Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Cool House Tour 2009

Sunday, June 28, 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM

Below are pictures of the home constructed by Bill Taute Homes in 2008 that is included in the tour. The architect was Ben Obregon of Sustainable Design Center, Please check out the link to the Cool House Tour below and come out to see our Austin Energy 5 Star Rated Green Building Techniques and Features.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

2009 Parade of Homes Video

The link below is a short video about my home in the 2009 HBA Austin Parade of Homes at Mueller. There are four other builder videos on You Tube describing all five homes in the Parade. Visit the web site at to find out more about this year's Urban Green Parade.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Roof Garden

 The first step to installing a garden roof is to make sure that the roof structure is designed to accommodate the extra weight of the soil, plants, sod, and water necessary to successfully establish the landscaping you have designed for your roof. Our structural engineer designed a roof system taking these considerations into account, and our truss manufacturer produced trusses based on this design. Then we installed a TPO roof, an ethylene propylene rubber product that combines the durability of rubber with the proven performance of hot-air weldable seams. The roof is pitched to facilitate drainage, and has scuppers, or thru wall drains, to allow excess water or rain to drain to the ground below. The entire garden then sits on top of a layered drainage mat system that incorporates a protective fabric over the roof, a root barrier to keep plant roots from penetrating the roof, a drainage mat that allows water to find its way through the system, and a filter fabric that retains the soil while allowing the water to enter into the drainage mat. The drainage mat and filter fabric are both extended over the scuppers to retain the soil and filter the runoff.

A light weight soil medium is installed to a minimum of 4" to give sod and plants a base for growth and to help retain moisture. We are using a lightweight landscaping mix for the top 2-4" to facilitate plant and sod growth. We are installing a rock walk, planter boxes for larger plants, an herb garden, ground cover, and sod. We have installed an irrigation system to help get the garden established, and have a rain barrel to harvest rainwater to help with future irrigation needs.

Herbs in the garden will include rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil, sage, and parsley. Plants will include ice plant, aloe vera, autumn joy, bicolor iris, santolina, upright juniper, bamboo muhly, and dwarf oleander, with Zoysia grass as the sod. I have included a link to our roof garden component manufacturer's Frequently Asked Questions page for more information.


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

2009 HBA Parade of Homes

Parade of Homes™

The original Parade of Homes™, where "Dream Homes Become Reality," is an annual tour of homes presented by the Home Builders Association (HBA) of Greater Austin. The HBA has presented the Parade of Homes™ in the greater Austin area for the last 56 years. Tours allow visitors to check out the latest in architecture design, interior decorating, pool design and landscape design. Remember, if it doesn't say "Parade of Homes™ presented by the Home Builders Association of Greater Austin" it's not the real thing.

2009 Tour Information

First ever HBA 5-Star
Parade of Homes™.

Don't miss this fantastic opportunity to tour 5-Star Green Homes by five award winning builders. The 2009 event will be an "urban" tour of homes located in the new Mueller development - the site of Austin's old Mueller Airport. Located just three miles from downtown Austin and the Texas State Capitol and two miles from The University of Texas at Austin, Mueller is perfectly positioned to become an energetic new hub for central Austin. Come have a look!

Preview Party for HBA and Real Estate Industry Members


Dates and Hours

  • May 23, 2009 - June 7, 2009
  • 10:00am - 8:00pm, Thursday through Tuesday (closed Wednesdays) 


  • Purchase at the gate
  • Ticket price: $15; $12 for seniors and kids 5-17; kids under 5 are free
  • Sorry, NO credit cards accepted
  • Tickets only valid for entry on day of purchase

Inclement Weather

Homes are open when weather permits. Call (512) 454-5588 to see if homes are open for tours during bad weather.

The Builders

  • Bill Taute Homes / website / (512) 441-0699
  • Cool River Custom Homes / website / (512) 294-5212
  • Durrett Interests LLC / website / (512) 472-3100
  • The Muskin Company / website / (512) 371-0037
  • Streetman Homes / website / (512) 473-3725

The Homes

To view artist renderings and descriptions for each home, click on the address below.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Construction Waste Management

Our waste management plan utilizes the services of Construction Waste Recyclers of Texas, and we try to recycle at least 80% of our construction waste. We accomplish this by educating our subcontractors and site cleaning crews about our program, with the help of Fred Thornhill, who owns the recycling and waste management company. We establish waste areas, recycled content areas, and have large barrels with trash bags on site, all labeled bilingually. By utilizing Optimum Value Engineering practices, we use less lumber, and therefore are able to create less waste in the framing stages. By separating the waste and recyclable materials, it is easier to determine how much waste is being created, as opposed to simply throwing all waste into a dumpster. The average 2000 square foot home typically produces approximately 8000 pounds of waste, so by recycling diligently, we are able to diver 6000-7000 pounds of trash from every home we build away from our landfills. While we still have issues with off site waste being brought onto the job site, the lack of a large dumpster has minimized the impact of neighborhood trash on our job sites.

