Approved Swimming Pool Plans

            The builder needs to consider that the swimming pool plans must be approved by the city and usually the health department, before the pool contractor can calculate the gallonage and equipment for the pool.

            These calculations must be made to determine the size and number of risers coming up through the ground into the pool equipment room.

            Here the builder needs to avoid a timing conflict that could occur between building the swimming pool clubhouse, which may contain the swimming pool equipment maintenance room, and getting an approved set of swimming pool plans in time for the pool contractor to size the risers coming up through the concrete slab floor.

            Because the swimming pool is usually one of the last items to be completed in the sales model complex, the builder can mistakenly think that decisions required to finalize the pool plans can be delayed.

            The lack of an approved set of pool plans can then hold up the construction of the poolside clubhouse, thus throwing off the entire model complex completion schedule.

From Lessons-Learned for Builders, Architects, and Interior Designers in Housing Construction, Book 6.

Project Direction Map

            For larger condominium and apartment projects, the builder should consider installing a direction map board at the main entrance into the project.

            This activity should be completed about the same time as the sales models grand opening, installed concurrent with the sales models complex landscaping.

            On a particular 282-unit condominium project, the U-shaped buildings had their entry doors and address numbers on the outside perimeter of each 12-unit building, one floor level above a central motor courtyard and above street level.

            People driving into the project had no way of finding the house address numbers without getting out of their cars and walking around the buildings. 

            Not only was it difficult for visitors to find their way around the project, but delivery companies had problems as well. 

From Lessons-Learned for Builders, Architects, and Interior Designers in Housing Construction, Book 6.

Common Area Lighting

            Common area lighting for clubhouse exteriors, swimming pools, and tennis courts should be switched using a photovoltaic sensor rather than a time-clock.

            A photocell can sense when it is dark and light, and switch the lighting on and off accordingly.

            The homeowners or the HOA maintenance person then does not need to periodically change the time-clock setting to match the seasonal and daylight savings changes in exterior natural lighting.

From Lessons-Learned for Builders, Architects, and Interior Designers in Housing Construction, Book 6.

Landscaping Contingencies

            When composing the landscaping maintenance contract for the sales model complex, the builder should include the possibility of contingencies difficult to predict such as snails, ants, and gophers.

            Activities such as fertilizing and trimming, however, should be included within the landscape contract rather than spelled out as extras, because these activities are predictable.

            Gopher abatement is less arbitrary to anticipate and plan for than ants or snails, and can be handled through an agreed-upon fixed monthly amount.  The builder can budget some dollar amount for this landscaping activity.

            Snail and ant problems are more difficult to predict, with ants being completely unpredictable from one year to the next.  One year no ants are on the project, and the next year the sales models complex can be overrun with ants.

            The builder should be aware of these potential abatement costs, and have some money set aside as a contingency line-item based upon discussions with the landscaping contractor. 

From Lessons-Learned for Builders, Architects, and Interior Designers in Housing Construction, Book 6.

Sales Office Views & Tree Placement

            For projects with panoramic views of golf courses, mountains, hillsides, rivers, streams, and ocean views, the builder should physically lay-out the placement of new trees using visual line-of-sights out through the windows of the sales office and the model units.

            In coordination with the landscaping plans for the sales office and the sales models, the views out each individual window can thus be maximized in terms of actual placement and sizes of trees. 

            Following the landscaping plan precisely without visual confirmation may produce tree placements that are slightly off and not optimum for a particular view.

            One method to achieve optimum placements of the trees is to have someone stand outside at the approximate location of a tree or large shrub per the landscape plans, and hold up a push broom or a cardboard mock-up of a tree.

            The decision-maker then stands at the particular window, moves the person holding the broom to the best location to maximize the view, and then the exact spot chosen is marked.

            This simple operation can add a subtle but important benefit to the project, getting the most out of a particular view.   

From Lessons-Learned for Builders, Architects, and Interior Designers in Housing Construction, Book 6.

