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The Roots of Earth Construction: Why Adobe and Rammed Earth Architecture is Seeing a Resurgence 

Posted by on Aug 16, 2021 in Las Cruces NM, Rammed Earth | 0 comments

The Southwestern United States is unlike any other part of the country. It has unique characteristics that create the well-known southwestern flavor. Aside from its desert landscapes, breath-taking sunsets, succulent cactus, and plant life, the Southwest also offers a flourishing earth construction movement inspired by the traditions of the Pueblo Indians, Spanish settlers, and others. So what is earth construction and how does it implement various building and architectural traditions?

Here, at Villa Custom Homes, we have written a lot about what we do and what sets us apart from other home builders in the area. Not only do we specialize in earth construction with rammed earth homes but we implement both traditional, modern, and smart home technologies to create living quarters that are sustainable while never compromising style and beauty. 

Let’s take a deep dive into the idea of earth construction and how it has changed over the last few decades. 

Using the Earth’s Natural Materials to Build Homes

Human dwellings have seen considerable advancements since the days of our ancestors and their hunting and gathering way of life. When humans were killing buffalo with spears and wearing loincloths, building shelters was not practical as people had to follow herds and animals. As civilizations advanced, shelters became of utmost concern. The Romans, for example, were one of the first advanced civilizations to use rammed earth techniques. The style traveled to France and Spain. So when Spanish settlers came to the modern-day southwestern United States, they brought these ideas, although earth construction was already a tradition here. 

Pueblo Indians used the soil and dry clay mixtures as building materials as well.  The Spanish settlers, however, brought Moorish influences that further changed how the architecture of the area would be developed. 

The Alhambra castle in Granada, Spain, for example, was built in the 10th century by the Moors and described by poets as “a pearl set in emeralds.” The castle/fortress complex still stands today. 

Using Adobe Bricks to Characterize the Southwestern Style 

The use of adobe bricks would become a significant advancement in the construction of the Southwest United States. In the 1930s and 40s, adobe bricks were used in the construction of southwestern buildings, but this method of construction slowed down right before World War II.

Common load-bearing masonry used in this country includes adobe and rammed earth. As concern over sustainable building and resources rises, materials like adobe and rammed earth are being further analyzed as worthy materials to consider for the building of homes and smaller structures. The building of these homes uses far less if any fossil fuels and no industrial processing. 

What is Rammed Earth Construction? 

What happens when you compress and dry a natural sandy mixture? You get an incredibly formidable material known as rammed earth! Think of rammed earth as a permanent, re-constituted rock that is often reinforced with beams, concrete, or other materials. Rammed earth, unlike a lot of adobe construction, is resilient even in rainy parts of the world, as it could withstand both dry and humid environments.

Characteristics of Rammed Earth Structures and Walls 

This building material has several unique characteristics that set it apart:

  • This type of building is inherently environmentally suited. The walls are resistant against outside temperature and will resist the heat during the day and the cold at night. They have what is known as a 12-hour temperature cycle or the flywheel effect, which takes in heat in the day and releasing it at night when it gets cooler.
  • Rammed earth walls are thick and might vary from 18 inches to 24 inches
  • The thick walls of rammed earth homes add to the coziness and warmth of the structure 
  • The walls of rammed earth have a great thermal mass
  • Walls are extremely fire resistant since there are no flammable components
  • The walls of rammed earth homes do not invite rodents, bugs, termites, or any unwanted critters

Rammed Earth in the Modern World and the 21st Century 

Rammed earth homes continue to be relatively rare, although they’ve garnered more and more attention as people seek alternative materials. So, despite the fact that using clay, soil, and dirt as building materials has been used for thousands of years, there is nothing old-fashioned about it. The versatility available with using this material is seen in more and more nuanced architectural forms. 

The Southwest is ahead of the rest of the country in implementing these building techniques in modern ways, without compromising luxury, beauty, or style. 

Bringing the Truth About Earth Construction Home

Earth construction is inherently more robust and sustainable than other materials. Earth construction proved time and time again in history that it could withstand the demands of harsh conditions, but it has to be done correctly. 

