Building a Sunlight Home
A Sunlight Homes project can only officially begin after your land has been purchased. Often we correspond with people for weeks, months or years before they are ready to become clients. This communication is helpful because it gives us time to get to know each other and get prepared for the project. For our prospective clients still shopping for a piece of property, we are happy to hear about your top picks and discuss its suitability in relation to the type of home you are interested in.
Once the property is purchased and you are a Sunlight client, we will visit your building site to see your land first hand. This, along with the Pre-Design and Values Worksheets and the discussions that occur during the Site Visit, help us to design a home that really and truly works for you. Read more about our design process here.
Our SIP structural shell can be fabricated for almost every architectural style, from ranch to contemporary, Southwestern to prairie, craftsman to Victorian. Timber frame and post and beam designs integrate beautifully with SIP construction. In fact, SIPs were originally used as an insulating skin for timber frame homes.
Our homes are sold as a Component Package, or (high end) kit home and we provide the rough, super insulated, exterior SIP shell, which is the walls, roof, windows and exterior doors. These are custom fabricated for each new Sunlight home. The rest of the materials and labor are supplied by your builder. You can read more about our Component Package here.
Sunlight homes have been designed in many states (and climates) across the continental United States.
Once we are finished with the design of your home, you are ready to finalize financing (if necessary), choose a builder, apply for a building permit and start moving some dirt!
Building As A Team
The process of designing and building a custom home involves a large number of different specialists each with their own personalities, beliefs, processes and goals. As the home owner, it is your job to assemble the best team you can to help you through the process. A successful design & build project requires this team to work and communicate well together. Our clients choose their own local builders to build their Sunlight home (many times with our input). Any reasonably skilled builder can build a Sunlight home. In fact, in some ways it's easier since the walls and roof are prefabricated and precise. We stay involved with the project through construction (and beyond) and consult as necessary with you and your builder to ensure a smooth and successful project.
You get a lot more than a custom design and a load of materials when you buy a Sunlight home. You also get a proven, thought-out and tested system for designing and building a custom, high performance home. Every custom home is a prototype by it's very nature, but having systems in place and material suppliers that are familiar with our designs and plans makes for a much more predictable process.
Our Design & Build Process in Brief
Our design process begins with a visit to your building site. We study and photograph your site, discuss your worksheet answers and then begin to work with you to site your home on your land and develop a very rough idea of where the spaces in your home will be in relation to one another and to the outdoor spaces. This process begins at your site over a 2 day visit, then continues remotely for the next several weeks. We make incremental changes as we progress, getting your input all along the way. Once we have the perfect design for you, we complete the working drawings, which are the architectural and structural plans that your builder will use. All our homes are stamped by a structural engineer licensed in your state.
If you plan to get a loan to finance a portion of your new home, it’s a good idea to talk with a couple banks and get pre-qualified before you start spending any money on design or construction. Based on your income and credit score, a bank will give you a maximum amount they will be willing to loan. The actual amount they loan is going to be a percentage of the value of the home you plan to build. This value is based on an appraisal of the plans once the design is complete. The appraisal process is far from perfect, and for a home that is of higher quality than code minimum (which our homes are), there is a chance the appraisal will fall short of the amount you will end up spending on the land and construction. A low appraisal means the bank will be willing to loan less, therefore you might need to provide more cash to build the home. The relationship of appraised value to actual cost to build depends on a great many factors such as location, local building costs, housing market and whether there have been any comparable sales in the area. It is important to educate the appraiser on the energy efficiency and green building features of the proposed house as these can help boost the appraisal. While the appraisal will dictate what the bank is willing to loan, the actual value of the home will always be determined by what people are actually willing to spend. A wonderfully designed, high quality home will be easier to sell and quite possibly sell for more than the appraised value, if you are able to find a buyer that appreciates its unique features.
Designing & Building Timeframe
Our design process is a collaboration. A typical Sunlight home takes three to six months to design and complete the architectural plans. This can vary depending on the size and complexity of the design and your availability to review drawings and provide input and decisions. We schedule our projects so we can provide a prompt turn-around and we guide you through the design process so that it moves ahead at a measured yet steady pace. It's never good to rush the design process, and going too slowly can also be a problem because we want to retain continuity. Construction of a Sunlight home usually takes from four to ten months, depending on the time of year and weather, the size of the crew, the size and complexity of the home and the availability of finish materials.
Total Quality Systems in Construction
The quality of your completed custom home will directly correspond with the quality of your design, materials and workmanship. Back in the 1980s we studied the work of Dr. W. Edwards Deming and developed Total Quality Management (TQM) systems to our design process and our business methods. We learned that decisions made in the first 15% of the timeline of any project strongly impact its success. In other words, bad choices made early can not easily be remedied later. For example when you are planting a garden, decisions in the first 15% would be deciding what to plant and where to plant it (the design phase). If the plants are not suited to your climate and soil, no amount of water or sunshine will make them grow strong and healthy. If you are wanting a well designed green home, choosing a company who has the skill and experience to design what you want (in your budget) is a critical decision made in the first 15% of the timeline. In construction, choosing the builder and finish materials occur in the first 15%, and these decisions strongly impact the overall success of the project.