when you can install gabions?? It’s both a great work out and a means of enhancing one’s physical environment! Amongst the multitude of today’s retaining wall options remains the handsome gabion. Ideal for erosion control, this modular system demonstrates many benefits; particularly strength met with flexibility. 

“Gabion” translates to “big cage” which is typically made of steel wire fabric that is welded, twisted, or woven closed once filled. The baskets can be filled with rocks, stones, or even concrete. Ideally, one can reuse material such as concrete from a demolished structure. 

While a finished gabion system appears to be monolithic and does indeed provide retention, the wall is also flexible to ensure structural efficiency, and permeable to allow for drainage. Last, if you are willing to put forth your own efforts, collect suitable materials, dig a lot, break and stack stone, and sweat real hard, then gabion walls are quite affordable. Upon completion, this seemingly elemental system will surprise you with its rustic yet undoubtedly elegant appeal. Here’s the basic overview of gabion installation:

1) Excavation
A couple of good shovels will certainly do the trick, however a few hours with an excavator will greatly reduce time and energy spent during excavation.

2) Leveling the ground
It’s important to make sure your ground surface is nice and level before placing the baskets.  While hand levels are, well, handy… a transit is a nifty surveying tool that assists greatly in leveling.

3) Basket assembly
Next comes the unfolding and assembly of gabion baskets.  This takes patience, but the pay-off will be very rewarding.

4) Filling the baskets
Once the baskets are properly set, it’s time for the fun part – filling the baskets with your chosen material!  Options range from taking a sledge hammer to the concrete foundation of a previously demolished building to create chunks of desired size as reusable fill, to ordering pre-sized riprap, stone, etc.  Inherent beauty of the retaining wall structure will be achieved as long as the fill is thoughtfully placed.

5) Fastening baskets
This step can be tricky; using zip ties to first close the gaps between seams is extremely helpful.

6) Backfill if necessary
A layer of landscaping cloth between gabions and earth further prevents erosion.



August 02, 2014
Explore Your Senses

                                                              Sound

Smell

Sight


Touch

Explore your senses

Explore your senses

Explore your senses







July 18, 2014
Hardscapes and Pavers: Beautiful Yard Improvements
As with many construction processes, installing paver hardscapes is challenging but rewarding. Preparation takes time and can be difficult, but yields the best product. As always, use the right tools for the job. Digging may be the most difficult portion if it needs to be done by hand. Assure you slope even gravel and paver hardscapes away from your home to a runoff location to complete positive flow in this direction. Typically a bed of 4” of gravel is laid on stable soils, followed by 1 to 2 inches of screenings. We usually set edge point elevations and use a screed bar and tamp to pack a solid sloped bed of screenings. A slope of 1/4” per foot is recommended for walkability and drainage. Gently lay your pavers to the desired pattern using a rubber mallet and level for secure placement. Incorporating edging and/or gravel bring it all together as a beautiful addition to your home and landscape.

Start digging. Ughh, the tough work!

Gravel bed, edging, and tamped screenings set nicely.

Finish work: setting pavers and decorative gravel.

Wow! What a nicer way to approach the front door.



July 07, 2014
Contruction Waste Recycling - Avoiding the Landfill
Have you ever wondered what happens to all of the construction trash that is created from a renovation or new construction project?  Being that about a third of all waste created in the United States results from the construction industry, BuildSense finds it most appropriate to utilize a local sorting/recycling company to make sure our trash is dealt with in a sustainable fashion.  Our waste removal trade partner takes our waste to a Construction & Demolition facility where all recyclables are sorted out and sent to the appropriate recycling facilities.  Construction waste that is recyclable includes:  clean wood, gypsum wallboard, cardboard, metals, shingles, and concrete.  The remainder is landfilled.

