Building in a challenging location – Ojai, CA

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Building a home in remote areas ups the ante for challenges and cost. This house located at 2700 feet above sea level on the south range of the mountains of the Ojai Valley has amazing views of the Topa Topa mountains to the North and the mighty Pacific on the South.

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Just getting people to the job is a challenge – Google, smart phones and even maps don’t accurately show the property.  With the 100’s of trade contractors, inspectors, delivery drivers, etc. getting people to the job is a chore itself.

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We had to install our own street sign – which was later mysteriously removed !

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Roadways, grading, drainage, utilities have to travel up a 1700 foot long driveway.  Rules and regulations also get more challenging from the building department, the fire department and all of the other agencies that get involved in the permitting.

 

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But you just can’t beat it!  Views of the Channel Islands of Santa Barbara.

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Bottom Line: Get er Done!

 

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Feel Free to copy, share, or re post this article. Kindly make sure to include this information: Written by Otis Bradley, a Custom Home Builder, in Southern California. Please see OtisBradley.com for more information on Custom Home Building!

35 Questions to Ask Before Buying Vacant Land ?

Are you interested in buying your own piece of earth?  There’s nothing more fabulous than having a few acres of your own, and building your own place from the ground up.   But, buying land, especially in highly regulated areas like California, can be a lot more risky than buying a home.  These days of real estate disclosure for a home buyer have come a long way from the traditional law of “Caveat Emptor” (meaning buyer beware)!  Land, however, does not have the same rules.  I constantly hear stories like:

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“I thought we were buying 80 acres, it turned out we got 65!”

“We had no idea this area was in an ancient landslide.  Its almost impossible to build here.”

“We thought we got an amazing deal, $1m for 120 acres, but it turns out its going to cost another $1m to get to the pad before we can even think of starting the house.”

“We bought a small lot in town and it turns out we can’t get water service so we can’t build!”

Unfortunately there isn’t one place to get answers.  Many local departments are involved and sometimes have conflicting information.

Here are 35 questions you can ask
Or you can get professional help – call me 310 963 7900.

Planning and Zoning

  1. Is it a legal lot? If not, how do I make it legal?
  2. What is the zoning classification of this lot?
  3. Does the Zoning on the property permit my project?
  4. Does the County General Plan permit what I wish to do?
  5. Are any planning permits required prior to building on the lot?
  6. Are there any zoning violations on the lot?
  7. Are there any special building restrictions in this area?
  8. Are there any cultural heritage sites on the property?
Continue reading “35 Questions to Ask Before Buying Vacant Land ?”

Génoise Detail of a French Provincial Design – New Construction ICF House in Ojai

Project: Ojai, California New Construction – Insulated Concrete Forms
Architecture & Interior Design: Rhett Judice
Builder: Otis Bradley Company, Inc.

Génoise – although the definition of the word is “an Italian sponge cake” known from the area of Genoa in Italy
 
Génoise also defines the architectural treatment under the eaves of the roof – common in Provence France and possibly originating in Italy

It is said that the wealthier you are – the more rows you have !   The roof tiles continue from the eave back to the house in a sort of reverse pattern.  The trend dates back the middle of the 17th century and came originally from Italy.

 This project, built of ICF blocks,  created a challenge because the 8″ thick concrete walls are surrounded in 3″ of insulating foam.  Unlike the solid stone buildings of 17th c Provence, we had to create a system that could attach – be safe – be structurally sound – without being able to build on top of a stone wall.  The answer is foam! and a bad hair day!

 A sample is prepared for the color coat.

 Once installed – the color stucco will complete the illusion

 
Génoise also defines the architectural treatment under the eaves of the roof – common in Provence France and possibly originating in Italy

Rhett’s detail !!! – click on plan for larger image

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Feel free to copy, share or re post this article
Kindly make sure to include this information
Written by Otis Bradley, a Custom Home Builder, in Southern California
Please see OtisBradley.com for more information on Custom Home Building


Get your Permit !

Permit Checklist

Permit requirements vary widely in different locations.  Develop a list for your project – start by checking in with your local building department. 

Remember the Building Department may only tell you part of the story.  Research the following items and try to start putting a schedule together.  My Builder 20 group often discusses permit issues.  Jim in Wisconsin tells me he can get a permit in 5 days, while others of us suffer with months even years in the permitting process.  In my local area building departments in Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Malibu, Ojai, Ventura County, City of Ventura, Santa Barbara and County of Santa Barbara all treat building codes and zoning regulations in different ways.

