Construction Update November 2022

Islands of Beaufort Dogtrot

Take a close look at the return air grill. It was custom designed by Benjie and made by Michael Sanders of Sanders Woodworking. The design is based on the footprint of the house.

Brays Island Cabin

The Brays Island Cabin is nearing completion. We are loving the tile selected by Lydia Lewis of Kelly Caron Design.

Long Cove Club house

This Long Cove Club house in Hilton Head Island is in the middle of framing. The raised first floor creates great views of the pond and golf course. There is a half story for the second floor.

A kiln in Okinawa that angles up the hill that it is build on

Biophilic Design in Japan

Biophilia translate to “love of life” and signifies humans’ innate biological and emotional need to connect to nature. Biophilic elements have been shown to reduce stress, improve cognitive performance and support positive emotions and moods. In contemporary architecture it is considered a fairly new concept.

Michael and Jane recently visited Okinawa, Japan and found ancient and contemporary examples of biophilic design. The atrium shown above is the Hotel Moon Beach which was completed in 1975, in 2002 it was awarded the Japan Institute of Architects’ 25 year award.

The Architect Yukifusa Kokuba said of his project “The Moon Beach concept is an architectural realization of the shade of the banyan tree I once saw. The semi-outdoor space softens the strong Okinawan sunlight and creates an airy space.”

Fukushuen Garden located in the Kume neighborhood of Naha which was once the center of Chinese culture during the Ryukyu Kingdom (1429-1879). The Chinese Garden uses natural materials throughout. The sculpture on the left are eroded natural stones from the edge of the sea and carefully located in the garden.

The paving is made of individual stones in a concentric pattern.

The new folk dwelling in Nakijin won the JIA Sustainable Architecture Award in 2019. The architect was ISSHO Architects.

This small contemporary house is based on the traditional Okinawa typhoon-proof houses. The structure and natural ventilation are well thought out.

A kiln in Okinawa that angles up the hill that it is build on

The Yomitan HIll Kiln was completed in 1980 and won the JIA 25 Year Award in 2011. The architect was Asao Sugama.

The architectural expression of the Yomitan Hill Kiln can be said to be determined by the waste materials. The kiln is made of prewar roof tiles and used telegraph poles which are then combined with field stones.

The form of the building harmonizes with the landscape as it climbs up the hill.

Glascow Island Regenerative Design

The Glascow Island Regenerative Design is located off of Edisto Island on the South Carolina coast between Beaufort and Charleston. The client wants to make the project an example of regenerative design which reduces negative impacts on the environment but also produces positive impacts. We are super exciting to be pursuing the Living Building Challenge.

Living Buildings are:

  • Regenerative building that connect occupants to light, air, food, nature and community
  • Self-sufficient and remain within the resource limits of their site
  • Create a positive impact on the human and natural systems that interact with them

St. Simon's House Featured in Savannah Magazine

The Thomas Black House on St. Simon's Island was featured in Savannah Magazine. Read about it here. See more about the project here.

IBHS Fortified Home

The ASHRAE Guide for Buildings in Hot & Humid Climates recommends to design and construct buildings in hurricane prone areas using the following steps in order of priority: keep the building from blowing away; keep the rain out; elevate the structure above the flood plain; build with materials that tolerate soaking; and design the wall assemblies to easily dry when they become wet.

IBHS Fortified Home

The ASHRAE priorities may not be practical when retrofitting an existing house. Therefore consider using the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety’s (IBHS) FORTIFIED Home™  Hurricane Standards for upgrading  your house.  The IBHS FORTIFIED Home™ relies on an inspection to certified that your home meets one of three levels Fortified Roof, Silver, or Gold. Potential home insurance savings are available with each level.

Fortified Roof

The IBHS FORTIFIED Home™ identifies the roof as the most important component in protecting your house. The first of three levels of certification is the FORTIFIED Roof. If the roof has less than five years life left it should be replaced. When replacing the roof, the existing shingles should be removed and the new roof should comply with the following:

  • the roof deck should be a minimum of 7/16” plywood or OSB,
  • attached with 8d shank nails spaced nominally at 6” on center or 4” on center for buildings within 600 feet of the ocean,
  • sealed with a qualified system such as a full layer of self-adhering polymer modified bitumen membrane. If the roof is asphalt shingles the membrane should be covered with 15# building felt,
  • a drip edge must be installed, and
  • the new roof covering must be high-wind rated and installed per manufacturer’s installation instructions.

