Why Marnella Homes?

August 8, 2016

When looking through the many listings for different builders and their homes, what makes their homes different from one another?  It is far more than just the architectural style and price range.  As I often say, “what is behind the sheetrock is as important, if not more so, than what is in front of it.” I encourage anyone looking at a new home to walk the builder’s homes prior to the installation of sheetrock to see how they are assembled. You will see a lot of surprising things, not all good.  A few things that are in built into every Marnella Home are; Advanced framing, extensive air sealing, blown-in insulation and HVAC systems that are in the conditioned space.  These are just some of the features that, with all we know about building science today, it still surprises me that more builders refuse to build with these systems.

More wood is not better.  However, that is the theme amongst most builders because it is how they were taught.  They are just following the lessons of their Grandfather, Dad or the mentor that got them started.  In the new way of building, less wood is better.  The Advanced Framing technique, utilizes less wood which means room for more insulation, which means a more comfortable and efficient home.  This style of framing really stands out from conventional framing.

Extensive air sealing isn’t just filling over-cut openings in the exterior shell of a home.  It is the air sealing of every seam and joint in the exterior shell of a home.  The benefit of this is not simply to improve efficiency and energy loss, though important, it is also to improve the health of the indoor environment by sealing out pollutants that can be drawn into the home.

Blown-in insulation is so important to effectively insulate a home.  Installing Batt styled insulation is such an inferior way of insulating, yet still most common.  The insulating performance of insulation is its thickness.  So, why does anyone expect that a compressed batt, forced over plumbing or wiring in a wall, is going to perform to it’s intended performance?  I know, right?  It can’t.  That is why blown-in insulation that completely fills a wall cavity, regardless of what is in its path, will perform to it’s intended performance.

HVAC systems in the conditioned space is one of the smartest moves that we have made in our homes…ever.  Not only are these systems exponentially more efficient than a standard forced air system, but they create a more comfortable home.  In 2007 we moved our HVAC systems inside the home, our service calls for uneven heating/cooling  and requests to have the systems balanced, stopped completely.

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So, as you are looking around at new homes, remember to look at the homes in their pre-sheetrock stage.  Food for thought, a home built to the building code minimum, is really a home that is barely legal.  Anything less, and the building inspector would not approve it for occupancy.  On average, a Marnella Home is built to 35% over the code minimum.  The benefits to our homeowners include, lower maintenance, lower heating & cooling costs, greater comfort and lasting value.

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Healthy Homes

May 14, 2016

Marissa Harshman, a writer for the Columbian, published a great story this week about the health, or lack there of, in homes.  Most of the marketing of Green building promotes energy savings and sustainable products.  However, one of the greater benefits of these building systems is the improved health of the indoor environments and it gets the least promotion.  In my opinion, it should be the top benefit followed by durable sustainable products, reduced maintenance, energy costs and consumption.

Marissa writes, “A person’s health can be affected by numerous things — diet, physical activity, family history, lifestyle choices. But one factor people don’t often consider is their home.”

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Green homes, use low voc (volatile organic compounds) paints and caulks to prevent harmful off gassing that traditional paints and caulks emit.  People often say they like the “new” smell of a home or car.  However, they are really enjoying the smell of harmful gases that are being released into the air.

Every Marnella Home has an indoor environment built to EPA’s indoor airPlus compliance because we agree with the importance of maintaining a healthy home.

“Some of the most common causes of sick homes in the Northwest are ventilation systems not working properly, water entering wall cavities and causing mold growth, and unsealed spaces allowing air from crawl spaces to enter the home.”

Our vented rain screen siding system helps prevent moisture from entering in through walls and is installed on every home we build.

All of our HVAC systems are installed within the conditioned space (inside the home and not in the garage, attic or crawlspace) to provide superior performance and efficiency.

Green homes also have very low air leakage which minimizes outdoor contaminates from making their way into the home and incorporate mechanical fresh air exchange equipment which continually exchange stale indoor air with fresh outside air.

I encourage you to read Marissa’s story and consider the benefits of Green and performance homes when looking to buy or build.  Remember, what is behind the sheetrock is just as important, if not more so, than what is in front of it.

Living large in Meriwether

August 13, 2014

The Willamette provides large open spaces both inside and out.  The large livable porches, both front and back, provide for year around outdoor enjoyment.  This home has 4 bedrooms, 2 1/2 baths, lounging loft, bonus room, iSpace and drop zone.The WillametteGathering roomDropzone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This home accommodates space and comfort as well as energy performance. It is built to Earth Advantage Platinum, EPA WaterSense and indoor airPlus standards to deliver monthly energy costs of only $28!  That’s gas and power!

