Cutting Edge Insights
with Dr. Lee

Mother Earth’s Impression of You

Today, we’re talking about your Impression on Mother Earth.

No – we’re not talking about “an idea, feeling, or opinion about a person, object, or idea; sometimes formed without conscious thought or with little evidence.”

Nor are we talking about “an effect produced on someone.”

Not “an imitation of a person or thing to entertain,” either.

Q: A graphic or pictorial representation of someone or something?

A: Nope.

Q: How about, a mark impressed on a surface by something?

A: Yes, you’re getting warmer. That’s closer to our topic.

Today we’re talking about footprints.

Not footprints left in the snow because it’s winter in the northern hemisphere, and it’s been cold enough to hear the snow crunch as you walk on it (doesn’t reading that simply make you feel cold?)….I’m referring to the footprint of your build on Mother Earth.

I have consulted with owners of office buildings and homes and there is a universal sense, an expectation that as long as you keep your footprint reasonably modest, not supersized or gargantuan, you can build within your budget.

Wrong – that is pure ignorance.

There are many factors that together help determine whether you can build within your budget, but the size of your footprint is not directly correlated with the size of your construction cost.

Of course, a mansion will always cost more than a tiny home.

But consider the following comparison:

 

Plan A started as a 30×40, a modest 3-bedroom, 2-bath home. The designer “thought” he or she would save money by carving the porch out of the 1,200 sq ft footprint of the home.

Plan B is a similar, 30×40 rectangle, 3-bedroom, 2-bath, etc. Except the difference is that the porch is added on outside the home’s main footprint.

It may seem logical to assume that Plan B will involve extra cost because the footprint is larger. That assumption is wrong.

Q: Where shall we start with the comparison?

A: Let’s consider the perimeter of exterior walls.

Plan A has 10 more feet of exterior walls than Plan B; 150 feet compared to 140 feet. About 7% more.

Exterior walls are more costly to build than interior walls because bulk water, air, vapor, and thermal concerns have to be addressed. You have to keep the outside out and the inside in, to reasonable levels of performance or better. The difference would be measured in several hundreds of dollars, maybe a thousand or two depending on how robust you planned on building your wall assembly.

Let’s consider the footing. 10 more lineal feet and 2 extra corners will add some cost – probably not very much. This would be measured in hundreds of dollars, maybe 2 or 3 hundred.

Let’s next consider the foundation which rests on the footing. This may be a full height basement wall or a partial height wall if the home is being built with a crawl space. In certain areas, it may be permissible to build on a slab – but this would involve a thickened slab at the exterior edge. The difference in cost here may be only hundreds of dollars if the home is slab-on-grade construction, or it may be several thousand dollars (thinking 3-5) if a full height basement wall is concerned. Because this item involves 20 extra lineal feet (there has to be support under the entire perimeter of the porch).

Now let’s consider the superstructure. The home could be built with either rafters or roof trusses. For simplicity, I’m assuming that the porch in Plan A is covered by the roof and the porch in Plan B is not. So, this is really a wash. No difference either way (except you gain 50 more square feet of interior, conditioned, useable floor space with Plan B AND it costs less).

There are certainly more elements to compare, especially if your home footprint was a more complex design or if the rooflines were affected in any way. Here, I’m assuming a simple gable roof which would be the same in each case.

The take-home message is as follows:  You can follow conventional wisdom which states that your construction cost will be in direct proportion to your footprint, or you can analyze the situation using the principles of value engineering and building science – to arrive at the correct answer.

The correct answer, in your specific case, may not be “Hey, I’m saving money by building a porch outside the home’s main footprint!.”  It may be, “Wow, moving the porch to the outside of the footprint allows me to really do what I want with the remainder of the 30×40 conditioned space in the thermal envelope! (Yes, I’m sure those would be your exact words.)

I have assisted doctors and other health care professionals with the design and implementation of their health care facilities and in some cases have saved them six to seven figures by employing these principles.

If I can offer you similar assistance, simply send an email to Lee@DrLeeNewton.com.

As you think about that, remember to never allow the architect or designer to have “the last word” on your design – especially if you are writing the checks.

Until next time,

Dr. Lee Newton

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Mother Earth’s Impression of You

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