From Homesteads to Total Home Control: an intro to building science

The Blog

Intro to building scienceArticle originally published at: Pine Path Funding


It’s so darn complicated to build a house today. We all just want a place to live that is comfortable, healthy, and durable. But something has become really hard about this.

In our view, it’s all about expectations.

Behind the simple words, “comfortable”, “healthy”, and “durable” can be very high homeowner expectations and meeting these expectations usually means integrating the cutting edge science, design, products, and materials. The best homebuilders don’t just pound nails anymore, they have become students of Building Science.

Think about shelter, the basic need a home meets. People have needed shelter forever. Literally since cavemen moved out of caves we humans have needed to control our indoor environment to protect us from ‘the outside’. Why is there still so much discussion over how to build a comfortable, durable home? Why is there so much discussion and debate around building science and revisiting best building practices? The answer is: because of homeowner expectations.

Homeowner expectations have evolved tremendously over time and these increased expectations drive the necessity for better building science and better building practices. Consider this, settler’s cabins worked just fine for families in their days. Expectations were pretty low. The homeowners were happy if the cabin kept out wild animals, provided basic warmth with a wood stove in the winter, shade from the sun in the summer and protection from the occasional storms. If you got cold it was acceptable to bundle up in sweaters and hats, if you got hot it was acceptable to open all the windows and doors and when it got dark it was acceptable to light the oil burning lamps. Indoor air quality from the fireplace and oil lamp smoke wasn’t an issue because the cabin was so drafty it aired right out. Similarly, mold and mildew in the walls wasn’t an issue because of the draftiness of the homes. Expectations were low because the homeowner was comparing it to the next best option – maybe a tent or temporary shelter. The systems were simple, and not everyone was aware of the cutting edge technology being used in a big city back east, people were thankful for the shelter they had. People just did what worked and that’s how it went – for a long time.

But slowly over time homeowner expectations increased. Jump to today’s homeowners. People expect total control of our indoor environment. People expect their homes to seamlessly maintain 72 degrees year around, provide fresh, healthy air to breath that’s not too dry, too humid and doesn’t expose them to pollutants, allergens or forest fire smoke. And while delivering these high levels of expectations, they don’t want the cost of the home or the cost of operating it to break the bank or wreck the environment by wasting resources or producing a huge carbon footprint.

Turns out, this is a big ask and there’s no ‘one size fits all’ solution. It requires on-going building science research and application of better building practices. Meeting these high expectations also involves the education and commitment of the entire real estate industry from builders and homeowners to realtors and financial institutions. Those committed to meeting today’s homeowners’ expectations, the designers, architects, builders and suppliers driven by building science and best practices, have a solid understanding of the physics at work in today’s advanced homes and the principles required to effectively create comfortable, healthy, durable and efficient homes.

The real-world details required to implement the principles and the application of those details are still evolving, however, we do know that we need to start by controlling the indoor environment the very best we can.  This is achieved with durable, insulated, air sealed walls that effectively manage moisture relative to the local climate. Then it’s critical to right-sizing efficient heating, cooling and ventilation systems. By applying these principles, today’s homeowners can realistically shelter in a comfortable, healthy, long-lasting home that is affordable to purchase and affordable to operate. It will also use resources wisely and minimize their environmental impact now and for generations to come.

To be competitive in construction and homebuilding in today’s hyper-competitive environment where customer expectations are extremely high and customer tastes are well educated (be it through Pinterest, instagram, or Chip and Johanna Gaines) builders need to stay up to speed on the cutting edge of building science. There’s no silver bullet, but for me it is a mindset of staying inquisitive, idealistic, and pragmatic. Staying inquisitive means reading articles, watching webinars, reading lots of articles, listening to lots of podcasts, and attending conferences with industry experts and thought leaders – essentially doing things not every homebuilder does. Being idealistic and being pragmatic are sometimes on opposite sides of the spectrum, for me I try to think idealistically and refuse to settle for ‘the way it is’ while at the end of the day acting pragmatically on what makes sense given the resources, technology, and budget available.

As a general contractor, our company works hard to bridge the gap between today’s homeowner’s expectations, the best building theories, and the daily realities in the field. It’s not always the quickest and easiest way to build but in the long run it delivers the best product to our clients. A simple rule we follow is to always deliver work we are proud of – in the end this creates the ultimate competitive advantage.