Recently in Wake County, about 30% of all waste was categorized as "construction and demolition" waste and of that 30%, about 15% was recycled.  In North Carolina in general, only about 10% of construction and demolition waste is currently recycled.  The rates could be upwards of 90% per the composition of typical construction waste.  The 'recycling report' from our current renovation project in Wake County states that about 80% of the waste was recycled and 20% was landfilled.  Each builder and developer can help extend the life of current landfills and reduce the need to create new landfills by hiring a qualified Construction and Demolition waste removal company for every job.



June 06, 2014
Modular Homes
What have you heard? What preconceived ideas do you have? Let me tell you what we think and what we can do.

Most clients who walk in our door cringe when they hear the words modular, manufactured, or prefab. It takes some time for us to change their minds. In our nation the majority of modular homes are indeed of poor quality. But, then again, the majority of all homes in our nation are of poor quality. It is not inherent to the philosophy of modular, it is inherent to the demands of the US home market.

There is tremendous potential in the prefabrication process. In a factory, workers have advanced technology on hand. They work in a climate-controlled environment to tolerances far superior than those achieved in the field. Studs can be laid straight, cuts can be extremely precise, walls can be plumb, and actually set at right angles. It may sound like I am undermining the custom framer but his job is simply more difficult. Would you request to have your new car built of a pile of miscellaneous parts laid in your driveway, or would you prefer it be assembled in the factory?

Enter expert architects and builders. Enter a detailed drawing set, a properly laid foundation, and precise factory-framed floors, walls, and roofs. The finishing process can proceed with ease crafting your own beautiful home. The walls are straighter, the construction time is faster, and the overall cost may be lower.

When you build your next home, ask us about the potential of a hybrid modular and site-built project.

Hybrid Modular Home: "Boxes" delivered and set on site.

Hybrid Modular Home: In this case the site framing included a roof stretching from "box" to "box".
Hybrid Modular Home: Completed home exterior.
Hybrid Modular Home: Completed home interior.



May 23, 2014
Home Renovation Decisions
After house searching in two different cities for over a year, my wife and I found a house that actually excited us. We found a midcentury ranch that was certainly in need of some work and modernizing. The best amenities of the house happen to be the lot, square foot size and design potential. Shortly after we were under contract we began to design. We logged countless hours many of the weeknights staying up late to debate our needs and wishes and compile our design. We scrutinized over costs and pursued ways to spread our budget by utilizing advice from colleagues and our subcontractor trade partners.

We determined the first phase would be to renovate the main floor public spaces and get to other areas of the house later. Shortly after we began the physical labor of deconstructing the layers of the home, we unveiled issues…beyond the dated décor. We found the insulation was inefficient and compromised, and we had asbestos in the popcorn ceiling. Thus began the start of a nagging desire to remove the flat ceiling in the main space, spray foam the roof deck, and pop the ceiling which would allow the interior ceiling to follow the form of the roof line. So that’s what we did.

I’d like to think we created a time correct midcentury interior space. The interior gable ceiling is around eight feet on the sides and rises to about twelve feet at the peak and provides a large open room. We exposed structural collar ties in the ceiling with a warm cypress wood that contrasts against the white walls. We replaced the existing opaque skylights with low E insulated clear glass Velux units and the room always feels to be bright and airy. The kitchen consists of painted customs cabinets configured for a clean, efficient workspace for cooking with lots of counter surface for prepping and entertaining. We created a small formal sitting area in front of a large window for visiting, record playing or merely sipping whiskey and reading the paper. It separates the living room and entry with a floating wall intended for future custom wood shelves. There’s something old fashion and swanky about this little space and I’m really looking forward starting and ending my days here. 

In hindsight, we housed searched for over a year and suffered through a three-month renovation project, but our new home has been a delight to live in each day. There’s little I regret. Our time and effort focused on purchasing, designing and construction of our home have nearly past, like the blink of an eye. Yet our house remains as part of our future.