At Villa Custom Homes, we are the leading experts in rammed earth and adobe building in the Southwest. View some of the homes that we have built across New Mexico. 

Want to find out more? Call us today and learn how getting a custom-built rammed earth home can be the decision that changes your life!

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As Lumber Prices Rise, Consider a Rammed Earth Home 

Posted by on Apr 27, 2021 in Las Cruces, Rammed Earth | 0 comments

A rammed earth home in the middle of construction

The skyrocketing cost of lumber has many custom home builders struggling to keep prices down or even holding back construction. Inventory is low across the country. Homes are snatched up as soon as they hit the market, leaving many prospective and hungry home buyers unsure of how to proceed. So what options do you have if you’re looking for a home in this unprecedented climate? 

You can look for alternative materials — like rammed earth— that provide you with more bang for your buck!

Let’s take a closer look. 

The Rising Cost of Lumber and Other Home Building Materials in 2021 

In more ways than one, the housing market tends to mirror movements and trends in the supply chains, culture, and overall economy. A home reflects the lifestyle, values, and priorities of modern homeowners. And there has been a lot of hustle and bustle lately in real estate — especially since the start of the pandemic when interest rates dropped to record lows and demand for homes shot sky-high. So as homes flew off the market, buyers searched for ways to take advantage of the low-interest rates, but low inventory and disrupted supply chains have impacted people’s ability to do so.

Lumber Prices Rise to Unprecedented Highs

One hot topic making the rounds in real estate and homebuilder circles — as well as among consumers and homebuyers — is the lumber shortage and its exorbitant prices. According to various sources, the cost of building a home in 2021 has risen by an average of $24,o00 and this trend is largely a result of rising lumber prices. 

Business Insider reported the following:

  • Lumber costs rose up to 200% in the past year
  • Homebuilders have had to adjust their prices, passing them on to the consumer

What Caused the Lumber Cost Spike? 

The rise in lumber costs did not occur overnight. It has been a slow working trend for at least a decade. The National Association of Home Builders reported a 30% rise in lumber after Hurricane Harvey in 2017. That year, the price of the material was already at an all-time high. In April of 2020, some reports said lumber prices went up by 130%, which has consequently caused the price of single-family homes to rise as well. 

Factors that have had an impact on the rising prices include:

  • Tariffs imposed in previous administrations
  • Renegotiating of NAFTA in 2017
  • Higher U.S. import duties on Canadian lumber
  • Chaos in the market as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic
  • A drove of DIYers and Weekend Warriors stuck at home searching for lumber for home projects and remodels
  • Disruptions to production during the height of the pandemic 
  • And foresting restrictions over the years

When the country was in full panic mode, many industries had to shut down due to safety concerns. Lumber mills were no exception, and they did close their doors temporarily, which worsened the situation as demand increased.

How Much Lumber Does a Typical Home Need?

Homes today are built with interior wood framing. They are often referred to as “stick-built” because the pieces of wood are thin and relatively narrow. 

Home-building wood comes in four basic types that include framing studs, sheathing, plates, and headers. An average single-family dwelling of about 2,000 square feet — depending on the style — could typically expect lumber to compose about ⅓ of the costs of all materials. 

A home this size will use about: 

  • 16,000 board feet of lumber
  • 6,000 square feet of structural panels

History indicates that as traditional options run out, people will search out other options or alternatives. Using different and innovative materials can help offset this increased cost. 

The Law of Supply and Demand — The Quest for Wood

The concept of supply and demand is nothing new. It’s the universal law of economics that drives economic growth and innovation in all industries. Because interest rates remain low for now, there is still enough interest in home buying, which is keeping demand high. The question is, what will happen when things stabilize and prices adjust but people have forked over thousands more on homes that may not recuperate that value? 

What is the Future Forecast for Custom Home Prices and Home-Building Materials?

