Natural Home Show House 2009 | Natural Home Show House Team Conducts A Charrette

By Karen Adams 

Team members of the Natural Home Show House conduct a charrette in August 2008 as part of the LEED for Residential planning and certification process. Photo Courtesy Karen Adams. 

What’s in a name?  Apparently a lot when you work on a LEED home project. We had a charrette in later summer, which is a big word for a pre-construction meeting with the different disciplines involved in the project. Everyone discusses and outlines a game plan before building the house ever begins. A novel idea, huh?

It is a requirement if you are trying for LEED certification. The premise of the charrette is to go through the LEED worksheet with a facilitator, section by section, to assess the different components of your home and where it ranks in terms of efficiency. The result is better planning and execution before you start building—on top of that, it is great fun to participate!

We met at Cibolo Nature Center in Boerne, Texas, with our core team, which included our architect, builder, our graywater reuse specialist, our geothermal expert, our landscape designer, and the two LEED APs (Accredited Professionals), Chip Henderson and Elton Chessman from Contects, a San Antonio-based consulting firm that specializes in green building.

It is amazing what synergies develop when folks talk!  As each partner talked about his or her particular area, we determined quickly how much time, money and resources we can save when we work together as a team.

Unlike traditional building where the builder may be the sole decision maker, this process allows everyone to provide guidance in their particular area of expertise to orchestrate the logistics to build houses better and smarter. Since the folks at our charrette had been involved in so many past projects, they even shared experiences from outside their disciplines that contributed greatly towards the decisions that we made.

For example, many folks do not bring in their landscape designer until the project is well on its way to completion, but for us, it was necessary to bring ours in early because of the water reuse and excavation considerations. Cat Crawford of Good Earth Designs came, and we are glad she did. She and the graywater reuse specialist Ron Graham from South Texas Wastewater needed to discuss important information related to the irrigation system and the myriad of considerations involved. Then she and our builder, Bob Mial, huddled up on-site and marked together where the site would need to be sculpted and dug and to what degree. As they discussed and mapped out the site work, it was apparent that the synergies were already happening. “When the foundation crew is pouring the slab for the house, let’s also have them over here to pour the footings for the retaining walls and fences. And when the excavation guy is there, let’s have him dig the hole for the water feature’s storm water reservoir and re-use tank.”  You get the idea.

Nailing down your landscape plan before you begin is the best approach, unless you want years to click by before it is installed. Many folks put it off, only filled with good intentions to do it after they finish the house. But guess what, you are usually tapped out in terms of energy and money. Then the landscaping after the house is built often goes undone, sometimes for a long while. Or like my friend in Boerne said, “twenty years ago I was going to do a landscape plan when my house was built, and I’m just now getting it done.” Imagine what it would look like now if she had done it 20 years ago? She would be enjoying mature plants and trees and a small vegetable and herb garden that would have been feeding her and the family for years. Landscape is such an important component to the overall design and feel of your house—it really needs to be budgeted for and incorporated before you dig your first shovel of dirt.

Read more about the Natural Home Show House in Karen Adams' blog archive.

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