As we try to refine our design process and builder program, and build out our model at Serosun, the question of what defines a quality home comes up. It’s an important question to understand as it impacts how we design and build a home, and who we have to help us. It’s also not an easy one to answer. A quality home includes several factors: it looks great, feels good, lives well, and performs effectively at an economic price. The second critical question might be, what are the factors that contribute to successfully building a quality home? Four key factors affect quality in a home: design, construction, materials, and craftsmanship of finish.
One thing that gets confused with quality is amenities. The amenities a home has does not really indicate the quality of a home. Certain amenities might be expected in a type of home, but they don’t necessarily provide an indication of the quality. For instance, crown molding is not an indicator of quality. It’s just an amenity that might be expected in an estate home, but not in a cottage. However, how it was installed, or if it is appropriate for the room does impact quality.
Let’s look at these factors a little more closely.
Design – Design is probably one of the most important factors that can affect all elements of quality. Good design creates a home that looks great. The finishes, the colors, the proportions, the styling, the details all combine to make a home look great. Good design creates a home that feels good to the people in it. It creates that ‘Fung shui’ that some talk about. While it is sometimes hard to point out just what it is exactly, good design creates a home that just feels good. Good design helps a home live well. Things are located where they make sense, such as light switches and doors, the layout of the kitchen, and so on. Living areas are the right size and in the right place. A good designer selects materials, systems and products that perform well in terms of operation, maintenance, and durability ,and pays attention to the economics of construction and operation. A good design takes into consideration the orientation and placement of the home on the lot. A well-designed home has the quality, performance and amenities that fit the needs and budget of the home owner. The architect/designer and the owner have the most control here.
Construction – How a home is constructed (or assembled) can impact quality in a number of ways. Assembly can affect how a home looks. If there are crooked walls and unlevel floors, they will affect the look of the home. If the home wasn’t assembled carefully there can be leaks, poor thermal protection, structural problems, moisture issues and other issues that affect its performance and cost to maintain. A good builder can assemble a home efficiently with less waste, making it more cost-effective. Much of construction quality is hard to see, as many key elements are covered by the finish. If a builder and his contractors don’t effectively communicate and coordinate, or if they don’t understand the details behind the building science being used, you will likely have quality problems. The builder has the principal control of quality here.
Materials – Selection of materials and products used in a home can have an important impact on a home’s quality. Finished materials can affect the look, and certain systems can affect the performance of a home in terms of maintenance and operations. The architect/designer and the builder may have an impact on these decisions, as well as the homeowner.
Craftsmanship – The craftsmanship used in applying the home’s finishes can have a significant affect on the quality of the look of the home, and to a certain extent, the durability and performance of these finishes. The painter, finish carpenter, cabinet-maker, tile-layer, and so on, should be quality craftsmen, and watched carefully by the builder.
You will find that a sustainable, high-performance home is also defined as a high-quality home, with the added dimensions of being a healthy home, and an environmentally-sensitive home. Many aspects of sustainable building are really aspects of quality building. Designing effectively, designing to minimize operating costs, designing for durability, using good building practices to ensure an energy-efficient and leak-proof building envelope, etc., all are key elements of quality too. Plus, many advanced features of a high-performance home make it easier to maintain and more livable.
You should remember that passing the local building code does not ensure that you are getting a quality home. SO you need to look to more than that to assure yourself that you have a high quality home. There are a number of third party certifications that may help to validate that you have a quality home including LEED and NAHB Green Building Program. Our High Performance Homes can easily meet these program requirements.