Experts are watching the trends closely. The pandemic has now begun to turn a corner and industries are returning to some normalcy. Yet, it is still uncertain when lumber prices might finally take a break from their relentless climb. People are finding themselves paying a mark-up price for a material that will not hold the same value in a few years. 

Rammed Earth: The Alternative Material That Offers Timeless Benefits 

One of the benefits of living in the Southwestern United States is that the climate is such that it allows for different types of building materials. And yet rammed earth is not a new invention. It has been around for thousands of years, thereby proving its longevity and resilience. It can be seen in such structures as the famous Alhambra castle in Spain, which still stands today. 

Rammed earth has inherent value because it is:

  • Energy efficient
  • Environmentally friendly 
  • Low maintenance

While a rammed earth home might still use some lumber and other various wooden materials, it offers an entirely different panorama of benefits that have captured the attention of home buyers looking for an alternative and a new form of custom home building.

For Your Custom Home, Find a Material That Never Stops Giving 

Villa Custom Homes has been the leading rammed earth custom home builder in the region for decades. We build homes all across New Mexico and the Las Cruces area. Not only has the rammed earth material gained popularity because it offers a gorgeous and earthy feel, but it also provides natural energy efficiency, reliability, and beauty.

Find the right alternative without sacrificing your vision of a dream home. Contact Villa Custom Homes today and learn what’s possible with rammed earth.

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Tips on Laying out a Floor Plan and Questions to Ask Your Home Builder

Posted by on Dec 9, 2020 in Home Builder, Las Cruces | 0 comments

Think of your home builder as your confidant. For a period of six to nine months, your custom home builder will be intimately involved in planning your future. No, we don’t need to know when you plan to get married or have your first kid, but we do get to be involved with the planning of your home that will be so intricately involved in all of the above things. Inevitably, we learn a lot about each other during our time working together! It’s a truly unique relationship. At Villa Custom Homes, we embrace the time we have with each one of our clients. 

Here in Las Cruces, tucked away in the eastern part of the state, we have made a great many friendships with folks we’ve built homes for. After doing this for so long, we’ve learned some of the common concerns that grip people looking to build their first home. Let’s look at some upfront considerations when thinking about your floor plan and some of the key questions to ask your builder when shopping around. 

New to Home Building? Here’s What You Should Consider!

People often characterize the custom home building process as “stressful.” It doesn’t always have to be like this! You just need to find the right builder. Then you’ll experience the opposite of stress. In fact, building your home should be one of the most fun ways to embark on investing. Here are some of the cool things you get to think about. 

Consider your lot dimensions

Lots of beautiful things in this world begin as just a plot of dirt, and your next custom home is no exception. New Mexico’s desert landscape offers plenty of breathtaking lots wherein mountain views and sunsets will fill every evening. Knowing the basic measurements of your lot and allowable building area can help you sort through possible floor plans. It will also prompt you to think carefully about how much space you want in your front yard, back yard, doggy run, or whatever you want to have on your land. 

Take a look at the topography & surrounding natural landscape

All lots have different features and here in the desert or throughout the state of New Mexico, you’ll likely get flat land with the occasional slope. Asking your home builder about this can help you make decisions on how to make use of the natural topography and surrounding landscape. It can prompt questions about where to put a window, what size window, the orientation of the home, etc. Ask your home builder how they might best utilize the lot.

Our rammed earth homes out here in New Mexico have an intrinsic earthy presence and using the surrounding desert to enhance this will only make the final product that much better. Many of our lots here, for example, have a view of the Organ Mountains, hills, or other unique natural features. 

Prioritize important features for you

Every year, you’ll see real estate gurus talk about the next “fad” or homeowner obsession. This is all well and good, but you shouldn’t follow a trend that doesn’t apply to your personal preference or lifestyle. Consider the features that really tug on those heartstrings. Sit down with your family or significant other and talk about the features that are “must-haves.” These can be things like:

  • Walk -n closets 
  • Built-in shelves
  • Storage
  • 2 floor or single floor home
  • Laundry room
  • Mudroom
  • Home office
  • Bathroom design
  • Kitchen design
  • The layout of the rooms
  • Garage
  • Types of windows
  • Breakfast rooms

Those are the big ones. And once you sort those out, you can go to the smaller details like light fixtures, colors, and other decorative features. As your home builder, we help homeowners with this as well. Ask us about some of the popular features we’re seeing. We provide examples and options from previous floor plans of our Southwestern-styles homes. 

