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Happy New Year!

The New Year always brings to mind a clean slate. We say good bye to the past and embrace new beginnings. For some of you – that may mean a move, a new location and new home, and we welcome the opportunity to talk to you about what your dream home means to you.

For me – it means retiring after 25+ years working with Randy and my fellow employees at Thelen Total Construction. It has been a very fulfilling part of my life, being part of the process where families can realize their dreams of the home they always wanted. It really is a life changing process for them!

I’ve been proud to be associated with a respected company of people who are smart, creative, dedicated and experienced. We share the work, respect each other’s talents, and do what it takes to ensure a great experience for our clients, and also have a little fun each day too.

Carol & Melody at the annual Thelen Christmas Party

Knowing how important the role of Office Manager – “Command Central”, as we call it at Thelen Total Construction is – the next person to fill the position would need to be a great fit for the organization. A person who is smart, organized, energetic and self-confident. A person who gets the culture here of doing your best and doing what it takes to create a great experience for our homeowners.

We are excited to welcome Carol McCoy to Thelen Total Construction! Carol has been working here since early November and has proven herself to be a very capable member of the team.

Me – I’ll truly miss the people here, the best tradespeople around, and other respected professionals I’ve had the good fortune to work with. It’s been great!

Thank you all for the memories, and I plan to stay in touch.

Melody Fehling

The Green Built Home: High Performance, Cost Effective & Low Maintenance.

The Green Built Home: High Performance, Cost Effective & Low Maintenance. 
 

What can you do when building a new home to lessen the harmful impact on the environment? With all the resources and knowledge available today – there is no reason not to build an environmentally conscientious, green home. Here are the 5 most important things you can do:

Don’t build more than you need. You don’t want to build too much house, instead you want your home to feel and fit “just right”. A house that is too large will contain wasted space. Unused space and cost you more to heat and cool. When planning your home, take careful consideration of your current lifestyle. By the same token, do take time to think ahead. If you plan on expanding your family, or plan on caring for your senior parents, put the right accommodations and resources into place. Will you be living in your home 10, 20 or 30 years? As you age, consider what your future needs and lifestyle are and plan for such.

Go solar. No matter where you live, build your home so you have unobstructed solar access from 9:00 in the morning until 3:00 in the afternoon with a southern exposure. Place the majority of your windows on the southern side, and place overhangs or awnings to shield the sun’s hot summer rays. Use energy efficient low-e windows that will absorb and radiate the sun’s heat.  (low-e windows can save up to 24% on heating & cooling costs) Plant trees near your home to offer natural shade on the southern sides and take advantage of skylights (with shades) to maximize the sun’s energy.

Use adequate insulation. The greatest energy savings to your home will come in the form of your home’s insulation. Spray polyurethane foam insulation (which contains no urea formaldehyde) has the highest R-Value in the market and uniformly seals cracks and crevices and eliminates drafts. And gives you a quieter indoor environment too.

Use environmentally friendly products. Everything from your roofing material, building materials, insulation, to your flooring, counters and cabinets and paints can be environmentally friendly. Many of today’s home products are made recycled materials (composite material decking, recycled glass), or are natural (cork, bamboo) and harvested sustainably. Other products are very durable (lifetime warranty shingles, granite countertops), keeping replacement waste out of landfills.

Use energy efficient products. Choose appliances and electronics with the Energy Star label for energy efficiency. For heating and cooling, consider geo-thermal. Geothermal can save up to 60% on heating & cooling compared to other systems, operates for years with little maintenance, and excess heat can be used to supplement the home hot water heater. Choose LED lighting, which can last 25 times longer than an incandescent bulb and use 75% less energy. Widespread use of LEDs could save the equivalent of $30 billion at today’s electricity prices.

Some of the choices will increase your initial building cost, but they have the potential to save you a LOT more down the road. Green is the preferred, smart way to build a home that respects the environment, saves resources and your money in the long run.

 

Transitional style kitchen - a blend of contemporary and traditional.

Transitional style kitchen – a blend of contemporary and traditional. 

Home building is not an industry where big changes happen really fast. Change evolves over time.  Kiplinger’s Economic Outlook said that new home construction is expected to increase by about 16% or 580,000 homes in 2014.  So if you are going to be one of the 580,000 in 2014 building a  new home, you can rest assured that these are the trends that have been growing in acceptance over the last few years and will continue to be popular in 2014:

Flexible Floor Plans. In the United States, more households are becoming multi-generational. That change is leading to a developing trend – flex rooms. These rooms are built with change in mind. What is now an office can become a bedroom if grandparents or boomerang kids move in. Dedicated living and dining areas are being replaced by large multi-purpose family areas.  In addition, may homes include “bonus” rooms that can be adapted for a variety of specialized needs.

Smarter, less costly automated controls. With our busy lives, and automation costs coming down, it’s becoming more affordable to control a home’s systems – temperature, security, electronic, lighting and more – though a single device: iPhone, iPad or iPod. Doing so can eliminate multiple controls and make it easy to manage things around the house, even if you are not there. One example is the Nest Intelligent Thermostat, which can be controlled remotely, react intuitively to the home owners habits and adjust to conserve energy costs.

