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When we look into our car’s rearview mirror we see where we have been, as well as the distant horizon; the vanishing point of times past.  In the home building industry’s rear view mirror, I gladly see the depths of home building’s bottom slipping over the horizon.  What makes me think so? First, many sectors of the economy and their metrics are undeniably improving - employment, consumer spending, household formations, and most importantly, consumer sentiment.  A long time ago, I remember doing a detailed study which plotted numerous economy and industry data p
This month we named our Remodeler of the Year — Anthony Home Improvements in Elkins Park, Pa. We chose the company for a number of reasons, but reason No. 1A is the company’s ability to adapt to a changing climate, something many firms have struggled to do.
  Todd Hallett does a great job helping us to understand the tremendous costs associated with inefficient, poorly designed plans.  Making plans more sustainable (or green) is simply combining as many of those sound design principles as possible into one efficient design.
My psychiatrist told me I'm going crazy.  I told him, "If you don't mind, I'd like a second opinion."  He said, "All right. You're ugly too!" When it comes to TJIs we should take a cue from Rodney Dangerfield and get a second opinion or at least a second look at our joist layout. We send our plans out to the lumber company. The lumber company creates a truss joist layout, develops an estimate, and once agreed upon sends the joists to the job. Simple right?
Yesterday after presenting an orientation for our LeanPlan Workout process to a group of suppliers & trades in Texas, a contractor named Mike walked up to me and two of the senior managers from the builder. Strong-looking guy, with very alert eyes, about 50 years old with that kind of rugged Texas good looks from a life spent working outdoors that you see a lot down there. He had been very attentive during the presentation, and took a lot of notes.
PB Builder of the Year DSLD shows how powerful and central the basics are. Creating excellence on such basic issues as scheduling and scopes of work creates the basis for an outstanding home builder. They continued driving excellence in all other areas of the business. Find out more about what makes them exceptional at this link. http://www.housingzone.com/professionalbuilder/awards/2011-builder-year-rise-dsld-homes
I am frequently asked, what is the right way to buy labor and materials? Should you use turnkey suppliers and trades or should you purchase and negotiate labor and material separately. Let me be 100% clear about this. I have the answer. I am now into my third decade of looking hard at this issue and have watched more than 200 builders up close and personal and unequivocally conclude based on the evidence that the clear answer is to buy labor and materials separately – except when the best way to purchase is turnkey. Got it?
Down here in the south, you will often hear the phrase, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” When it comes to lot preparation, we seem to fix a lot of things that were never broken in the first place. Just think back to the last lot you prepared for construction that, remarkably, had no measurable vegetation. I might be wrong, but that doesn’t seem to be the natural order of things.
Construction drawings are complex and getting them right involves a whole lot of moving parts. From working with builder and trades countrywide I have uncovered the five most common areas where mistakes are made: 1. Plan Dimensioning - One of the biggest causes of premature gray hair amongst framers is poor dimensioning. I suggest that you ensure that your drawings are done consistently with what I call dimension logic:
The 2011 “Black Friday” sales numbers are in and show a pleasantly surprising 16% gain in year-over-year retail sales!  Some economists, pollsters, and industry “experts” expected consumerism to be flat or even down this year; proving once again that rational surveys do not accurately capture consumer emotions.Here are two Black Friday observations – first, asking consumers a rational rating question, i.e.
What and where do I start to improve? This is a common question and while we need to balance the cost and impact to identify the real bang for the buck let’s start with the basics. Here are some things to be aware of that are indicators that you can improve the effectiveness and efficiency of your business. You may hear people saying this indeed you may say it yourself, well these are the places to start and you don’t need to do an organizational self-assessment to uncover them.
Well ladies and gentleman, we made it through another year. A year of bankruptcies with several top 100 builders, uncertainty in the job market that generated 15% of our population into the poverty level and an economic future, thanks to our Washington politicians, that couldn’t look any bleaker.
The Lean Perspective is by no means limited to sticks and bricks issues on the construction site. When we talk Lean building we are really talking Lean operations: providing value & eliminating waste in product and process wherever it is found. Many seemingly mundane issues can have significant implications in both cost and value. A great example came up last week while having dinner with builders from several companies at the Bob Schultz “Serious Management Workshop,” a twice-annual event that attracts senior managers from across North America.
At a recent conference, I shared an analogy that bears repeating here. The auto industry has experienced tremendous changes over the past five decades. If you look at a car built today as compared to one built in the 1960s, the differences are significant. Safety features, engine performance, fuel economy, interior amenities, among other advances. The real question is, would you pay today’s prices for a new car built to the same features and specifications of a 1960s equivalent? Are old tried-and-true methods better than newer technologies?
Do you remember David Copperfield making the statue of liberty disappear? It was pretty cool, but I felt certain the green lady was not going to be gone for long. I'm a sucker for a good magic trick though. Here's a chance for you to play magician and make waste disappear for keeps.
A UK study of those using the ISO9001 Quality Management System in the construction industry had a number of interesting findings that provide key lessons. The top reason for implementation was increased profits and performance and 20% have shown that they actually achieved significant improvements.  The interesting thing is that 50% of the respondents didn’t monitor any data during or after implementation and so they have no performance data on the impact of quality on their business!
To home builders, speed is a highly valued commodity.  It is not unusual to hear home builders boast about fast build cycles, lightening fast product development, near real-time custom pricing quotes, etc., right?  Yes, it seems we are laser focused on, and maybe even addicted to speed in developing land, designing plans, and quoting homes, but is this speed really important to the customer?  That is a tough question that I can't answer, but here's a speed question I can.
Becoming a sustainable, green builder needs to follow a structured process that allows a builder to shape green features to fit with their particular building style.  Controlling cost is not reserved for affordable builders alone, but applies to all builders.  Yet, the methods used to control cost are very different depending on the type, style, size and location of the home.  I think of my own experience on sports teams in high school.  While our goal was always the same, a desire to win, the methods and means used to accomplish this changed year to year based on the ta
Have you ever looked at a detail on a plan and scratched your head wondering how that was going to work? Sometimes the details that show up on plans leave us all wondering what the architect was thinking? I have talked to countless trades that have had to deal with details that "look good on paper but do not work in the field". Why is this happening?
Last year PB received an official complaint letter from a high level staffer at the AIA, basically saying that I was being unfair to Architects. I confessed to being guilty of describing the reality of continuing problems in the field that result from Architects taking a rather limited view of their job responsibilities.

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