Living and working as architects in Washington’s beautiful San Juan Islands (SJI) for 15 years taught us a few things about building vacation homes in remote locations with off-island clients. Although the process is largely the same as in the city, all aspects are affected in some way by these 3 factors:
- Undeveloped building sites
- Semi-developed road and utility infrastructure
- Limited access to people, equipment and materials
So we’ve outlined 5 things to consider before building your weekend retreat.
1. PROFESSIONAL CONSULTANTS
Like architects, professional consultants are an integral part of the design and construction process and generally found in large metro areas. So we developed these relationships and use a time tested internet based communication system that allows an efficient and effective working relationship in spite of our geographical separation.
Eco-Haus Advantage: Using our pre-designed building plans, permit assistance service and building kits, you’re leveraging our existing consultant and manufacturing network to largely avoid a time consuming and costly process.
Budget – This factor affects a project more than any other. So detailed planning is required to ensure a positive outcome.
Site Planning - A number of issues influence the placement of roads, utilities and buildings. The goal is to clearly identify and delineate these impacts before the site planning process begins.
In many instances, there are few if any public utilities. So these services are either brought to the site or generated on-site. Both require time and money.
Water – On-site options:
- Shared community system (new or existing)
- Private well
- Water catchment
Septic – On-site options:
- Shared community septic system (new or existing)
- Private on-site septic system
Power – This widely available public utility is occasionally not. On-site options include:
- Solar – Photovoltaic panels, inverter and battery storage bank. Great alternative for sites in sunny climates open to the southern sky.
- Wind – Turbine, inverter and battery bank.
- Hydro – Water turbine and battery bank. Few commercially viable products available and few building sites have access to moving water.
- Solar - A&R Solar has pre-designed systems for a few of our homes. That said, site conditions generally require some degree of customization and they're happy to sort these out with you directly. They can install in WA and OR and ship component packages anywhere in the US.
- Water catchment – Rainharvest Systems carries the largest collection of water catchment products world. As individual use goals and site conditions influence system design, they work directly with you to customize your system to meet you specific needs.
4. BUILDING DEPARTMENT
US and Canadian building departments are all generally charged with the same mandate – protect the health and safety of the local population and their respective property rights. With this in mind, national standards and were developed and are generally employed by most jurisdictions.
Land-use regulations stipulating lot coverage, open space, parking, building size, height, setbacks from property lines, etc. Some jurisdictions will have more detailed requirements than others, but they’ll all generally address the same issues.
Address the buildings themselves. The International Building Code (IBC) and International Residential Code (IRC) are generally used throughout the US and Canada.
Prior to beginning construction, a building department reviews a proposed project for compliance with both zoning and building codes. Submission documents and process are similar, but vary from place to place.
Eco-Haus advantage: Our Permit Assistance service allows you to leverage our 30 years of architecture experience to help with the following:
- Answer questions about local zoning and building codes
- Answer permit submittal process questions
- Design site plan
- Prepare final site plan required for permitting and construction processes.
Contractors operating in remote environments face a series of challenges relating to the three issues outlined in the first section. Although these issues exist in all communities, they’re amplified by isolation. These issues can lead to unanticipated schedule and cost over runs.
Eco-Haus advantage: Our Building Kit option allows you to clearly identifying a large portion of the construction cost and simplify shipping, delivery and construction processes. Pre-assembling portions of the project off-site and delivering the entire exterior shell package in one trip reduces the total number of deliveries and on-site construction which in turn reduces environmental impacts and shortens the schedule.
Please see our BUILD PROCESS and FAQ sections for more information. Thank you for spending time with us. I hope this posting was helpful. Stay tuned as we delve deeper into these and other subjects in future posts!
Carol & Chris