Sales Models Landscaping

            Because the landscaping for the sales models must make an immediate positive impact on the visual appearance for the multi-unit tract housing or condominium project, the builder should take an active role in the sales model landscaping selection and planting.

            The sales models complex should look its best in time for the project grand opening to the buying public, which can be better accomplished by including two provisions within the landscaping contract.

            The first provision is for the builder to have the option of selection approval.  This can involve personally going to the nursery with the landscaping contractor to help select plants and trees, or reviewing and approving plants and trees shown in photographs taken by the landscaping contractor.

            This active role not only allows the builder to help select good plants and trees, but also enables the builder to ensure that the project is getting actual 5-gallon trees in 5-gallon can, for example.

            Typically, growing trees are transferred from 1-gallon cans to 5-gallon cans legitimately…but for the sales models, the builder wants mature 5-gallon trees planted as specified on the landscaping plans, for example, not younger trees recently transferred into larger cans or boxes.

            The second provision is for the builder to be able to approve the planting spacing in place.  If the size of the ground-cover plants and shrubs are too small as purchased by the landscaper, or installed farther apart than specified in the landscaping plans, the builder should be able to require that more plant material be added to achieve the desired effect.

            The point here is that the landscaping requirements for the sales model complex is different than the landscaping for the production units for a large condominium project.

            For the production units, the landscaping can take several months to mature with the landscaping contractor maintaining the planting and trees, allowing for an economy in the purchasing of the production landscaping. 

            An immediate “splash” of greenery and color is still important in common areas at the beginning of homebuyer occupancy.

            But for the sales models landscaping an immediate impact of mature trees, plants, and flowers is needed in a short amount of time, therefore requiring more attention to details, pre-planning, and quality-control supervision.

            Finally, some jobsite construction superintendents are very expert in the nuts-and-bolts of the building construction activities, but not as strong in terms of landscaping. 

            This is where the builder can fill any gaps in field expertise by including in the landscaping design contract and the landscaping subcontract, a provision for a field inspection of the landscaping by the landscape architect.  This informs all parties…especially for the all-important sales models grand opening, that an expert will be inspecting the work and noting any deficiencies.   

From Lessons-Learned for Builders, Architects, and Interior Designers in Housing Construction, Book 6.

Clearly Written Narratives for Framing Extras

            During construction of the sales models for multi-unit production housing the total dollar amount for carpentry framing extras, resulting from owner’s changes as well as corrections for architectural and structural engineering mistakes, can total in the thousands and tens of thousands of dollars depending upon the extent of these revisions.

            It simplifies the payment approval process in the field by the jobsite superintendent in terms of the recollection of past events, if each submittal for a framing extra to the contract contains a short narrative of exactly what the extra work entailed.

            This narrative should include the sales model unit or lot number, the reason for the extra work, who initiated the extra, the number of hours involved and the names of the framing carpenters doing the work, the hourly wage rate of these carpenters, and the cost of the materials.

            The jobsite superintendent or project manager can thus review and approve framing extras for the sales models, which can be numerous and extensive, without setting up two-hour meetings in the construction trailer with the framing contractor and their field foreman to verbally discuss the details and justification behind each individual extra each time a group of framing extras is submitted for payment.

            This narrative requirement should be included in the conditions for extras approval stated in the framing subcontract and verbally discussed upfront before the start of the work.

            It should be self-explanatory in its wording to enable the framing contractor to be able to meet this time-saving requirement for the builder. 

            If the field superintendent or project manager cannot understand the framing extra from the narrative, it should be returned to the framing contractor for more clarification.

            This general approach should be extended to all other subcontractors as well. 

            If extras are required to be submitted on standard change order forms supplied by the builder, this is an opportunity to state on the change order form the requirement for a detailed description of the extra work, in blank spaces labeling the information specifics required by the builder as briefly listed above, and any other required information that is project-specific and/or builder-specific. 

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