Archive for vacation

Selecting the Site for Your Custom Home

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on October 4, 2012 by michaelfgallagher

While I would love to think that hiring the right architect is the key to realizing your custom dream home, I have to admit that choosing the right building site is often most important. Idealy, hire the right architect and get him or her involved in selecting the site. The site often shapes the home’s design and with an architect’s involvement, you have a better chance of choosing a lot that will accommodate your dreams.

Sometimes clients are disappointed to find that the lot they’ve purchased is not well suited for what they would really like to build. I have a reputation for working wonders with a difficult site, but I’ve found it makes life easier and the end result is often better if we choose the best lot from the beginning. Therefore I’ve been encouraging potential clients to allow me to assist them with lot selection. This has resulted in some great purchases by my clients, which has led to spectacular, award-winning homes. In some cases, clients bought lots that they would not have noticed without some guidance from their architect.

I recently assisted clients looking for lots in various parts of The Highlands at Breckenridge. I encouraged them to buy a spectacular lot on Long Ridge Drive that they had not been considering. The resulting home swept the awards at the Summit County Parade of Homes last year and the clients are proud and ecstatic to live there.

Here are some of the parameters we consider when searching for a lot:

General location and proximity to what is important to you, whether that is your place of employment, recreational amenities or shopping and nightlife. If you are considering building in Summit County, Colorado, there are many factors to be considered. Proximity to ski areas, golf, horseback riding, hiking or other recreational amenities might be a priority. Do you wish to be close to aquatic features such as lakes or rivers? Do you prefer to be located within the various towns or resorts – Breckenridge, Frisco, Copper Mountain, Dillon or Keystone? Or are you looking for something more remote – in an unincorporated portion of the county? Are you looking for ski-in/ski-out, walking distance or driving? Are there certain things you’d like to avoid – parking issues, traffic, noise – or do you prefer to be in the heart of the action?

Cost. Cost can often be the most significant factor. The neighborhood’s reputation and resale value will affect initial and long-term cost. Additionally, while a site might have a great price, there can be hidden factors associated with the lot that may drive construction costs up. Some potential issues are listed in the paragraph on topography. It’s difficult to estimate these costs without consulting with the architect and builder.

Views are extremely important, especially when selecting a site in Colorado. Isn’t that why most of us live here? Be sure to consider things that may change the view, such as future construction or the growth or death of trees.

Privacy. Be aware of the location of nearby existing homes, roads, trails, easements and the potential for future construction. You may not be as happy with your home if you find that strangers are able to peer into your living room or if you have headlights shining into your bedroom.

Topography is an important consideration and many people don’t fully understand the implications. For example, a sloping site might offer excellent views but can result in higher construction costs due to excavation, grading, retaining and driveway construction. Restrictions such as building height, buildable area and others may also apply.

One of the most important factors in home design is how you enter the home onto the main level. This is the home’s “first impression” if you will, and there are also long-term considerations. Grand entry stairs may seem dramatic today but can cause problems as you or your guests age. Most people prefer to enter the main living level from a driveway and garage that’s on the same level. Walking up a few stairs to get into the house can have charm, but trudging up a full flight of stairs with suitcases or groceries is not inviting. For long-term accessibility, even one or two steps can be a barrier. This is an important consideration for a retirement home or even for anyone that might require knee surgery or suffer some other short-term disability. Sometimes the site must be accessed from below and the best views are on the upper level. We can make the best of it with interesting stairs and possibly an elevator, but I generally prefer lots that you access from above. This allows the main living areas and possibly the master bedroom to be on the entry level while the lower level can be utilized for extra bedrooms, recreation and utility rooms.

Here in the Rocky Mountains many lots are going to be sloped so there is a good chance we’ll have to work with one of these two situations. We can optimize either one, but think about this before purchasing.

The size and topography of the lot will also dictate much of the driveway design. Driving ease and snow removal should be significant considerations.

Neighborhood. Location in a homeowners’ association (HOA) or municipality can have important impact. Local governments have zoning or planning regulations and many HOAs have design guidelines. These restrictions may preserve property values but can have a huge impact on your ability to utilize your property. The process may be reasonable, but in some cases can also be arbitrary, costly and time-consuming. Demand that the seller or realtor provide the HOA’s design guidelines and be sure to read them before buying. As an example, I once had a client who wanted to build a Mediterranean style home but didn’t realize that stucco was prohibited in the subdivision. I was able to create her dream home in this location, but it was more difficult and expensive.

Solar access, geothermal and wind resources are important considerations for the home’s operating cost, overall value and quality of its living spaces. If you wish to take advantage of these natural assets, I will compile information on year-round solar potential, geotechnical issues and wind history. Then I will assist you in determining the value of these natural assets and design your home to take best advantage of them.

Access to municipal water and sewer, or the need and feasibility of a well and septic system, need to be considered. The costs will vary, but the cost of a well and septic system may be counter-balanced by tap fees paid for municipal services. Consider the reliability and longevity of the municipal system versus installation and maintenance costs of a well and septic system.

Does it feel right? Visit the property at different times of the day or year, and in different weather conditions, if possible. Can you picture yourself waking up here every day? If the answer is yes, then together we can make your dream home a reality.

Michael F Gallagher Architect



About Michael F Gallagher Architect

Michael F. Gallagher, a Breckenridge, Colorado Architect, brings your vision to life with knowledge, passion and an uncommon commitment to personal service. With 30 years of professional experience in Breckenridge, Denver, the Colorado Rocky Mountains and California, Michael has created a portfolio showcasing versatile, award-winning architectural designs. Custom home designs range from mountain rustic to urban contemporary, including the first LEED Gold Home in Summit County, Colorado, featuring sustainable, environmentally responsible design.


Bennett Residence update

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on July 23, 2012 by michaelfgallagher

The foundation and Lower Level slabs have been poured. Workers are starting on the Main Level floor framing. This custom ski vacation home was designed with influence from the great lodges of the western national parks and also Adirondack style. It should be completed in late 2013. It has great views and access to the Breckenridge Ski Resort and Nordic Center. Michael F Gallagher, Architect, Breckenridge, CO.