Episode 11: Phase Checks & Quality Control with Bradly Hirdes
In this episode:
Now that Heather has had her baby and the couple finds themselves even busier than before, it would be nice for the project stress to lessen. Unfortunately, more errors in the build project are happening and it is causing strain for them. The designer connects the couple with their true guide and shepherd in hopes he can turn the project around.
Will they hire the owner’s representative? Will they pull through to finish this project?
Tune in to find out!
We speak with Bradley regarding the problems on this project, the complexity of building in today’s times, the team approach and innovative house technologies that are coming into the building industry. We hope you join us again to learn more about the custom build process.
About our Guest: Bradly Hirdes, AIA, NCARB, Principal
Bradly is a Texas licensed architect originally from Michigan. His comprehensive approach to design brings a unique perspective to each project. Bradly is the Founding Principal of Ordinary Architecture Practice.
We are architects and builders who value thoughtful design and the craft of building.
Guest: Bradly Hirdes, AIA
Business Title: Founding Principal
Company: Ordinary Architecture Practice
Bonus: Accompanying every episode are show notes with links to guest speakers and other helpful sites mentioned in the podcast.
How to get in touch: Please let us know what questions you have and we will address those on our final episode of the season, Episode 16. You may email us at email@example.com.
Be sure to follow and subscribe
We are happy to share that we are available to listen/subscribe on these channels: Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeartRadio, and YouTube!
Welcome back to the Your Project Shepherd Construction Podcast. Our last episode ended with Brian and Heather enjoying one last solo date night before baby #2’s arrival. As they drove home, they decided to stop by their soon to be new home that’s still under construction. After some sweet and quiet moments, they take the scenic route back through the neighborhood. What was supposed to be an easy and slow evening changed when Brian spotted Derek sign in front of another person’s house, meaning he and Heather were not his only clients as promised. But just as Brian’s about to call Derek and give him a piece of his mind, Heather’s water breaks and changes the course of the night. Luckily, her sister was babysitting, so they rushed straight to the hospital, completely forgetting about Derek for the time being.
So, for the next couple of weeks, Brian and Heather’s focus shifts to adapting to life with the new baby. Brian spends his time trying to corral the toddler while trying to help Heather change diapers and rock the baby to sleep as much as possible. But it doesn’t take long for them to start worrying about the house again. Now that they’ve added the fourth family member and their small home, even more pressure seems to be on to get the build finished.
To stay on top of things. They’ve demanded a weekly progress meeting on the job site with Derek so early one Monday morning before heading to work. Brian meets Derek at the home. The house looks like it’s finally taking shape. The drywall is all hung and taped and the crew is there, putting mud on the walls to float them.
Brian says, “Hey, Derek, now that the drywall is up, I’m thinking that we can start installing doors and trim. What do you think?”
Derek raises an eyebrow, hesitates for a moment and says, “Well, the mud still has to dry. Then they have to send it in. The texture has to be applied. It’s going to be several more weeks until we get to that point.”
He can feel Brian’s blood starting to boil, so he says, “There’s really nothing I can do, it takes time for drywall mud to dry between these steps. Believe me, I’ve spent a lot of time researching how to speed this process up. But there’s just no way.” Brian rolls his eyes in annoyance and continues his walk around the house, looking at the checklist and schedule that he made himself.
As the days go by, Brian realizes he’s literally just watching mud dry and things are getting even busier at work, so he decides he doesn’t need to be at the job site every day anymore. A couple more weeks pass and Derek lets them know that the drywall is finally done and they’re ready to start doors and trim. Heather’s been going stir crazy being at home with the new baby, and she feels like she’s finally ready to get out and visit the construction site again.
So, they schedule a time with Vivian to do a walkthrough, arriving at the site and holding the baby close to her chest. Heather enters first and immediately freezes. Standing there, with a smile, ss Derek. He’s proud that they’re finally going to the next phase, but Heather is visibly upset. She just stares at the heavy sprayed on orange peel texture all over the walls and ceiling.
Derek says, “What’s wrong? I figured you’d be happy to see where things are”
Heather clenches her teeth and says, “Why is there this heavy texture all over my walls?”
Derek says, “Well, that’s how we always finish the walls. It helps to cover him, to cover the imperfections from framing and the drywall guys don’t have to spend as much time floating.”
Suddenly, Rick’s comments to them about the #2 and #3 lumber start to make sense in their minds. This is what he was concerned about.
Heather says, “Well, you wouldn’t have to cover imperfections if you hadn’t bought the crappy lumber.” Derek starts to get very defensive and says, “Well, I was just trying to do my part to control costs for you. You were so adamant about this budget and that was such an easy thing to do. And as for this drywall sanding wall, smooth costs way more and takes a lot more time.”
“We talked about how important smooth walls and high-end finishes were,” Vivian Chips in, “We are not accepting this garbage.”
Derek says, “Well, it’ll take a few more weeks and several thousand dollars more to sand all this texture off and float it smooth. That’s just going to delay our trim and doors and cabinets.”
“Just do it,” Brian yells at Derek. He and Heather turn around and storm out of the house. They hadn’t noticed that Vivian had already slipped out during the exchange and is now sitting on the curb with her head in her hands. “I’m done,” she says, “I can’t work with that man anymore, he clearly has no idea what he’s doing, and I don’t want my design reflected in his crappy work and it’s clear that my presence is not making enough of a difference in this project. You should have had someone checking things along the way, like the framing to make sure it doesn’t affect your finishes. I did my best to catch all the plumbing and lighting errors, but there’s just too much and so many mistakes.”
Everyone’s silent for a minute and Brian and Heather just stare at each other. They don’t know what to do. They really need Vivian’s guidance to deal with Derek. “Listen,” Vivian says “I’ve got a guy you can call. He’s what’s called an owner’s representative. I worked with him on another project, and he was good at working with the builder to get results when things weren’t going so well. Maybe he can help you here. I just can’t anymore.”
