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.

Contract for Landscape Maintenance

For large condominium projects…sometimes called planned unit developments (PUDs)…there are two phases to the common area landscaping…the installation toward the end of the building construction and the maintenance phase after the homebuyers move-in and occupy the project.

It is sometimes better to give the contract for landscaping and maintenance to the same company.  The installer of the landscaping material can then safeguard the warranty aspects of the landscaping during the first months of the planting by controlling watering, fertilizing, etc.

If any plants or trees die during this period, at least the builder is not caught in the middle between the original landscape contractor and the landscape maintenance contractor.  If the homeowner’s association wants a cheaper landscape maintenance company later, the original ground cover and other plantings have had time to fill-in completely…thus offering the opportunity for a final landscape walkthrough and clean break from one company to another.

A second issue to consider in the landscape maintenance contract is that the amount of work…and therefore the cost…varies depending upon the length of time after the initial planting.  Landscape maintenance costs are different for the first month, sixth month, and twelfth after planting…because of the different requirements for trimming, plant removal, fertilizing, weeding, disease control, and repair of irrigation.

The builder must study the requirements for each type of plant and tree to determine the amount of work being purchased in the maintenance contract.

What sometimes happens in a landscape maintenance contract is that the builder is enticed by a low-ball, minimum cut-and-trim contract bid…with such things as tree trimming, disease control, plant removal, and fertilizing billed as extras to the contract.  This type of contract can create problems for the builder and the homeowner’s association…as no cap exists on landscape maintenance costs in this type of arrangement.

A better method is to research the planting and maintenance requirements for each type of plant or tree in a standard gardening manual…and then formulate a maintenance contract scope of work section with the help of the landscape architect (or include this task in the landscape architect’s scope of work).

The builder can then spell out the landscape maintenance requirements in detail for the project…so that landscaping contractors are bidding apples-to-apples…instead of hiding certain maintenance costs as extras.

A third consideration is the time period that the original landscaper maintains the landscaping until it is inspected and turned over to the homeowner’s association (HOA).  If the builder makes this date 30 days after planting, for example, the builder economizes on the landscaping installation contract because the landscaping is covered by the HOA common area financial dues earlier.

If the original landscaper must maintain the newly planted landscaping for 90 days…this defers the point in time at which the expense of maintaining the landscaping is passed to the HOA…therefore remaining as a construction cost to the builder.

Issues other than costs to the builder affect this decision.  If the builder simply wants to save money by getting the landscaping maintenance tab picked up by the HOA as soon as possible…few people will be sophisticated to recognize this…or have the opportunity to do anything about it.  After all, the landscape installation contract is part of the construction purchasing phase, so the contract and its scope of work are negotiated long before any homebuyers or an HOA management company exist for the project.

On the other hand…the builder must sometimes play the role of an arbitrator between the landscape installer, the landscape maintenance company, the homebuyers, and the HOA management company.

This situation can occur when the landscape inspection walkthrough and acceptance transition is too close in time to the original planting date…especially when the landscape installation and the landscape maintenance are to be performed by two different companies.

At this early date…ground cover has not had enough time to fill-in…it is too early to tell whether some trees or plants will die…and the original installer has no control over the proper care of the landscaping once the project is handed over to the HOA…although a warranty period could still be in effect.

To avoid these issues…the original landscape contractor should maintain the landscaping for at least 60 to 90 days past the planting date.  The original contractor can then control the survival of the plants and trees…and this length of time allows the planting to fill-in so that a clean transition can occur should another landscaping company be selected by the HOA for landscape maintenance.

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 models 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 size of tree…when following the landscaping plan precisely 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…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.

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…which 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 models 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 not needed at the beginning of homebuyer occupancy.

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 and pre-planning.

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.

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…and 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…with any other required information that is project-specific and/or builder-specific.

Revise Contracts after the Sales Models

Every housing construction project is slightly different, and it is difficult to anticipate and cover every activity in the subcontracts. Some items are missed on the plans, some changes are made to the houses by the company owners or the interior design/marketing department, and some things are determined to be unnecessary and thus dropped.

All these changes generate paperwork for the jobsite superintendent because they are not covered in the contracts and people must be paid for their work.

After the sales models are complete, and during the purchasing stage prior to the start of the first phase of the production units for large projects…the subcontracts should be revised to include changes and extra work added to the construction…so that the additional paperwork does not carry through the entire project.

If the amount of extra work-order paperwork…and time-and-material monitoring and accounting are kept to the absolute minimum…the jobsite superintendent can then be out in the field running the construction rather than stuck in the trailer filling out paperwork.

Countertops

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Edge of kitchen countertop extends out beyond farmhouse style sinks…exposing edge material of the countertop.

 

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Corner of countertop (and cabinet) cut back at an angle to return into door casing.

 

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Countertop extends beyond wall corner.

 

 

Tile

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In this example the tile is brought out too far at the drywall cornerbead, producing a fat grout joint at the curved contour of the cornerbead.

 

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Here the cap at the top of the tile wainscot projects out beyond the thickness of the door casing…exposing the end of the tile cap…the jamb and the casing should be wider and thicker to accept this cap.

 

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This drawing shows shower tile at a sloped ceiling…on the left-side with a tile cap but on the right-side the field tile dies into the sloped ceiling…producing a different look…the tile installation should have been three inches lower with a matching top cap all around.

Resolve Questions during the Models Phase

            The construction of the sales models should be used as a trial-run to identify and solve problems before starting construction of the production units.  The sales models construction is the time to investigate and solve design, scheduling, and coordination problems.

Equally important is the cooperation of the city building inspectors in anticipating and identifying building code and engineering questions on the plans.  The builder should encourage the raising of any questions and issues the inspector may have during the construction of the four or five sales models…so that these are resolved once the construction starts on the 50, 100, or 200 production units.

The builder should take the lead and encourage the debugging of the models through the use of requests for information (RFIs) to the architect and structural engineer, constructability analysis of the plans, and the input of the city building inspector.

If the builder instead rushes through the models construction to get into the start of the production units…unresolved problems only multiply over several units rather than a single sales model floor plan.  If unresolved problems still exist in the plans…a change of building inspectors midway through the production units only exposes some latent/hidden issue that could and should have been identified and resolved earlier during the sales models construction.

The production schedule can then be held up resolving problems on several repeating units…sometimes affecting several trades…creating a ripple effect of debugging part-way through the production phase rather than problem resolution confined to a single sales models unit.

Finally, for multi-unit production tract housing and condominiums…changes to the sales models in terms of problems identification and resolution…and owners changes to the floor plans…should be memorialized in revised sets of plans re-submitted to the city or county plan checking department…so that plans reflecting the changes and corrections can be ready for use when the production phase begins.  Some cities or counties will not allow the production construction to begin until revised plans are complete…so that their inspectors are looking at the revised plans rather than old plans plus a number of architectural or engineering field memos or “cut-sheets”…which get to be too confusing for the building construction and the building inspectors to follow.