Recently a lot of time is being spent becoming intimately familiar with the details included in the site plans and construction drawings related to our new housing project called Station House, in Herndon, Virginia. This is not always the most spiritually fulfilling task and can be quite tedious at times. It got me thinking about a quote from an unknown source that I’ve had taped to my desk for the better part of 12 years. It reads,
“There once was a time when a land developer could simply be a shrewd entrepreneur. Now it is necessary to be a mystic, an engineer, an architect, a soil scientist, a tax accountant, a land use attorney, and a politician. A wide range of technical skills must be acquired and effectively applied to be successful in today’s market.”
Now you only need to add to that erosion, structural, energy efficiency, electrical, plumbing and carpentry proficiencies that are required to build a home on your developed land and you are ready to embark on your wildly successful homebuilding career! The fact is, like most professions, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the details, especially those that you aren’t proficient in. In homebuilding, all of those details matter. Because, afterall, those details are intended to create a tangible, very large, expensive thing that someone is going to be living in for many years. And the consequences could be significant, whether costly or even dangerous, if overlooked.
For instance, your architectural specifications may assume a certain size concrete footing and wall strength for your foundation utilizing very technical and complicated equations that far exceed the understanding of even the most mathematically inclined. Nevertheless, you are confident in the abilities of your architect and structural engineer, and now only have to call a concrete company to come and pour the foundation once the whole is dug. Right? Not so fast… If your geotechnical report, that is generated by a soil scientist and independent of your architectural plans, says the soils where you intend to place your house don’t drain fast enough, then pouring that foundation as planned may result in the basement walls collapsing in on themselves over time.
Or, let’s say your framers go ahead and frame all the windows and doors as they are shown on your plans. I mean, what could be wrong with going off the plan? Well, not all windows manufacturers adhere to standardized sizing. So unless your framers knew the exact dimension of the actual windows that are being ordered ahead of time, you may find yourself ordering a bunch of additional lumber and paying for additional labor to your now angry framers to cut out and re-frame window openings throughout the home. Oh, and you get to watch as all the new lumber that was originally used gets cut out and thrown into a dumpster.
The fact is, there are so many details between concept and realization in building a home, I’ve realized that one lifetime is simply not enough to gain a full understanding of all the professions that are involved in making a house grow out of the ground. Most of what you need to know to be good at it doesn’t come from a textbook, but rather is learned after many years on the job. However, knowing just enough or being willing to ask for help in deciphering differing professional opinions is mandatory to ensure a sound, quality home.
So we as homebuilders endure reading all the technical jargon, reports, and instructions for each home before starting because the details matter, a lot.