What is recyclable and what is waste? We are able to recycle on site all brush, trees, and land clearing debris, lumber scraps, drywall, rock or brick waste, concrete and plaster spoils, tile cuts, wood flooring scraps, and composite shingles. The scraps and leftovers from all of these products are ground up on site and are available for immediate use on site. Lumber scraps create mulch which is used for soil erosion control, for walkways around the site to minimize the tracking of mud onto the slab, and to build up low spots on the site. Drywall is ground into dust that can be tilled into the soil on site similar to adding lime to the sub grade. All of the other hardscape spoils and the composite shingles are ground into a base type material that is used to stabilize driveway and sidewalk sub grades. In the event that we have no place or no more use for the recycled content on a particular site, we will work with other contractors to distribute the materials on other sites. Any materials that have no other place to go are delivered to a composting site. Fred and his crew recycle all aluminum, metal, cardboard, insulation, plastic, and vinyl at locations around town, and document the tonnage of what is ground, what is recycled off site, and what actually has to go to the landfill. Any leftover building materials that we can't use on other projects are recycled through Habitat for Humanity Re-Store, Goodwill, and other similar facilities. We typically leave at least a quart of every paint used on the home for the home owner to use for any touch up jobs, and store most paint in our off site warehouse facility for up to a year. After a year, we take the leftover paints to the City of Austin Hazardous Waste Facility.

As the City of Austin moves towards implementing a Zero Waste Initiative over the coming years, it will be incumbent on builders and remodelers to realize how much waste they create, and how they can divert as much waste as possible into something other than our landfills. It will also become the responsibility of home owners and investors to require their contractors to conform to these more stringent Construction Waste Management standards. After the initial education of subcontractors that are not use to this type of program, and re-tooling take off and engineering processes to eliminate waste before materials are delivered t the site, a good contractor will realize that a program like this makes sense both from and environmental and economical viewpoint.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Water Efficiency

When we talk about Water Efficiency, there are several areas of the home that are integral in addressing the issue. The installation of an On Demand/Tankless Natural Gas Water Heater is one of the easiest ways to conserve water. As described by their name, on demand / tankless water heaters have no storage tank for hot water. A heating element heats water only when there is a demand for hot water—i.e. when someone turns on a hot water faucet. Since these water heaters have no stand-by losses (heat loss out the walls of the storage tank), they have higher efficiency—typically 10% to 20% higher than storage-tank water heaters. Tankless models have additional advantages: they take up less space, they can be installed outside in Austin's climate (solving the venting problem) and they last longer because they are less susceptible to mineral scaling. Tankless models have a life-expectancy of 15—25 years, whereas storage models last only 5—15 years, depending in part on how they are maintained.

Another area that consumes a large amount of water is the irrigation of the landscaping. By installing an irrigation system with a time based controller, the irrigation system, will reduce water usage, protect landscape and hardscape investments, and achieve affordable, sustainable water management. Your system will place exactly the right amount of water on specific lawn and garden areas so that water is not wasted. We also install moisture-sensing devices that can automatically turn off your system when it rains. In our Parade Home, we are planning on installing an EvapoTranspiration or ET Smart Irrigation Controller that regulates the irrigation based on the weather. The controller is connected to a weather satellite and modifies when and how much water is applied to the lawn based on local weather data in conjunction with information about the landscaping materials. Over-watering is eliminated because each zone of your property is monitored independently according to your customized profile. Wind waste is also eliminated when the controller stops watering until high winds subside.

The inclusion of Low Flow/Dual Flush High Efficiency Toilets also offer significant water savings. Typical products use 1.6 gallons at the full flush and 0.8-0.9 gallons at the low flush. One manufacturer estimates that a typical family of four will save approximately 7,000 gallons of water per year with this toilet, compared with a standard 1.6 gallon-per-flush toilet.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Indoor Air Quality

According to Wikipedia, Indoor Air Quality is defined as such: Indoor air quality (IAQ) is a term referring to the air quality within and around buildings and structures, especially as it relates to the health and comfort of building occupants.

