What the Heck is a Charette?

By Megan Kramer, Performance Homes Consultant

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It was probably back in 2010 - when these two articles by Green Building Advisor and Building Science Corporation were published - that I was chatting with a framer who had just completed the home we were at. They were holding an event showcasing the home as an example of energy efficient construction. I asked him about his experience with advanced framing and his response stuck with me over the years.

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He said that the advanced framing seemed like a waste of time and resources. He had to learn how to do things differently but no one ever told him why. We chatted about thermal breaks and increased insulation. I was shocked no one had informed him earlier. Little did he know he had just been trained in a highly marketable skill and was ahead of the game in this ever evolving industry.  

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Another conversation I had regarding advanced framing was with a good friend who is also a finish carpenter. He was frustrated with new framing techniques due to the lack of backing. As his team was installing kitchen cabinets they realized the framing was not in "the right" place. This cost time and money tearing open the wall and installing the proper supports. You can't help but ask, had he been consulted earlier could this have been avoided?

A type of workshop where project participants indulge in brainstorming, discussion, and strategy development to create a shared vision. Participants in these workshops usually include the owner, architect, consultants, contractors, landscape architect, commissioning agents, etc.
~The LEED definition of a charrette~
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I know of numerous examples of plans neglecting to include chases for HVAC distribution systems, particularly that pesky cold air return. The solution tends to be taking square footage from a closet when the house is already framed and the HVAC crew finally shows up. Well, folks generally like closets, they are important parts of a home design and a very disappointing thing to give up when you are having a custom home built.

In this example, when the owner refused to allow them to relocate the furnace into their coat closet to accommodate a return in the center of the home, the return was installed at the far end directly above their dining room table on the wall adjacent to the garage where the furnace was installed. A single return of the proper size could not be run above the vaulted ceiling and the HVAC crew has no other solution to offer. The homeowner even suggested multiple smaller returns and was told that was not possible!! The back bedrooms were the families two young children sleep are incredibly uncomfortable... This house has been a warranty nightmare for this builder who just did not take the time to do it right.  

These are just a few examples of how lack of communication between the various trades is a major stumbling block for advancement of the building industry. Spending time up front talking about a project is not high on the list of priorities for many builders, but it can save an incredible amount of time and materials. It also shows your client that you are organized and proactive. This process supports all of the trades allowing everyone to perform at their best and have pride in the final home. Many certification programs including LEED, Energy Star and Built Green support this effort