Heather says, “We can’t afford to pay another person at this point, besides, Brian’s been handling this and meeting with Derek every week and things have been going better. We just don’t need another person and another expense.”
“No, they haven’t been going better,” Vivian says, “and poor Brian has been trying to balance this house, his job, all of this and helping you with the kids, and it’s just too much for him and for your marriage.”
They both know Vivian’s right – Brian’s never been more stressed in his life, and it’s really been taking a toll on his relationship with Heather. They’ve been fighting all the time, which they never done in their ten plus years of marriage. “Okay,” Brian said, “give us his information and we’ll check into it.”
Brian and Heather drive home in silence. They know deep down they can’t do this alone and Vivian just bailed. After getting both of her kids down for a nap, they decided to call James, the owner’s rep that Vivian referred them to on the phone. James immediately puts them at ease. Vivian already called and gave them a rundown on the situation.
He had unfortunately seen this before and he invited them to come by his office the next morning for a consultation. “I wish he’d called me sooner,” James said, “but it’s not too late. We can get this thing turned around as long as Derek is willing to work with me.”
“Well, what if he isn’t?” Heather asked.
“Hopefully it won’t come to that, and if it does, we’ll just have to work with an attorney to terminate the contract. From what I’ve seen of his dinky is a dinky online forms, that shouldn’t be that hard, but I really don’t think we’re going to have to do that. Guys like Derek sometimes just need a little guidance and education, and I’m pretty experienced in making them feel like I’m there to help them too. At the end of the day, we all have the same goal, and that’s to get this house finished and to make you as happy as we can. Nobody, even Derek, wants this to end in a lawsuit.” James goes on to explain that he will now be the point person for the project. He will handle all communications with Derek. He will conduct regular, jobsite meetings with Derek and the subcontractors to make sure they’re all on the same page and the quality is where it should be. Brian and Heather will have minimal interaction with Derek from this point on, which is music to their ears. He also feels confident that he can get Vivian back on board to see her designs through to completion.
Although his fees aren’t cheap, Brian and Heather decide that it’s worth it for the sake of their mental health and their marriage, and James assures them he can likely save the money on construction by limiting mistakes that cost them money and to push the schedule along to, save on more mortgage payments.
“I wish we’d known about you sooner,” Brian said, we’ve been trying to do this all ourselves in. It’s cost us so much, and I’m not just talking about money.”
Curtis: Hey everyone, welcome to another edition of The Your Project Shepherd Construction podcast. We are your Guide (Shepherd) to the home construction process.
I’m your host Curtis Lawson and you hear me say this each week and I keep repeating it because it’s so super important and it’s the foundation of what we teach here. We teach that every successful project must have four key components that are represented by this simple child sketch of a house. The foundation is planning. The left wall is your team. The right wall is communication, and the roof is proper execution. If you have all these components, your project will succeed.
Today, I am joined by my guest Bradley Hirdes, am I saying your last name, right?
Bradly: Spot on
Curtis: You know, it’s like I talk to you all the time and I see you and then I’m like, oh my God, that I butchers laughs actually did that with another guest. I totally butchered their last name, and we stopped recording, and I re-recorded it. At least I didn’t screw it up for you now.
Curtis: So, Bradley is an architect here in the Houston area and he was in the design-build space with a partner, but he is transitioning to doing architecture only and he has started a new company and it’s called Ordinary Architecture Practice.
Bradly: That’s right
Curtis: So, tell us about that name because we were joking about that a minute ago. Like, does it mean you’re just building like a white vanilla box, or what does ‘ordinary architecture practice’ mean?
Bradly: Well, the initial idea is that it would spur on these conversations “why? Are you ordinary? Is the architecture you design ordinary? What’s the deal is it really, really boring?”
Bradly: The short answer is just, Yes, just kidding. Well, so you know, most of our lives are lived in ordinary times and spaces, you know? The idea is that those ordinary spaces deserve the same amount of attention that we devote to the extraordinary spaces and times the special moments in life, whether it be public spaces are private spaces, just devoting that attention of design energy to those ordinary spaces and times.
Curtis: Awesome, l love that and you guys are doing some cool projects right now. I know we were talking about this – you are actually getting into doing some 3D-printed stuff. Is that right? Won’t you tell us something about that?
Bradly: Yes, absolutely. So I’ve sure a lot of your listeners might have heard of the 3D printing house technology, and not just houses but structures in general, it is an emerging technology that really starting to gain a lot of traction and we felt like there was a need for that. The execution of that technology in an economical way because there you can really leverage that technology to produce structures and houses in an economical way because the materials are really cheap. I mean, you’re printing with concrete bags, and concrete you are ordering it from wherever it can be, you know, you’re printing with local, sand so it’s all easily accessible materials. It’s just a matter of executing it and refining that process. There are not a lot of people in this space that are leveraging, the economies of this and so we’re really trying to find a way to do that and make some headway.
Curtis: That’s awesome. I want to come to check out those and see this in action.
Bradly: Yeah, we’ve done we’re in the right in the middle of doing the pilot project so it’s so far so good like proving the concept is we’re there.
Curtis: So that’s awesome. So that’s not why you’re here today. We are here to talk about a little more mundane stuff – ordinary.
Bradly: Ordinary stuff ha-ha
Curtis: So we’ve been going through this story in this podcast where, you know, we’re following this couple Brian and Heather they’ve been making every mistake in the book as they go through this construction process and you know, now they’re in the middle of building this home and you know that they’re finding that some of the things that were on the plans but aren’t necessarily what happened out on the field. So you know that happens a lot and things make it onto the plans but they don’t always translate into the field and that can be things like problems with the plans, it can be the interpretation of the plans, and computers flat ignoring the plans but before we get into that, we’ve discussed with some of our other guests, how houses are more complex now than they used to be, you know, they don’t like our homes that we’re building more complex than what my dad or Granddad or whoever would have built back in the day and part of that some of the building performance that’s mandated by energy codes, and structuralcodes, and things like that. Some of its new technology and some of it is just like the expectations that clients have. I think the consumers in some ways are more educated than they used to be, and they expect a higher level of product and execution. So, what are your thoughts on that a home just being more complex?