BEFORE 1
BEFORE 2
BEFORE 3
BEFORE 4
AFTER 1
AFTER 2
AFTER 3
AFTER 4



April 27, 2014
Experiencing the Seasons in a Well Designed Home
I love as winter turns to spring and the flowers and dogwoods bloom. It may be my favorite seasonal transition. I have witnessed the effects of the changing North Carolina seasons over the past few months serving as the site lead on a Creedmoor home that will be open to the public on the upcoming Green Home Tour May 3-4+10-11 (http://www.myhomefound.com/homes/3950). Through the Polar Vortex to our recent 80 degree spring days, I have been amazed at the effectiveness of the sun tempered design to deliver warmth in the winter and reduce heat gain in the spring, all while the mechanical systems have yet to be installed.


Expansive southern facing windows draw abundant warmth from the low winter sun when needed, but are shaded from the high summer sun by an extensive roof overhang.

The north elevation features smaller operable windows paired with the south facing operable windows to assist in cross ventilation when desired.

An insulated pre-cast concrete panel wall system was used for the basement level which is mostly below grade to the south and above grade to the north (see picture above - for great light without heat gain). It's the perfect place to cool down and escape the exterior heat.

Rich interior textures are highlighted in the wonderfully daylit space.



April 11, 2014
Creative Reuse - Repurposed Materials - Whatever you call it, it just makes sense!
One of our crew often relates stories of how his grandfather used to hammer straight all the old used nails he'd find or pull out of old projects and use them again. Yes, there is a little extra effort to make that happen, but over the course of a lifetime he saved a lot of material from going to the dump and a lot of cost on new materials. Here are some great BuildSense projects that feature reuse in big and small ways.

Lanou Shop - Tin roofing repurposed as siding brings a new texture and color
BuildSense Office Before - The shell and deconstructed building materials were reused in the renovation of this existing building. See this building May 1st at the Durham Reception for the upcoming Green Home Tour (trianglegreenhometour.com).

BuildSense Office After - We cleaned and reused bricks removed from new openings to fill in and/or repair old openings to renovate the first floor shell. We did not buy a single brick! See this building May 1st at the Durham Reception for the upcoming Green Home Tour (trianglegreenhometour.com).
BuildSense Office After - The old roof rafters were repurposed for this interior stair. See this building May 1st at the Durham Reception for the upcoming Green Home Tour (trianglegreenhometour.com).
Scappino Residence - These grain bins were repurposed as water collection cisterns. See this house on the upcoming Green Home Tour May 3-4 + 10-11(trianglegreenhometour.com).
Scappino Residence - Brick from one home we deconstructed was reused here for new load bearing columns and walls. See this house on the upcoming Green Home Tour May 3-4 + 10-11(trianglegreenhometour.com).
Smith Residence Before - We deconstructed this old A-Frame home and saved the clear fir beams and cedar planks for reuse.
Smith Residence - The fir was repurposed for new columns and stairs.


Smith Residence - The cedar was repurposed as interior flooring and exterior decking.
One man's trash is another man's treasure - We worked among these homes one of our service trips to Nicaragua where reuse is an absolute necessity. This is Pantanal. It is a community that was built after Hurricane Mitch swept through the country in 1998.



March 28, 2014
So many cabinets... ...So little time

There is a world of cabinet options out there and we use them all. We have worked with everyone from super high-end custom cabinetmakers to builder grade product installers at Lowe’s or Home Depot and everyone in between. It’s always based on the clients’ choice of style, quality, and cost. We utilize turnkey outfits that provide the cabinets and installation. We also install our own cabinets. At times we have used Ikea products in both standard and unconventional manners. Their cabinet lines have gotten much better over the years and perform quite well. The trick is that there always seems to be at least one or two unexpected issues. We fortunately have the skilled craftspeople necessary to address these unexpected items when they arise.
Ikea cabinet frames set by our crew.

The same Ikea finished cabinetry installed by our crew.