High ceilings provide an abundance of light throughout the home to the many spaces available for family activities.  All baths have tiled counters and floors with the master having a full tiled shower.  Pre-wiring is in for security & sound, plus pre-plumbing is in for central vacuum.  The garage is a “true” double car garage that can accommodate full size trucks and SUV’s.

Master BathKitchenBackyard from alley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If your next home requires 4 bedrooms and extra rooms for media, hobby, work or study, The Willamette can accommodate all of your needs. You can see more community details at http://www.marnellahomes.com

As the name of the community implies, this quiet and intimate neighborhood of Hiddenbrook is where freedom from yard work and maintenance is where our residents call home.  Tucked out of the way, but still close enough to walk to shopping, coffee and restaurants.  Our residents will enjoy the freedom to spend time hiking, biking, kayaking and all the outdoors of the Columbia River Gorge and Clark County have to offer.  Instead, of spending time doing yard work and exterior maintenance.

Spacious Gathering Room

Spacious Gathering Room

At Hiddenbrook, everyone owns and end unit since only one acoustically engineered wall is shared.  Marnella Homes is excited to offer the only two town homes that are currently move-in ready, The Yakima and Columbia.  Both are 2108 square feet, 3 bedroom, 2 1/2 bath town homes featuring spacious open gathering room/Kitchen/dining areas, iSpace, drop zones and large double garages with extra storage.  9′ ceilings on all floors and tall windows provide light and airy interiors that will be much appreciated on our dark northwest winter days.  All offer energy bill guarantees for 3 years of only $80 a month in total energy costs, gas and power, through Earth Advantage.

Of the 28 homes in this community, only 12 opportunities remain.  There are two finished homes, ready to move into.  So, sell the lawnmower and yard tools and enjoy the freedom that Hiddenbrook has to offer.  Not to mention the comfortable, quiet and energy saving benefits that all our homes offer.

If not, it should. There are two typical siding installation processes here in the Northwest, Rainscreen and “vented” rainscreen. Rainscreen is a siding installation process which allows the water that can get behind the siding, to drain out, with the help of a “drain wrap” house wrap, at the bottom near the foundation. Which is an improvement to old methods because it isn’t a question of whether water will get behind your siding, it ‘s what is it going to do when it gets there. However, vented rainscreen is a system that allows the siding to breath by installing the siding material on top of furring strips of apx. 3/8” – 1/2” in thickness and providing venting gaps at the bottom course and at the eave.

wood-with-labels_lgThe reality is wall systems used to breath. A lot. Older homes were not built tight so air flowed in and out which allowed them to breath. However, when your entire home breathes on it’s own, your home will be drafty and you have no control over your energy usage and indoor comfort. So, as the homes have become tighter, we have had to find ways to mitigate the tightness with the good ventilation that has an effective purpose. At Marnella Homes, every home we build has a vented rainscreen siding system. We feel this is a superior system to the drain wrap method, due to the fact that it does not rely on gravity and tiny water channels to get the moisture to eventually drain out (you hope). It allows air to circulate behind the siding to more quickly dry out any moisture that finds it way back.

It is my belief that as the siding manufactures press for this method of installation, it will be seen as the minimum standard for siding installation in the years to come. It is already a requirement on most commercial applications.

Another benefit besides the drying of moisture is that siding will retain paint and sealant longer due to the siding material being allowed to stay dry. If the siding material is continually wet it will become more difficult to adhere too. So, an added benefit to this system is reduced maintenance.rainscreen

So, if your builder isn’t installing siding this way, ask him why.   The reason is usually because they don’t believe in it or think it is too expensive. Do your research and you will see that having to tear off siding to repair rot is much more expensive than installing the correct way the first time.

Meriwether

Gathering room with sitting area

The english translation is “Solar” however, to us it means clean affordable energy.  It also could mean, “what do I do with the extra money in my pocket each month?”  It could actually be quite confusing for your family. If your combined monthly gas and power bills are only about $40, what would you do with the extra money each month?  Would you take your family out to dinner, treat yourself to a massage, put the money into savings or pay down your mortgage?  That’s the dilemma that the homeowners of our Solare Collection at Meriwether in Oregon City have.

This collection was designed from the ground up to be highly efficient, luxurious, healthy and comfortable.  This integrated performance provides low energy cost and low maintenance living.  All which result in a lower cost of ownership than any other comparably sized home.  New or used.  Over the last 30 years, PGE has increased their power rates on an average of 6% a year.  With the solar program we have through SolarCity, our homeowners have control over their power costs for the next 20 years.

Stop by Meriwether and experience the difference of a Marnella Home.  You will not only see and feel the difference, but you will realize the difference year after year of comfort and energy savings that our homes deliver.  In addition, why the program lasts, our homeowners will receive a $6,000 tax credit from the State of Oregon for the Solar in this collection.

