Best Practices

Home plans (“blueprints”) now on the menu!

October 29th, 2014 by Mary Schmelzer

Do you need plans (“blueprints”) for your new home?

Are you planning a new home and have a pretty good idea what you want and some ideas of how you want the house to look?

Recognizing that not all people need the same level of design service, VIVUS now offers a plan-creation service for those people who need fewer design options and less-detailed customization.

Your home will be drawn custom for you, with the layout and the look that you want, on your building site. When finished, your plans will allow you to get construction pricing, to secure a building permit, and allow you to make all the selections that will go into the finished project. We work with you to provide a home that is exciting, functional, and attuned to your budget.

Additionally, if there are rooms or details you want to be further customized (built-ins in a great room, or custom-made cabinetry and details in the kitchen) those services can be added to make your new home reflect your style and allow you to get accurate construction pricing including those more-detailed areas.

Find more information here.

Don’t know which level of service you need (home plans vs. highly customized home)? Schedule a meeting and we can help you decide which arrangement better suits your needs.

2014 blueprint graphic

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Smart Remodeling

June 9th, 2010 by Peter Schmelzer

Which of these home improvements do you think can cause condensation on your windows and cause your water heater to back draft?

  • Replacing the old furnace with a high-efficiency furnace
  • Caulking and sealing windows and other wall penetrations
  • Increasing the R-value of insulation in the attic
  • Installing a new range hood or bath fan
  • Adding conditioned space to an existing home
  • Changing a fireplace
  • The truth is that they all have the potential to cause unexpected consequences, including condensation on the windows, carbon monoxide in the air, and mold in the walls.
    At the Smart Remodeling seminar in Rochester, we reviewed the interdependence of the systems in the house and how well-intentioned upgrade can cause a snow-ball effect in pushing an existing house toward and over the cliff to failure.


    All of our existing homes rely on energy to keep them stable and to manage moisture. Older homes may be stable for reasons that aren’t immediately obvious. For example, wood fireplaces traditionally allow a high volume of air to escape through the chimney. That air may actually be removing moisture from the basement in the spring. If you install tight doors over the fireplace and the air is not allowed to escape, what happens to the moisture? It stays in the house, causing odors, mold, and condensation, unless overall ventilation of the house is addressed at the same time. The same holds true for other seemingly innocuous renovations.

    The improvement ideas in the pop quiz above are all great things to do for energy efficiency and sustainability, yet experience has shown that they can lead to unintended results. These can be prevented through the right analysis and design process. We invite your call to discuss how careful planning can keep your remodeling project on track and improve your home’s performance at the same time.

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    US Green Building Council Membership

    April 27th, 2010 by Peter Schmelzer

    VIVUS Architecture + Design has renewed its membership in the US Green Building Council as an indicator of our interest in , expertise regarding, and support of the sustainable building movement in the United States.

    Ask us how we can help you measure how sustainable your project can be!

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    Architect/User Preference Difference?

    April 23rd, 2010 by Peter Schmelzer

    Just read a research summary from the University of Minnesota’s InformeDesign that discussed the apparent difference in aesthetic preferences between architects and building users. To cut to the quick:

    Based on the report, building design that would satisfy both architects and building users would include:

  • pitched roof
  • traditional wall materials
  • strong architectural character
  • I invite you to check out our portfolio; you’ll find that our projects appeal to both the users and the architect!

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    Passive House in North America

    April 6th, 2010 by Peter Schmelzer

    I’ve been reading about and researching the Passive House standard lately, and came across a good article on the topic through

    Passive House was launched from Germany under one basic premise: Invest in the building’s envelope to save energy. Through an air-tight, highly insulated building shell, heat transfer is dramatically reduced, requiring less energy to heat and cool the space. Ideally, the envelope’s high performance would offset the need for a large central heating/cooling appliance and that savings would offset the higher cost of increase wall thickness, added insulation, and imported windows and doors. Cooling would be provided through ventilation and supplemental heat could be added to the incoming fresh air when needed. It is a compelling argument for low-energy homes.

    One question in my mind is about our severely cold winters in Minnesota. Is it cost effective to avoid a heat plant? There are decreasing returns on efficiency with extreme insulation and with the continuous use of fresh air for ventilation, outside temperature has a larger impact. How does an architect strike a balance and still meet the criteria?

    The article suggests that Germany and Minnesota are not equal and may require different standards, whether the Passive House Institute agrees or not. In the end, the goal is low energy, sustainable housing. Passive House is a leader in promoting low-energy homes, but the jury is still out for it’s widespread use in Minnesota.

    We look forward to our first chance to embrace and test the Passive House standard.

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    Interior Design and Visualization

    December 15th, 2009 by Peter Schmelzer

    Interior Design Visualization

    Whether remodeling, expanding or building new, It can be challenging to visualize how your building project will look. With your invested dollars at stake, it makes good sense to verify that you’ll be happy with the finished product before it is installed. Otherwise you risk living with space that doesn’t fit or paying the high cost of replacement or modification.

    Our design process helps you at each step of the way.

    This photo was taken during Design Development for a residential remodeling. Mary, our lead Interior Designer, is reviewing finish options with a client. After initial Schematic Design conversations about the overall look and feel for the remodeling, Mary assembled several possible material combinations onto presentation boards. We then reviewed each on site with the homeowner so that decisions were made in the same light in which they will be installed. In parallel, we provide a big-picture view of the whole project through 3D computer visualization. With professional input and advice, our clients receive needed assurance that the picks will, indeed, be beautiful and functional when installed.

    Interior Coordination

    This is part of the way we strive to make your experience pleasurable and rewarding: interaction and collaboration. You will find our designers to be responsive, caring and professional.

    When construction begins, we’ll review the colors and finishes again to make sure they are exactly right; adding windows and changing wall colors will affect your perception and it’s got to be right!

    It would be a delight to serve you.

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    Peace of Mind: Professional Liability Insurance

    November 24th, 2009 by Peter Schmelzer

    VIVUS carries professional liability insurance to help provide our clientele with peace of mind.

    The last thing anyone wants is to be injured by an error or omission in design documents. There has NEVER been a claim made on our policy, yet we pay our premiums to protect your best interests. Our coverage is there, should it be needed.

    We wish you every success in your project!

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