Custom Home Building and Portland’s Walkability Score

If you’re building a custom home and enjoy biking to work, walking to the park, or taking the bus to the mall, the location of your future home is probably a prime concern for you. Thankfully, tools like and Trimet Trip Planner show you how easily you can travel by foot, bike, or transit from a specific neighborhood or city to wherever you need to go. In this post, I’ll give you a brief overview of each to help you find a walkable, busable, bike-friendly neighborhood in Portland.

The walkability score, also called the Walk Score, rates major cities and neighborhoods on a scale of 0-100. The score of a city is the weighted average of the Walk Score, Transit Score, and Bike Score of addresses within that city. The ratings are defined below (Portland’s scores are shown):

portland's walkability score

Portland’s walkability score of 63 puts it in the “Somewhat Walkable” range. That’s an understatement! Portland is one of the most walk-, bike-, and public transit-friendly cities on the West Coast — and the 14th most walkable city in the U.S. Basically, it’s a great place for building your custom home.

Want to go more in depth? Walk Score lists all 89 Portland neighborhoods from most to least walkable, including links that can be followed for more detailed information on each area. These descriptions include nearby restaurants, crime rate, and specifics about walking, biking and public transit in that neighborhood. After all, every neighborhood is different, and you want to build your custom home in just the right spot. Sunnyside, for instance, is a cyclist’s paradise:

how bikeable is sunnyside neighborhood in portland, oregon

Another great tool is TriMet Trip Planner, which allows you to enter your “To” and “From” location and then plans your commute within seconds. When it comes to comparing lots for your custom home, this is a quick and easy way to figure out if the commute from your new home will work for you.

trimet trip planner portland oregon bus schedule

If you’re thinking about building a custom home but don’t want to sacrifice your walks, bikes, or bus rides, Portland is a great choice! It was recently recognized by National Geographic as one of the world’s best cities. Portland is an eco-friendly city and ranks at the very top of the nation in LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) developments. With its proximity to the mountains and beach, Portland is a great place to live if you love snowboarding, skiing, surfing, or boating. And when it’s time to relax, there is a never-ending supply of local breweries, coffee shops, and restaurants.

Ready to build your custom home in Portland? Contact us today for more information!  

Portland Neighborhood
The Oregon Optimist


Green Construction: How to Build an Eco-Friendly Home

When you decide to build a custom home, you are rewarded with the flexibility to choose products and features that will support and enhance your lifestyle. A knowledgeable builder who takes the time to get to know you can introduce you to green construction options that are more efficient and may even save you money — without sacrificing style.

Many green construction options and energy efficient products have become available over the past few years, from surface materials to appliances. Although green construction may be more of an investment upfront, it pays off in the long-term by reducing your energy bill, improving your air quality, and leaving a better world for your kids and grandkids.


Insulation: First things first – insulation. Heating and cooling make up more than half of the average home’s energy costs, so although insulation isn’t exciting, it’s one of the backbones of green construction and can save you a bundle. Proper insulation prevents heat from escaping in the winter and entering in the summer. Weather stripping and sealant around doors and windows work in conjunction with insulation to keep your home comfortable.

Floors: Bamboo is a sustainable and beautiful yet durable material commonly used for flooring in green construction. It is available in a variety of colors and resembles hardwood floors, which makes it an affordable option for any style of home.

Counters: Granite countertops have been the popular choice over the past several years, but you can achieve a similar but unique look with recycled glass, offered by Vetrazzo. Unlike granite, glass can be recycled over and over without any loss in quality.


Lantera Architectural Surfaces


Skylights and Solar Tubes: With a custom home, you have the opportunity to take advantage of natural light, or what sustainability gurus call “daylighting.” Your green construction company can install skylights and solar tubes wherever you need the most natural light, such as a bathroom, office or kitchen. The more natural light you have, the less energy you need to light your home. Natural light can even make you happier and healthier!

LED and CFL (Compact Fluorescent Lamps) Bulbs: Where you do need other forms of light, you can save energy by using LED or CFL bulbs. These bulbs are more expensive up front but save you a significant amount on your energy bill over time.


Learning Thermostat System: Products such as Nest learn your heating and cooling habits as you use it, and will then automatically adjust the temperature according to your lifestyle. It can also be controlled from your smartphone so you never have to worry about wasting energy while you are out.

Energy Efficient Windows: Large windows are another obvious choice for allowing natural light into your home while also revealing beautiful views! However, it’s important to select windows based on their heat gain ratings — the amount of heat kept in and out — which can increase energy efficiency by 9% if installed correctly. Green construction often includes double-pane windows with a special solar control coating. Energy-efficient windows are even categorized by climate to assure they can withstand the weather they will most exposed to.