Access

Air Rights

Archaeologists

Bridges

CC&R’s (Private Restrictions)

Cell Phone Access

City Planning

City Zoning

Civil Engineers

Coastal Commissions

Continue reading “Get your Permit !”

Ventana Magazine Features Ojai Custom Home Builder – Green Home

Contemporary Cool

The Ojai abode of green builder Otis Bradley.


The exposed structural steel and beams are painted in Frank Lloyd Wright’s Cherokee Red.


By Andrea Kitay—Photography by Gaszton Gal

Casa Verde, the two-acre Ojai spread that Otis Bradley and his family call home, is more than a play on words. Its name is a nod to the custom homebuilder’s passion for efficiency. The 3400-square-foot contemporary completed in 2008 is a result of Bradley’s determination to build an ecologically sound home, in keeping with his family’s laidback lifestyle.

Continue reading “Ventana Magazine Features Ojai Custom Home Builder – Green Home”

Building a New House in Ojai and Ventura County

Building in the City of Ojai is a fairly straightforward process.  The town itself is quite small, only 4.4 miles, beyond those boundaries you are in the unincorporated area of  Ventura County – a bit more challenging building process.  Call us to help you navigate the building process.

Geography

City of Ojai California

Ojai is located at 34°26′57″N 119°14′48″W

The city is generally at 745 feet (227 m) above sea level.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 4.4 square miles (11 km2), of which only 0.35% is water, and the rest is land.

Ojai is situated in a small east-west valley, north of Ventura and east of Santa Barbara. It is approximately 15 miles (24 km) inland from the Pacific Ocean coast.

Since Ojai is lined up with an east-west mountain range, it is one of few towns in the world to have a “Pink Moment” occur as the sun is setting. The fading sunlight creates a brilliant shade of pink for several minutes on the Topatopa Bluffs, over 6,000 feet (1,800 m) above sea level at the east end of the Ojai Valley. Nordhoff Ridge, the western extension of the Topatopa Mountains, towers over the north side of the town and valley at more than 5,000 feet (1,500 m). Sulphur Mountain creates the southern ranges bounding the Ojai Valley, a little under 3,000 feet (910 m) in elevation. The Sulphur and Topatopa Mountains are part of the Transverse Ranges system.

The Ventura River flows through the Ventura River Valley, draining the mountains surrounding Ojai to the north and east and emptying into the Pacific Ocean at the city of Ventura. The Ventura River was once known for its steelhead fishing before Matilija Dam and Lake Casitas were constructed, eliminating habitat for this trout species.

The climate of Ojai is Mediterranean, characterized by hot, dry summers, sometimes exceeding 100 °F (38 °C), and mild winters, with lows at night sometimes below freezing. As is typical for much of coastal southern California, most precipitation falls in the form of rain between the months of October and April, with intervening dry summers.

Spanish Style – Wallace Neff – Ojai ICF New Construction

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  • Custom home on Ojai’s east end

  • Traditional “Wallace Neff” Spanish style home

  • Green Building – Built with Rastra Block

 

With the roof, stucco and driveway complete, only the finish landscape is missing!

Stucco Brown Coat

Roof tile detail

Window detail – custom tile sill with deep set  aluminum clad window

Plaster walls

Porch roof – exposed framing

Groin vault in entry – note Techsheild radiant plywood
and planter cut outs in wall.

Roof framing over Rastra block

Rastra Block topped out and framing commences!

Window rough

Rastra block installation

South side – front entry on the left

Garage slab ready

Raising level of courtyard

With the floor system in – we move up another 4 blocks and prepare to cut out windows and doors. After these blocks are
grouted – only one more lift to the roof.

Walls above the floor framing

Rastra Technician with the “Rastra Lift o Matic 5000”

Front entry

Floor joists and plumbing goes in.

Attaching the floor ledger and getting ready for wood.

Looking from garage towards living room – Rastra walls

 

Looking from bedrooms – Rastra walls

Looking from living room towards garage – Rastra walls

Rastra block arrives – a concrete/post consumer waste styrofoam block

that will provide 12″ thick highly insulated, fireproof, rot proof walls!

Setting the footings

Filling it back up!
Re compaction of the new soil for a solid base.

Importing fill

Excavators, 10 wheelers, water trucks, loaders, bob tails !

