Q&A Local Trends in Building and Architecture

It’s no secret that the Heber Valley is positioned for continued growth. Looking at the big picture, that growth may be in the hands of our planners and city and county officials, as well as zoning and influx. However, I wanted to learn from those on the ground — from the people who are literally building and designing our communities every day.

To explore where we are heading with design and building trends in the valley, and to learn the inspirations and advice from those on the forefront of building our community, I caught up with Paul Clark, Jake Jorgenson and Clayton Vance. Here is what they had to say.

Debra West: I’d love to know a little about your backgrounds and why you chose building or design as a career?

Paul Clark: I started building with my dad when I was very young and it’s in my blood. In addition to my dad, both my great-grandfather and his father were builders. They were the part of first settlers in Provo. They helped build Fort Utah and then many of the homes for their families and others.

Jake Jorgenson: I grew up building custom homes working for my dad. I saw a need to learn how to be a better business person and not just a good builder.

Clayton Vance: When someone asks you, “What do you think about when you don’t have to think about anything?” my answer is architecture and urban design. My mind just goes there and I can’t stop it, so I figure it’s best to use my talents this way.

DW: What keeps you inspired?

PC: I love to build, I love to create. It’s what gets me up in the morning and drives me. How can something that functions well be more aesthetically pleasing? How can something that is beautiful function better? How can we do something that hasn’t been done before? How can we take a really high-end feature and do it more cost effectively so we can incorporate into our homes?

JJ: I love working in the beautiful areas we get to build in. Views of Timp are amazing at some of our projects, with skiing and mountain biking right out the door. I also love the smile on a customer’s face when their project is done.

CV: Traveling inspires me.

DW: Design trends often cycle. Are you seeing a shift away from the contemporary aesthetic toward transitional or traditional mountain? How are clients’ expectations changing?

PC: Trends are a fun aspect of building. Things change over time and some buyers get concerned that they might get caught in a trend that is possibly on its way out. The truth is, everyone is different and many trends continue to appeal to certain types of people over long periods of time.

JJ: I think we are seeing a lot more of the mountain contemporary and mountain transitional styles now and a lot less of the traditional homes. The clean lines and large windows and large doors are very important to our customers right now. They still want the warmth of the wood siding, but mixed with some metal or something more contemporary.

DW: How are elevated building costs affecting builds, tastes for specs and custom homes? Do you expect costs to decrease?

PC: The market is strong right now. There are more homes to be built than there are people to build them, which puts construction labor at a premium. National trade and market issues continue to push up material as well. Will prices come down? I see them tapering off and not increasing every year like they have been, but I don’t see a monumental adjustment like we saw a decade ago.

JJ: Costs are up from where they were a few years ago, but compared to builders I know in other areas, it could be a lot higher. I don’t really think costs will decrease either because of a shortage of qualified labor force. There just aren’t a lot of trained workers to do manual labor and perform it well. Schools need to add more programs for training younger people in these skills so we have a strong workforce in the future. Parents need to encourage their kids to look into jobs in building also because they’ll have a great future if they develop these skills and manage money.

DW: We’ve all noted that homeowners seem to prefer            less-formal layouts. What other lifestyle-oriented building trends are you addressing and how are they allowing clients to live better or more efficiently in their homes?

PC: We have always encouraged our clients to incorporate single level living into their design. Even if they are in their prime, this allows them to age in place. Key elements I see with lifestyle-oriented design are: One — stairs: make them easy to use or eliminate them. Two — elevators: many clients have us design a future elevator into their plans. Three — small offices: people don’t need a big space anymore to work. They need a place to open up a laptop and go to work. Four — outdoor living: getting outdoors is a huge part of living here. Accordion doors, lift and slide panel doors and pocket doors are a great way to create those outdoor living spaces. Five — health and wellness design is a big thing today and part of aging well.

CV: I personally like the courtyard home the best. It creates intimate spaces and great two-way views. But in the end, the site and client needs determine the layout and size of the home. Each one is unique.

DW: How is environmental awareness and interest in renewable energy or green building affecting plans?
How prevalent is this in Wasatch County?

PC: Green build and energy efficiency are on the rise. Each year, new developments help us be better stewards of our communities and our planet. There are still a lot of ways we can improve, but as technology continues to improve and we become more aware of our impact, it will only get better.

JJ: Even though I am a Certified Green Professional builder with the National Association of Home Builders, we don’t do a lot of hyper energy-efficient homes. Efficient heating, lighting, water heating, insulation and windows have all become much more common, and in our case the norm. We don’t get a lot of requests for the “net zero” homes in our area though, and find that most of our customers want their homes to be efficient and function well, but don’t want to spend the extra money required to make it net zero. I do think this will become more common over time though.

CV: People are interested in solar, but when the rubber meets the road, only a handful do since our system isn’t set up to truly incentivize solar use.

DW: How is technology impacting your work? What changes in building and design methods improve efficiency and support lean building techniques?

PC: I see giant strides in technology in construction management. From our homeowner portal that our clients can access from anywhere in the world to see what is happing on their homes, to online critical path method scheduling that automatically updates subs and suppliers when we need them.

JJ: Our industry is notoriously slow at making changes and using technology. More and more, “off-site” construction methods are being used though. We’ve built homes that are pre-cut and laid out before framing, but with the complexity of a lot of the homes in our area, this isn’t always possible. I’d really like to see more builders incorporate this so it becomes more cost effective, as we found a huge reduction in waste when we’ve done this and a faster build time.

DW: Are there design or building trends that you see as specific to the Heber Valley?

PC: Modern homes are definitely on the rise and mountain modern is a common theme in today’s design. A big trend right now is smaller, nicer, smarter and more efficient homes. Flex spaces that allow rooms to have multiple functions is just one of the ways we can help people include everything they want while keeping the footprint smaller.

DW: What do you see as emerging influences on home design and building in the future?

PC: Affordable housing is an important part of our long-term growth. We need to do more to develop these opportunities. There are amazing individuals at all income levels that we need in our community. As our community grows and develops, we need to focus on how we can make a place for all of us to live.

JJ: It is harder and harder for us to even find people to work on our projects that live here because they can’t afford it. We need to figure this out so more families can afford to continue to live here.

DW: What’s one piece of advice for young architects and builders?

PC: Pick something you are passionate about and work hard to become the best. Work is never work if you are doing what you love. Find people who are the very best at what they do. Draw on their experience and their passion.

JJ: Do the best you possibly can and don’t try to take shortcuts. Always seek to better yourself and the people around you. Have a good attitude and enjoy working with the amazing customers we get to work with here in our area!

CV: Good Luck!