There are times in our lives we face the form vs. function dilemma – do you go with the beautiful piece that speaks to you but doesn’t quite get the job done, or do you choose the utilitarian option that leaves something to be desired aesthetically?  Isn’t it ideal when we can have both stunning form and perfect function?

In a continual effort to push boundaries and explore new avenues of design, the Dream Home Building and Design Team was delighted to take a “field trip” to Terasteel Furniture Design of Bend.  Here we got a first hand look at the realized inspiration behind owner and award winning designer Kirk Casey’s creations.

Like kids in a candy store we oohed and aahed over Kirk’s amazing selection of exotic and sustainable woods- the gorgeously red and aptly named Bloodwood, the intricate patterned grain of Lacewood, the beautiful and whimsical Bubinga with its warm tones complimented by purple and black grain.  Add in Terrasteel’s extensive offering of metals, tempered and fused glass, rice paper, stone, and of course steel (which I might add can be powder-coated with over 2000 color options) and you are left with a truly overwhelming and exciting array of choices.  These options, ranging in look from traditional to contemporary, inspired our creativity as we pictured how to incorporate Kirk’s custom designs into our upcoming homes.

Perhaps the most fun of the visit was finding a kindred spirit in the work of creating the perfect union of design and performance.  Kirk’s pieces are truly art – art with a job – art that functions perfectly.  We at Dream Home see our homes and our collaborations with clients as art – art that functions perfectly.  This is a place where passion for design pairs perfectly with sustainable and environmentally responsible materials – a place where form, design, and execution are integrated seamlessly – sacrificing nothing in the union.

In Kirk’s words:

“We love the energy and excitement through the entire design and build process which is only surpassed by the awe in our clients’ faces when they realize that they were the spark behind their own creation”.

We couldn’t have said it better.  The thrill of seeing a client’s vision come to life before their eyes – the immense satisfaction of hearing how a piece, or home, has met and exceeded client expectations – this is the stuff we live for.





The team at Dream Home is excited to share the fun of our latest project breaking ground. It was a sunny afternoon as we ceremoniously kicked off the construction of a new dream home for our clients Mike and Lyn. Their new home was designed in-house based on their vision of a modern new home capturing the stunning views from their lot on the southern flanks of Awbrey Butte.

Ground breaking!

Ground breaking!

We are honored to be their chosen team to make this ultra modern, elegant, efficient, high-performance home a reality. We have combined an outstanding energy performance package with an intentionally designed roofline to capture the abundant natural sun on their site and turned it into clean, renewable power. All the pieces are in place for them to be living utility bill free in their Net Zero Energy home!

Let the collaboration begin.

Ready to get to work.


Wondering about a fun and creative way to start building your custom home? Begin with the floors! There’s numerous flooring options to consider when designing a home, each with their own pros and cons. Rather than feeling overwhelmed by choices, check out a few tips regarding the best flooring option for each room of your house:


Living Room, Dining Room, Den


The dining room may not be used as much as the living room and den if you have an eat-in kitchen, however it’s still a formal space. It subsequently benefits from attractive, classic flooring, such as hardwood floors. The living room is a formal space as well, and while the den may be a bit more casual, both look fabulous with hardwood flooring. Easy to maintain, hypoallergenic, and highly durable, wood floors combined with gorgeous rugs look wonderful. And since these three rooms take up a significant portion of the home, it makes sense to utilize long-lasting flooring where upkeep is minimal.



Considered the hub of the home, most kitchens are high-traffic areas requiring stain-resistant, durable, easy-to-maintain floors. Vinyl flooring is a simplistic option that’s painless to install and manage, while tile offers a sophisticated look that won’t suffer serious damage following a sauce spill. And while both vinyl and tile are long-lasting, easily-maintained choices, the decision often comes down to budget…and kitchen size.



Plush carpeting is frequently used in bedrooms, particularly children’s rooms. Hardwood flooring is arguably the better option, as it looks nicer and doesn’t collect dust, pollen, and pet dander the way carpets do. Carpeting is also highly subject to staining, and takes much longer to clean than hardwood. If carpeting gets wet and the water soaks through, mold formation may result. The hardwood/rug combination is therefore an ideal bedroom flooring option. Hardwood also increases home value the way few other flooring choices do.

