Whatever happened to our new house in Pacifica???

As we announced when we started this blog seven years ago, we plan to build our own house in Pacifica. Some of our studious readers may have been wondering what happened with that project. Our intention at the time was that we would have moved in about 2009 … but then along came the financial crash and the worst economic depression since the ‘thirties’, and there were other things to spend our shrinking reserves of cash (and equity) on than a dream project. A dream project it is – after all, what architect doesn’t wish at some point to build their own house?

When we ask our clients what their dreams and goals are for their projects, we tell them not to censor themselves too readily – that they should get all of their dreams out on the table, so that we can sort them out and (later) check for their feasibility. You can’t get what you don’t ask for, after all. So we did the same for ourselves, and came up with quite a list of features:

  • Roof deck with edible garden, bees and lounge space
  • A large deck adjacent to the main level, for barbecuing and dining, with heat
  • Maximize spaces with views to the ocean (see photo).
  • Zero net energy, with electric car charging, supported by a huge photovoltaic array
  • High performance Passive House quality building envelope with excellent ventilation
  • House mounted wind turbine
  • Four bedrooms, three bedrooms and a powder room
  • Huge kitchen and open planned living and dining rooms with ocean views
  • A home office larger than the one we have now.
  • Rainwater harvesting of every drop which falls on the roof
  • Maximum use of graywater
  • An explosion proof mad scientist workshop (our adolescent son’s request)
  • An art studio for glass, ceramics, metal work and painting, with all of these crafts incorporated into the design
  • A suite of rooms for mom
  • Handicapped accessible main level, including master bedroom (for us old folks to be)
  • Minimal grading and maximum use of the site for landscaping

But as often happens with fulfilling life dreams, timing is important. With the economic recovery we now have more resources to forge ahead, but in the mean time labor and material prices have skyrocketed. Discussions with general contractors, and review of our finances made us reluctantly realize that our 4000 square foot, three story dream house design wasn’t going to be affordable. So we started cutting…and cutting…and cutting. Gone is the suite of rooms for mom (and mom too …). Gone is the roof deck and roof garden; gone is the 15,000 gallon cistern under the driveway; gone is the guest bedroom and bathroom; gone is the wind turbine; gone is a thousand square feet of living space and some very cool elevations.What we have left, after consultation with experts, countless design iterations, pounds of wadded up tracing paper, and a hundred deep and painful discussions, is a lean, clean machine for living, with just enough pizzazz to make it fun… plus a mad scientist’s workshop.

Detailed preliminary pricing, just received this week, indicates that the project might barely be in our budget. It’s a bit too soon to be sure, but I think we’re going for it.

More to follow, in greater detail. Join us in the journey onward as we refine the design and do further research on building systems and costs.


We give many thanks to the expert consultants who have helped us so far (more posts to follow with information on their excellent advice):

Millennium Enterprises, Inc, general contractor — Terry Babb and Gerry Jensen

Beyond Efficiency, Katy Hollbacher, green building and high performance building consultant

Ann Edminster, who literally wrote the books on green homes and zero net energy homes

Bruce King, Sustainable design and structural engineering

Eric Castongia, Zephyr Real Estate

One Sky Homes, general contractor — Allen Gilliland and Bronwyn Barry

The Conrado Company, general contractor –Sean Misskelley

Earthbound Homes, general contractor — Dave Edwards

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