Continue reading about Eco-friendly Water, Appliances, & Landscaping…

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Custom Home Trend: Open Floor Plans

Open floor plans were a popular design feature seen at the 2014 Street of Dreams and are commonly seen in newly built homes. Open floor plans are an ideal layout for families and entertaining, as they create an open environment where everyone can gather and connect. Open floor plans also allow traffic to flow smoothly throughout the home without running into featureless walls. Here are some photos of open floor plans we love!

The kitchen island in this space gives the area structure without the limited visibility of interior walls. We love the gallery wall too:

open floor plans

Source: Artistic Designs for Living, Tineke Triggs – Houzz

Open floor plans allow your vaulted ceilings to shine, as seen in this home:

open floor plans

Source: EAG Studio – Houzz

A nice compromise between walls and open floor plans is classic pillars, a great choice if you’re removing load-bearing walls:

open floor plans

Source: Homes By Tradition – Houzz

Open floor plans also make your home seem brighter and show off design elements like this staircase:

open floor plans

Source: Candice Alder Design LLC – Houzz

Instead of a wall, a large area rug can help visually delineate a space, as seen in this open floor plan:

open floor plans

Source: Parkwood Homes – Houzz

Wooden beams and doorways also provide contrast and structure in open floor plans:

open floor plans

Source: Cornerstone Architects – Houzz

Contact Westlake Development today to find out more about open floor plans that will suit your needs!

7 Things You Can Kiss Goodbye with a Custom Home

If you have to decide between an older home versus a custom home, this list is for you! Older homes full of charm and historical features are a great choice if you’re willing to invest in renovations and unexpected repairs. But with a custom home, you can replace those worries with a move-in ready home that will last a lifetime.

happy couple new home

Here are a list of seven things you can kiss goodbye when you go custom:

1. Wasted Energy

Energy-efficient heating and cooling systems are becoming more desirable. Not only do they have a positive impact on the environment, but they also save you money. A custom home allows the option of constructing everything, from the ceiling to the floor, in a way that prevents air from escaping through the cracks. This allows your heat and AC to work more efficiently while lowering your energy bill.

2. The Need for Light

Older homes often lack adequate lighting and even outlets for lamps, not to mention all of our other electronics. With a custom home, recessed lighting can easily be installed in the places you need it most. Lighting is another great opportunity to save energy by choosing natural forms of light with large windows, skylights and tubular lighting.


3. Small Bathrooms

According to This Old House, the average size of a bathroom in an older home is 5 x 8 feet. New bathrooms are nearly twice as big to offer more counter space and storage. With a new home, the size of a bathroom is up to you — we can add built-in cabinets for your appliances and cosmetics. Let’s not forget a walk-in shower, too!

4. Cramped Kitchens

Kitchen design has significantly evolved over time from an unseen necessity to the heart of the home. Open-concept floor plans with a connected kitchen and living space are becoming more desirable, as the kitchen has become the prime gathering place for family and friends. With a custom home, you can work with your builder to create a kitchen that best suits your lifestyle with the appliances, storage, and working space you need.

custom kitchen

5. Major Repairs

With a new home, you are less likely to experience the inconvenience of major home repairs, such as a leaky roof or bad foundation — common concerns with an older home. With a new home, you have a fresh start. Knowing that your builder used quality materials and followed current safety codes will give you peace of mind.

6. Worn Out Appliances

It’s no secret that newer appliances usually mean less maintenance and repairs. Although outdated appliances can be replaced in older homes, you may discover that finding the right size of appliance is an issue. A custom home can be built around your favorite appliances. Energy-efficient options are more widely available, too – another great opportunity to reduce costs and positively impact the environment!

custom game room

7. Outdated Design

There are gorgeous older homes with undeniable charm…and then there are some that are simply outdated, much of which can’t be improved upon without serious renovations. By choosing to build a home, you get to be involved in designing an up-to-date home with features and conveniences that are unique to you and your family.

When you choose to build a custom home, you don’t have to sacrifice charm. Gerald Rowlett is dedicated to making your home unique with every detail that you desire, using the highest quality materials and energy efficient products.

Ready for a breathtaking custom home? Contact us today!


Building on a Steep Slope Lot? Read This First


Photo: Wally Gobetz

Once you find the perfect lot for your dream home, it’s important to have it reviewed by an expert who can explain the design possibilities as well as the potential obstacles that may come with building on the lot.

If your lot happens to be on a steep slope, the builder may be addressed with some additional challenges, but don’t let this steer you away! Steep slopes often reveal the most beautiful views and offer unique design features. The positives will likely outweigh the challenges, but you can prepare yourself for the process with the considerations below.