If the roof does not need to be replaced, it can be structurally reinforced and sealed with closed-cell, polyurethane foam applied to the underside of each roof rafter or truss. Replacing attic insulation with closed-cell polyurethane foam at the underside of the roof deck solves other problems as well. It keeps hot humid air out of the attic, therefore creating a more efficient building envelope and heating and air conditioning system.

Silver Standard

The silver level builds on the bronze by certifying that all doors and windows are pressure and impact rated. If the existing opening do not meet the pressure and impact requirements you can protect the opening with qualified opening protection systems. This can be as simple as pre-cut 5/8” marine grade plywood or advanced as custom made hurricane shutters. The silver level also requires attached porches and carports to be properly connected to prevent uplift.

Gold Standard

The most advanced level, gold, includes stabilizing gable walls and installing connections to prevent uplift. The house will be tied together from the roof rafters to the walls, the walls to the floor, and the floor to the foundation.  Chimneys must also be properly attached to the building.


Another important preventive measure is to keep trees trimmed of dead wood. Dead wood is the first to become detached and a potential missile attacking the house.

The FORTIFIED Home™  is applicable for both new construction, re-roofing of existing houses and renovations. To learn more about the FORTIFIED Home™  program visit the IBHS website

construction costs

Construction Costs

Many people who are contemplating building a new home are surprised at the cost of construction. This is especially so since the beginning of the pandemic.

Current Trends Affecting Construction Costs

Recently, I met with the Manufacturer’s Council of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). Among the topics discussed was the current housing market, building product prices and supply chain disruptions. Kermit Baker, Chief Economist, AIA said that spending on buildings in 2021 was $1.3 trillion with the majority of the spending on homes. This is almost 5% of our GDP.

Interestingly, homebuilding activity has been heavily concentrated in affordable Sunbelt markets. In metro areas that issued more than 1,000 permits, three of the top ten nationally,  in change  housing permits in the last year are Greenville, Columbia and Myrtle Beach.  We are experiencing tremendous growth here in Beaufort County, too.

There is a pent up demand for houses because of the low level of homebuilding during the last decade and the rising median age of the housing stock. The median age of houses in 1985 was 22 years and by 2017 the median age was 40 years.

But there are some issues facing the homebuilding market:

  • Rising demand coupled with a low inventory of homes has rapidly pushed up house prices.
  • Rampant inflation has made it more expensive to build homes, and rising mortgage rates makes it more expensive to buy them.
  • Supply chain disruptions have made some products available only with extremely long lead times.
  • There is an emerging construction labor shortage that is likely to get worse.
  • All of the above are all creating problems as housing demand promises to remain strong in the coming years.

The sources of construction cost inflation have been a moving target. Since April of 2021, the price of lumber has fallen over 90% after doubling in price in 2020. But steel, plastics, gypsum, glass and concrete have all doubled in price since April of 2021. Many of the manufacturers spoke of the need for supply chain resiliency with stockpiling materials to draw from in order to respond to demand as opposed to “Just in Time” inventory that was put in place during the great recession.

Designing for Hurricanes & Earthquakes add to the Construction Costs

Construction costs are higher in Beaufort County because we are in both a hurricane zone and an earthquake zone. The requirements to mitigate both of these hazards include the following:

  • Building the first floor above FEMA’s base flood elevation which adds to the foundation cost.
  • Structural Engineering fees to design code compliant structural systems.
  • Connecting the roof, through the walls to the foundation and footing with threaded rods, go-bolts, hurricane clips or other code approved methods. This adds to both the material and labor costs.
  • The shear walls required for lateral stability are more expensive than sheathing options available in other parts of the country.
  • Window and door openings must be protected from windblown debris. Impact rated windows can cost up to twice as much as non-impact openings.

Best Practices

There are several best practice options that will cost more initially but will either save money on your home insurance or utility bill that we recommend.

  • A secondary roof under a metal roof that ensure water tightness if the roof is compromised during high winds.
  • An U.L. certified lightning protection system will add $7,000 to $10,000 to a 2500 s.f. house but will protect your house and electronics from lightning strikes during our many lightning storms.
  • Spray foam insulation is typically 2 to 3 times more expensive than fiberglass insulation but is a far superior product. It stops air and moisture infiltration, will not sag, keeps dust and pollen out and reduces capacity requirements, maintenance and wear of heating and air conditioning equipment.

TV remodeling shows also add to unrealistic time and cost expectations. Those shows often have donated materials, low cost fees from the contractors and have pre-built a large portion in a warehouse prior to the show.

