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In order to keep our clients and visitors informed and up to date on important news and information relative to their project and residential building design in general, this page is dedicated to that effort. Whether it's a change in the building code, new zoning ordinances or happenings within our organization, this is the page that will headline that information. We invite you to bookmark this page and check back monthly to see what's new.

OCTOBER

WE HAVE SOME GOOD NEWS and SOME BETTER NEWS

Since 1973, we have been serving the community in the field of residential design and have built a reputation for providing excellent design at reasonable fees. We have made a lot of wonderful friends and consider all of you to be our extended family. We thank all of our clients, vendors and friends for 35 years of pleasurable service in Central Florida and the world.

Currently, with the economy in turmoil, the residential construction business is in sore straits and this is having a ripple effect on our practice. Therefore, we have closed our office in Altamonte Springs, Florida at the end of June. This is strictly a cost-saving measure until the economy turns around.

In the meantime, we have some exciting news to announce. In 2000, I assisted my friends Tony and Cedric Hew in their endeavor to create a new company around a new product that we all knew would change the complexion of the concrete masonry business. It is called "WeblessBlok." Now, eight years later, WeblessBlok is up, running and very strong. We are now joining forces with CNH Structural, LLC, the company that manufactures and distributes this exciting patented product. Our office, though much smaller, will be located in their complex in Orange City in Volusia County, Florida and I will be designing structures using the WeblessBlok technology and products.

This is a totally "green" building product and serves many uses in residential design. My first job is to design a series of storm shelters, otherwise known as "safe rooms." They can be designed and built as independent structures, additions to existing buildings, or incorporated into new and existing buildings. They can withstand a category-5 hurricane or an EF-5 tornado.

LifeShelters are now available in three standard sizes, custom sizes and can be incorporated into virtually any building. We already have a series of educational seminars prepared for presentation to help homeowners understand the life-saving advantages of having a storm shelter for the protection of families and loved ones.

We look forward to this opportunity to serve the worldwide community by providing this additional service, along with continuing to provide excellence in residential design.

For more information on the CNH Storm Shelter, please visit their website, soon to be completely updated:

www.lifeshelters.net

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Stand-alone 8' x 12' LifeShelter with optional window

THIS IS EXCITING!

In the next few weeks, we will be announcing another all-new website with lots of photographs and links. There is no scheduled publication date; however the site is currently under construction, and when it's ready, there will be an announcement right here, so keep checking for the new website.

SAFE ROOMS

More and more custom home clients are asking about "safe rooms" for their new homes. They want to know what they are, how much they cost and what they can do for their family's safety. Especially in light of the terrorist attacks and recent violent weather, more families want an added feeling of security within their homes. Here are a few facts:

Safe rooms are not new. Since the 1930s, people in the plains states have been building storm cellars for use during severe weather. In the 1950s, the threat of nuclear war prompted many people to install fallout shelters. Now, there are companies that provide pre-manufactured shelters that can withstand winds stronger than the highest wind speeds ever recorded.

An alternative to a pre-built storm room is one that is built into or added onto your home. It may not withstand a 450 mph wind, but it may be the difference between tragedy and survival. For more information about whether a safe room is practical for your home, please feel free to contact us and we will be happy to provide more information for your consideration.

COPYRIGHT ISSUES

You may have seen TV announcements advising everyone that they need to have proper licensing for their compter software. The Business Software Alliance has presented these announcements and has distributed a flyer in the mail to all businesses in the US entitled "Software Piracy and the Law" in order to advise people that copying software for distribution to others is illegal and carries severe penalties. For the most part, everyone seems to feel that is fair and they want to comply.

There is another issue that also needs to be addressed that some people do not realize is extremely serious and carries severe consequences. That is the illegal copying and use of home plans and designs. The American Institute of Building Design, the American Institute of Architects and the Council of Publishing Home Designers all send out warnings to blueprint companies and others that illegally copying home plans is a serious offense.

The Council of Publishing Home Designers has distributed a large flyer nationwide that is supposed to be displayed at all printing/copying firms. The text of this flyer reads as follows:

"MAKING COPIES OF COPYRIGHTED HOME PLANS IS ILLEGAL. The Council of Publishing Home Designers is aggressively investigating and litigating copyright theft. The fine for making an illegal copy of a home plan is $100,000 plus attorney fees. Is it worth it? Call the original design for legal copies of the plan."