Bradly: It is, I mean, a lot of it starts with information as just disseminated and so much more easily these days and so it’s just more accessible or to people and so I’ll find that more clients are more educated and that’s a big part of it. Expectations seem to be a little higher or maybe I’m not higher but more specific in certain areas that clients you might not have dove into with clients before, just because it’s if this information is easily accessible on the internet and elsewhere. But as well as you had touched on building technologies have advanced dramatically it seems like it’s incrementally advanced each year. So trying to try to understand those aspects of those Technologies and incorporate them into the design and then into the construction of the house adds just layers of complexity to what we do. I think at every angle, houses just tend to be way more complex in that way. And I often say that 90% of my job is mitigating excitations. That’s what I think too because we have so much more information available to clients.
Curtis: I think also that when you have this higher level of detail that’s expected a higher level of, just what you have to do again because of codes or whatever because of higher level complexity, more planning is needed, you know, more seats at the table in my house diagram that I mentioned at the beginning. You know, you’ve got to have that Foundation of planning and you get ahead of the team established early in the project. So just on that how many different people are involved before the house ever even you know, yeah, before dirt is turned?
Bradly: Well, there’s a lot and it varies depending on the project, but usually need a good handful of in your team of consultants, architect, and then you’ve got kind of the engineering category of Structural Engineering, which is a critical component to your project. Often, In larger tracts of land will need civil engineers involved, but even in a small project, you’re going to need surveys and soils reports, because you got to have the engineer has to have something to know what the ground is to give you the right foundation. So, you’ve got all these kinds of engineering components beforehand. Building performance and consultation is a big part of what I would recommend on the team because of what we talked about earlier, the complexities of Building materials and techniques and methodologies. It’s really important to have that third view in the mix. You know, me, as an architect, I’m kind of charged with coordinating, all this stuff on the front end, but I don’t know all these parts and pieces. For example, the structural engineer knows the structure and the civil engineer knows the ground, the building performance consultant has a pulse beat on more on these technologies and how to integrate them successfully.
Curtis: And how they interact with the environment.
Bradly: That’s exactly right. That’s exactly right. There are so many parts and pieces to the houses that you just need these specialties involved and have their eyes on the project, and the earlier, the better, in my opinion. I always engage these consultants and engineers very early on in the process.
Curtis: Even the other kind of the sexier stuff, so, the interior, the interior design, and the Millwork and Cabinetry, all that kind of stuff should be brought into play during the design phase as well before construction starts. Yeah, you got to know how all that stuff’s going to fit in with the design.
Bradly: Absolutely, there’s kind of the critical base of consultants that you need and people on the team that you need and then there’s the one then there are some other designers and other Consultants that may not be part of every project or just may not be the right fit for the client or the actual project and it also depends on whom you’re starting with, as well as different architects provide different services.
Bradly: Based on experience and training, certain designers and architects can provide Interior Design Services, Landscape Design Services, but it’s very, very common to have an interior designer on the project and a landscape architect on the project.
Curtis: Additionally lighting design, it’s getting bigger
Bradly: Yeah, lighting design is it could be a huge one. Yeah, that’s right. Especially when you get into these bigger spaces for their special requirements such as a really nice art collection. So, you want to make sure that that stuff is paid attention to. I mean wine room consultant, just and you can just keep going like there. There are so many specialties, it just depends on the needs of the client.
Curtis: Yeah, so when we have all of these various players who have either an opinion or a specification, everybody’s got an opinion. Or a drawing that has to be followed because that’s what the clients paying for, right? I mean the client deserves to get all these various people that they are paying for to see their design getting put into effect. When you’ve got architectural, engineering, interior design, landscape design, lighting design, and all this stuff
Bradly: Security is huge. Yeah, audio-visual.
Curtis: Yeah. So when all these people are in the room or at the table you know, how do we make sure that all these things are actually getting built? Yeah. Like how do you, how do you make sure that all these things are actually happening the way they’re supposed to?
Bradly: Yeah, that’s a great question. I think it’s important to have a very kind of comprehensive and up-to-date package of drawings and specifications. In my view, that’s, that’s my job. My job is not just to design the space, but to also coordinate, all these individual specialties and create this one, clear and concise package, and make sure they all work together because oftentimes structural engineers will specify something that does not fly with, or is it a serious conflict I think – I don’t know 90% of jobs will have this where you have got a beam in a duct, you know, and examples are plentiful. It’s making sure that me as an architect, am making sure that those conflicts are resolved. There’s a concept in architectural which is called Problem seeking, like I’m looking for this problem, seeking out these problems trying to find where they are, and then coming up with the solutions to those problems and resolving them. Oftentimes that it is communicating and coordinating with multiple trades and multiple consultants.
Curtis: Yeah one of the services that most Architects offer is construction administration or C.A. for short – is that something that you do?
Bradly: Absolutely. It’s critical to a successful project. Additionally, to the success of a project and coming, kind of back to coordinating all these efforts, for me, I think it’s important to have a contractor and a builder involved early on. There are there’s a couple of ways to help make that successful and that’s to make a project successful and that is having a builder involved early to be able to have their eyes on the drawing set from the beginning, just kind of pointing out potential conflicts that are not seen. It always helps to have that second set of eyes. Then pricing things along the way.
Curtis: Yeah, budget input
Bradly: Budget input is huge. I mean, even we, as Architects, are supposed to start with a budget and then we’re supposed to provide a budget for what we design. A lot of Architects are not skilled in that realm – not necessarily so – but so that’s why it’s really helpful to have a builder involved.