Cost, square footage (both inside and outside) and quality of materials and workmanship are the triad of construction. If cost is the driving issue in your project you must be flexible in the size of the project and the quality of materials and workmanship.

Swimming Pools

Swimming pools add a special touch to one’s outdoor living spaces. Here are a few that we have completed over the past years.

This pool was part of a whole house remodel in Long Cove on Hilton Head Island. 

Another Long Cove pool with a zero edge overlooking the marsh. This raised pool deck allows for seamless indoor/outdoor living.

This St. Simon’s Island pool was raised not only for a great flow between the inside and the pool deck but to also create needed privacy on the corner lot. The water from the spa spills into the pool creating a bit of drama.

The dogtrot opens directly to the pool and out to the river.

This deep blue pool is the focal point of the house with the great room, primary suite and screened porch wrapping the pool deck

Riparian Buffers

Almost every month there are variance requests before the Beaufort County Zoning Board of Appeals for waterfront buffer setbacks. It seems that many of the applicants do not understand the intent and importance of riparian buffers.

A riparian buffer is the land bordering waterways characterized by a cover of naturally occurring vegetation consisting of trees, shrubs, and native grasses.  The benefits include:

  • preventing erosion,
  • abating flood and storm damage,
  • providing wildlife habitat,
  • improving aesthetics of water corridors, which can increase property values, and
  • maintaining and improving water quality and overall health of the eco-system by filtering pollutants from runoff. According to the EPA, riparian buffers “act as natural filters of nonpoint source pollutants, including sediment, nutrients, pathogens, and metals to water bodies.”

Protecting our water quality is especially important when you consider that 222,080 of Beaufort County’s 590,720 acres are covered by water. In 1999, Beaufort County adopted the River Buffers and Natural Resource Protection in the Zoning and Development Standards Ordinance. The riparian buffer helps meet the values outlined in the comprehensive plan of preserving our natural systems, ensuring clean water and pursuing environmentally responsible development.

Best management practices for riparian lands according to South Carolina Department of Natural Resources include the following:

  • A minimum 50-100 foot riparian buffer should be established and maintained along both sides of the waterway.
  • The disturbance of the natural ground cover should be minimized and native vegetation should characterize the buffer. New native vegetation might need to be added to the buffer.
  • Lawn should be outside of the riparian buffer, at least 50 feet from the waterway.
  • New buildings should be located outside the 100-year floodplain and set back at least 100 feet from the waterway.
  • To protect the scenic quality in the river corridors, thinning in the riparian buffer should be limited to the lesser of either 75 feet or one third of the lot width.

Beaufort County and the municipalities within the county all have riparian buffer requirements that outline the minimum width of the buffer, vegetation requirements, and what is allowed in the buffer. The buffer is measured from the critical line established by the South Carolina Department of Ocean & Coastal Resource Management (OCRM). The requirements vary depending on the zoning district and can greatly impact the buildable area of a lot. Prior to buying waterfront property, it is recommended to have a surveyor, landscape architect or architect review the zoning requirements to determine the buildability of the site.


Every evening, Michael and I enjoy sitting out on the porch, while watching the sunset and listening to the tree frogs serenade us. With fall’s cooler weather we are reaching peak porch season. There are many factors to consider to create the best experience for outdoor living.

The best location for a porch is the south façade. This protects the interior from the hot summer sun and provides a cozy spot for winter days. Likewise, do not put porches on the north, unless it is a small covered entrance for a door.  Large porches on the north side of the house tend to be dark, dank and uninviting.

Most porches need to accommodate both an eating area and a comfy sitting area. Ten feet deep is a good starting point for the porch. Fourteen to sixteen feet is more gracious. Allow for at least three feet around all sides of a dining table to give maneuvering room for chairs.

Unless you are ocean front with a constant breeze, most people want to have a screened porch. Retractable screen are extremely popular because they can be rolled up when not in use and not block the view. Fenetex offers a dual insect and hurricane screen for the ultimate protection. Ceiling fans will help beat the heat and keep the bugs at bay. The ceiling fan should be U.L. rated for Wet Locations for safety and longevity of the fan.

Here in the lowcountry, many porches are raised to be out of the flood plain. If the house does not need raising, porches that are 30” or less from the adjacent grade, deck or terrace do not need a railing. This is ideal because the view remains open.

Adding an exterior fireplace to the porch to extends porch season to a year-round activity.

Finally, outfit the porch for leisurely visiting and entertaining with lowcountry favorites such as swinging day beds, joggling boards and Pawley island hammocks.