The Wait is Over

The Tall Pasture Grass before it is killed to make way for PrairieAfter nearly two years of planning, talking, meeting, e-mailing, revising, reviewing, tweaking, editing, calculating, saving, and dreaming….we have signed the contract with Crane Builders of Indianapolis to build our new home. 


The last few months have been spent defining lots of little details about the construction of the home.  Some of the details involved the design of the home, but most involved the cost allowances for specific items or procedures required by LEED for Homes to qualify for specific points.


Our team members have spent countless hours pouring over plans, spreadsheets and e-mails to nail down every pertinent detail as best we can before we break ground.  We know things will come up along the way, but at this point at least we know we are all on the same page and understand the full scope of what we are about to undertake.  As this blog progresses over the coming months we will try to detail the process and thinking that has brought us to this point.


The whole project is now in the hands of the appraisers hired by Tower Bank.  We have given them complete sets of plans, specifications, photographs and explanation of what we plan to build.  Needless to say, this project is a little “outside the box” of the typical new construction here in Fort Wayne, so we’ve included information about the goals of the LEED for Homes program and how and why this home will be special.


In the meantime, we’ve gotten permission from Tower Bank to kill the 4 acres of grass and weeds currently on the land.  We haven’t cut it since September, so it’s now a foot tall and we have a very healthy crop of dandelions.   Killing all the grass and weeds is the first step toward growing the prairie which we hope to seed this fall or next spring.


In recent weeks we have started taking daily walks with our dog, Dylan over along the walking/biking trail near the property.  It is exciting to be on the land and enjoying its peaceful beauty.  Soon it will be full of mud and construction equipment…..we can’t wait.

A Mighty Green Oak of Green Oak Farm


The Waiting Game

Since we last updated our blog we have been waiting for all the little pieces of the project to come together.  We had hoped to break ground in July after the renters moved out.  That was Plan A.   We are now on Plan C or D, hoping to deconstruct the existing house in March or April and then break ground on the new one. 


We have dealt with many different issues and delays since last we wrote:


  • Wood-burning fireplace design – tricky in a very tight house
  • Clarification of several LEED related decisions
  • And of course the overall cost of the house


Each of these issues will be the topic of upcoming blog posts.


In the next week or so, we hope to meet with our builder, Larry Crane and Craig Burgess of Crane Builders to review costs before going to the bank to finalize the construction loan.  


From this point forward, our plan is to give you regular updates on what’s going on with the project.  We hope to post at least weekly, sometimes daily as we get into the thick of things.


We are anxious to get started, but a little scared too.


Gray Architecture

Tim Gray, founder of Gray Architecture, has been the perfect partner to guide us from thoughts and ideals to designs and details.  We searched for a local architect who was very knowledgeable about sustainable design, yet very creative.  In Tim, we found both and feel very fortunate to be working with him.  Tim is a professor of Sustainable Architecture at Ball State University and has his own architectural firm in Indianapolis. Check out www.grayarchitecture.com.


We started meeting with Tim in the Summer of 2010, sharing photos & articles and hopes & dreams for our new home including:


  • Empty-nester layout….but with plenty of room for our children to come home often and to store their “stuff” for the foreseeable future.
  • Extremely energy efficient…aiming for LEED Platinum
  • Showcase interesting sustainable materials, techniques and technologies
  • Big kitchen for cooking for friends and canning from our garden
  • Plenty of room for sharing special occasions with large gatherings of friends & family
  • Accessible for older guests and for us as we grow older
  • Lots of nooks and crannies for built-in bookshelves
  • Minimal house and yard maintenance
  • Central focus on large vegetable gardens and orchards


Tim listened well and over the coming months he developed the blueprint of a “farmhouse” tailored to our particular needs and desires.  He brought innovative ideas to us like rammed earth walls, while incorporating our own ideas like a big butler’s pantry for all our occasionally used kitchen gear.   When we were struggling to get the front entry “just right”, Tim balanced all of our needs and desires for a welcoming, accessible, practical, yet cozy space and designed a front porch and entry we just love.


In recent month, we have had countless phone calls and e-mail exchanges with Tim and his associate, Parker Williams to refine all of the details for each room.  We have come to trust Tim’s eye for creative touches and gorgeous details in the spaces while keeping an eye on their practical use and on the budget. 


We can’t wait to see Tim’s creation come to life.


It takes a team.....to build a LEED home

After we bought the property and had renters settled in the existing house, we set about trying to find the right team to help us build our green home.  


We had been living “green”….recycling, composting, gardening, supporting local farmers, replacing standard light bulbs with CFL’s, driving fuel efficient cars….for many years.  We had been going to local Home Shows and watching “This Old House”….since we were married.  This background was helpful, but to build a LEED certified home we needed talented professionals on our team who had walked this road before.


We knew building a LEED home meant doing things very differently than building the typical subdivision home.   So we wanted to work with people who “got it” and wouldn’t look at us like we were crazy when we chose to spend extra money on lots of insulation or solar panels.  We wanted people on our team who were willing to push us and to be pushed by us to work outside of our respective comfort zones in designing and building a home that was as green as it was beautiful.


So we set out to find partners on this journey who not only were knowledgeable about how to build a LEED home, but also shared our passion for sustainability and our vision for designing a lovely farmhouse surrounded by gardens, orchards and prairie.


Where We Begin

About a year ago, we found five lovely acres not far from our current home. It has a perimeter of trees for privacy and good habitat for the local critters, but it’s open enough to plant the large gardens and orchards we dreamed of and get enough sun for the solar panels on the roof of the home we planned to build.


The site feels quite rural, but it is actually closer to work than our current home. So though we wanted to escape the burbs, we’ll actually still be right in the middle of them, but with a totally different feel and the independence of not living in a subdivision.   The property is right on a community trail system, which will be ideal for taking bike rides and walks with our dog.


The 1970’s ranch house in the photographs has been rented out for the last year while we designed the new house with our architect and found the right builder.  In a few weeks, we’ll be deconstructing this house and reusing some of the materials in our new home.  We are preparing for lots of mud and chaos……