For a Better Tomorrow

Why we don’t use the word ‘GREEN’:

As you may have noticed the terms “Green Design”
and “Green Building” aren’t been used on our web
site. We are aware of and concerned by the potential pitfalls of over using these terms in the context of
popular culture and marketing as well as “Green Washing” which unfortunately is becoming more prevalent (a personally witnessed example of this in
the local building business happened at a meeting
of a local chapter of a national trade organization.
The topic of the meeting was how to use the Green
label to market construction companies. One of the presenters was a modular prefabrication builder who bragged that his first “Green” home had green vinyl
siding on it!)

Sensible: adj.
1. wise and prudent; having or showing common sense.
2. practical and functional rather then decorative.
3. able to notice and appreciate

In today’s world Sensible Home Design is not optional. The human family is confronted with many challenges, the biggest of which are
of our own making. The most basic of these challenges is how we
have chosen to use and abuse the energy resources available to us
for the previous 350 years. This is a fundamental issue in home
design (all design) that has profound consequences for us as
individuals and as a whole species inhabiting planet earth.

Sensible Home Design (and Building) requires we think in terms of two homes, Our Natural Home & Sanctuary-The Biosphere, the life support systems that provide a healthy refuge and safety from the void of space making all life possible on Earth and Your Natural Home & Sanctuary the building system that is your personal life support system providing you Sanctuary, a healthy refuge of safety, balance, harmony and comfort.

We must be wise and prudent and show great amounts of common sense (which unfortunately is not so common)
by designing homes to be as energy efficient as possible. In doing so we are ever mindful of how all of the systems
work together to make your home healthy and durable. And the true test of the success of our designs is how practical
and functional your home is to live in.

Together with superb attention to creative detail all of these efforts create a beautiful home that others will notice and

With Sensible Home Design BFB Homes strives to bring Your Natural Home & Sanctuary into harmony and balance
with Our Natural Home-The Biosphere.

To achieve Sensible Home Design we integrate many approaches in our design work (For more information on
selected topics click on the green links throughout the website).

Systems Theory

Pattern Language


Feng Shui


Sacred Geometry

Universal Design

Building Science

Optimum Value Engineering/Advanced Framing



Or “What use is a fine house [home] if you haven’t got a tolerable [habitable] planet to put it on”

~Henry David Thoreau

Today we are confronted with numerous threats to the health of
Our Common Natural Home, which have profound consequences for our personal lives and homes. First and foremost our
addiction to burning vast amounts of fossil fuels (a great deal of which is unfortunately wasted) with the resulting release of unprecedented amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other Green House Gases (GHG) is resulting in rapid unbalancing of our planetary climate resulting in global warming and climate change. Climate Change is presenting us and our children with unparalleled challenges now and into the future to bring balance back to planetary life support systems.

Consequently, we at BFB Homes focus strongly on reducing ours and your “carbon footprint”. Since the
dawn of the industrial age, about 350 years ago, the human species has been directly responsible for creating in
our biosphere system a staggering imbalance in the carbon cycle. Click on this carbon cycle link for a quick explanation of the carbon cycle and click and on this Architecture 2030 link for more on why understanding the carbon cycle is so important to home design and building.

In conjunction with Climate Change is the reality of Peak Energy/Oil. Peak Energy/Oil simply stated is the recognition
that there is a finite amount of stored ancient sun light (so called fossil fuels) in the form of carbon deposits such as
liquid petroleum, natural gas and coal that can be extracted from the earths crust. The peak of extraction marks more
or less the point where the relative ease and expense to pump and mine begins to increase and the amount of energy
to extract the fuels begins to increase. In essence Peak Energy/Oil marks the end of “cheap” fossil fuels.

The implication of Peak Energy/Oil on Home Design and Building is staggering. As the cost of fossil fuels increases
the importance of reducing energy use to build our homes and in our homes becomes a very real budgetary concern.

There has been much work throughout the world that informs our energy efficient design strategies. In particular we
incorporate energy efficient design researched by Building Science Corporation in conjunction with the U.S. Department
of Energy “Building America” program as well as other design systems such as the Passive House design program first
developed in Germany (Passiv Huas in German).

In addition to our major focus reducing operating energy use we focus heavily on reducing energy/material consumption
and construction waste during construction and increasing the buildings Durability to extend the savings through the
entire lifecycle of the home.