Curtis: Yeah so for CA, and in for other inspections, you know like what points of construction are some typical points first to kind of you know, ‘press pause’, let’s say, on the project for a day or a week or whatever to accomplish you know, all the inspections that have to be done. To verify that all these things were being done, right? What are some kinds of common phase checks?
Bradly: Some common phase checks usually are happening beforehand, like your major pauses are happening before something gets covered. So, when you’re prepping the ground working and you are laying the foundation for the project, literally you want to have this hard pause to make sure that everything before you cover it up with concrete, is in the right spot. That the dimensions are where they’re supposed to be. Anchor bolts and hold downs and all the necessary stuff that is specified by other engineers or other consultants are in the right spot. The same thing when you cover the walls so if it’s gonna get covered, you want to stop and look at it. As well there are some of these other stops and pauses when I say, for example, electrical like usual box, a house out and then you want to walk that because a lot of times you have, this is just stuff on paper and we do this all the time so it’s a lot easier for us to conceptualize this. But when Homeowner looks at a sheet and it’s got outlets here, or switches placed on a wall, well we are hired to ensure it is placed perfectly how they want it, not how you or I would want it because the client might say, “oh, I do this one thing I always end up getting up in the middle of the night to do, whatever, and I want to have a switch here or something would be good” – any number of situations, we handle.
Curtis: So, so before the wire gets pulled, you know, you can move those boxes, those the switch boxes, those outlets that are recessed cans, whatever you can shift those around at that point pretty easily because this just popped a couple of nails will just move in the box versus what’s all that wires pulled. It’s a lot harder and usually, the electrician is charging money at that point.
Bradly: That’s exactly right. So you want to stop and check at each of these phases before, the things are covered, or the second/final phase of whatever that task is done, boxes and then wire, or it could be with millwork too, you know, just making sure that okay, now that the walls are up is this where we want this cabinet or you know any number of situations. For me in the CA process, I’m always communicating with the contractor, as well to say, okay, let’s walk this, let’s check in. I know that the client needs to do this, too, but also, there might be a time that it’s just the Architect and Builder that walk it just kind of prepped before that meeting just to kind of pre-phase, walk check that allows us to be a little more prepared in that and when we do the client walk. So yeah, that’s like that’s kind of a big component of CA. Another thing was CA as well, is like, you had said earlier, construction administration is a way that the clients can assure that what they paid for in their design is built to do what they want or what they respect, getting what they expect. That’s right.
Curtis: Yeah, what are some common things that get missed? I think the electrical stuff that you mentioned is pretty common and missed might be the wrong word, but that needs to be checked, or it just can just be missed or done wrong by a contractor. What are some common things that you would catch in a phase check?
Bradly: Well, oftentimes in drawings, we are trying to convey intent or convey something very specific and it’s hard to do in just one drawing and it might be missed, whether it’s like a sill height for a window or it could be electrical is a really common one, doctor locations, you know, some things just like, there are some things that just kind of necessarily need to be assumed and nobody’s kind of faulted for them. There’s plenty of stuff to fall to be thrown around but I think you know, in a good relationship that’s not done, but there’s some necessarily some things that need to be assumed that we can then kind of review because A set of drawings is not going to have every single detail that needs to be looked at and ability project
Curtis: Right and I’ve said this one set on several episodes that “We’re all human. Everybody makes mistakes. Architects make mistakes, engineers make mistakes, builders make mistakes, there might be some mistake so it’s not necessarily that somebody did a bad job, it’s we are just human.” It’s a bit, of the product that we’re humans producing. So, it’s a way also for us to just to catch someone else’s honest mistake, you know, I’ve yet to do a job where I have a perfect set of drawings from everybody, you know, it doesn’t exist. I’ve never built a perfect house and probably never will things always happen. So, it’s kind of a way of keeping each other accountable for what we should be doing, right?
Bradly: Yeah, that’s right. And it’s a conversation. If you know bringing a home to life is like what we’re doing here. It’s questions and answers. It’s bringing things up that might not have been thought of by either an architect or builder, and it’s an exchange and a back-and-forth and that’s how the something gets built, additionally like, what might be drawn, might not ultimately be the best solution and sometimes you don’t see that until you inhabit that space, right? Whether it be just a space that’s framed or sheetrocked or sheathed or whatever it could, you know, there’s it’s important to be able to kind of go along with the process and be able to adjust if needed.
Curtis: Yeah, I think what happens, sometimes is Builders see, see a phase of Jack’s inspections as being an adversarial thing. I see this a lot, you know, because you know “that Architects might come in here and mess up my project and change everything” and whatever, that’s definitely not the attitude that I’ve ever had because I always see it as collaborative, you know, we’re trying to get the customer the best product. I would say, that’s probably more common with the old-school Builders there, “I do not want that architect on my job, so get him outta here.” Ha-ha
Bradly: That is my experience too
Curtis: How do you keep those situations from being adversarial? If you’ve got that old school guy or just somebody who feels like you’re stepping on his toes?
Bradly: For me – part of how I do that is kind of twofold. Number one, I’ve got some actual experience swinging a hammer – I know what’s going on in framing and various stages in the construction process and so, a lot of times I’m able to relate to two builders that are perhaps adversarial or not thrilled about an architect on site by saying, “yeah, I’ve, you know, slung bunks of plywood up two floors. On a 12-page”, you know, like I’ve done that, I went to architecture school. Did not do that my entire life but all right but I have done it and then so hopefully that establishes some credit and I know that good architects and not ones who haven’t had that experience also are willing to kind of dig in with a builder to say okay. I understand your resistance but I’m willing to engage in that process and not just be dismissive. One approach, I think a good architect will take. Another one is to two really from the beginning is to establish a relationship with the builder that is very open and very communicative, it seems like a lot of work sometimes or it can be, but I just find that just having a positive attitude from the beginning with a builder, and it could be that you have to do that with like multiple Builders before somebody decides on a builder, but it just sets the tone for the relationship that will I think be better and easier throughout the process. And so, kind of going back to what you had said earlier about these face checks and things happening that may not be going to go to plan. It is a two-way street where, you know, Builders and things on site might happen – not like they’re in the drawings and then we have to adjust – but it also happens that something is drawn and there’s a conflict with the real built condition. I think, additionally as an architect, I need to be able to adapt and solve that problem when it arises and not just push back and say, no, do it like this. Now there are certain things where it’s important to say that, but having that relationship in that credibility already built up, makes it a lot easier to do when the time comes.