Steep Slope Positives

View: A common reason for building on a slope is that they often overlook breathtaking views of the city or mountains since they are at a higher elevation. Depending on the location, it may also provide greater privacy from neighbors than a flat lot.

Design: Building on a slope allows for unique design options, from the landscaping to the exterior view and interior space. Working with an expert throughout the lot selection process is ideal, as they can help you visualize the various possibilities.

Here at Westlake Development, we continue to build a wide range of exciting architectural designs, from Asian Contemporary to Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired homes, in a variety of unique conditions and terrain.

Extra Space: With a steep slope lot, you get the added space of basement levels with much more natural light, full-length windows and walkout capabilities, unlike basements that are fully underground. This has become a popular option in more recent years.

steep slope building tips

Photo: Photo Dean

Steep Slope Challenges

Complexity: Since sloped lots are often in unique locations, specialized equipment might be required to function in the available space.

Cost: In some cases, sloped lots may require a greater budget if the land needs to be built up and/or if is does not have adequate drainage and sewage accessibility from the street at ground level.

Extra Work: In addition to cost, the extra work of making a home on a sloped lot stable and safe may require extra time. Building up the land to the standard 8 inches above soil, along with adding retaining walls for stability in the home, is extra work that isn’t incurred when building on a flat lot. If it needs to be equipped with sewage and drainage capabilities as well, this will also require additional work.

When you work with us, you can rest assured we have taken all the precautionary measures to build you a well-constructed home.

Working with a builder who can give you expert advice, beginning with the lot selection process, will allow you peace of mind knowing that your new home will be built to the highest safety and quality standards. Westlake Development Group has more than 20 years of experience constructing custom homes on steep slopes and challenged properties throughout the Portland metropolitan area. With this experience, we know the proper way to place and construct a residence in the most structurally sound and cost-effective way, while gaining all the benefits the home site has to offer.

Visit our Steep Slope Experts page for more details on building your custom home on a steep slope lot!

Sources: Homebuilding & Renovating

A Virtual Tour of the American Spirit | 2014 Street of Dreams

We invite you to take a 720º  virtual tour through the beautiful American Spirit on the 2014 Street of Dreams in Happy Valley, Oregon.

Click below to explore the two-story home we at Westlake Development designed. Clicking the blue dots will take you to the welcoming great room, expansive kitchen, plush master bedroom, upstairs rec room, and spacious patio (which features beautiful Cascade Coil wire fabric). What do you think?

street of dreams 2014 exterior view

Have you visited the 2014 Street of Dreams? Will we see you there?

Working with Your Home Builder

For many, building a custom home is as exciting as it is scary. It’s a commitment that requires time, money and patience. A common fear for homeowners is that by the end of the process, the home will be more reflective of the builder’s style than their own. The truth is, this can happen! That’s why it is so important to explore your options before deciding on the design team that will build your dream home.

home construction

Start with an Interview

In a previous blog post, we gave advice on how to research and narrow down your options for builders. Once you’re down to that select few, set up an interview with each of your top choices. Through this process, you will be able to more easily identify who you feel most comfortable working with. In many cases, the builder will have a trusted team of people, such as interior designs, who should be involved in the interview as well. It’s important to determine the knowledge and experience of the team, as well as their ability and willingness to help you make decisions that will best meet your design needs.

Put another way, it’s important that you feel really comfortable with your builder, because he or she will be finding out more about how you live than your friends even know!

Set the Standards

One of the many benefits of a custom home should be that it is completely unique to you, with modern-day conveniences that align with your lifestyle. Your builder should be interested in the way you live on a day-to-day basis, the rooms you spend most of your time in, whether you have kids or pets, whether you like to entertain, and everything else in between. This is why it is so important to find a builder who you feel comfortable building a personal relationship with. When a builder takes the time to learn this information, he or she will be able to give you options and recommendations that will best fit your lifestyle.

street of dreams home patio

My biggest question for clients is: How do you live? What’s important to you? What do you like? What do you not like? It’s important for us to wrap our heads around these answers, because this will likely be the biggest decision you will ever make.

Continue to Communicate

Early on in the process, you want to establish guidelines around how often you will communicate and when it is appropriate for you to attend design team meetings. Clients are often not allowed on-site as it can be a safety concern. Having set meetings guarantees the opportunity for you to be involved in decisions being made at the time it is relevant. The design team is able to show you options based on your preferences that you may not have known about otherwise, such as advanced forms of technology and eco-friendly products. When you have strong design preferences, it is important to speak up sooner rather than later because unexpected changes midway through the process are likely to take you outside of your initial budget and off schedule.

