Typical Southwest Construction Details


Good morning everyone,


I'm an architect in Vermont, and I'm planning on moving to Austin, Texas within the next year.  As I've lived in VT my whole life, went to school here, and worked here for my whole career so far, I have had little exposure to different construction practices outside of the northeast.  Before I move, I'd like to get a sense for what differences in typical detailing I should expect.


What I'm currently used to is:

-Footings 5' below finished grade

-R40 walls, R50 roof using closed-cell foam


I'm sure there are other details that are typically done differently, but those few jumped out in my mind, as they're heavily influenced by our local climate.  I'd love to know what else you do differently.


Thanks in advance!

Sep 2, 14 11:54 am

southwest is a very broad category... detailing in CA will be different than TX

Sep 2, 14 1:28 pm  · 

Sep 2, 14 2:08 pm  · 

You will find that transitioning from a freeze-thaw climate to the south/southwest, California, will be night and day in terms of detailing a project.  You are used to some deep footings for frost heave and huge R values obviously.  In addition, you will see that your knowledge of building forms to shed snow/ice in desirable areas, and keeping thermal breaks in check, will be totally disregarded in warmer climates.  You can get away with a lot more sloppy detailing in a warmer climate, or cooler detailing depending on the way you look at it (single glazed mitered glass corners).  You will also be the office expert in flashing.  From my experience, there is a lot more leeway in a warmer climate to do experimental detailing, if it fails, you only get rain twice a year anyway...

Sep 2, 14 5:05 pm  · 
go do it

Thermal breaks are still important where I build. Albuquerque. And thermal efficiency i.e. air infiltration are looked at rather closely along with other wall and ceiling stratagies down at the permit house.

Sep 3, 14 9:34 pm  · 

I've told this story before:

When I was at the AIAS Convention in Boston in the mid-80s there was a symposium attended by 100 or so students.  The speaker said "So we all love lots of windows for light and view, but what is the big problem with lots of glass?" 95% of the room yelled out "Heat loss".  The 5% of us from the University of Arizona yelled out "Heat gain!".

So there's that.

Sep 4, 14 9:17 pm  · 

Deep sills/ thick walls can help to reduce that heat gain. I would suggest looking back over Sun, Wind, and Light for general site and massing strategies.

Sep 5, 14 8:18 pm  · 
Non Sequitur

Less snow loads perhaps...

Sep 6, 14 7:29 am  · 

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