Ikea Expedit shelfs (to the right) installed in a non-standard manner by our team become quite a beautiful detail



March 14, 2014
Dense Pack Cellulose Insulation
We use various insulation types depending on the type of construction, location in the home, and various other details affecting the installation. We recently installed "dense pack cellulose" insulation in the walls of a new home. Dense pack simply means the materials are applied, well, more densely. As a reference, a regular wet-blown cellulose method provides about a 2.6 pounds per cubic foot of insulation where as a dense pack method provides about 3.5.  The difference is immediately apparent upon walking in to the new structure - all the white noise from the exterior world is blocked.  The walls actually feel sturdier with the firm and rigid cellulose in each stud cavity.  Along with the tranquility of sound reduction comes a great R-value (3.8 per inch) and a good air-seal, as dense pack cellulose also prohibits the movement of air within a wall cavity quite well.

There are some downsides to dense pack cellulose - it is very hard to insulate areas like a floor band or in those unintended tiny spaces such as advanced framed corners, but both can be done. The installer must be experienced and equipped to know how to achieve the correct pounds per cubic foot so that it is not too sparse (leading to the insulation settling over time) and not too heavy (leading to bowing out the netting/sheetrock under the pressure.)

Netting in place ready for dense pack insulation

Dense pack walls / loose fill for vented roof assembly



February 28, 2014
Diversity of Skills
I have always been a person who enjoys a sense of regularity in my day-to-day operations. While I am not the kind of person who carries around a day planner, I am the type of girl who enjoys knowing what time I need to be somewhere and what I need to do to be prepared for that situation. One of the many aspects of working for our small company means you have to be prepared for numerous types of activities from day to day. We have an incredible staff with an immense diversity of skills. “The same team that designs your home builds your home.” As such, my roles have been expanding in order that I gain a greater understanding of all it takes to manage, design, and build a project. While my title is Office Manager and some days I may be drowning in accounting paper work, other days I have found myself learning jobsite skills such as cutting, sanding, painting, and installing trim. The next day might consist of mingling with fellow builders at a Green Home Builders of the Triangle function or assisting with IT. Some days this flip-flop is exhausting, making me long for consistency. But then I imagine a job where I do the same task all day, every day. I am then immediately thankful for my evolving role in this small company. Keeping yourself prepared for any type of task thrown at you will always keep you learning and on your toes. Just as the Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said, “Change is the only constant.”



February 14, 2014
A Front Row Seat to the Neighborhood
While working on a residential project in an urban neighborhood in Raleigh, I was often greeted by local residents and found myself engaged in conversation regarding the ongoing construction. Folks that walked by always gave a nod or a wave and I soon realized that this was a tightly connected neighborhood and our project was generating quite a buzz. As the project continued and evolved, I was pleased to see that these neighborly interactions often occurred while on the front porch. This fact and the porch design itself began to captivate me.

Its a cozy spot designed for small gatherings and given that the house is located on a corner lot it has a great view of the neighborhood. The sitting area is cantilevered and projects into to the yard. The roof has a deep overhang that provides a feeling of intimacy and protection from the elements. And, the cypress siding yields warm tones that coincide with the color palette of the house. 

All in all, this is a smart, intriguing space that was a joy to see realized. I imagine there will be no vacancies on the porch this spring and hope it’s the catalyst that enables the homeowners to feel a part of the neighborhood.

Front Porch with cantilevered sitting area.
Front Porch with overall.
Rear screened porch with cantilevered grill deck over carport and garage entrance below.
Feeney doesn't make an end cap for their hand rails. We do now.



January 03, 2014
LISTEN plan design build
Listen Plan Design Build. This is our company tag line - our motto - our mantra. It’s a synopsis of all that we do. One may say that it is an oversimplification, but knowing this process is at the core of every project, we would disagree. The order of these key words is critical. As such, “Listen” comes first and carries the most importance. It is vital to the design/build process to have clear communication with the client. This starts with the initial call from a prospective client. It continues with gathering an understanding of the wants, needs, desires, styles, priorities, budgets, and more provided by our clients. For the best results, their communication should include images, sketches, or other pictorial examples as well as verbal description. In order to design a custom home which suits the needs of a particular client, we spend numerous hours attempting to build this understanding of how that client lives and what is of most importance to them and their family. Communication can be lost when two different companies separate the process; when one is serving as the architect and another is serving as the builder. All the listening that occurred on the design end is suddenly cut off from the team constructing your dreams. The understanding between parties in a coordinated Design/Build effort aids in the smooth construction of the home. The same team that designs your home builds your home. Listening to our clients fosters a quality relationship, which carries through the entire design/build process and assures a higher quality final product for our clients.