Go with the flow

“Flow” is a phrase that has gained some traction in recent years. It’s not a dance move. To put it simply, it refers to how a floor plan can determine the natural “flow of your home.” Depending on how your home is designed it typically dictates where people tend to congregate, flow highlights certain rooms, or naturally leads guests to certain areas of the home. 

Good flow refers to a plan that has rooms grouped together that are used together. For example, bedrooms and bathrooms will usually be located in a quiet section of the home, apart from the kitchen and living areas. With open floor plans, this means making the most of a central open area that creates a shared-space vibe that opens up the entire house. But it’s up to you. Ask your home builder how they recommend laying out the home. 

What’s your style? 

You’ve likely established a style of home that you prefer already. We specialize in building rammed earth Southwestern-style homes, but we can build anything. Do you want a more traditional layout that speaks rustic or reminds you of your grandmother’s house many years ago? Or are you looking for something a lot more modern and minimal? 

Consider what’s to come

You can’t plan the future but having a sense of where your life is and how you want to change, can set you up for success. Whether you plan to live in a home for ten years or make it your “forever home,” considering the future can give you some flexibility and help be the deciding factor on certain features. If you think your family will be growing and changing in the next couple of years, let us know and keep this in mind. This might mean you can set the house to where it is easy to add extra rooms, or it might lead you to add an extra room in the floor plan. 

Contact Villa Custom Homes, Today!

Call us and ask us how to get started. We’ll get to know each other well. We’ve been building homes in New Mexico for many years and our clients are very much part of why we love doing this. Are you looking for a home that accommodates your growing family? Looking for a home that inspires? Want to build a home that you will retire in and then leave a legacy for your children? Decide your own legacy with Villa Custom Homes. 

 

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A Time to Build: On Building Your Dream Home During a Pandemic

Posted by on Oct 27, 2020 in Home Builder, Las Cruces | 0 comments

It might not sound like a good idea to go for one of the biggest investments of your life during a pandemic year, but 2020 has shown us that life is short and precious, so why not have the home you’ve always dreamed of and embark on a journey unlike any other? 

Here’s the thing, all this craziness will eventually pass and the stability in the economy and markets will return. It always does. This country has seen depression, war, political upheavals, major recessions, and it has always bounced back. In the meantime, low-interest rates mean a great deal on a long-term investment. A low-interest rate has deceptively HUGE impacts on your monthly payment. There are several reasons why now is the best time to buy your custom home. 

But first…

There is a high demand for homes, however, and this means we’re in a seller’s market. It often means a ready buyer is eager to throw money at a home that might not be the right one. Lured in by the low-interest rates, people are jumping on any opportunity they can. A seller’s market is not always the best time for a homebuyer to put down their money on an existing home; there is likely to be bidding wars, high closing costs, rushing real estate agents, and buyers that end up settling for less home for their buck. 

So why go for a custom build? 

Seller’s markets can be deceptive. 

Simply put, the seller has the upper hand. The supply of homes is low and shrinking, meaning sellers get to cash in on hungry buyers. Sometimes sellers skimp out on needed repairs. Real estate agents report seeing bidding wars and the like as buyers throw their money at any property they see.

The excitement of that low-interest rate might dissipate and you may find yourself a month or two from now in a home that was far from what you had envisioned or needed. Plus, you overpaid for it because you had to win the offer, and/or get stuck with maintenance costs and unprecedented repairs—which always tend to happen about the second month you move in. This is not unheard of in the seller’s market, but one way to take advantage of those low-interest rates is by looking into a custom builder and how they can help you get the exact home you want and need in the location you prefer with quality construction.  

