Residential Design

VOL.4. 2018

A business-to-business magazine focused on the collaborative process and talented work of residential architects and custom homebuilders.

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Page 9 of 75

S. Claire Conroy Editor-in-Chief It is the best of times for residential architects and custom builders—so much opportunity abounds to do compelling work. But it's also the worst of times when it comes to getting that work done properly. Not since the last boom have I heard so many architects and builders complain about finishing the projects they have underway or breaking ground on the backlog they have waiting. Subs are the weakest link right now, or so say the custom builders. Even the ones they've depended upon for years are stretched to the point of breaking. In Atlanta, where I live, there has never been enough of a true custom market for subcontractors dedicated to the specialty. Therefore, custom builders compete for the same pool of trade talent as remodelers, produc- tion builders, and even some commercial builders—all of whom are slammed right now. Take concrete, for example. Wyatt Anderson, owner of Post + Beam Builders here in Atlanta, has a tale of woe about concrete that's really an allegory about current market condi- tions. "Part of the problem is how long it takes for subs to price a complex, architect-designed house," he says. "I called a concrete guy I've worked with for years to bid a custom project for me. He said, 'I have 100 Pulte Homes foundations to put in, and they're just boxes.' He told me, 'It takes us so much time to bid your job, it's just not worth it.'" In cases like these, Wyatt has to move down the list to a smaller sub, who will inevitably come in more expensive than a bigger business with economies of scale; and that portion of the job may take longer to complete as well. These are difficult things to explain to your client, especially when they steamroll from all aspects of the project and all corners of the trades. Another problem we're seeing is subs jumping off projects under construction to sign onto more lucrative jobs. Sometimes this happens overtly (they just quit the job); sometimes it happens more slyly (they simply never return to complete callback items). Another common scenario is the good sub who's hired inferior labor to meet the increased demand. Call it "the good sub gone bad." You're glad to get them on your project, until you see a bunch of wavy trimwork aligning with your major focal points. Ouch. For the most part, everyone is trying to juggle the bounty of work and get it done well. Still, quality can and does suffer. And it isn't just the builders and subs who are taxed to the max. Architects, too, are finding it challenging to take a project from good all the way to great. To do so takes extra time, the kind of magic creative hours that are rarely compensated —late- night visits to the home office, a weekend trip to the firm, or even an excursion to a museum or an inspiring building. It feels impossible, but now is the moment to strive for excellence. It is indeed the best of times to do your best work. Don't let the problems stand in your way. Stay creative; stay healthy; seize the day. Seize the Day EDITOR'S NOTE

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