December 20, 2013
Collecting Design Ideas
Have you ever tried to recall a wonderful place or thing, but had a difficult time communicating it to others? The adjectives don’t do it justice or you just can’t put a finger on what was so spectacular when recollecting. You aren't alone. Even architects and designers who generally have strong visual memories can struggle with this. When starting a new design project it is important to clearly communicate these favorite ideas, memories, places, or things, etc. with your design team.

Even for those with eidetic (photographic) memories, we recommend scrapbooking. For years, we’ve had magazine clippings galore from numerous clients. Today, we recommend using the better technological resources available and stepping it up to Pinterest. This is a free online service that allows you to quickly save any picture you see on the internet or upload any picture you snap with your own camera/phone. It displays all of your pinned pictures on one screen so they are easy to sort and organize. It enables improved communication between you and your design team.

At the commencement of a new project this is a gold mine to your design team. It gives all parties an impression of your taste, your goals, and what ideas may be considered successful to you. Do yourself and your design team a favor and start collecting.



December 08, 2013
A Room Outside
I have a fascination with Japanese architecture. Each room is laid out with great thought and intention. Outdoor space is no exception. It is treated the same as any other room.

Japan’s winters and summers are relatively mild with only brief sessions of harsh weather. Fall and spring consume most of the year with warm days and cool brisk nights. Does any of that sound familiar to our local North Carolinians? We share a relatively comfortable climate. With a little shelter from sun, rain, wind and possibly insects the unconditioned outdoor room becomes the best in the home, office, or restaurant.

A successful outdoor space is one that has an intimate connection to the interior space. It has a delightful view of something calming such as a small garden, water, or a series of natural materials. It is large enough for the functions of the users such as working, eating, or playing but not so large that it feels expansive. Ever wonder why everyone crams into a tight room at Thanksgiving when there is an open room available? The presence of others provides a comfort and coziness. Why do the customers at a large restaurant choose the booth seating along the outer wall before the open seating in the center? The boundary or the edge often provides a psychological comfort and safety.

Always consider porches, patios, courtyards, and decks when designing space. They need to be laid out with as much intention as the interior spaces. They should be seamlessly connected to the conditioned interior rooms with flexible and enjoyable space. You’ll find they are a great source of comfort and, when defined by the bounds of constructed area, can often have little additional cost. Before you know it your least expensive room will be your favorite.



November 22, 2013
In Keeping With Our Values
Recently, an initial contact note from a potential client said: "We want a modest, but beautiful, light filled home that is functional, energy efficient, and in keeping with our values and budget." The values statement caught my eye. Values are defined as the ideals, customs, institutions, etc., of a society toward which the people of the group have an affective regard. These values may be positive, as cleanliness, freedom, or education, or negative, as cruelty, crime, or blasphemy. We design and build buildings that align with our client's positive values every day but we have never articulated the process in these terms. There is even alignment with the positive value examples from the dictionary.com definition above. We build consistently well-ventilated homes using fewer toxins. It yields a cleaner and healthier space. How about enjoying the freedom from heavy weekend maintenance or excessive energy and water bills? We can build that into your home as well. In terms of education, we have made and kept a commitment at our recently designed and built office in Downtown Durham to use the building and its tested performance to educate the community on how this positive example can be repeated. Come to one of our regular tours and learn how a 12,000 square foot fully occupied and conditioned building have average energy bills of $350 per month. Learn how a building can use rainwater instead of city water to irrigate landscape and flush toilets. Learn how the building inhabitants can be more comfortable and productive due to their light-filled and well-designed workspace.