I recently walked through a building of townhomes under construction and was amazed to see that the builder was actually running his subflooring under the common walls through to the connecting home without any break in the flooring.  I have seen this in apartment construction, but not in condo or townhome construction in a long time. With the amount of knowledge we should all have about acoustics, I don’t see why that would be acceptable to anyone.

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We have built many condos and townhomes and appreciate that sound mitigation is paramount to the indoor environments of our homeowners.  Not allowing a break in the subfloor creates a conduit for sound transfer under the party or common wall.  It won’t matter how well the wall is insulated sound will still transfer from home to home.  The floor transfers laterally the sounds from subwoofers, kids jumping and running, etc.

This is another classic illustration of why at Marnella Homes, we encourage new home buyers to research how a builder builds their homes and visit the builder’s homes under construction.  Nice fixtures, flooring and detailing could only be decorative masking for poor construction.  As this market heats back up again, some builders will start to pull back on elements of their homes because it may not be necessary to include them to sell homes or the buyer may not be paying attention.

However, after a homeowner moves in, they will notice a poorly insulated and constructed townhome.  Trust me, Sharknado was bad enough to watch the first time, let alone listening to it again from your neighbor’s home.

Housing Market turns around

CNBC, Fox News & Chicago Tribune all had great stories recently about optimism in the Housing market.  This is truly great to hear.  It’s not that there hasn’t been good housing stories to report, but that several sources are reporting how things are turning around and not beating negative stories into the ground. 

The Chicago Tribune story reads, “Reports from two major banks suggest housing market is on the mend.” It went on to read, “Wells Fargo issued 54% more mortgages than a year ago and took 84% more applications.”  The Fox News story reads, “US home-buying season finally signaling a recovery.”  and, “many people seem to have concluded that prices won’t drop much further. In some areas, prices have begun to tick up.”  

Our local RMLS Market Action report shows that we are down to 5 months of inventory in the Portland Metroplex.  We haven’t seen inventory this low since June of 2007!  Some areas closer into the core of the city are experiencing inventories much lower.

This has been a long schlogg and it is exciting to see things turning up.

Mt Hood
According to the Wall Street Journal article last week titled “Misery across the U.S.” by Kathleen Madigan, Portland ranks 2nd only to Phoenix for the most miserable city in the U.S. I understand that the common feeling now is, “enough already with the rain”, but miserable? In full disclosure, Ms. Madigan didn’t base her story on interviews with residents in the cities she ranked. In fact, the she didn’t base her index on the perception of living in these cities at all.

The misery index was established by the 12-month change in the jobless rate, the percent of change in gas prices since the end of 2010, and the percent change in home values. The story established that the U.S. misery index would stand at 20%, and up from 8.3% a year ago.

I thought a great response to this story was by Stumped in Stumptown titled “Portland is miserable… on paper.” I agree with the author that, “Portlanders aren’t miserable. Our city truly offers the best of everything.”
I have traveled extensively around the world, yet I have only lived within about 100 miles of where I was born. I believe Portland and the Northwest offer so much, that I can’t imagine living anywhere else. So, maybe Ms. Madigan’s miserable index would make you miserable if you obsessed over it, but we have too much to entertain ourselves here to get caught up in it.

I don’t know many real miserable people here in Portland, do you?

heat-recovery ventilatorDoes the quality of air in your home rank up there with the finish level of your counter tops? Maybe it should. To certify a home for even the basic level of Green or Performance building certification, a fresh air exchange is required. This is usually a fan in a utility room that is just blowing out stale air from the interior of the home and pulls in fresh air from the exterior. The downside to this is that on a 30 degree day, it is pulling in 30 degree air to your already comfortable 72 degree home. This makes your furnace work extra to heat up this cold fresh air. In addition, these fans are not balancing an equal amount of air being pulled from the home with an equal amount of air being drawn in. This can pressurize the home, potentially pulling air through unintended areas.

What you should be asking your builder for is a Heat-Recovery Ventilator or HRV. The HRV also brings in that 30 degree air, except it uses the heat in the outgoing stale air to warm up the fresh air. Depending on the model, HRVs can recover up to 85 percent of the heat in the outgoing airstream, making these ventilators a lot easier on your budget than opening a few windows.

Using a small fan, the HRV system maintains a continuous flow of filtered outdoor air in the home. To avoid pressurization the system removes an equal amount of stale, used air from the home, especially the kitchen and bathrooms where moisture and odors are heavy. These systems can change the entire air system in a home in under 3 hours.

HRVs are ideal for tight, moisture-prone homes, like here in the Northwest, because they replace the humid air with dry, fresh air. That is why an HRV is a standard feature in every Marnella Home. For the long term health of your family and home, shouldn’t you expect this of your next home?