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Why is Structural Engineering Needed?

Structural Engineering – What are the Benefits? 

According to most local code jurisdictions in North Carolina, you do not need a structural engineer to construct a new home.  You also don’t need to see a physician at any time in your life until the pain warrants immediate care! 

Today’s house plans and building materials simply warrant the review of a structural engineer.  As we strive for energy efficiency, economy, and creative design, we stretch material capabilities and try to balance our champagne tastes vs. our beer budget.  A good structural engineer can ensure that the plan you have chosen will not only meet state building code requirements, but will also be the right mix of building materials to create the home you are comfortable in and willing to pay for. 

The homes that our grandparents bought were typically rectangular in shape and were constructed of standard saw mill lumber and brick and block masonry.  Rooms were typically small (12’ or less in any one dimension) and tall ceiling heights were generally unheard of.  The size and number of windows was small. 

Contrast that to the standard custom homes of today!  We like larger, more open rooms with high ceilings.  We call for energy efficiency and environmentally-friendly construction materials.  We want more glass in a wall than we want insulation and wood framing. 

These construction parameters call out for a structural engineer.  Roofs are no longer simple.  We like hips and gables and dormers and changes in roof pitch.  The structural engineer has the capabilities to define how what looks pretty will be constructed.  From the concrete footings supporting the foundation walls to tracing the load points from roof framing and end reactions of beams, the structural design layout ensures the stability of the structure and economizes the materials. 

If you want your next home to be the baseline model, don’t hire a structural engineer and have it built to code minimums.  If you want your home to be a precision, high performance structure constructed within your budget, hire a structural engineer and find the peace of mind that comes with guaranteed stability and better resale value.

by Brooke Carpenter, Owner – Residential Engineering Services, PA

Benefits of Energy Star Certification


Would you like a home that’s wonderfully comfortable with healthy indoor air and no drafts?   A home with a comfortable bonus room, low energy bills and one where you don’t have to turn on the heat or air as soon as the temperature changes?  A home that you know is well-built and energy efficient, with attention to detail in the areas you can’t see – and you know it is because an independent company checked it at several stages during the building process?  You can have this kind of home – it’s an ENERGY STAR qualified home.

ENERGY STAR qualified homes are:

  • More comfortable
  • Healthier, with better indoor air quality
  • More durable, with less rot and mold
  • Quieter
  • Less expensive to run.
  • Typically 20% to 30% more efficient than standard homes
  • Better for the environment

Many electric companies now reward ENERGY STAR homes; Progress Energy and Duke Energy both offer a 5% discount on electric bills for ENERGY STAR homes.  This discount runs for the life of the house so it’s a great marketing plus at resale time.  Also, if your ENERGY STAR home has natural gas appliances, PSNC offers a discount.

With an ENERGY STAR qualified home, you can have peace of mind knowing that your home is well-built, healthier for your family, is easier on the environment – and all of this with lower energy bills.

Brightcut Building Solutions does all of Absolute Construction’s Energy Star certifications.

By Cass Arble – Brightcut Building Solutions, LLC





Plans-Do We Custom Design or Buy Online?

Designing your home – benefits to working with a designer vs. buying online by Brooke Carpenter, Owner – Residential Engineering Services, PA

Every homeowner has at some time thumbed through house plan books or surfed the house plan websites trying to find the “perfect house plan” for their next dwelling.  Here’s the secret – it’s not there!

In my 15 years in the residential construction industry, I have yet to meet a single client that was 100% satisfied with a plan set purchased online.  The reason for this is obvious.  We each have different lives, different family situations, unique tastes, and individual preferences.  This is why I am a firm advocate for anyone looking to construct a new home contacting a designer.

A great home designer brings out the “you” in your new house plan.  Your new home is more than the number of bedrooms and bathrooms!  Where do you typically park your car?  How do you want to bring groceries into your home to get to the kitchen?  Do you want your laundry room out of the way or close to bedrooms?  Will your family need a formal dining room or living room?  Do you entertain a lot?  Will you use outdoor space – porches, patios, outdoor grilling areas/kitchens?  Do you need or want to plan for handicap accessibility to bathrooms, showers, bedrooms, etc.?  Will you have overnight guests?  Where would you like them to stay?  What level of accommodations will they need?  How much storage area will you need?  Can your kids share a bath room or do you prefer individual spaces?  How often do you use your kitchen and how do you want it arranged?  These are but a few of the “you-specific” questions from your home designer.

The house plan process is enhanced to a greater degree when the builder is involved in the initial design.  The builder can be the subject matter expert when it comes to materials and construction costs, timeframe for building, and how the house matches up to the lot that has been purchased.  This guidance can be invaluable during planning to keep within budget, spatial, and constructability constraints.

So as you contemplate buying your next house plan online vs. paying a home designer to develop a plan for you, remember that this is going to be your home either way.  Why not make it your home?

Absolute Construction and Development, LLC has been working with Residential Engineering Services, PA since 2007 and we’ve had nothing but raving reviews from our clients who work with Residential Engineering Services to design their homes.  Many clients have found it is much more cost effective to design your own plans vs. buying a set online and then paying to have modifications made. Residential Engineering Services, PA designed the 2 homes in Chapel Ridge Golf Community that won the Parade of Homes Gold Medals so not only have happy clients, but also recognition from their peers.


What’s Behind Builder Allowances

When talking to people about building the first question seems to always be “What is your price per square foot?”  My response is always that there is so much more than just a price per square foot – what costs are included in that price per square foot, what are the ALLOWANCES, how are change orders handled (are there charges tied to change orders?), what is the relationship with the trade vendors and will they be around when the 1-year punch list is needed, etc.?  I’d like to spend a little time on allowances, but will hit the other items in future posts.

The first question to ask a builder is what items will you have allowances on and compare those allowances to other builders’ allowances you are getting quotes from.  We like to then have you meet with our vendors to pick out your ideal selections to make sure that what you want fits into the allowance given.  We’ve been told that we spend a lot more time with clients up front assuring that the allowances given and factored into the contract price will get them what they are looking for.

The next item to look into is what price are you getting from the vendor.  Most suppliers – ie cabinet, countertop, plumbing, lighting companies – have a price for the public and a discounted price for builders.  When you go into a showroom you are seeing the retail price, not the builder price.  You need to find out from the builder if they are passing their price on to you or not.  You will want to compare the invoiced price to the floor price to make sure you are truly getting the builder discount.

Another area to look into is whether or not the general contractor adds on a certain percentage to items that go over the allowance given.  For example., if you have $30k for your cabinet/countertop allowance and you end up purchasing at $40k, is there an additional charge added to the $10k that went over the allowance?

Additionally, how are these allowances tracked and how often are you going to be updated on where you stand with your allowance expenses?  In this day and age it is reasonable to expect to receive electronic reports and for expenses to be tracked in a true contracting accounting system.  If you are going to be receiving spreadsheet reports, you are relying on the contractor to manually enter charges and credits into the spreadsheet and are leaving a lot of room open for error.

To see a sample allowance report that we provide on a bi-monthly basis click  Sample Allowance Tracking Reports.

Finally, there should be a process in place where you need to approve any item before it is ordered so you are aware of any charges that are more than your allowance amount.  I have heard too many horror stories where people get to the end of the construction of their home and are presented with a large bill from the general contractor detailing items that were ordered that were above their allowance. These items should be brought to your attention prior to ordering and ideally you should be required to sign something acknowledging that it is above the allowance amount.

Bottom line, it can be a very smooth process if you do the research ahead of time to see if the allowances cover what you want in your new home and if you make sure there are processes in place to adequately track the amounts spent along with processes to approve amounts that go over your allowances.