In the end, nothing is more important than the client’s satisfaction with their home. Westlake Development strongly values the relationships with their clients from start to finish and beyond.

Want more guidance on your home building process? Like us on Facebook!

Selecting a Lot for Your Custom Home

Selecting a lot is an incredibly important step, and one of the first steps you’ll take in the process of building your custom home. Different lots are suitable for different designs and may come with rules and regulations that limit your options. Collaborating with an expert builder during this phase can help guide you through these hoops and explain the design possibilities so that you can easily choose the perfect lot for your dream home.

While searching for your lot, here are a some key features to consider and some helpful tips to help you along the way.

blueprints for custom home

1. Location – One of the most amazing parts about building a custom home is the ability to have your dream home in your dream location. It’s often the easiest decision to make since it stems from the lifestyle you want to live – do you prefer the country, suburbs or city? Choose a lot in the location that has the view you’ll enjoy most when you walk out your door and look out your window every day.

2. Commute – Once you know your ideal location, consider the ease and distance of your commute to places you visit frequently – work, the grocery store, shopping malls, school, church, healthcare, etc. If you are selecting a location you’re not familiar with, take a drive during the times you’d make your commutes to experience the traffic and time it takes to get to and from your destination.

3. Size, Shape, & Slope – The type of lot you choose within your desired area will have an impact on the overall design of your home. The lot size should be big enough for the home square footage you desire, in addition to yard space. Also think about the setback of the home, especially if it’s off of a busier street. It’s also important to consider the level of slope. Both flat and steep slope lots come with challenges. It’s beneficial to include your builder in the site selection process to understand what is possible.

wood house frame

4. Cost – As always, it’s important to consider the cost of your ideal lot. In addition to the initial cost of the lot, you need to factor in the cost of building the house as well as long-term costs such as property tax.

5. Landscape & Position – A lush view is often a priority for people investing in a custom home and may be the deciding factor in choosing a lot. When visiting lots, take a good look around you and consider the topography: the arrangement of the natural elements of the space. Also think about the direction of your house in relation to the sun. A house facing south will get sun most of the day and therefore a lot of natural light, while a house facing north will be darker and stay cool.

6. Building Essentials – Wherever you decide to build your home, take the time to learn about the area. There are numerous permits and regulations that come with building your dream home, but working with experts makes the process seamless!


Westlake Development Group has over 25 years of experience placing and constructing homes in the most structurally sound and cost-effective way, while also gaining all of the benefits the home site has to offer. By coming on board with clients as early as lot selection, Westlake can provide expert advice that can help in the decision-making process.

Westlake works closely with our architectural and engineering partners in the preparation and design of your dream home, from groundbreaking to completion.

Take a look at our available lots, including the a lot in Lake Oswego for the 2015 Street of Dreams!

Celebrate Made in America Products


Owner of Westlake Development Group, LLC, Gerald Rowlett, has a passion for buying local and building local, which he promotes through his nonprofit organization,Building A Better America Council. He has adopted a strategy known as SEE, which stands for: Social, Economic and Environmental Impact.

In celebration of Made in America Month this July 2014, we invite you to make a commitment to support our community by buying local!

Below we explain why we choose American Made products for our homes and how it positively impacts the SEE values.


Quality – Building a Home to Last a Lifetime

When you commit to building a custom home, you want it to last a lifetime.  One way to ensure that, is to select high quality products for your home. According to the United States Department of Commerce, inputs from a foreign supply chain may lead to lower product quality and costly returns.

Westlake development has built strong relationships with local manufacturers who stand behind their products and consistently produce innovative products that are built to last.

Social Impact – Building a Better Community

Building relationships with manufacturers and vendors of local and American made products forms a greater sense of community and pride in our country. These relationships with local vendors also create better experiences for clients who can be trusted to provide reliable and superior customer service.


Economic Impact – Building a Stronger Economy

Did you know that if all builders committed to using 5% more American made materials it would create 220,000 more construction jobs? As a member of the Building A Better America Council, Westlake Development Group LLC commits to using at least 90% American Made products in all of their homes, which supports our community and boosts our economy.

Environmental Impact – Building a Sustainable Future

Choosing local and American made products reduces the carbon footprint from shipping goods overseas, which improves the long-term condition of our environment. Shipping locally also reduces delivery costs and may help to prevent miscommunication and delays in the process. Together we can create a cleaner, more sustainable future by buying local!