Outdoor Living Rooms and Screened Porches. The yard and garden become part of the floor plan when sliding glass doors lead to patios and decks. Blurring the lines between outdoor and indoor spaces is the rise of the screen porch. It’s  become an almost year ‘round livable space with the addition of a fireplace, mounted quartz heaters, and roll-down clear-view shades that keep you warm and cozy in cooler weather. The functionality of this casual gathering space increases with the addition of an outdoor kitchen / bar and TV / audio systems.

Healthy Home. A healthy home is one that incorporates healthy design elements, non-toxic building materials, and proper construction techniques. It is also resistant to mold. It also utilizes passive air flow, daylighting and fresh air exchange through the proper placement of windows and doors.

Accessible Home Design. Forget the spiral staircase, sunken living room and high cabinets. The homes of tomorrow will be easy to move around in, even if you or members of your family have physical limitations, and allow you to age in place. Open design, wide doors and hallways create spaciousness and don’t convey an institutional look.  For two story homes with a finished lower level, an elevator is an increasingly popular option. (And two closets can be stacked to allow for a elevator in the future.)

Energy and Water Efficiency. Efforts to conserve energy and water throughout the home continue to be popular, including low-water toilets and sinks, high efficiency furnaces and air conditioners (including using geo-thermal), closed cell insulation, and high efficiency windows.  A passive home design is built to work with the climate.

Abundant Storage. New homes feature spacious walk-in closets, and plenty of cabinets. Cathedral ceilings are losing favor as families prefer usable space below the roof. Garages are also getting bigger to accommodate more cars and other paraphernalia.

Transitional Style. A middle ground between traditional and contemporary design is becoming more popular.  Its appeal lies in having the best of both worlds: You aren’t straying too far from the familiar of traditional, and you have the flexibility of adding contemporary touches. And because you can update it indefinitely to reflect current trends, it ages well. For more about this style: http://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/1331096/

What will the homes of the future look like? Are McMansions on the way out? Are Bungalows coming back? You tell us!

Lakefront Home Design

We talked  to many people at the Lakeland Builders Association Home Expo in Lake Geneva Wisconsin and The Lake Home and Cabin Show in Schaumburg Illinois over the last two weekends. It was great to see a lot of interest in building in our beautiful part of Southeastern Wisconsin after the slow down in construction the last four years! Many are just starting to look for property in the Lake Geneva area to build their dream home. Property prices have stabilized and are starting to increase, so don’t wait! A number of folks asked what would provide the most value to them when desiging and building their home.

Some of the main factors that add the greatest value to your new home:

1. Location: Consider buying the most you can afford. Location is everything. If you like being on the water, historically, lakefront property experiences stronger growth in value.

2. Design: A well designed home adds enormous value! Not only will you enjoy living in a beautiful home designed to enhance your life –  at resale time, you’ll find a greater return on your investment as well.

3. Kitchen: Not too many people complain about a kitchen being too large, too much counter space or too many cabinets. Spend money on the kitchen.

4. Family Room/ Great Room: Like the kitchen – oversize the Family Room, and make it a little bigger than you think you need. Like the kitchen, that’s where your family and friends gather.

5. Master Bath: It’s the place where you start and end your day; a place to unwind. Upgrade the size and finishes. If  you sell, this will be a good return on investment.

6. Room Size: Make sure your rooms are large enough to meet your needs. It would be very expensive to do it after your home is finished if you realized you need more space. (This won’t be a problem after you go through our comprehensive Design Outline process. We make sure to “right-size” your home to fit your current need and future needs.)

7. Closets:  No one has ever complained of a home having too many closets!

8. Maintenance and Energy Saving Products: Paying extra for products that over time will save you money over replacement, maintenance and energy costs is smart  and you’ll feel better about saving the earth resources too choosing products that are durable and “green” too.

Bottom Line: Invest your money in the places that matter the most to experience the greatest value and enjoyment for years to come in your new home.

 

Green products are durable and maintenance saving

Kermit the Frog once sang, “It’s not easy being green…” but with the wide selection of products,  building green becomes easier each year. New homes today are significantly more energy efficient than they were even 10 years ago. And probably 100% more energy efficient than they were in the 1970’s. Green built homes are also safer and healthier because of using non-toxic building materials and products that do not create out-gassing. Special attention is also paid to good ventilation and air quality. (A necessity when constructing a tight building envelope.)

Constructing a green home does come with some additional costs. A better insulated home and energy-efficient appliances will cost more. However, many green building products such as energy efficient windows and doors, geo-thermal heating and cooling systems, long life siding and roofing, and recycled decking material can result in significantly lower operational and maintenance / replacement cost savings. So while building green will cost more up front, you’ll be able to recoup your money by large savings on energy bills. After-all, we all know the answer to this question: “Will energy costs go up or go down in the future?”

Green, at any price point is not accomplished through product selection alone. Some other strategies can cost nothing or very little. For example, depending on the orientation of your home, positioning the majority of your windows on the south side gives you passive solar and natural light gains. Low-flow faucets, shower heads and toilets are widely available so the cost is neutral.

Are you seeking a home that will improve your quality of life? Desiring a home that is durable and easier to maintain? Want to use building  products and practices that are good for the environment? Green building means building smarter and not compromising on the environment or its future. It’s a practical response to a variety of issues that affect all of us.