Curtis: Yeah, there sure is, like, blatantly wrong. Gotta fix it you know.
Bradly: Yeah, that’s right. Just admitting your mistakes too, like when I miss something, I’ll be like, oh yeah, that’s my bad, so let me let’s come up with a solution work with me because I need help on this. I try to ask so many questions of builders whenever we go through the process and I think asking, so many questions can produce an ultimately better solution when the time comes and it is needed.
Curtis: Yeah, because sometimes there are things on the plans and the Builder might not catch them or maybe the Builder doesn’t know enough to catch them and honestly, this is pretty common where somebody will hire somebody, who’s in this kind of goes back to Texas, not having licensure for Builders like most states do. But, you know, you got like a new Builder or an experienced person who doesn’t read plans and now they’re trusting their subcontractors to execute and the subcontractor may not be that educated either often. He’s the lowest big guy. So anyway, we’re basically like the blind leading the blind in executing a plan. So anyway, that’s what I’m saying is there, maybe it’s like some details on the plan that no one either sees or knows how to read and I think one of the most common places I see this is like, in like Cornice work, there will be a cornice detail on the plans and the framer just slapped up a corners guy to slap up what they always do this on every house and they ignore the detail. Are there any other things that get kind of like that cornice work that you see people just kind of boil by and do the standard thing and ignore the plans?
Bradly: Yeah, there’s a lot of framing details of that happens. If you’re looking for the type of caliber of the house that you’ll hire architects for like there will be situations that are just not standard in construction. Whether it’s like some cantilever beam that’s catching another beam. I had this situation, it was in framing where they just like had supports of holding the roof up and they just completely missed the bean and I was like, so what’s going to happen when you take the support staff? How’s that? How’s that going to work to the point of missing things as well, like, oftentimes when Architects are drawing houses and they’ll put a detail in there but they know what’s going to be that, non-standard detail for the most part and so I try to at least one having those conversations of the Builder. And I don’t hesitate to have conversations and so contractors on site either. Yeah, I think I think it’s important to gate-engage the process on all these levels to say, okay, this detail is a little different. Let’s review it. But, you know, it could a lot of the comes on Millwork. As well, it might be some sort of cabinet configuration or something going on and it got to the cabinet you know it could be, oftentimes these details are how and when material different materials come together or joints right of a house and could be interior or exterior and there it’s often needed to address in a rough stage as well as the finished age because otherwise the finish stage, I won’t be able to make up for it if the rough is done wrong.
Curtis: Yeah, definitely. So, just going back briefly to the kind of lack of builder licensure and things like that in Texas. What are the problems that are created in your mind?
Bradly: So, I feel like in my experience most people that are lacking experience tend to just make up for it in confidence and expectations of what they’re capable of and for sure assumptions. There’s just the process is just kind of like-charged along and marched along without these phase checks. Anytime there’s a lack of thoroughness to successfully build a project. If you need to be thorough, this is not rocket science, but you need to be thorough
Curtis: You need to just paying attention. Yes.
Bradly: Yes and you need to be able to have a thorough understanding of the project and that means understanding the drawing specifications, your site conditions, Etc. and then understanding the process of these phase checks, of engaging with your subcontractors, and properly engaging with the clients. If it’s in the custom world of construction and design, there needs to be a level of engagement with Clients that a lot of people are not accustomed to that are maybe newer to the process, or maybe not as educated in the process and need to pay attention to the communication side of things. Maybe not either willing or able to whether it’s because of the way, they structured their contract with them, or they are just drawn or spread too thin, and other areas the time needed to devote communication to especially the clients but all parties, is just it’s just not there.
Curtis: Yeah. Doing the phase checks, CA all that stuff, it actually helps everyone involved, you know. It’s not just the architect covering his butt on the stuff, right? It’s all for the betterment of the consumer and the project but liability-wise, does it help the Builder and helps the engineer, it helps the architect, I mean, you know, by having all these parties, verifying things as they go, it lessens liability, it lessens, the chances of something catastrophic happening down the road, right?
Bradly: Yeah, that’s right. That’s right. Ultimately that thoroughness creates a much more stable and longer-lasting product. I mean, we’re all concerned about liability. It is a big issue, but ultimately like, yeah, what’s, what’s kind of driving that is well, I also want my clients to be safe in the, in the, in the house over and be healthy in the house and thrive there and to do that, we need to not just provide a good design but also provide good quality construction in a way that’s recommended by all of the various manufacturers of the products that were using in the house. So being thorough being educated, which is often not the case with people who come in with little experience and lack of licensure, and so forth. Yeah, those are all really important components to making sure that we’re all protected from liability, which is just kind of like a necessary part of the process but also what drives that and that’s to have a healthy and safe space for the clients.
Curtis: Other than the architect doing CA, what are some other common things other parties would come in to also do some inspections along the way, aside from the city
Bradly: Yeah, you always have the city I’ve always got the regulatory agencies,
some more involved in others. But ultimately, I think that’s a good thing for the most part because it forces us to slow down and check and of course, we’re going to run into frustrations with that but so there are also third-party inspections for the big important part is the structural component of a house, whether it be weld inspections, different nail patterns, fixtures, anything that there’s a drawing for even like every time I come to a job site, I’m technically on an inspection.
