One of the advantages in living in so many climates and styles of houses was that we developed a list of things we liked and things we would avoid at all costs. Our first house was built on a slab in Eastern Massachusetts with single pane doors and windows and walls that were probably R-2 at best. As an example, the sliding door in the family room would develop several inches of ice that looked like Niagara Falls in ice every time the temperature dropped below about 20 deg F. While living in Europe we developed a keen liking for the tilt and turn windows and the ductless mini-splits (there's something you learn from cleaning ducts each time you move into a new house and find various non-desript 'things' that are tainting the air you breath). We also have acquired a number of pieces of European furniture that we simply couldn't part with so that helped set the style for the house as well as the size of many of the rooms.
This house was designed by Hobbs Architects, PA (LEED Certified) in Pittsboro North Carolina and our prime builder is Anchorage Building Corp (GREEN and Passive House specialists) of Chapel Hill. We chose this team late last fall and started designing the house in November. Over the course of the design we have migrated to a larger house than originally envisioned, due in large part to the contours of the land and cost and ease of construction to expand to a full basement. One of our goals going into this house-build was to not sacrifice important parts of our lifestyle while attaining high-efficiency in the house. Our original timeline was to begin the design in the next 12-18 months and construct the house starting in 2013 but a change in our retirement plans accelerated that schedule to the current plans where we hope to finish construction by the end of this year.