Real Estate & Construction  February 11, 2011

The house that Rain built

FORT COLLINS – Question: When does a family use a commercial builder to construct the house they will live in for the rest of their lives?

Answer: When the home requires many custom features and a timeline dictated by a little boy’s medical condition.

Brinkman Partners, one of the largest commercial contractors in Northern Colorado, built the 4,000-square-foot, three-bedroom, three-bath house in question on two and a half acres at 3149 Stargazer Court in Fort Collins in eight months. Moving day for the family who commissioned the home, the Scherbarths, will probably take place some time this month.

Question: Why would a commercial builder be interested in such a project?

Answer: It’s not for lack of work. Brinkman just finished the Flats at the Oval mixed use/student housing near the Colorado State University campus, and they’re currently involved with three projects for OtterBox, including that company’s corporate headquarters on Meldrum Street. This month, work on the Greeley Infusion Center for Poudre Valley Healthy System will begin.

Margins have been a little slimmer for Brinkman in the past few years, but, according to Pete Meyer, vice president of business development, the company is on track to bring in between $70 million and $75 million in revenue in 2011.

As for the Scherbarth house, custom homes are well within Brinkman’s repertoire.

“We build two to three custom houses a year,” Meyer said. “This one had a lot of commercial features, such as automated windows, high ceilings. We were able to give special attention and commercialized service.”

The timeline was important to the Scherbarths. They didn’t want to deal with delays, and most commercial projects are built on schedule, he said.

Owner Scott Scherbarth’s design incorporated “green” elements that Brinkman, known for sustainable building practices, was happy to construct.

A house for Rain

Scherbarth, who recently graduated from Front Range Community College with a degree in architecture, designed the house as his capstone project for his son Rain. The 3-year-old has Duchenne, a type of muscular dystrophy characterized by the rapid progression of muscular degeneration. While Rain will probably never have the physical ability to build a house, through his condition and the will of his parents, it’s clear he’s done everything it takes to inspire one.

“This was a house that needed to be built,” Scherbarth said. “There’s no treatment or cure for Duchenne. My son will be in a wheelchair by the time he’s 10.”

The wide-open floor plan, bamboo floors and low cabinet levels were designed for wheelchair accessibility.

Scherbarth said that when he learned of his son’s condition, “my whole future changed. I didn’t know I would build a house for my son when I started learning about architecture and construction. It just happened that way.”

The sustainable features were important to Scherbarth – and not just for the energy savings. This won’t be a throwaway house.

“Seventy-five years down the road anyone can live in this house,” he said, explaining that all the doorways are wide and all the handles are levers, not knobs. A handicapped person, a retired couple, anybody at any stage of their lives can live there, he said.

Project manager K.C. Martin pointed to a number of green design elements such as SIPS (Structural Insulated Panels) whose superior insulation value, R-38 compared to R-19 in standard wood construction, will save energy. Electro-chromatic glass allows the user to change the window from clear to opaque with the flip of a switch. This reduces heat loss.

In fact, Martin said, the house is built so tight, it doesn’t have or need central air conditioning. In-floor radiant heat and the home’s two-part solar thermal system (one for hot water, one for electricity), will reduce the family’s energy costs.

While the Scherbarths probably won’t be completely off the grid, in favorable weather conditions they will be able to make use of net metering for a portion of the electricity generated. The home includes a 250-square foot mechanical room for backup batteries and solar equipment.

Unique architectural features

While German-made, French-syle, Schotten-Fenster windows, including “ship prows” whose placement was inspired by the Flatirons in Boulder, make the home stand out, there are other factors that make it unique.

Outside details include retaining walls with stone from a local quarry, Arkins Park Stone Corp., a swing set, a trampoline set into the ground, three water features, and an 850-foot sidewalk that wraps around the house. At the chimney, its highest point, this long, rectangular ranch-style home is 28 feet tall.

Scherbarth used paper and computer to design the house over the course of a year, and took out a loan from family to fund the project. He is currently looking for work as a consultant for handicapped accessibility using referrals from Children’s Hospital, or as an independent contractor/drafter.

“Brinkman has been fantastic on this project,” Scherbarth said. “I would recommend them to others for custom homes.”

Expansion into the custom home market is one of Brinkman’s goals. Since the Scherbarth project, they’ve brought on Forest Glaiser of Tree Line Builders to help with that expansion.

The land and improvements to the Scherbarth property are currently appraised at $805,700, according to the Larimer County Tax Assessor’s office, although this is a market re-evaluation year for Colorado and the value is likely to change.

FORT COLLINS – Question: When does a family use a commercial builder to construct the house they will live in for the rest of their lives?

Answer: When the home requires many custom features and a timeline dictated by a little boy’s medical condition.

Brinkman Partners, one of the largest commercial contractors in Northern Colorado, built the 4,000-square-foot, three-bedroom, three-bath house in question on two and a half acres at 3149 Stargazer Court in Fort Collins in eight months. Moving day for the family who commissioned the home, the Scherbarths, will probably take place some time this month.…

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