Bradly: So they’re, you know, the structural inspections are really important
and having the engineer involved, a lot of times engineers will also have a third party do their inspections for them so that they’re not verifying themselves, which is I think a really good one.
Bradly: Then depending on the consultants that are hired by the third party, building performance consultants are doing their checks and tests on the house whether it be a thermal the thermal performance of the house, another one that is here…
Curtis: Air leakage testing
Bradly: Yep, air leakage testing is a big one. Another one that I’ve used as well, which I think is really valuable is not a consultant on the front end, but as a third-party inspection and that’s a building envelope inspection. Looking for where there’s a nail penetration that should have been sealed, making sure you know, the sheathing with if we’re using a zip that it’s everything is sealed properly or even some manufacturers offer inspections, building-round.
Curtis: Yeah, for sure.
Bradly: You can have you can call different manufacturers who have reps in the area to come out and inspect, your installation.
Curtis: Yeah, we’ve done that a lot.
Bradly: Yeah. Which is great. It’s free and it also reinforces your warranty on the product.
Curtis: Those guys like it too actually because they’ll come out and like take pictures and video and say, hey, here’s our product being used on this house.
Bradly: Yeah, that’s right.
Curtis: That is a benefit for them too, so they’ll come out for free and give you some advice.
Bradly: Yeah, that’s right, and that tracks through a lot of finishes as well if you’re using a sort of specialty finish. The vendor or representation will come out and inspect the installation and how it’s executed if it’s done right, and that that’s a valuable service I think a lot of builders, especially uneducated or not licensed – I guess you don’t have to be in Texas.
Curtis: Nobody has to be out here.
Bradly: Yeah, that’s right but those are things that people that don’t have that type of experience and that are not as thorough will not take advantage of.
Curtis: Yeah, they don’t have those relationships necessarily with those sales reps and companies because oftentimes, it’s just hey, let’s buy whatever’s cheapest and get this done. They’re not necessarily going through a rep. So, it makes a big difference. So, you know, all these checks and inspections, you know, the whole goal is to give the consumer a better product. The side benefit is offering some protection, so it’s just all-around a good thing to do.
Bradly: Absolutely. The more checks the better! Kind of going back to an earlier topic of these pauses in construction, oftentimes they don’t have to actually “pause” a pause.
If planned and coordinated and everybody has a really great sense of communication and communication is happening between architect builder reps, vendors, etc. these things can happen in a planned way that does not cause delays, or at least not massive delays.
Curtis: Yes, and often they’re those are kind of natural pauses anyway, like for example, if you’re pouring slab foundation after the grade beams get dug and the rebar gets put in what-not, the concrete doesn’t usually get poured the same day.
Curtis: I mean, sometimes it does, but it’s pretty rare. There is usually a natural pause where you get a day where the city is coming out to do their inspection and so you’re not costing time by doing this unless there’s a problem that must be corrected. The same thing with framing, I mean, you’re going to have this big pause while you’re waiting anyway for the city to send out their electrical and plumbing and mechanical and framing. Yeah, so you already have this pause that’s already built into the schedule.
Bradly: That is right. A good builder will bake that right into the schedule.
Curtis: Yeah, there’s not like a time penalty for it necessarily, unless there’s a problem discovered and there could be
Curtis: So, I guess the last thing on the verification topic, some people were like, well, the city’s inspecting it, and the city inspectors have in my experience, like, certain things they look for and a lot of times it might be something that their boss is like, Hey, y’all, this is our pet topic ‘Of The Month’, you know, be watching for this and, or if it’s like an old inspector, he’s like, “Oh, I always check for this.” He may not care about anything else. I mean, we’ve had inspectors walk in the job sites, walk in the front gate, look around and say “All right, looks good. Here’s your green tag, Bye”. He literally will not look at anything and he’ll pass our inspection.
Bradly: Yeah. Not the city of Houston, they would never do that (sarcastically)
Curtis: Some city I have I have operated in might have done that, but I’m not knocking any particular city of course. But yeah, so we’ve had plenty of inspections where the guy just walks in the gate hands us a green tag and walks back out. You know because those guys are overloaded. The city of Houston like most cities, I’m sure is very short-staffed. It’s like a record number of plans being submitted record or a record number of inspections being requested every day. They just can’t physically do it all. So, I guess what I’m saying is don’t trust don’t count on the city to catch problems because that’s not really what they do.
Bradly: Well, yeah, that’s right and they catch they do catch problems…
Curtis: They do catch some. Yeah, I’m not saying it’s worthless.
Bradly: Right. You know, you are absolutely right. The thing is like you said, they’re short-staffed, there’s a lot of new hires and they, they oftentimes have either a checklist or a very specific set of things they’re looking for, and they’re often not looking for even best practice. There’s like there are multiple tiers of inspection. You’re having to meet code, and sometimes ‘code’ is the best practice
Curtis: Sometimes ‘code’ is the bare minimum to get by
Bradly: That’s right, and what’s also interesting is a lot of times and I experienced this more so on the front-end of design, the city will defer to the manufacturer’s specs. If you design something into the project, and the city flags it, you get gets a permit, and comment back. I had multiple times where I’ve submitted manufacturer’s specifications, after contacting the manufacturer saying, “Hey, am I using this right correctly? Can you give me a sheet that’s not on your website that says XY and Z and submit that to the city” and they’ll approve it like that and so, city inspectors are often not looking at those like what the manufacturer would specialize in because that’s not their job. Their job is to kind of make sure the project meets the current codes and city of wherever amendments if there are any.
Curtis: Yeah, if they don’t, they also could care less about fit and finish and quality and anything else.
Bradly: Right, that is absolutely right
Curtis: That’s, that’s out of their purview so if you’re trusting the city to make sure your house is getting built, well, probably not going to have a good outcome.