We’ve just recently met the folks who contacted us, so we do not know their values. Well, not yet. They have not hired us. Again, and hopefully, not yet. We look forward to the challenge of matching the design of their home to their values.



November 15, 2013
Do you change your oil every 3000 miles? What home maintenance schedule do you keep?

Everyone seems to be on a schedule these days, and it’s for a good reason. It’s simply hard to keep track of everything we have to do. Go to work and take care of this, pick up the kids and drive them to that, go to the gym to keep the heart pumping, bring the car for service to keep the engine running, but what’s the schedule for your home and its care? For most people, their home is the most expensive investment they ever make. Isn’t it smart to care for that investment? Did you know that your water heater should be flushed annually or your HVAC filters replaced every three months? In addition there are numerous items to be handled on a monthly, seasonally, or annual schedule to increase the longevity of your home. Here at BuildSense, we’d prefer to design you a home intent on reducing that maintenance to a bare minimum, but it is a wise decision for all homeowners to follow some type of Home Maintenance Schedule Checklist in order to maintain their home at peak performance and to assure they avoid more costly major problems. We issue a customized home maintenance checklist to all of our clients, but finding your own is easy to do. Search the web and you’ll find numerous types. Insurance companies like Allstate now offer their own for home and vehicles that keep your information in one convenient place. Lowes offers a program to keep you notified, track work you performed at your home, and log critical information about your home that you may need in the future. I’m sure there’s an app for that too. Whatever your method, it’s simply a good idea to tend to your home maintenance. You’ll be happier and healthier in the long run.
A portion of the BuildSense Home Maintenance Checklist



November 08, 2013
Asking for help: Sometimes the Best Thing to do
Asking for help is one of the hardest things for a human being to do. We often view it as admitting weakness, especially when we feel we should already know the answer. Over the past two weeks I have probably asked for helped more times than I have in the past three years of my life. It is the desire at BuildSense for the employees to have skills and understanding across both design and build. As such, I have been gaining field experience by recently spending about three days out of the week working on site with my fellow employees to finish building a home instead of tucked away behind a computer. Besides being sore in places I never even knew had muscles, I have learned all kinds of new skills involving various tools and new methods of thinking. This new knowledge came directly from asking for help. When a more experienced field worker would give me a list of things to accomplish for the day and walk through a tutorial on how to do it, I often stood there bewildered just from the terms they were using. Instead of acknowledging these instructions and attempting to complete a task on my own, I assumed it was wiser to ask for more help instead of potentially messing up expensive materials. The motto “there’s no such thing as a stupid question” rings especially true here. Though it may take a bit more time, the additional explanation was greatly beneficial to me, the project, and, at times, even to the instructor. While I felt a little silly asking for help for stuff these folks could do in their sleep, I knew this was the more mature way to handle the situation. Setting an ego aside is not always the easiest thing to do but I would have never started my path to becoming a knowledgeable builder without asking for help.



October 27, 2013
Designing and Building the home for YOU
A few weekends ago BuildSense was thrilled to host the Spring Residence on the 2013 AIA Triangle Residential Home Tour. Working as a tour volunteer at the home entrance, I was able to greet visitors when they entered the home as well as hear their feedback on their way out. The reception was great. I noticed one pattern. Visitors loved the home, with many making small talk about how it must be great if you have the money.

When speaking with one individual I could see that the house really struck his interest. We had a chat about the overall design noting that this particular house was larger than the typical scale of BuildSense’s work. We do not focus in any certain scale, but rather on quality of design construction and how a home will meet the needs of the specific client. We discussed how we have worked on homes from 600 square feet to 11,000 square feet but most fall in the 2000 to 3500 square foot range. As a full service architecture firm and a general contracting firm, we design and build homes that cater to our client’s aesthetic, budget, and size. Once we had that conversation, the individual got right on the phone with his significant other to discuss our company and what we could do for them.

The main reason I write this is to let all of our wonderful tour visitors know that we can create something beautiful for you that fits within your means. Take a look at the projects on our website for more on the wide range of work we do.



