The Importance of Proper Planning in Custom Homebuilding

Terminal 775-2There’s an old axiom known as “The Five P’s”:  Perfect Planning Prevents Poor Performance.  This is instantly understood by people involved in professional construction.  Experienced custom homebuilders and renovators know that to achieve an exceptional level of quality- on time and on budget- this axiom needs to be heeded. However, recent developments are making good planning an even more important part of building a home.
– Less economic growth in real estate means that people are increasingly concerned about getting the best value for their money,
– Material costs have skyrocketed over the last decade requires increased precision in materials estimating and less wasteful workmanship,
– Many contractors and suppliers have not survived the recession, so the time and attention of the remainder are in higher demand,
– The design of homes is becoming increasingly complex and more customized,
– Building codes on Vancouver Island and in the Lower Mainland have greater structural demands to accommodate seismic events,
– The energy efficiency and building science requirements of buildings is increasing, which is making the necessity of proper construction details critical to the durability of the structure and the health of the occupants.
DSC_0728_29_30_PHHomes   Pheasant Hill Homes specializes in crafting top quality custom homes and renovations, and a point of pride for us is our flexibility.  It allows us to cater to the the widely varying tastes of our equally diverse clients.  Yet this ongoing demand for something entirely different in each new project is also a potential pitfall.  Spec-home or tract builders which construct duplicates or variations-on-a-theme of a single home design can become efficient by repetition.  To consistently be on-time, on-budget and have a high level of customer satisfaction (things we also pride ourselves on) in the custom home market does not happen by trial and error; it requires dedicated planning both before and during construction.
   Here are some of the many things Pheasant Hill Homes does to help us plan our projects for successful outcomes:
– At the very beginning of a project, we spend time with the clients carefully outlining the many product and finish selections, both inside and out of the home.  This ensures that the quality and design of the project will match their vision.  The result is a large collection of details and information assembled in one package reverently called “the specifications.”  The specs help provide answers to almost any on-site question that might arise during construction. 
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– With a clear set of construction specifications before us, our owner and estimator, Ken Connolly, locks himself away for a few days, and puts together a very comprehensive, itemized budget, outlining how much money each component of the building process will cost.  This is extremely important, because it allows us to know whether the planning we have done to create the specs, and the planning that will follow to actually implement them is even do-able.  Perfectly planning a project that your client can’t even afford is the job of the architect, not the builder.  (Wink, wink.)  
– Now that we have clear, client-guided specifications to tell us exactly what will be built, and the client’s review of our detailed budget tells us that it can be built, then we move into the actual construction planning phase.

Using a web-based software utility called BuilderTrend, we create a complete project schedule outlining every major step of your construction.  From excavation, to wiring, to installing closet hardware, we know what has to happen, in what order, for how long, and on what start date. Buildertrend also provides us with something called the “critical path.”  This allows us to see, in advance, which tasks have the potential to either advance or delay the entire project.  We then know which tasks can be put off for a few days to accommodate different trades’ schedules, and which tasks we have to insist happen on time to keep the whole show running as predicted. Our track record with this tool has allowed us to nearly guarantee that the projects will stay on schedule, and will be done when we expect them to.  That means that in the middle of September, when you’re two weeks into a major home addition and wondering whether or not you should host Christmas dinner, we’ll be able to tell you if that’s something you can make happen.

© HA Photograhy 2015

© HA Photograhy 2015


– We double check the work of our sub-trades to make sure that what is in the specs, what they’re going to do and what they’ve quoted you all match.  We prefer working with trades we know to be honest, reliable and like-minded in providing a high-quality outcome.  However, home construction is very complicated, and sub-trades constantly have to jump from project-to-project.  It can be easy to miss a detail from time to time.  Because we have a project manager overseeing all aspects of your construction, we can take the time to personally double check things before mistakes are made, and have them corrected when they occasionally do slip through.
© HA Photograhy 2015

© HA Photograhy 2015

– With literally tens of thousands of decisions being required to build a custom home, its impossible to foresee everything ahead of time.  That’s why we try to keep ahead of the ball, and inform our clients what kinds of decisions we will need, by what date.  In fact, we’re working right now on making a comprehensive spreadsheet that will at the beginning of a project lay out a selection schedule for fixtures, appliances and interior and exterior finishes. It will be like your own little calender of what we need and when we need it!

 
– Building a home to survive the elements on the West Coast is a demanding task. That’s why we have a standard set of details for typical tasks that slot into our construction.  Whether it is our impregnable window and door installation details (city building inspectors have commended us on our above-and-beyond approach to exterior water management construction details), or our mechanical room finished appearance, we already have certain practices pre-planned so that we all know what to expect before certain tasks even begin. 
Terminal 775-43– As a company, Pheasant Hill Homes is dedicated to advancing, and planning for the growth of truly sustainable, energy efficient housing.  This means constantly participating in educational opportunities to ensure that we are on the cutting edge of advancing building technologies.  Whether it is having our guys being trained by the CHBA’s Built-Green program, becoming Passive House trained by the Canadian Passive House Institute, taking project management courses to improve our workflow habits, or taking intensive courses on the design and thermal modelling of Net Zero Energy Homes, continuing education is part of our comprehensive plan to offer a better end product to our clients.
  With all of that being said, as the general contractor we’re only part of the partnership in building custom homes and renovations.  Here are some tips on how you can help plan for success:
Plans– Think about finding a builder before making a final selection on a architect and/or engineer.  We can provide insight into what architects and or engineers have been good collaborators and which may be best suited to the kind of project you have in mind.  We can also work with them to help them understand how their designs and structural requirements will have an affect on your budgetary constraints.  Often we can suggest other ways of doing thingsthat may achieve the same goal in a more inexpensive way. 
– Be definitive about making choices.  Changing your mind after something has been completed is one of the most costly and disruptive aspects of homebuilding.  Sometimes you just can’t get a clear picture of something until it’s been built; we understand that!  That’s why we often do “mock-ups” of thins like interior and exterior trim details on just a single window or door.  That way the client can make sure they are happy with how things actually look before we go ahead and do the whole house.  If you don’t believe you can make the decision without more information, let us know.  We’d rather help you visualize the end-result beforehand, rather than having to tear it apart later!  
3693GlenOaks015– And lastly, tell us your plans!  The homeowner is as much involved in the successful planning of a custom home as any other member of the team.  If you have time constraints that you need addressed, unusual work shedules that require us to shift our typical patterns, or special areas of interest that you would like to be more closely involved with (landscaping, lighting, built-in cabinetry, etc), please let us know!  We want building a custom home or renovation to your existing house to be a rewarding, fulfilling experience for you.  We can plan to bring you into the mix in whatever capacity you would like to be engaged. 
   Pheasant Hill Homes works hard at planning projects properly to ensure their success.  Our many ways of striving to do this can be augmented by the things a client does to help with the planning process as well.  However, at the end of the day, one has to realize that planning is only half the battle.  The other half is fought by the workers on the site that build the beautiful homes and renovations that we get to hand the keys over to at the end of the day.  As one of the guys with his tool belt on every day, I am ever conscious of what I hope to accomplish in a day, and what I know is actually possible.  At those times I feel the full weight of the following quote about planning by Leonard Bernstein:
“To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time.”
   For more information on some of our other projects, please visit our main blog page by clicking here, or browse through our entire website by visiting the home page here.