Not only is it illegal to copy a design that you have not paid for, but you are risking the safety of your family and others by not obtaining legal plans that have been designed and engineered for the specific site where it is to be built. If caught (and you will be caught) stealing plans, you could lose your home and the land on which it is built. Make sure that you or your contractor has purchased legal plans that have not been illegally obtained by copying or any other means. Even taking design ideas that are unique in order to include them in a specific design is also illegal. Also, altering a design without the written consent of the copyright owner is a violation of all copyright laws and is subject to statutory penalties of  as much as $150,000 per violation.  

There are several ways to determine if plans are legal or not. You should consult an intellectual property rights attorney or the Council of Publishing Home Designers for that information.

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Chinese Gazebo

NEW FLORIDA/INTERNATIONAL BUILDING CODE

Most of the U.S. has adopted the International Building Code and most of us are under the auspices of one unified standard of design and construction. On October 1, 2005, the State of Florida joined that group by adopting a Florida version of the International Building Code, with special provisions just for Florida. This new code, known as the Florida Building Code, 2004 Edition, is the code that we now design by. It is more streamlined, somewhat easier to interpret and there is a separate code just for residential structures, which applies only to one and two family dwellings. This is the code that we are generally following. There are issues and discrepancies within this new code, but in time, I am sure that all the bugs will be worked out.

DESIGN and CONSTRUCTION TIPS

FLOOD RESOLUTIONS

The National Weather Service predicted a wetter summer this past year, and that prediction certainly came true. We have seen a lot of unexpected flooding in many parts of the nation and even more flooding can be expected in the future.
To alleviate the problems of most localized flooding, we are advising clients to build their homes on higher ground where possible. Select a lot that is as high as possible, If that cannot be done, we recommend filling the lot with enough dirt in order to be able to raise the floor level at least one foot. Most flooding in low lying areas occurs with less than a foot of water penetrating the interior of the home. Simply raising the foundation one foot can eliminate or reduce the chance of flooding by more than 50%.

MORE LANDSCAPING HINTS

One of the biggest mistakes that I see made by homeowners is that of plantings too close to the house. When landscaping around your home, remember that those little plants will grow, sometimes into very large plants.

Te general rule of thumb in landscaping at the front of your house is to use up to one-third of the area between the house and the street for urban landscape plantings. This will enhance the home, making it more inviting as well as being more protective of the home.

Planting too close to the house can create many problems. Plants attract bugs, and sometimes they can become magnets for bugs to enter your house. Especially in hot, humid climates, keep the plants away from the house.

Another common problem is that these plants need water, and when we water the plants that are too close to the house, we are introducing water to the house itself, making it a target for bugs and dryrot. If plants start to grow to the point of actually contacting the building, you should trim them back enough to allow for future growth, or transplant them so that they are no closer than two feet from the house. Also, don't put bark of wood chip around your home. That is also a magnet for bugs and moisture that can hard the home.

Finally, don't put lawn sprinkler systems so that they spray water directly onto the home. That's the biggest no-no of all.
HURRICANEWS

It probably comes as no surprise to that Florida and the rest of the Southeast US experienced unprecedented weather in the form of a series of tropical systems again last year. After 2004's hurricanes, in 2005, Katrina, Rita and Wilma caused more extensive damage from rain and winds from the Caribbean and Florida to the Gulf Coast of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

After Hurricane Hugo slammed into the South Carolina coast in 1989 and Andrew devastated much of South Florida in 1992, the insurance companies lobbied successfully for stricter building codes in order to try to lessen the impact of hurricane force winds and rain on the residential communities of the Southeast US. Since 1993, when most of those codes went into effect, stricter standards of design and construction have been implemented.

Have these newer standards been effective in reducing storm damage? Recent hurricane damage assessments have indicated that homes built under the newer standards have been effective in reducing or mitigating damage caused by hurricanes. The results have been predictable. The older homes, built prior to 1993 suffered more damage than those built since 1993. Mobile and manufactured homes built prior to '93 were ten times more likely to be destroyed than those built under the new standards.

The amount of damage to a home has a direct correlation to its age. Therefore, insurance premiums are having a direct impact on owners based on the age of the home. Also, the type of construction has a direct bearing on how successfully a home will survive a catastrophic storm. Concrete block homes generally fared much better than wood frame homes. Home built on higher ground generally had much less flooding than those built in low-lying areas. Also, if a home is built higher off the ground, it stands a much better chance of being spared from interior flooding than if it is built closer to the flat ground around it.

The National Weather Services says that the current trend is for damaging hurricanes every year for the next decade or so. Now is the time to begin preparations for the next major storm. It's not a matter of IF it will come, but when. Will YOU be prepared?