IAQ can be affected by microbial contaminants (mold, bacteria), gases (including carbon monoxide, radon, volatile organic compounds), particulates, or any mass or energy stressor that can induce adverse health conditions. Indoor air is becoming an increasingly more concerning health hazard than outdoor air. Using ventilation to dilute contaminants, filtration, and source control are the primary methods for improving indoor air quality in most buildings.

As builders, what can we do to improve air quality, and what can we do to eliminate the causes of indoor air pollution? We've been told for a few years now that we are building homes tighter and tighter, and to some degree that is true. What we have to realize is that as we tighten up the building envelope, we are creating other areas where the envelope can be penetrated if not treated properly. The beginning of a good building envelope starts with the sheathing and the water and vapor barrier. We have recently begun using the Zip Wall System by Huber Engineered Woods, but have successfully used OSB sheathing with a Tyvek Wrap barrier. The key to either system is to make sure your framing crew, or whoever is installing the wrap and tape system, has the appropriate tools, a knowledge of the proper installation of the system, and adequate supervision to guarantee all joints are taped per manufacturer's recommendation. Depending on which system you use, there are also differing opinions on the best details for sealing the windows and the doors. Once again, you need to make sure you know what the manufacturer's recommendations are in this area, and I believe, you need to take a little more time and spend just a little more money to insure that you have these areas sealed beyond those minimum requirements.

The second areas to address are the penetrations through the building envelope. The average home can have anywhere from 20-40 penetrations through the building envelope, depending on how many exterior lights, outlets, hose bibs, condensing units, etc. We are using a product called Quickflash Weatherproofing Products to help to seal these areas prior to installing siding, plaster, or masonry on the exterior of our homes. Quickflash has multiple flashing sizes to accommodate almost every size of penetration for electrical, plumbing, gas, and HVAC systems. When installed properly with your vapor and water barrier, these flashings provide a no caulk friction seal at all penetrations, and give the builder an extra layer of protection against water and air leaks.

Insulation is the next layer of protection we install to seal the envelope. We use a hybrid insulation method, which effectively and efficiently provides excellent energy performance with a lower cost to install compared to an all foam application. The hybrid system involves the use of spray foam at the underside of the roof deck and in all high risk or problem insulation areas like kneewalls, rim joists, cantilevers, overhangs, etc. The walls are then sprayed with cellulose insulation, which is a full cavity application that not only provides an excellent seal for your energy envelope, but consists of 80% recycled materials. Closed cell spray foam has an R value of approximately 6/inch, and the cellulose produces an R value of 3.7/inch. Our typical application with 2x 6 walls produces an R-20 cellulose installation, and an R-30 spray foam attic installation.

In the construction process for many homes, tubs, showers, and fireplaces are installed immediately after rough framing is complete and before insulation is installed. As a result, it is almost impossible to properly install insulation and complete air barriers at exterior walls adjoining tubs and showers. This can lead to convective air flow that circumvents insulation.

The installation of air barriers and insulation in these applications at exterior walls can be achieved with proper planning starting with design. Spraying cellulose or placing batts in the wall cavity, and then installing an air barrier, such as ThermoPly, along with installing polyseal, will effectively eliminate the convective air flow. Make sure the air barriers are in place prior to installing tubs, showers, and fireplaces. Another option would be to fill the cavity around the tub with spray-foam, which acts as both a thermal and air barrier. In any of these cases, the tubs will be much less likely to cause comfort or moisture problems.

All HVAC equipment is sized using the Manual J Residential Load Calculations, with a minimum of 600 sf/ton of air conditioning. "Right Size" HVAC systems ensure efficient operation along with using a 15.0 SEER rated system with variable speed condensing units and an Energy Star rated Programmable Thermostat. Greatly oversized equipment operates less efficiently and costs more than properly sized equipment. For example, oversized cooling systems may not dehumidify the air properly, resulting in cool but "clammy" spaces. When using a spray foam or hybrid insulation system, that eliminates attic ventilation, you will need to bring fresh air to the HVAC system to keep the proper pressurization and to help with air balancing. Make sure that your HVAC contractor is well versed in both Manual J and fresh air ventilation. To improve the indoor air quality, we are now installing an Optional Advanced IEQ System. The Trane CleanEffects Air Cleaner that will be installed in our Parade Home is the most effective whole-house air filtration system available.