Find floors for less by visiting GoHaus today.

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) stands for green building leadership. LEED is transforming the way we think about how buildings and communities are designed, constructed, maintained and operated across the globe.

Dream Home Building and Design project is LEED-H certified.

Dream Home Building and Design project is LEED-H certified.

For the team here at Dream Home Building and Design attaining this gold standard in high-performance design and construction is really meaningful, representing our commitment that our homes will save money and resources and have a positive impact on the health of occupants, while promoting renewable, clean energy.

Now we are having fun! Dream Home’s project on NW 5th St. starts to get it’s skin on the outside while the drywall goes up on the inside. The modern style of the home becomes more evident as do the fun, custom interior details!

Looking good as siding goes on.

Looking good as siding goes on.



Love this touch the home owners came up with. Currently in drywall, this opening will access a kid's play area under the stairs and mirrors the line of the stairwell.

Love this touch the home owners came up with. Currently in drywall, this opening will access a kid’s play area under the stairs and mirrors the line of the stairwell.

Building geek time!

View of exterior wall system before siding starts going on.

View of exterior wall system before siding starts going on.

Dream Home Building and Design highlights an exterior wall system for exceptional performance, comfort, indoor air quality, durability and value. An insulating thermal break on the exterior of the wall also greatly reduces potential moisture issues caused by condensation within walls. But wait, there’s more, the firing strips create a valuable rain screen behind the siding, a building science best practice.

Amazing! Thank you for all the wonderful messages on my one year anniversary with Dream Home Building & Design. The year has flown by and while I’m still on a steep learning curve, I’m thrilled to be on board with my talented partner, Mike, and honored by the trust instilled in us by our clients. 2014 saw several outstanding projects go into the books, with more rolling as we head into 2015!

Love this picture symbolizing the collaborative effort with our creative clients.

Love this picture symbolizing the collaborative effort with our creative clients on their Awbrey Butte dream home.


Dream Home Building and Design is thrilled to be starting another high-performance home.This custom home is being built on an infill lot in a very walkable location near downtown Bend, Oregon. Our team is honored to be collaborating with this family to make their contemporary, sustainable, family home a reality!

Site prep equipment moved into place

Site prep equipment moved into place


Grading begins

Grading begins
















Grade established

Grade established

Answer: Granny Flats, Mother-In-Law Suites and Tiny Homes are all names for small buildings growing tremendously in popularity and are perfect for adding additional room on one’s existing property, cash flow to a family budget, or higher density housing within a community.

ADU modern

In our last blog installment the team at Dream Home Building and Design shared some highlights from a great day at Value It Green put on by Earth Advantage in Portland. In this blog we wanted to focus on one of the hot topics from the session- Auxiliary Dwelling Units, or ADU’s.

We have heard a lot of great names for these types of structures; “Granny Flats”, “Garage Apartments”, “Mother-in-Law Suites”, “Tiny Homes” and from Canada “Mortgage Supports”. Basically these terms all refer to apartments smaller than the main dwelling on one lot or parcel of land. They can be used for aging relatives, rental income, home offices, additional guest suites, yoga and exercise rooms and many other creative uses.

Traditionally they were built over garages, but more and more we see them being added as free-standing structures on existing home sites. Where we live, in Bend, Oregon an ADU is limited to a maximum of just 600 square feet! Such a small footprint requires thoughtful, intentional design and efficient use of space. And in our older neighborhoods new ADUs are subject to a rather arduous and expensive Conditional Use Permit process. In cities like Portland, Oregon where they are looking to increase density and promote infill, they allow a larger size maximum of 800 square feet and zoning hurdles and development fees have been removed. Given what’s happening currently with the Urban Growth Boundary situation in Bend, we wouldn’t be surprised to see similar measures adopted here.

So if you’ve been thinking of an ADU, Granny, Mother-In-Law or Tiny Home, whether it be attached or free-standing, a cozy cottage or an urban modern design, Dream Home Building and Design is on the leading edge of this movement.

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