October 18, 2013
Window & Door Installation Tips
I recently attended a great window and door installation workshop put on by Restoration Woodworks and sponsored the Green Home Builders of the Triangle. The vendor shared some installation tricks for leak free and successful installations. Among the many recommendations, using a self-leveling cross-line laser level rather than a manual level jumped out as one of the most important. While these are little pricey, the efficiency of installation and the smooth operation of the windows/doors will be worth it. Another suggestion is to stop the house wrap at the exterior corner intersection of the jamb and wall (or just inside of the jamb), and complete the job with a full butyl wrap from interior to exterior. This will prevent any water that gets behind the housewrap from being directed to the interior of the home. Interestingly enough, while this does not follow most homewrap manufacturer recommendations, it allocates better additional resources to mitigate water infiltration. Last, your metal door pans should be bent with a hand brake as one continuous piece (yes, it is possible). If the installer cuts a slit to bend up the metal for the sidewall, then this defeats the purpose of a sill pan, even if that slit is caulked well. The pan should then be siliconed to the framing after the sill is leveled with no more than a 1/16" variance.  Before the door is set, place a generous 1/2" bead of silicone (toward the interior side of the pan) plus some short beads applied perpendicularly to fully glue and seal the threshold into place. These are a few tips offered by Restoration Woodworks that I found useful and interesting. Hopefully you will too.



October 13, 2013
Some Simple Considerations make for Better Site Safety
I’m big on safety whether it is in the field, in the shop, or in the home. My kids love to play and, as kids, tend not to want to take responsibility. If something breaks or someone gets hurt, the first thing I hear is, “I didn’t do it.” By that time it’s too late. Either his brother is crying, the dog is limping, or my wife’s favorite something is in pieces on the floor. So I talk to them about having awareness of their surroundings and considering the consequences of their actions. Amazingly, this is an ever-constant reminder to me for safety on the jobsite. We can’t have any “I didn’t do it” moments on the site. Granted, we are adults, so we can’t have any “oh my, what have I done” moments. We all know we are constantly and ultimately responsible for our own safety as well as the safety of everyone else on the jobsite. As such, I can take away two important items from my discussions with my children. It is no different. For consistent job safety one must always have job site awareness and consider the consequences of his/her actions. Keeping these two thoughts in mind at all times helps assure a safer site for everyone.



September 27, 2013
Naturally Entertained
I recently spent a few days with my family vacationing on a National Seashore. Our cabins were the only structures around. There were no roads, no huge beach houses stacked on top of each other, and no tacky beach shops. It was just the sand and the sea. We brought a few things to pass the time: books, cards, a few beach toys, (and sure, we did take our phones). We found ourselves not needing any of that. The natural beauty of the place was enough to keep us “entertained”. Between swimming in the ocean, looking for shells, and just sitting on the beach taking in our surroundings, there was no need for anything else. Initially I was afraid we had not brought enough to keep the kids entertained, but they too kept very busy and had a great time.

Its amazing how we can be “entertained” by so little, how sensory pleasing the natural environment can be, and even kids recognize this in their own way. Even with all of available forms of entertainment these days, sometimes it’s the simple things that can grasp our attention and leave a lasting impression. There are just some places and experiences that will never be able to be replicated or manufactured. These beautiful places are one of the many reasons why building and living sustainably is important to me. Obviously through the process of building we will consume resources. That is why we strive to tread as lightly as possible when we build. Also we have the science to build smarter and more efficiently, both during construction and for the life of the home. So a new building that is constructed using the proper techniques and systems will conserve resources now and through the future, be better for the environment, and save the owners money over the lifetime of the home.

I realize that we all can’t afford to build new energy efficient homes, walk to work, or drive a Tesla, but we can all take steps no matter how small to make a difference. The benefits of taking these steps will be felt, not only by us, but for the generations to follow. Protecting beautiful natural places, whether across the ocean or in our backyard is something we must do for now and the future. And the next time you are at the beach, or in the mountains, or just in your backyard take a moment and be “entertained” by your surroundings.