TRANE CleanEffects

  • Removes up to 99.98% of allergens from the filtered air.
  • Traps particles down to 0.3 microns in size. (A human hair is about 75 microns in diameter.)
  • Up to 100 times more effective than a standard 1" filter.
  • Delivers cleaner air and more of it.
  • Performance has been verified by leading experts at the Harvard School of Public Health

All bathrooms and the utility room have Energy Star rated Panasonic Whisper Quiet ventilation fans to reduce energy consumption and noise, while helping eliminate moisture and odors in the homes. We will implement extensive duct leakage testing, blower door testing, and air balancing to maximize the efficiency of the system. You will need to coordinate your HVAC contractor and your third party duct tester to get the proper air flow and balancing specifications. By implementing duct leakage testing and blower door testing, the home eliminates duct leakage to improve air flow and balances it evenly in all areas.

All Green Homes are required to install Zero or Low VOC Paint and Stains, and in addition, we are installing all of our flooring with similar adhesive products. All cabinets are prefinished at the factory in controlled atmospheres that recapture stain and paint waste for recycling, and filter the exhaust from the finishing application.

While there are a few other small factors that can be incorporated to improve Indoor Air Quality, these are what I consider to be the main contributors, and if these are all addressed properly, your home will combine all of the performance characteristics into a unified system.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Healthiest Housing Markets for 2009

The article below is a portion of the article in Builder Magazine, and the entire article can be seen at I have only included the top 5, instead of the top 15 markets in the nation here. It's good to be alive in Austin, Texas.

Builder, in conjunction with Hanley Wood Market Intelligence, debuts its metric for determining markets with the best and least potential.

By: Boyce Thompson

With most economists and builders expecting a national market decline this year, this may not seem like the best time to be selecting the "healthiest" markets in the country. Virtually every market was down last year. But a close look at the numbers reveals that some markets have way outperformed others during the last four years and are likely to continue to do so this year.

When the housing market stages its official recovery, the markets listed on the following pages are likely to lead the parade. It may take a year or more for the weakest markets--where burgeoning foreclosure sales are still pounding new home values, making building and selling new homes an exercise in futility-- to finally stage a turnaround. We'll present that list next week.

The healthiest markets have many things in common. Most of them are great places to live, either close to the ocean, mountains, or major universities. Most of them didn't have a huge run-up in prices during the boom and aren't experiencing rampant deflation during the bust.

To compile these lists, we analyzed the top 75 housing markets in the country. We ranked them based on population trends and job growth, perennial drivers of housing demand. We also examined what's happened with home prices; many of the healthiest markets have managed to hold the line on home values. And finally, we considered the rate building permits, which may be the single best ongoing indicator of builder confidence in a market. We combined all these metrics to produce a score for each market. Here are the top 5, in reverse order.

The Healthiest Markets for 2009

5. Dallas, Texas

2008 total building permits: 26,145

In a year when permits declined 35 percent nationally, Dallas only experienced a 9 percent fall-off. With a population of 4.3 million, Dallas was the third largest home building market last year, as measured in permits pulled. Employers in Dallas, a popular place for corporate relocation and expansion, added 42,000 jobs last year, a growth rate of 2 percent. Existing-home prices have held steady, falling a paltry 3.4 percent in the last year. Interestingly, the face of residential construction has changed dramatically in Dallas in recent years; 58 percent of the activity last year was in multifamily, compared to a five-year average of 23 percent. The relative stability of the market, though, wasn't enough to prevent Wall Homes from filing for bankruptcy earlier this year. On the other hand, former Meritage co-CEO John Landon recently started a new Dallas-based home building company.

Busiest builders: D.R. Horton, Highland Homes, David Weekely Homes, K.Hovnanian Homes, Drees Custom Homes. Courtesy: Hanley Wood Market Intelligence.

4. San Antonio, Texas

2008 total building permits: 10,261

San Antonio is another Texas market that is still adding jobs, about 18,000 last year. A city of more than 2 million people now, its population is also growing, at a 2.8 percent annual clip through last year. Existing-home prices are barely declining in San Antonio, down less than 1 percent in the last year, to an affordable median price of $152,800, 25 percent below the national average of $200,500, according to the National Association of Realtors. The upper end of the housing market was hurt recently when AT&T announced it would be moving its corporate headquarters to Dallas.

Busiest builders: D.R. Horton, K.B. Home, Centex Homes, Pulte Homes, Fieldstone Communities. Courtesy: Hanley Wood Market Intelligence.

