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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Cottage 34 Commences

It's not everyday that my style and garment selection syncs right up with the exact same color palette as the new siding on my office, but here it is - see it for yourself. A perfect match.

The fact that my new LL Bean sweatshirt does not nearly represent my elevated fitness stature accurately is something I have my assistant currently complaining to LL Bean about. I mean, they should at least put in the description - 'Great new sweatshirt made of lightweight materials that will turn any body into a rounded caricature of itself! Buy two for $39."

Anyways, body issues aside for the moment, we have begun another house. Yes, that's right, we have begun another house. Sure, I'm aware I live in the middle of nowhere. Sure, I'm aware that the region and nation is suffering through an economic calamity, and sure I'm aware that these are hard times indeed.

But we have 6 homes under construction, a 5 home waiting list, and are working 5, 6 & 7 days a week to keep up with our aggressive scheduling.

It's an extraordinary fact - the fact that it's a story that is almost unprecedented and uncopied across the entire nation, well, that just makes it all the more extra ordinary.

What it means for us is that we can continue to perfect our little cool houses because nothing assists improvement more than practice and we are getting all the practice we need.

For instance, at Cottage 34 on Aspen Way outside of Narrowsburg, NY we have this really cool homesite, with a 425' driveway and the house set pretty perfect on the piece of land. So we hit some rock when we did some digging - not all that unusual, but always adds a hiccup to the best laid plans. A couple of interesting things occur or don't occur when we hit rock - the first thing that doesn't occur is a change order to the customer. Typically, the phone call would be made - "Ah, yea, Bryan, you know that budget we were talking about - well, we hit rock (or water, or ledge, or whatever), and we are going to need to rent a machine that costs $2500 a day, well, anyway, then we need to truck away the stone, then we need to pound a little for the septic, well, you get the point - here's a bill for $12,000."

On the first day of work. That's a typical homebuilding experience and why the adage 'twice the cost and twice as long' is a common cautionary refrain.

With Catskill Farms, doesn't happen. Norm tells me we hit some rock, I tell him to rent a machine, without missing a step we are pounding away, using the rock we excavate for the driveway base and just going about it so efficiently and without the tears and crying and carrying on that accompanies most unforeseen site conditions with other companies that the extra costs just kind of slip away.

In a way, we have aspired to reinvent the construction process. No change orders based on 'unforeseen site conditions' such as rock, water or what have you, a process that has for years been right on the money when it comes to timing and scheduling, and a process that does not include a penny of budget more than agreed on, unless the client wishes to discretionarily spend.

The above pic shows the precision drilling to enable level solid ground for the house footings. It reminds me of my last dental visit, after failing to go for a few years.

Chip the rock, pile the rock, move the rock, spread the rock and before you know it, you not only have a hole ready for a foundation and a house, but you have a driveway as well. Talk about green - building a driveway with material from the site.

It doesn't matter how deep the well goes, or if we hit rock or water, or if it rains everyday, or the price of plywood double unexpectedly over the course of two months - we pay for it. and we also finance construction.

So, let me get this straight - Catskill Farms pays for building my customized house so I don't have the cost or aggravation of a construction loan, Catskill Farms takes on the risk that is standardly borne by the client (site conditions such as rock, water, deep wells, unconventional septics, etc...), Catskill Farms delivers it pretty much on time and pretty much on schedule.

It's an unheard of proposition for this area, where construction torture is a well-honed and developed and accepted way of doing things up here.

Our entire team is serious. they are young, aggressive, hard-working, talented individuals, and it took me 8 years to put it together. I have fired more people than I care to remember, not because they were all bad at what they did, but because they were not great at what they did, didn't work hard enough, had their head up their asses too many days of the week.

Although many times we need to be patient as we increase the caliber of the team, be assured there is never a minute that goes by without a trade by trade vendor by vendor evaluation of price, product and service. And why shouldn't it be that way? Just because we are in the sticks doesn't mean we should accept shitty service, although that can be the default attitude.

And, in the end, our housing concepts have always been a little ahead of the pack, but the team is what makes it a viable enterprise. Many a good idea has failed for lack of proper execution.

There's James, Project Manager, walking over the new driveway. He lost a similar hat late night in Vegas at the Builder's Show 2009.

And our mason working in tandem with our excavator, without missing a step.

In the end, I'd pit our team against any team, anywhere. We have practiced and honed and concentrated on every element of the process, down to the tiniest details and process.

Like I've mentioned before - We try hard, and the results are the proof in the pudding.

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