Builder's Corner

New Technologies Light the Way

Remember the old center-of-the-ceiling light fixture? You entered a room, hit the wall switch, and a couple of light bulbs behind a semi-transparent plate shed general, flat light over the whole room. All features of the room, good and bad, got the same emphasis. There was enough light to avoid tripping over the dog, but not enough light to read by.

Things have changed. Lighting is now a sophisticated design element of the modern home, whether that home is traditional or contemporary in style. Every aspect of lighting — placement, function, control, style, energy-efficiency — has evolved to offer exactly what is needed in each room.

The thoughtful placement of lighting fixtures with specific function can make a dramatic change in a room. For example, instead of a big overhead fluorescent panel, new kitchens now feature task-specific fixtures such as recessed spot lights over the sink and other work stations, strip lights under wall cabinets, or dropped fixtures over work islands or eating areas. Other examples of task lighting include automatic bulbs in cabinets and pantries, up- and down-lights that showcase landscaping or artwork, and fixtures positioned to throw light on stair treads.

Lighting controls have also come a long way from the simple wall-mounted switch. Homeowners can program or manipulate lighting schemes to create custom ambiance for a casual dinner party or an intimate evening at home. Timers, remote controls, dimmer switches, and motion sensors enhance the flexibility, beauty and convenience of a lighting design using both wired and wireless technologies.

Besides increasing the technical sophistication of their products, lighting manufacturers have had to keep up with current styles and fashions. Pendants, wall sconces, chandeliers, and domed fixtures are available in an almost endless array of styles and finishes. In addition, lighting suppliers have developed a greater range of compatible fixtures to achieve a coordinated look for all lighting products in the house.

Security lighting has also grown in popularity in recent years. Inside the home, high tech wired and wireless timers can be programmed to create the illusion of activity while the owners are away. Outside, motion-activated lighting is a basic feature, especially at entries. Outdoor fixtures can highlight house numbers to assist emergency services. Lights in the garage and house can flash on and off as part of a security system that alerts neighbors or police of an unauthorized intrusion.

Outdoor light fixtures are increasingly powered by solar energy and light sensors to save even more electricity. Small photovoltaic cells are built right into path and landscape products to power them only at night. These systems require no wiring or current from another source, making them safe and easy to replace as needed. Homeowners enjoy the added convenience and beauty of outdoor lighting, whether or not they remember to turn them on or off.

Professional builders incorporate modern lighting design and products in their new homes, adding long-lasting value while enhancing style, convenience, comfort, security, and efficiency.

What is “zoned” heating and cooling?

 Q: What is “zoned” heating and cooling?

 A: As a way to lower energy costs and enable a more comfortable and healthier indoor living spaces, builders separate areas of a home into smaller zones rather than one big space to heat and cool. In this scheme, smaller, more efficient heating and cooling equipment (furnaces, air conditioners, etc.) are responsible for smaller zones within the house; the warm or cool air generated by the equipment is distributed through metal ducts (or chases) only to its designated zone, thus reducing energy use and enabling more control over temperature and comfort in different areas of the house.

Treating Guests Like Royalty

 We see it every day…

No sooner does a client take ownership of their new home, their out-of-town friends and relatives are anxious to visit and share in their excitement and pride. In today’s higher-end homes, these guests may also be pleasantly surprised by their accommodations. Guest rooms are no longer limited to a den with a sleeper-sofa, a spare kids room upstairs, or a nearly finished attic or basement.

The boom of bounce-back children, in-laws, and out-of-town guests has created a generation of visitors who are more likely to stay longer and require ample space in the home for a comfortable visit. As a result, guest suites – complete with a full bath and other amenities – are moving into the mainstream of new-home design. In these homes, guests receive the royal treatment.

The latest (and greatest) version of the guest bedroom is a private suite. Luxury suites can come complete with a separate bathroom, away from the family’s bedrooms and in close proximity to public spaces, such as the kitchen. Many are accessed by a vestibule or short hallway to create privacy. Private courtyards or balconies, or at least exclusive access to a pool or outdoor eating area, are fast becoming expected (and appreciated) features, as well.

In addition, the guest suite may also have its own heating and cooling system, or at least a branch of the home’s main system controlled by guests on a separate thermostat. This provides maximum personal comfort without affecting the rest of the house.

In some cases, guest suites offer separate, private entrances. For guests or an adult-child living at home, a separate entry allows them to come and go without disturbing the rest of the family in the main living areas. Concealed from view and located on a side or rear elevation to maintain security, private entrances are a convenient perk for guests, live-in caretakers, or family members occupying the suite.

Today’s guest suites can be designed to rival the master suite in luxurious finishes, if not in square footage. For many of our clients, a regular, year-round flow of short-term guests is commonplace. Homebuyers in need of dedicated guest quarters appreciate the accommodation of space, comfort, and privacy afforded by guest suites in today’s upscale new homes.