3. Fort Worth, Texas

2008 Total Building Permits: 10,388

Fort Worth, always operating in the shadow of higher profile Dallas, nevertheless can currently claim to have a slightly healthier housing market, based on its employment growth, relatively strong permit activity, and inexpensive housing. Now the 14th largest home building market in the country, Ft. Worth's builders pulled 10,388 permits last year, roughly two-thirds of them single-family. That may be half as many as 2005, but many other major markets showed much sharper drop-offs. The relative strength of the Fort Worth market in recent years stems from its ties to the oil and gas industries, which has fueled above-average job growth. The metro area added 17,300 jobs last year.

Busiest builders: D.R. Horton, Choice Homes, History Maker Homes, Meritage Homes, Centex Homes. Courtesy: Hanley Wood Market Intelligence.

2. Austin, Texas

2008 Total Building Permits: 14,250

Nine years ago, during the tech bust, some builders felt that Austin was too crowded and left. The bloom is back on Austin's yellow rose now; it moved up the leader board to become the sixth largest home building market last year. Job creation explains the move. While other markets lost employment, Austin added 17,400 jobs last year, 2.3 percent growth rate. It helps that Austin is home to both a major university, The University of Texas, and the state capital. Existing homes cost a little bit more in Austin than other Texas markets, roughly $188,600, but that's still below the national average. Also, Austin is one of the few metro areas in the country where median prices actually rose in 2008--2.7 percent. Amazingly, Austin now generates more home building activity than Chicago, which has six times more people.

Busiest builders: D.R. Horton, Lennar, KB Home, Centex Homes, Meritage Homes. Courtesy: Hanley Wood Market Intelligence.

1. Houston, Texas

2008 Total Building Permits: 42,697

They like to do things big in Houston. Now the metro area, home to more than 5.8 million people, can lay claim to being the largest home building market in the country, with 42,697 building permits. The market is still benefiting from an influx of population and jobs and rebuilding in the wake of Hurricane Ike. Employment was up 2.5 percent last year, representing the addition of an incredible 65,000 jobs. Home building activity in Houston has only fallen 31 percent since 2005. Also, existing-home prices rose in Houston through the first three quarters of last year. They finished the year at a median of $151,600, even with the previous year. Roughly one-third of the home building action is in Harris County, followed by Houston proper and Fort Bend County. One of Houston's largest builders, Royce Homes, shut down last year, and Kimball Hill, one of the biggest builders in Texas,

closed its doors this year after it failed to find a buyer.

Busiest builders: Lennar, Perry Homes, David Weekley Homes, MHI/McGuyer Homebuilders, and KB Home. Courtesy: Hanley Wood Market Intelligence.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Huber Engineered Woods, Zip Wall & Zip Roof, Advantech Sub Floor

In our current project, all the sub floor, sheathing, and roof decking are manufactured by Huber Engineered Woods, consisting of Advantech Sub Floor, Zip Wall System, and Zip Roof Systems. Products manufactured by Huber Engineered Woods do NOT contain any urea formaldehyde, which help promote indoor air quality and meet the requirements of the Sustainable Forest Initiative Program, which utilize the measures listed below. The ZIP System roof and wall combine a wood panel and protective barrier all-in-one. This, with the installation of Zip System tape, produces a Type 1 Air Barrier reducing air infiltration to maintain the R-value of insulation, promoting energy efficiency.

SFI Performance Measures

  • Promoting adequate reforestation after timber harvests.
  • Encouraging deployment of forestry Best Management Practices (BMPs) on private forest land.
  • Increasing landowner and wood supplier outreach/continuing education opportunities.
  • Emphasizing wood purchases from private, independent logging contractors, who adhere to all forestry laws and voluntary BMPs.
  • Establishing a system for continual improvement through internal management review and external third-party audits.
  • Ensuring that the commitment to the SFI principles is communicated throughout the company.