This year’s Street of Dreams home, the American Spirit,  built by Westlake Development and designed by Garrison Hullinger Interior Design, has created 6 new direct jobs and 9 new indirect jobs, just by choosing to use American made products. It also boasts one of the lowest carbon footprints in the country! Westlake Development’s buy local, build local mentality makes dreams come true for not only the homeowner, but for individuals in our community, too!

Tips For Choosing A Custom Home Builder


Building your dream home can be one of the most important and rewarding things that you do in life. Finding the perfect place to live and constructing a home that fits you perfectly can be a dream come true.

But the builder you choose can make or break you custom home project. There are many different custom home builders out there and not all of them will be the right fit for you.

There are several things you can do to prepare yourself and help narrow your options. So that you can make the best decision possible and ensure that you have a wonderful custom home building process.

We will teach you what you need to do to find the best custom home builder for you. Giving you the tools you need to build the home of your dreams.

Commit To Your Project

Before you begin your search for the perfect builder, make sure that you are 100% committed to your project.

Set your investment amount, ideal start and finish date, and create a must-have list of your expectations for the finished home. It’s also important to know the level of involvement you want in the project – whether you want the builder to select materials and finishes, or you want to make those decisions.

Before you put in too much time and effort, you will want to be sure that you are ready to build your dream home from start to finish.

Tip: If you have a tight budget, put your money towards quality materials rather than more square footage. It will pay in the long run.

Requirements To Look For

Finding the custom builder that is right for you rests on a lot of different details.

There are many important things to consider about the builder who you will be working with, including the following:

  • Experience & Credentials
  • Licenses & Insurance
  • Working with Allowances
  • Warranties Offered
  • Flexibility with Floor Plans
  • Specialty & Expertise
  • Awards & Recognition
  • Management & Team Support
  • Communication with Clients

All of these vary from builder to builder and can have a large impact on your custom home building process.

builder with blueprint shaking partner hand

Take Notes & Ask Questions

Start by compiling a list of local builders in your area. You can find custom builders on the HBA website, newspaper, or from local real estate agents.

Now, start your research. Luckily, several resources are available for you to find the answers you need.

Online Reviews & Research - Reviews are powerful and are noted to have a strong  influence on people’s buying decisions. Keep an eye out for positive comments that refer to the reliability, communication, and long-term satisfaction that past clients experienced.

Check the company’s website and social media sites to see their portfolios and read more about the company’s values. When a builder has an up-to-date website and is moderately active on social media, it’s a sign that they care about their business and are upstanding members of the building community.

Online research can help narrow down your list of local builders. Identifying the top rated companies that you’ll want to find out more about.

References – Don’t be afraid to ask builders for a list of references, they’re probably the best resource out there! The HBA may be able to connect you to references, as well.

Before reaching out to these people, prepare a list of questions you want to ask, and don’t forget to take notes!

  • Did the builder finish on time and on budget?
  • Were they knowledgeable and helpful in making decisions?
  • Was the quality of work and materials a priority?
  • Was there a relationship of trust and open line of communication?
  • If problems occurred, did they respond quickly?
  • Was it apparent that they work with a strong team?
  • Were the organized and timely?
  • Did they respect and understand your needs?
  • Did the builder have a vision for your home?
  • Overall, would you recommend this builder?

Inside View – After speaking with references, you might want to take it a step further and actually go to see their custom home, with their permission of course. Home Shows in your local area are also a good opportunity to see homes up close.

Making The Decision

You think you’ve found the builder that’s right for you, now what?

Contact the custom builder to get an estimate in writing that clearly outlines everything that will be achieved by the end of the project. Once you are given a contract, read it. It may be worth your time to go over it with a real estate lawyer so that you have a clear understanding of what can be expected.

Important things to look for include: dates, guarantees on estimates, performance goals, and warranties.

lamp exp

Working With Westlake Development

If you are looking for custom home builders in Portland Oregon, you will find that Westlake Development stands out above the rest.

We have a passion for improving our economy by adding to our local workforce, buying local, and building local.

Buying locally also has a positive impact on the environment as less energy is necessary to ship our products. Also, using local products ensures that the products are superior and manufactured in strict environmental conditions.

Gerald Rowlett, owner of Westlake Development Group LLC, is an advocate for his clients. He values the friendships that are formed throughout the custom building process and he begins every project by listening to the client’s needs. Fully understanding a client’s lifestyle so that he can build a home that is just for them.

“The builder should have a vision for the client’s home and be able to bring something more to the table than just building a house. I tell clients all the time, anyone could have built this house off of a plan – it’s really about a good relationship. It’s important for the client to feel really comfortable with the builder and for the builder to grasp how they live –  that’s when you can truly build a custom home for someone.” – Gerald Rowlett Westlake Development Group LLC