Seriously, architects don’t copy each others work – our egos are too big for that.  But why does the new construction downtown look so much alike?  It is the convergence of what the market likes, what we can afford to build, Planning code and Building/Energy code restrictions.

  • We can Sell it – The vaguely Mid Century Modern look is popular right now, and buyers/renters seem to like it and most importantly will pay for it.  Even the high end production builders like Toll Brothers, Ryder, Bates and even Homecrafters are sticking strange angled roofs into their McMansion offerings.
  • We can “Sell” it – Once their is an accepted model, we can usually get Planning to approved it again.  And again. Sure beats the bloody foreheads from banging our heads on our desks on our clients’ dime on EVERY project. And yes, we will still always have to respond to their standard comment to “add horizontal and vertical articulation”.
  • It’s a cheap truss design – We can all share our nightmares with the performance (and major ‘tude) of the truss companies in this hot market.  The now adopted 2012 International Energy Conservation Code requires R-49 roof insulation, which takes 16-18″, creating “raised heels” for all the trusses and adding to the cost – we aren’t allowed to “crush” the insulation any more.
  • No Property Line Eaves – This is generally true in infill development when we are fighting for maximum density.  Eaves less that 5′ from a property line have to be fire rated construction on the underside, which is just an added cost.  No eaves on the down-slope side is also cheaper for gutters and rain water leaders.
  • 2:12 Roofs – Contractors hate them, but a 2:12 slope is the minimum required to allow for standard asphalt shingle roofs.  Lower slopes require a TPO roofing system at double the cost, and generally require parapets to hide them – they ain’t pretty.  More complicate roofing schemes, which Planning has a knee-jerk affection for, just adds more cost and detailing.
  • Barn Wood – OK, this one triggers all my gag reflexes, but the market seems to love it and the clients demand it.  I’m from the rural Midwest where barn wood was generally on barns.  What you see being used today is faux barn wood – cedar that has been slapped with some acid dye and left outside to cure to look bad – great  environmental story.  You can now buy ceramic tile for exterior use designed to mimic barn wood, and the fake stone people also have their competing products.  At least Montana Ghost Wood has and environmental backstory to tell about their fake product – it is created (usually) from lodge pole pine trees that have been burned in forest fires or killed by beetles.

I’m looking forward to the market turning to a Richardsonian Romanesque Revival style, but until then, look for a lot more of the look alikes.

Okay, 2 real estate listing hit the market that I really like this week.

  • 2885 Plumb Lane.  Mid Century Modern with some real cred and integrity.
  • 540 Gavica Lane.  You get used to the trains, and the original 1902 homestead house is intriguing.
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