Bradly: Yeah, if you’ve specified level-five finish of drywall and the wall is just heavily textured, sitting in his bedroom, he’s not going to get that.
Curtis: All he cares about is there’s drywall there, that’s all he cares about. You get some paint on and call it a day and he’s happy.
Bradly: Yeah, exactly
Curtis: Okay. So aside from face checks, and catching issues, this is kind of more of a general question about when people go into building a custom home, what are some common mistakes that people should be looking to avoid when they’re entering the custom home process, or they are thinking about building at home
Bradly: Cost expectations are like a big one and time expectations. I think it is reasonable, but you have to start with a budget, obviously. But I think a mistake that people make is you start with a budget that you’re like maxed out with and then you don’t have any room to go up. You always have to have room to go up because whether it’s an unforeseen circumstance, or a trip to wherever where you saw what, you know, this tile that you can’t live without, that’s twice the cost. You’ve got to have that room for increasing the price of the contract.
Curtis: Economic factors, like we had recently where lumber just went through the roof.
Bradly: Yeah, that’s a massive component. That’s right. And part of that is how you structure your contract as well. It’s really important to know what you’re signing what you’re getting into and what your contract is. So, kind of backing up a little further though, being able to be willing to engage the right number of professionals and the right professionals to be able to do it as we talked about earlier with, like who should be part of the team. You should not skimp on who should be part of the team. It’s going to be more cost and upfront cost and design and prep, but it is absolutely 100% worth it to invest in the right consultants and trade people that know what they’re doing right at right in the beginning. I would be leery of anybody that says Oh, no, you don’t need so and so or whatever
Curtis: That’s a waste of money. You don’t even have
Bradly: Yeah, yeah, it’s a waste of money to hire X, whatever designer or whatever.
Ultimately it might be, but you need to like work through that process with somebody. But having these the right people involved, having a right budget, making sure that you know your contract, and now we’re kind of like moving through the process, making sure you know, the contract, what you’re signing, how it is structured, what your obligations are and then also knowing the drawings when the time comes. I often have clients that when a client is finding something that they don’t expect, it’s usually because they also didn’t ask questions and so asking questions along the way, ask tons of questions. I think everybody needs to do that more and everything anyway. Yeah, it’s like one of the things I try to instill in my son if you can like just ask questions. If I’m teaching anything, ask a lot of questions. That goes the same thing for this process as well, with homeowners, BE engaged.
Curtis: That’s right.
Bradly: There’s a lot of moving parts here and you’re trusting the professionals, but it’s also just asking as many questions as come up in your mind.
Curtis: Yeah, that’s a good segue into my next topic that I was touching on with everyone is, you know, what’s, what’s kind of the right type of person or the ideal person to go through the custom-home process and then on the backside of that, what type of person probably shouldn’t go into this whole, you know, a year and a half long relationship with a group of people to build a custom home.
Bradly: Yeah. that’s a good question and difficult to answer, but I think there are a few factors that may seem obvious to some but may not to others, time is a big thing, like you said it’s a years-long process, depending on the project. Everybody needs to have time to devote to it and including the people that you hire as well. I think again, going back to asking this question, ask what the workload is of these clients and if they can, or have your architect designers see if what you want can be put into their schedule. So likewise, if you don’t have the time to engage in a years-long process, then don’t do it. There are plenty of products on the market.
Curtis: Yeah, if you have a deadline that you have to be in a house and you have 12 months, it’s probably not a good idea.
Bradly: Yes, that’s right. Like I said about the budget earlier, too you always have to have more you need to allow more time for the process as well. Especially in the days of pandemics like material shortages.
Curtis: I mean, this is kind of a deeper philosophical discussion. Maybe but it kind of goes along with that. You know, I think people tend to want what they see, and they want what everybody else has got. I have definitely seen people enter into the process that they want that shiny new house because all their friends have got it and they’re really stretching themselves to make it happen. You know, if that’s the case, it’s probably not something you should do. Like, if you’re maxing out everything, you got to build this house, and you’re kind of counting on “Well, it’s going to appreciate and I’m going to get a raise next year.” That is probably not the best way
Bradly: Classic, yeah
Curtis: Exactly – counting on that bonus to build a pool and then you get the ‘jelly of the month’. No, seriously, we have the best like the deeper you know, it’s like the American dream. I got to build that house. I got to keep up with the neighbors. Yeah, if that’s the attitude it is probably not the right thing for you to do
Bradly: Probably not the right fit. You have to really kind of take a look at yourself and say, Okay, can I mitigate my expectations because when you hire somebody, you should have expectations, but you should also be able to communicate them clearly. If you’re not able to do that, whether it’s in writing or in person or in precedents, like what you’re looking for in the project, then just take a step back and work with your work as a realtor to find a really beautiful move-in-ready space.
Bradly: Another one is just being able to outside of devoting the right amount of time to it. I guess just having the kind of energy for it or the tolerance level to deal with people that you sometimes don’t want to deal with. Because you go through pain, you take all these pains to hire an architect that you like, hire a builder that you like, but there’s, there’s still like, going to be many people you don’t want to deal with right. So having some patience, to let the process work is a big thing. Like if you don’t have any patients to enter that. Yeah, just walk away.
Curtis: Yeah, you know, I think this is our – I’m going to get this wrong. This is probably like our 13th or 14th episode of this show that we’re recording now and I was asked these questions and so the kind of the common theme has been, you know, people who are willing to be engaged in the process, who trust the process, and then having realistic expectations and a realistic budget for those kinds of things are really what you got to have if you’re going to go into this.
Bradly: Yeah, but you know, that’s those expectations are that’s, that’s a process and you got to be able to find the right people that can help you set mitigate those expectations. Yeah. How do you know, most people have never done this before. Right? You got to be able to trust those people to do it, which is kind of saying a lot in our industry sometimes.
Curtis: Yeah, exactly.
Bradly: For reasons we’ve talked about already.
