Residential Design

Vol. 3, 2017

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

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Photo: © Michael Biondo PRO-FILE BUILD Above: David and Deborah Prutting's current home, a New Canaan townhouse by Joeb Moore & Partners. aced this, as well as finessing relationships with high-powered clients. Here his ex- perience, good humor, and dedication to getting the work done right go a long way toward allaying fears and tensions. But there are new complications these days for custom builders at this level of the profes- sion. Chief among them is the advent of the "owner's representative." Alas, the era of hard-won trust is eroding, and for a pro like David, it feels like a substantial loss and a need- less stumbling block to the successful completion of a great house. "My first experience with an owner's rep was a guy who said he was there to keep an eye on the architect. I respect it, but I don't think you need it," says David. "And we had one who was a table pounder. There was intimidation with that guy. Most of them are team players, and we are too. I have nothing to fear, but if clients ask me if I think they need one, I'll tell them no." He posits that the concern comes from those who bring city thinking to the countryside. "Everyone who's had work done in Manhattan feels they've been ripped off. The typical contractor invoice is a lien form," he quips. "Then they come out to the suburbs, they feel they need protection. Like a bodyguard." Ahead of the Game For David, much has changed over 40 years of business, but managing subcon- tractors has not. He believes in building the best team and treating them well over the long term. "Sure we push them on price," he says, "but we don't want to leverage subs to the point where they're losing money." And unlike many builders lately, he has no problem tapping good trades. "They find me," he says. Worse come to worst, he notes, all his supers are "punch-list quality" and always able to get the job done. In addition to the proliferation of owners' reps, another new twist in the everyday lives of high-end custom builders is the lengthy and extensive preconstruction phase. "We now do mock-ups all the time. Small sections of the building—exterior skin, siding trim, roofing, overhang, corner detailing— stone veneer exactly as it will get built," he explains. "We have a job in Green- wich, where we're doing eight of them. And everyone has to approve them—the landscape architect, the architect, the clients—everyone has an opinion." Unfazed and unflappable, he laughs. "Hey, we are set up to deal with demand- ing architectural needs. We know how to deal with submittals. And we know what the owners need. We assure them they're going to get what they want. That's the definition of a custom builder." —S. Claire Conroy " We want to work on the more demanding and stimulating jobs." —David Prutting FOR MORE INFO CIRCLE 14

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