I have one word. DUST. My inner neat freak (ok, maybe not so inner) has been put to the test during the renovation of our Atlanta condo. Everything involved some sort of dust. When I was constructing the barn door, which turned out beautifully, I could walk away from my Dad’s wood shop where we built it and start fresh the next morning. We don’t have that luxury here in our condo, because we decided to stay in the condo throughout the process. Did I anticipate all the dust? Yes! Would I do it again, this way? Probably.
Living in a construction zone is old hat for me, as I practically grew up in one. The house my dad built for our family to live in was always in flux. Not having a door on the bathroom when I was a kid was part of the landscape. No big deal. Now though, not having one just seems….rude.
Opportunity Knocks! It Was All About Design.
Dust and privacy issues aside, the project is coming along at a surprising pace. Here is where we are: in less than two weeks our cozy nest has been stripped to the bare bones. The first week was full of manly demolition and merry dust-making. Down came the walls and ceiling; out came the doors and the ductwork. Debris was sorted and hauled off. Metal studs, trim and door frames were neatly stacked to the side for reuse. Multiple plastic containers contain assorted hardware that will find new life in the reconstruction.
What was revealed in all of this deconstruction? Quite an array of opportunities, some challenges and even some answers. Opportunities in design, challenges in design and answers…..in design. To me, this project perfectly illustrates the process, in all of its facets, of design. In particular, it is the embodiment of how our approach to design has a certain amount of open-endedness that I alluded to in my first installment. There are choices, “opportunities”, and decisions that have to be made on the fly. As designers (of buildings and of systems) there is only so much we can predict. Our experience and practice obviously makes us better at predicting the process. But there are always questions that arise during deconstruction, construction, and reconstruction that can’t be addressed at the outset of a project.
This may make some homeowners or professionals uncomfortable. I believe our approach takes the discomfort out of the unknown. Chris and I know there will be questions revealed along the way. As long as you know that will happen and are creative enough to address those questions, there isn't much that can’t be resolved. Our renovation is a perfect example of that.
Designing On the Fly, and A Revelation.
We knew when the walls came out there would be areas of the stained concrete floors that wouldn't have a finish on them. We knew there would be a certain amount of wiring and pipes that would not be rerouted. We knew the air handler closet could be re-purposed Did we know exactly how we were going to deal with those realities? No. Could it have been planned out before the fact? Not really. Is it a problem? Absolutely not. For me, that is what true design is about. Problem solving through creativity and that’s why we love what we do.
Example: I’m pretty sure the day the ductwork was revealed was the day Chris had been waiting for since the day we moved in. Chris pointed out the area above what was a ceiling and said, “This is why our airflow was restricted.” One look at the five runs of duct that were stuffed into an opening that was 18” wide by 12” high, his point was illustrated. There was a certain amount of glee when he pulled and yanked and out came the array of ductwork snaking in and among the other pipes and conduit across the bottom of the slab above.
Once all the unwanted walls and ductwork was out, there was a small amount of framing that needed to go back in to reshape the space. The door to the air handler closet was framed in and the hole was cut on the opposite side of that closet for a kitchen pantry. The bathroom got a wall with a door framed out, the master closet grew a bit, and we framed an opening for our bedroom where our new barn door will separate spaces while being a focal piece for the main living areas.
Then came our good friends at On Call Electric for all the electrical work. They moved the electrical panel, and the dizzying “network” of wiring that accompanied it. It is now all neatly tucked into the new bathroom wall. After a brief discussion, the switching and lighting questions were sorted out and they were left to do what they do.
At this point, it was time to put up drywall and start to see the new spaces defined. I handled that while Chris and one of our good friends, Paul from VIS VIVA Energy and Services, installed the new HVAC system. You would have thought it was Christmas when Chris cut open the boxes with the shiny new mini-splits in them. I’m secretly hoping those will double as his birthday present, but I digress. After five days without conditioned air it was pure triumph when Chris handed me the remote for our new wall mounted ductless mini-split unit.
For my part, I was pretty pleased with my drywall efforts. The bathroom door is on order so privacy is still a goal to be obtained, but…
We Can’t Wait!
As we head into the final stages I am proud to say we are ahead of schedule, approximately within budget and our marriage is still intact. No issue or question has been unsolvable or unanswerable. Anticipation is mounting for the finished product. I feel like (I imagine) an expectant mother feels, waiting anxiously to find out what this amazing creation is going to look like. I have visions of unveiling parties and surveying our new kingdom with satisfaction.
This project is a design-build collaboration with Jones Pierce Structures. LG Squared, Inc. is the architect of record and the construction project manager for this, and many exciting high performance projects in the future. For more info on this project and other good practices of architecture, building science and high performance homes, check out our Instagram, Facebook and YouTube Channel