Curtis: Yeah so what last thing and I, again, I ask this question as well, and not that I wanted to, like, bring anything down or end on a bad note, but I always ask people if they have any stories about a project where things have not gone well, or maybe it’s a disaster, and then maybe what in your mind could have been done for that not to happen?
Bradly: Projects that are that don’t turn out well, happen for a lot of reasons. As far as like things that we can control, there are all kinds of things that are out of our control, us as professionals, but you know, there are certain things that we can control and certain things we can’t control. One is kind of having our process sorted out and worked out. I’ve been part of projects where there’s just been a lot of there was a lot of turnover in the construction staff, in the design staff. There wasn’t a lot of continuity in the project and, you know, as business owners, it’s hard to sometimes assure that that will be the case, but it also goes to the company that your client is hiring to say, okay, you know, I understand if things turn over, but like we as a business so we kind of understand that and kind of mitigate that ourselves.
Bradly: Which is just a really difficult thing to do but there are ways to kind of do that. So there was a lack of continuity in the project, there were things out of our control that goes back to clients not understanding the contract or not understanding the drawings, and not being willing to devote the time to the project to understand it. I have presented drawings. I’ve presented renderings, physical samples, and mock-ups of certain elements of a house, and then when it actually goes to get installed, the client said this is not what we decided.
“Yes, it is, tell me more about this because we went through a lot of work to get here.” So that was a kind of a constant theme throughout the project and so the lack of continuity on the company side, the lack of engagement on the client side, made for just a challenging process. Lots and lots of changes. Lots and lots of changes.
Curtis: I have one of those right now, unfortunately.
Bradly: You know, and, and changes are going to happen, and they’re not bad. It’s just they need to happen, if at all possible. incrementally and, and in a kind of prepared way. Having a massive and unexpected change from a client, you know, because they didn’t understand the drawings, that’s not just all of their fault either, like some of it needs to be done on our end, we need to do our due diligence, right. That’s what I said. I feel like 90% of my job is mitigating expectations.
Curtis: Yeah, it really is.
Bradly: Being able to understand where I think blind spots are with clients and say, Hey, I just want to make sure you guys understand this or this is you know, how what we’re doing and how we’re doing it, and then there are various places to do that throughout the process and we’re going to miss it and that’s why we have changes, but as I said, Let’s do little changes along the way, and we can, we can get there
Curtis: Yeah, you mentioned the continuity, If there’s turnover, you know, one way to mitigate that is, is kind of, I mean, as a builder, you know, I always have to be concerned about that. I have some good project managers, but what happens if one of them wins, retires gets hit by a bus, you know? So you always have to be thinking, Okay, if something happens to this key person during the project, how does that continue to the new person that comes in and how do they quickly grasp the project and kind of carry the torch? So one of the things that that we do, I see a lot of good builders doing is it boils down to just good record keeping really, it’s having some kind of software in place a project management software, to where you’re capturing all the details, you’re capturing all the project communication, you’re it’s basically you’re it’s a journal, everything’s happened on the project.
Bradly: That’s right.
Curtis: Having all of that in one place is really essential. Even down to saying, you know, you know, Mr. Client, I know you love to text me, but I really need you to send our communication through our software. That way it captures our whole conversation and if you know, Joe, the project manager doesn’t get hit by a bus, guess what, I don’t have to go find his cell phone from his wife, you know, now I can. Now here’s the record in our software of everything that you guys have ever talked about, you know, and so the new guy can kind of pick it up and run with it. So that’s always a concern for me and so I think for people listening and watching if they are looking for a builder, that’s one thing to look at is to say, hey, how do you manage your projects? What kind of software do you use? How do you ensure that if something happens to your key personnel, how do you ensure my project is going to finish strong?
Bradly: Yeah, a great question to ask. It also goes back to having that broad team of professionals because if you’re just buying plans from the internet, and then you gave them to a builder and say, okay, build this, then and then that happens, then there’s like, there’s nobody else ask questions to or having an archetype having all these consultants having inspections along the way – that’s how you helped mitigate that as well.
Curtis: Yeah, of course, because, like you and the engineer and everybody else is going to have been a part of that process.
Bradly: I could be working with your construction manager. Yeah, that can happen. And then you might not know whatever, but you can call me and say, hey, what did you guys talk about with this?
Curtis: Hey, come do a walkthrough with the new guy and relay some of that information that may not have been captured on paper or in the software.
Bradly: Yeah, that’s right. That’s right. And if you’re old school construction guy that has adverse relationships with architects then I got to be a little hesitant. Yeah. That No, that’s, that’s not true, but it won’t be just fun.
Curtis: I’m not hating on all the old-school builders, there are some good ones out there. There are also some extremely crusty old architects who hate builders. It is, like I said before, a two-way street, work with some really great people on the construction and design side of all age ranges, and all experiences, and yeah, they definitely run the gamut.
Bradly: Yeah, for sure.
Curtis: All right. Well, I think that’s about all the time we have for today.
Curtis: So, I really appreciate you being here and being a part of this.
Bradly: Yeah. Thanks for having me.
Curtis: If our listeners and viewers want to talk to you and work with you, tell them how they can find you.
Bradly: Yeah, you can go to ordinaryarch.com or check us out on Instagram as well. Just the same ordinaryarch
Curtis: Awesome. Well, I’ll be sure to put your website and contact info in the show notes as well. So people want to reach out to you they can they can find you there. So thanks a lot. Thanks, Chris. So that’s it for today’s episode of The Your Project Shepherd Construction podcast.
And just remember that as we talked about in our chat today,
We teach that those four key components have to be there. On every project that the foundation is planning. The left wall is your team, the right wall is communication, and the roof is proper execution.
So stick around for our next episode. And we’ll continue the story of Brian and Heather and kind of wrap things up and see where they land in this journey. To get this house built. We’ll talk to you later. Bye