One potent way to reduce resource use during construction of wood frame structures is designing and building the
structure using techniques developed by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) under contract with the
U.S Department of Housing and Urban Renewal way back in the 1970’s called Optimum Value Engineering (OVE)
commonly known now as Advanced Framing.

OVE/Advanced Framing significantly reduces wood use many ways beginning with sizing structures in 2 foot modules,
spacing structural elements (studs, joists and rafters) 24” on center, stacking structural loads to eliminate double plates
on top of walls and eliminating structural headers on non load bearing walls. This reduction in material use does not
comprise the structural integrity of the home because the research shows that typical residential construction seriously
structurally over builds. A big added benefit of OVE/Advanced Framing is increasing the space for insulation by up to as
much as 60%!

Designing for Durability using materials and techniques to reduce maintenance and repair helps significantly to reduce
your home’s lifecycle carbon footprint. One example of this is having adequately sized and located roof overhangs to keep
rain and snow off the siding, doors and windows.

All home design (all design) today needs to focus on working back to harmony and balance with the living systems of the
biosphere. It’s a tall order and unfortunately humans are really in the early stages of beginning to understand (remember)
how to do it.

Every day we keep these thoughts in mind and it informs all of our design decisions as well as the nuts and bolts of
construction. All the care and attention while working on your home ultimately won’t matter if we don’t have a healthy
biosphere to live in.


We are consistently looking for better ways of designing and building to move beyond our current “Green” paradigm to
what Gunter Pauli, founder of the Ecover Company calls the “Blue Economy”.

In any design we look to nature and natural systems to inspire and guide our thinking and vision. Mother Nature, The
Biosphere, is our teacher of how complex biological systems can be incredibly functional while being incredibly
beautiful. We humans are also complex, functional and beautiful biological systems living within the web of the greater
natural system. We work to design and build your home to be a reflection of that function and beauty.
We work to design and build your home to be a reflection of that function and beauty.

When designing for your new home the process starts with listening closely to you the future resident and then
communicating back to you, verbally, graphically, visually how to achieve your desired intent. Listening to you and
developing a shared vision is THE most important part of our work. Designing your home is fundamentally the process
of translating your ideas and concepts into 3 dimensional reality. Using computer generated conceptual plans all the
way to fully developed construction prints we bring intangible information to tangible results; results that meet your
expectations and vision.

Design happens from start to finish in residential construction, no matter the size of the project or the scope of the
work. Every day on a home construction project design decisions are made. This is why it is so important from the
of the project to have a clear shared vision of the desired end result and how all the details will work
together to manifest your dreams and desires making your house your home.

Another part of the communication process is a thorough site evaluation observing and evaluating the more obvious
typical variables such as, solar exposure, topography, water features including potential ground water issues,
existing vegetation, access to/from site, soil and ledge conditions, utilities access, etc to somewhat more esoteric
though no less important issues such as earth energies and potential geopathic stresses.

Many of these considerations also apply to additions, remodeling, restorations and renovations and even to kitchen
and bath design. With these projects there are more constraints because of existing conditions that sometimes
require even more creative thinking and vision to achieve the design objectives.

This then is where Sacred Geometry, The Pattern Language, Permaculture, Feng Shui, Dowsing and Universal Design
come into play to manifest the shared vision of your home. Using these resources (and more) we look at both the
exterior and interior design considerations.

Observing the exterior space around the site we ask many questions and listen for suggestions and direction; what
is the best place to site the structure; how can the home interact with the natural habitat to compliment the natural
strengths of the site while enhancing the weaknesses or difficult aspects; what are there opportunities for outdoor
rooms, garden spaces, functional areas, such as places to line dry clothes to reduce dependence on fossil fuel
powered appliances, cooking spaces, play spaces for both kids and adults, places to observe and interact with wildlife
(bird feeding); how can the interior room arrangement work with outdoor views and spaces; where are the locations for
the best entrances; how do cars and garages work with the over all feel of the house; are the proportion and shape of
the vertical and horizontal elements of the structure as well as the pitch and shape of the roof(s) in balance and harmony
with the site.