Buying Property in New Mexico — As Told by an Experienced New Mexico Builder

The Land of Enchantment has a lot to offer. As your New Mexico homebuilder of more than twenty years, Villa Custom Homes knows the area of the Southwest like the back of our hand. We have built all across the state. New Mexico is not only a great state due to mild weather, low cost of living, and plenty of available land but it also offers some great benefits to homeowners including: 

Low Property Taxes – People are often surprised to find out that our charming state offers some of the lowest property taxes across the country. The median annual property tax paid by homeowners in New Mexico is $1,272, which is about $800/year less than the average across the nation. 

A Quiet and Beautiful Community – Forbes recently reported how folks are fleeing from larger cities and looking to build in suburbs and smaller towns where people have more space and are less crowded. The pandemic has revitalized the love for small towns, space, and private property. For example, in the Spring of 2020, Manhattan property values dropped 56% in July and rose 44% in nearby suburbs. People are seeking better locations and better communities without the crowded metropolitan areas—especially with so many people given the opportunity to work from home while choosing where they live. A quick look at population density reveals that New York has a population density of about 27,000 people per square mile, while Las Cruces, New Mexico with a total population of about 213,849 has approximately 56 people per square mile. That’s quite the difference and allows for people to build the home of their dreams in the beautiful desert landscape. 

Know Your Materials and the Quality from Start to Finish 

At Villa Custom Homes, we build our homes to last. We never sacrifice quality and durability for a quick build. Our specialty is building with rammed earth and other materials that are made to last in the hotter and drier climates of Southern New Mexico.  At the same time, our home design uses the beloved Pueblo-revival architectural style that so characterizes the beautiful homes in the lovely Southwest. 

A Custom Build is More than a Purchase, It’s an Adventure of a Lifetime 

We overheard a story the other day about a gentleman whose home had what were some kind of AC water lines running through one sidewall and beneath his living room floor. This—if ever a good idea to do at all—needs to be done very carefully because you might find yourself in a nightmare scenario. Sure enough, it happened to him. One of the pipes burst underneath the home and the entire hardwood floor had to be dug out in order to get to the damage. His home was barely SIX years old! 

Issues like this often happen when home builders choose to sacrifice quality and foundation for saving a few bucks or getting the project done faster. With a custom build from a trusted builder, you don’t have to worry about surprises like this because you’ll know how your house is built from the start. You will have materials, plans, and plenty of walkthroughs during the construction process.

The Impacts of Low Mortgage Interest Rates

Compound interest is a good thing if you are earning it, not paying for it. This refers to interest on interest and is sometimes the case for high mortgages with big interest rates. Even small changes in your mortgage interest can have a big impact on your payment and account balance. 

If you finance for about 3.08%—about the current rate—you can save thousands of dollars over the life of your loan and pay less every month. Waiting until next year, even if materials are slightly less expensive then, can mean a simple difference of 1% on the interest, but this means a considerable difference in your monthly payment. This further reiterates the point that there’s no time like the present to have your dream home built!

Why Wait? It’s Time for Your Dream Home to Become a Reality!

So, despite the talk of uncertainty, one thing that is for sure is that the home of your dreams has indisputable value. When built properly and with top-of-the-line architecture and design, your home becomes an investment that will keep on giving for many years to come. Call us today and find out more about Villa Custom Homes and how you can take advantage of low-interest rates and the best quality materials in the Southwest. 

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A Natural Dwelling Place: History of Pueblo Revival Architecture in the Southwest 

Posted by on Aug 10, 2020 in Home Builder, Las Cruces | 0 comments

If you talk to any architecture aficionado—particularly in the Southwest—you are likely to hear about the beloved Pueblo Revival style that is prominent in the area. Many of the homes across the region—in Las Cruces or Albuquerque, all the way out to Arizona, and even some of West Texas—are inspired by elements from this charming style. Architecture nerds (we mean that in the nicest way possible ) might also point out that Pueblo-style architecture is one of the few major styles actually born in America. 

