Builders find­ing ways to ex­ploit nat­u­ral light

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - REAL ES­TATE -

Im­prove­ments in weath­er­proof­ing and in­su­la­tion ma­te­ri­als and in in­stal­la­tion meth­ods for win­dows and doors have made it pos­si­ble to in­crease the amount of glass in a house with­out cre­at­ing drafts, Shively says.

“We’ve fig­ured out a bet­ter way to layer houses,” he says. “We can seal the en­tire house up around the win­dows.”

In many cases, ar­chi­tects are in­cor­po­rat­ing these fea­tures be­cause they see their value — even if clients don’t re­quest them, says Stu Narof­sky of Narof­sky Ar­chi­tec­ture in New York City. Some­times the ad­di­tions are sim­ple, like plac­ing a bed­room win­dow where the light it lets in will il­lu­mi­nate a hall­way, or adding glass panes to a door for the same pur­pose. Other ad­di­tions are more dra­matic, like mak­ing an en­tire wall of glass.

Bob Webb’s lat­est show home, de­signed for the 2018 BIA Pa­rade of Homes in Colum­bus, Ohio, fea­tures a re­tractable glass wall in the liv­ing room and a base­ment work­out room that’s de­lin­eated by slid­ing glass, barn-style doors. More Mid­west builders have be­gun us­ing the re­tractable walls, which have long been prom­i­nent on the West Coast and in Hawaii, be­cause they too have un­der­gone im­prove­ments that al­low them to be used in colder cli­mates, Shively says.

The see-through doors to the ex­er­cise room serve two func­tions, he says. They help in­cor­po­rate the work­out area into the main room and pro­vide nat­u­ral light to the whole space. The doors work be­cause the ar­chi­tect also in­cor­po­rated deep, wide win­dow wells into the base­ment’s de­sign. “It’s amaz­ing what those deeper wells can do. It makes a huge dif­fer­ence, and that light bleeds into the rest of the lower level,” Shively says.

In sev­eral homes that Narof­sky has de­signed, he has found an ex­treme so­lu­tion for in­cor­po­rat­ing nat­u­ral light in the lower level: dig­ging out the lay­ers of soil around the base­ment. In the space that’s cre­ated, home­own­ers have planted ter­raced gar­dens and, in one case, added a pool.

Home­own­ers who aren’t plan­ning to build a new house still have op­tions — at a va­ri­ety of price points — for bring­ing more nat­u­ral light into their space, says Jim Bim­ste­fer, an as­so­ciate bro­ker with Keller Williams Realty in Bal­ti­more.

“When I’m go­ing to sell a house, one of the first things I ad­dress is, ‘How can we get more light com­ing in?’ ” Bim­ste­fer says. “More light makes a house feel big­ger.”

The so­lu­tion can be as sim­ple as trim­ming bushes and trees that are block­ing win­dows, re­mov­ing screens or keep­ing blinds raised dur­ing show­ings, he said. “There are a lot of lit­tle things that can in­crease the value of the home,” he says. “If there is veg­e­ta­tion in front of the win­dows, ab­so­lutely cut it back. Clean the win­dows. Let the nat­u­ral light in.”

Other op­tions can be more pricey, like adding glass doors, en­larg­ing win­dows or in­stalling sky­lights. Those im­prove­ments are best done long be­fore list­ing a prop­erty so that the home­owner can en­joy the ben­e­fits, he said. The bud­get con­sid­er­a­tions are “com­pletely dif­fer­ent” if you in­tend to live in the house for many years be­fore sell­ing it, Bim­ste­fer says. “Go crazy. Pull the walls down. Re­place the old front door. Open it up. Put as much glass in as you can.”

As a re­mod­eler, Christo­pher Wittmann reg­u­larly con­sid­ers utiliz­ing nat­u­ral light when help­ing home­own­ers plan ren­o­va­tions. De­pend­ing on the project, he might sug­gest larger win­dows, glass doors or re­mov­ing a wall, says Wittman of Callen Con­struc­tion in Muskego, Wis.

He doesn’t hes­i­tate to sug­gest more glass these days. “The en­ergy ef­fi­ciency has in­creased in win­dows and doors,” he says. “You can cre­ate a lot larger foot­print in glass.”

CROSLEY

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