Moving indoors we focus on the edge that defines the boundary between outdoors and indoors. How can roof overhangs
protect entrances and people moving in and out of the home, how does window placement enhances and encourage a
warm welcome to guests while maintaining privacy of the residents; do the window placements provide views to valued
exterior spaces; is there easy access between the kitchen, the garden spaces and where the car parks bringing groceries
from the farmers market, CSA or store.

Once inside we scrutinize both function and aesthetic. In nature and in great architecture form follows function. What
are the space proportions, traffic flows, proximity of task areas such as kitchens and baths to each other and other
spaces; such as living and dining rooms; what are the structural considerations, plumbing and electrical and ventilation
systems, placement and size of windows and doors and locations and sizing of stairways and how do they all interact
with the feel of the interior space; is there adequate buffers or gradients between the more public (kitchen, living and
dining rooms) private (bedrooms and resident bath) spaces how do ceiling heights contribute to the feel of public and
private spaces; is there allowance or need for single story living; is there flexibility in the structure to allow relatively
easy and inexpensive changes to the interior partitions in the future.

With all this in mind we add one more design paradigm, the Shaker philosophy of simplicity and straightforwardness.

In our efforts to evolve our design sense we are now looking for new ways we can contribute to addressing the bigger
global issues we have already mentioned above (plus other related issues that are addressed in the resource pages)
in our small corner of Planet Earth. There is good reason to know that we and our children will be living in a rapidly
changing biosphere for the foreseeable future due to the accelerating changes in our climate we are already witnessing
(see Bill McKibben’s book, Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet).

Adaptability and resilience are the key concepts fundamental to keep in mind as we look into a Peak Energy/Oil,
Climate Changed future Planet Earth. Many of the resources we have listed on this web site, both books and web
page links, have much food for thought to offer on this subject. Business (and design and building) as usual that we
have known for the past numerous decades will very soon, if not already be untenable methods of “occupying” our
niche in the biosphere.

We are doing a lot of thinking and research on how we can help you and others work towards and achieve some relative
movement towards the process of developing strategies to adapt and be resilient in the context of the energy descent
that Peak Energy/Oil guarantees and “Global Hotting” that Climate Change is just a prettier name for.



Over the last almost 30 years we have seen our share of over budget, out of control projects that have required
lots of rework or the homeowner having to make due with the mistakes and shortcomings because the money has
run out.

Unfortunately, most of these distressed projects involved the homeowner being the general contractor to “save
money” or folks who have gone to homeowner building schools or are DIY “weekend warriors” and have gotten
in over their heads or homeowners hiring under qualified builders.

From our experience we see these situations resulting primarily from three basic causes. The first is that contractors
as a group are seen by many homeowners as less then trustworthy and charge an arm and a leg for their work and
fall short of expectations.

Unfortunately there is adequate evidence to support this first cause. Indeed too many times we have followed in the
wake of other less then competent builders to clean up the mess. It is heart breaking to see homeowners pay twice
or more to rework poorly executed building (as well as poorly conceived design by others who should know better)
when the job could have been done right the first time.

The second basic cause is the homeowner making the mistake of hiring a builder based solely on offering the lowest
bid or price. John Ruskin, 19th century British writer, architecture critic and philosopher had this to say about making
important purchasing decisions based solely on price:

It's unwise to pay too much, but it's worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money -
that's all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable
of doing the thing it was bought to do. The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and
getting a lot - it can't be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run,
and if you do that you will have enough to pay for something better. There is nothing in the world that some man cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and he(or she) who considers price only is that man's lawful

The third basic cause is a fundamental lack of appreciation by the homeowner, owner-builder or DIY weekend warrior for
the complexities of residential building construction, whether it be a new home, additions, remodeling or restorations.

We at BFBHomes see your home building project first and foremost as the successful coordination and transmission of accurate information from your initial vision and dream of your home building project, through the design and construction phases, to the successful completion of the last detail.

In essence your home building project is the 3 dimensional result and embodiment of information, starting with your
dream and vision.

Project management is the critical link to go from the initial vision to the successful completion of any home building
project especially yours.

Contact us by phone or email to see how BFBHomes can guide and manage your next home building project to a
successful completion.

Benjamin F. Below Professional Home Builders LLC, Harpswell, Maine 04079 . Phone: 207.833.6020 . . Fully Insured

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