We all know it when we see it. We recognize it as we drive by, but how did this style emerge and what is its history? How come it continues to be a popular inspiration for modern homes? Well, read along to find out more! 

Here at Villa Custom Homes, we are a versatile builder that is known to implement a variety of architectural styles and designs. Because of our geographical location, however, we see a lot of Southwest-inspired homes that utilize the materials and layouts of the Pueblo Revival. 

Who Were the Pueblo People? — A Quick Overview of the American Indian Tribes

As one of the oldest cultures in the nation, the Pueblo Indians occupied what is now the Southwestern United States. They are said to be derived from three major cultures including Mogollon, Hohokam, and Ancient Puebloans, with some of their histories tracing back almost 7,000 years.  The name is Spanish translates to “village.” They were named as such because of their style of dwelling. The ancient Puebloans were hunter-gatherers and nomads who slowly settled into a more stationary life in the regions of modern-day Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Arizona.

As these peoples settled down in what is now known as the Four Corners region, they developed advanced agricultural skills, maximizing the arid landscape to grow maize, corn, squash, and beans. They also raised turkeys and were quite apt at developing complex irrigation systems. They had great basket weaving and pottery making abilities as well. They were great builders of quaint little dwellings that composed the villages in which they lived. They usually built on top of high mesas or in hollowed-out caves and were designed with stone or adobe masonry were the first iterations of the later Pueblo people. 

After the early Puebloan peoples’ way of life declined in the 1300s, their descendants continued to flourish in the area. They hunted, farmed, and built the apartment-like structures that they were known for. These multi-dwelling complexes typically housed several families, as each one typically lived in one room. These large structures would often have a wide-open space in the center, a type of shared patio that is quite popular for bigger adobe-inspired homes today.

In the 1500s, Europeans—particularly Spanish colonists—began to explore the area. These Spanish explorers first encountered the Zuni tribe of the Pueblos and slowly made their way across the region. There were, of course, feuds and hostilities between the natives and the incoming European settlers. Even after several clashes, the Spanish kept coming, setting up churches, settling, and spreading Christianity. Many Pueblo Indians were converted, though their lifestyle changed little. There were several insurrections and continued tensions all the way up to the 1800s. In 1821, New Mexico gained independence from Spain but the last revolt of the people happened in 1847. It was a bloody revolt and resulted in the deaths of several Americans and several Indians that were said to have taken part in the revolt. 

The Pueblo people today reside mostly in New Mexico and Arizona. Many continue to practice the Catholic religion spread by the early Spaniards, as well as their ancient religious rites and customs. 

Common Features of the Beloved Pueblo Revival Style

The Pueblo people were known for building their beautiful multi-story, often-conjoined complexes where entire communities would settle. In the early 20th century, the Pueblo Revival style became quite prominent in the Southwestern United States. Some of the quintessential features include vigas, wooden structural features and beams, latillas, rounded corners, and smooth stucco surfaces or rammed earth materials.  

The early dwelling had to be built to withstand hot and dry climates. As such, the natives always used local materials including dried-clay mixtures. Adobe walls also tend to be quite thick, in order to maintain temperature control. Smaller windows were usually seen to keep out excessive sunlight. Today’s modern pueblo-revival homes, of course, have a fusion of modernity and traditional pueblo features that makes the homes apt for the modern family. 

Today’s Pueblo Revival is known as a fusion of Pueblo-style dwelling with some Spanish influence. As the Spanish settled in the area, they brought some of their architectural styles with them. The style is typically defined with some of the following features:

  • Flat roofs
  • Earth-tone stucco-covered exterior
  • Natural materials like adobe or rammed earth
  • Stepped massing
  • Irregular finishes 
  • Wood/Clay details
  • Simple or smaller windows
  • Narrow covered porches 
  • Rounded corners and edges

Adapt Your Pueblo Revival Home to the 21st Century With a Custom Home Builder

Whether you are looking to build a full-fledged Pueblo-style home or simply want to implement some Southwestern flair, Villa Custom Homes is here to design your beautiful home. Have questions? Call us today. 

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