Our limited experience with Zip Wall/Roof on this project has been very positive. In my previous blog, I mentioned that we are utilizing Optimal Value Engineering in our framing systems, and the question was rightly asked, "When you are spacing roof truss/rafters at 24" are you using 5/8" or 3/4" decking? What's your opinion on those greater spaces in regards to flex of finished material (roof, stucco, siding, etc)." My response was," on my home at Mueller, I used the Zip Wall and Zip Roof system for the first time, and it will probably be one of the next items I review here. While this product only uses a 7/16" OSB panel, it seems like the waterproof covering actually acts to stabilize the panels, and I haven't seen any problems with the flex in the greater spacing, with one exception. We have a 1/2"/12" pitch on an awning roof, that we plan to build a 4' wide walkway deck, to our detached Studio, over the TPO roofing, and it is a little flexible right now. However, using the same OVE concepts, we will place our decking sleepers directly over the framing members below to stabilize the composite decking on the walk and I anticipate no problems." I have used Tyvek for several years, and while I have no complaints about that product, or its performance over the years, this system has eliminated several sore points for me in the building process. While you do have to be extremely vigilant in your supervision of the taping of both the wall and roof system, the barrier has performed very well during the first rains that gave it a test. One thing that I've struggled with framing crews over the years about, is that they don't want to install all of the Tyvek, tape all the joints, and then begin to install windows and any siding. They have always complained about having to use too much scaffolding, and/or moving their scaffolds more than once with the Tyvek system. With this product, they are able to tape the joints as they install the product, and then they can take the tape roller and insure that the tape has a good seal to the sheathing. My local Huber rep, Barry Brooks, has been extremely helpful and has made sure that my crews have any tools they need and any special tape that is required to make the project a success. He has met with myself and the framing crew to confirm the proper installation procedures, and it has been invaluable to me while we are field testing a new product. I think the biggest benefit is that the roof is dried in once the decking is installed and the tape has been applied, and the tape will last much longer than a felt dry in for a custom project that may take more than a month between the dry in and the roof installation. Additionally, there is literally no difference in price when calculating all OSB sheathing and roof decking with a Tyvel vapor barrier, and felt dry in versus the Zip Wall/Roof system and the tape. The applicator and rollers are relatively inexpensive, and are obviously re-usable. The tape rollers even attach to any roller handle extension for easy access to hard to reach areas. I am very much in favor of using the Zip Wall Sheathing and Zip Roof Decking. I have utilized the Advantech product for several years, especially on the many pier and beam projects that I've constructed over the past ten years. Invariably, even in a drought situation, the minute I install a sub-floor that is temporarily open to the elements, there will inevitably be a pouring rain that will pool water on my new sub-floor. The Advantech product is impregnated with an advanced resin technology, which creates a highly moisture resistant, and a stronger panel. Combine that with the 50 year warranty, and Advantech makes a lot of sense.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

What is Green Building?

Green Building is a measure of several building initiatives including site planning, energy efficiency, resource/material efficiency, water conservation, indoor air quality, and homeowner education. The home must be designed and built to perform as a system, taking all of these performance characteristics into account, and must perform against specific performance standards. The performance is measured against the requirements of local and national green building programs. It is up to the Builder and the Home Buyer to determine which of these issues are of the greatest concern to them, and which make the most sense to include in a new home from a cost and benefit perspective. While there are numerous Green Building techniques and practices, there are more opinions about which techniques and practices are the most beneficial to the Home Buyer, and to the environment. Over the next few weeks, I will attempt to analyze several of these practices that Bill Taute Homes has adopted over the years, and possibly re-visit some of the practices that we have used in the past to help future Home Buyers determine which choices make sense for their new home.

The first subject I will address is Optimum Value Engineering.
Optimum Value Engineering (OVE) refers to framing techniques that reduce the amount of lumber used to build a home while maintaining the structural integrity of the building. Using OVE techniques results in lower material and labor costs and improved energy performance for the building. While traditional framing crews may not initially save any labor cost on the construction of the home as they become familiar with OVE practices, the simple fact that there will be less waste produced from less lumber will produce a small labor savings during the waste management portion of the project. Bill Taute Homes builds primarily on inner city lots with multiple restrictions, setbacks, and limitations, so we haven't been able to implement 100% of the OVE practices, but with the guidance of our structural engineer, Tim Zhang of Green Earth Engineering, we have been able to implement the following in our latest projects: (1) Increasing wall stud spacing from 16" to 24". (2) Spacing floor joists, rafters, floor trusses, and roof trusses at 24" instead of 16" by aligning with stud framing such that loads are transferred directly. (3) Sizing door and window headers correctly, and eliminating headers in non-load bearing conditions. (4) Using 2 studs at corners instead of 3 studs.

A study conducted by the National Association of Home Builders Research Center (NAHBRC) found that OVE methods saved $0.24 to $1.20 per square foot in framing wood compared with conventionally built houses (NRDC, "Efficient Wood Use in Residential Construction," 1998). It is important to note that the public is generally unaware of how much wood and labor goes into conventionally framed wood homes, so educating future and current home buyers about this process will hopefully help them appreciate the economic benefits of OVE.