Digging out all the rocks!

Dueling excavators

Big rocks !

This is the property before grading!

Casa Verde – Ojai Green Home

“Casa Verde”  Ojai, California

  • New Home Construction

  • Green Building

  • Passive and Active Solar Design

  • Radiant Heat in Finished Concrete Floors

  • Design and Build

This home, set above the City of Ojai,  fits into the environment, working with the climate rather than against it.  The broad and deep overhangs of the shed roof reflect the sun’s rays while providing shaded areas and a natural convection flow of air up and out the high windows.  The narrow building allows natural light in throughout the day with out the heat from the sun.  The roof also provides the perfect spot for the thermal hot water solar systems that provides domestic hot water as well as heat for the radiant floors.  The thermal mass of the concrete floors keep the house cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

The Great Room

The house is “inverted,” meaning the living areas are on the second floor instead of the first floor.  A two story house was a conscious idea for a couple of reasons … one being the fabulous views of the Ojai Valley – two: the prevailing southwest breezes help cool the house and the deck on the second floor.  The idea of a “great room” versus the more traditional living room – dining room – kitchen etc. is to create a space for today’s life style.  Not only is the space open, light and airy but the “spaces” within the spaces form there own “rooms.”  The game table nook – fireplace area – dining table – dinning counter – kitchen – stairwell all work together to create a really fabulous space.

The Stairwell

    

Outdoor Patio

The Master Bedroom

The Kid’s Room !

Green Building

Passive Solar Design

Passive cooling is achieved using  a large, sheltering, shed roof and high windows which draw hot air out of the home.  The steel roof panels reflect much of the hot Ojai sun.

Active Solar Design

Solar electric panels will provide energy for the house and solar hot water panels will help heat the radiant concrete floors.

Perfect Powder Sink !

This deck, sheltered by the same long shed roof the covers the home, enhances the breezes through the shady space.

The Bunk Room for our traveling companions !

          

Guest House

Almost finished – the driveway goes in!

Kids rooms – note the finished concrete floors
Climbing wall
Built in desks

         

The Submarine Room !
Here is the brain of the house with high efficiency water heater, solar water panel controls
radiant floor controls
and laundry.

Radiant tubes laid out on 2nd floor

View across the deck – Trex decking – a mixture of plastic waste product and wood plup.

Guest House

Guest House Kitchen

“Drying In”

After framing, a new home seems to sit for an eternity with no visible changes on the outside!
While the plumbing, electrical, HVAC and other mechanical systems are being install, the house is waiting for the next big push called “Drying In.”

Windows, roofing, siding and insulation kick into gear pulling the house out of the doldrums and visible changes start to appear.

This roof is a standing seam metal roof.  The light reflective color keeps the suns rays at bay.  Each section is also formed out of one continuous sheet of metal – 40 feet long in this case.  Metal roofing is also light weight – a benefit in earthquake country.

Most people ask – “Doesn’t it get hot inside?” or “Isn’t it noisy when it rains?”
The answer is no !

Nordhoff Peak in the background

Chief Peak 5400 feet

Metal forming

Too much rain !

Framing

Main house roof framing

Steel post and beams connected for porch roof

Interior beam work

John sets the wide flange steel

Detailing the wall framing on the slab

Guest House

Framed – solar panels to be places on this south facing shed roof

The building has a three car garage below and a 640 square foot (city limit) apartment on the second floor

As in the main house – the design has radiant floor heat and passive cooling with the shading shed roof and low and high windows to promote ventilation.

Out look beams for cantilever roof

Concrete
After removing and re-compacting the soil, placing the footings, setting the red steel and installing the radiant heat tubing – the slab is ready.   The integral color of the concrete and the hand tooled joints in the concrete will provide both the structural base for the building as well as the finish floor.

Finished slab

Cutting joints

Waiting for the right set

Fresh mud

Boom pump and finishers helping to place the concrete

El Suavecitos

Thinking man

Job hazard

Steel posts set for roof overhang.

Poured in place concrete retaining wall.

Concrete retaining wall allows the house to fit snugly into the site – while the 2 story design economizes on the cost of construction and minimizes the footprint of the building on the site.

John Deere excavator arrives

Frank’s Boys

Patty directs the crew !

Luke tests the depth – about 9 feet down

Pad ready for compaction

Here’s a 20 ton boulder !

Conceptual color schemes

Study model – shed roof

Soils tests with archaeologist