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New Year's Resolutions

The days after Christmas and before New Year’s Day frequently find us all making resolutions regarding the year ahead.  Two years ago Janice and I resolved that we would get ready for our senior years by selling all of our real estate, finding a vacant lot in the vicinity of Starland Dairy in Savannah’s Victorian Historic District, and building a new home that was super efficient.  The concept was simple enough.  We had our first grandchild, Wren Olivia, and we wanted an enclosed yard for her and a puppy to grow up enjoying.

It took almost a year to find a lot, and it required us to buy a 60’s ranch style office building from a retiring physician.  Janice was relentless in pursuit. So we actually increased our real estate holdings in the process of divesting!  Eventually we sold our apartment and rented it back for 2016 to live while we built, rented our old office then sold it, and sold off the newly acquired office building while retaining enough vacant land for two lots.  Five closings later we had achieved our first objective.

Next we needed a set of drawings to start building.  The problem was that everyone in my design firm was too busy working for our clients, and I do not know how to draft in CAD.  Solution: between Christmas and New Year’s Day last year I hand drafted a set of house plans on vellum graph paper.  This house may be the last one ever permitted with freehand drawings!

By March we had permits in hand, and had enlisted son David to be our construction manager (his first project.)  Working for parents is always difficult but David managed beautifully.  Thanks to him, I was able to keep focused on my architectural clients, and look at the house at night and on weekends.  Janice kept ahead of the thousands of decisions on all the details that make a house a home.

The design and construction embodies the best in regards to energy efficiency and environmental quality.  The exterior envelope has “rain screen” technology and spray foam insulation, surviving Hurricane Matthew without a leak.  We saved all leftover materials and recycled wherever possible.  The gutters lead to rain barrels that irrigate the courtyard, and the high roof is covered with solar panels.  We used almost no plastic.  The HVAC system consists of individual room “mini-split” air handlers, eliminating ductwork and providing excellent air quality without a whisper of sound.  Our courtyard and side lot will be landscaped with edible vegetation by our oldest son Kerry’s company Victory Gardens.  Strawberry Fields forever!

We moved in last week, and celebrated by walking to Christmas Eve mass at our nearby church.

2017 New Years Resolution: live here for less than $100 per month excluding taxes.  The goal is to prove that urban living can be both sustainable and affordable—with free strawberries and vegetables too!


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