Monthly Archives: December 2014

THANKFUL FOR A GREAT YEAR

As we begin to close out 2014, I wanted to take a moment to reflect. A lot has happened at Wright Building Company over the past 12 months. We started the year by officially launching our new brand. Our rebranding efforts included a new company website and logo with a new look and feel. The rebrand has been more than an aesthetic endeavor, however. We took the opportunity to look closely at what makes our business unique. We also considered how we could provide our clients with better service and an even better final product. After almost three decades in the home construction business, I have a reinvigorated drive for delivering the highest level of communication, process, and construction quality. We are continually striving to improve, and we hope our efforts make an impression on everyone we do business with.

Year in review Image

We have been very busy with our subdivision at The Reserve at Poplar Plains in Westport. The last three of the thirteen scheduled homes sold from their blueprints. The previous two sold as they were under construction. All told, eight homes have sold and just five remain. The demand continues to be high. Improvements in the economy are certainly a contributing factor, but we see a strong demand for new construction that is priced well, and we’ve priced it appropriately. These properties are in a prime Westport location and so that also helps.

One of the other standout projects that we’ve been working on this year is a new modern custom home in Wilton. This has been an ideal project from the start. Back in March, the Clients contacted us after seeing our work online. They liked one of our homes designed by Architect George Dumitru, of Studio Dumitru Architects in Westport. We got George on board and helped the homeowner find a teardown on a great lot in Wilton. We found the property in three months, and George went right to work on the plans. The drawings were approved by the Clients, and we immediately started construction.

In addition to these standout projects, we’ve been active within all divisions of our business. Not only are we working on custom homes, but we also started several new renovation projects this year. And we’re doing some high-profile Estate Care work. In order to help us with the workload, we hired a new Project Manager after a careful search, and we continue to be on the lookout for quality Site Superintendents and subcontractors. Things are not as busy as they were during the boom years around 2005, but we certainly are seeing an improvement, and we’re thankful for that.

All told, it has been a great 2014 and we’re excited for 2015. As we wrap up this year, I wish everyone the happiest of holidays.

Kelly M. Wright
Wright Building Company

UNDERSTANDING THE HOME BUILDING ESTIMATING PROCESS

Every once in a while someone will ask me about the bidding, or estimating, process as it relates to building a new home or renovation. They’re typically curious to learn if the process is complicated and what the basic steps are. This is a great question. People are often surprised by the answer.

Estimating

Estimating a new custom home or renovation project involves accounting for a vast range of labor, materials, subcontractors, and permitting factors, etc. On the typical luxury custom home project in Greenwich or Westport, there are hundreds of materials to be accounted for and a vast array of moving parts. As a result, estimating the construction documents (CDs or plans) for a single project can require between 40 and 80 man-hours. This timing assumes that the plans and specifications are completely developed, meaning all items to be incorporated into the work have been decided.

The hours required are determined by the size and complexity of the building project. In order to ensure the most accurate numbers, we conduct full “take-offs” of the plans. This means that we must accurately measure or count the site work, concrete, bricks or masonry, steel, lumber and all internal wood, insulation, roofing, windows and doors, tile, Sheetrock, plumbing, and electrical fixtures as well as hundreds of other items that will be incorporated into the home.

Once everything is counted, we apply the cost associated with each item into the estimate. Then we add in other line items for project supervisor, site trailer, utilities, and other costs that may not actually be part of the physical structure. We will solicit bids from subcontractors for HVAC, electric, plumbing, etc. In order to get a fair price for high-quality labor, we typically ask two of each trade to submit bids. Once this is complete, we total all the costs, apply our overhead and fee, and arrive at a final estimate. We are capable of providing very accurate estimates by being thorough and relying on our experience that includes historical estimating data.

A professional, experienced estimator is one of the most important positions for a home building company. We have to know our costs with confidence and accuracy in order to be successful.

Kelly M. Wright
Wright Building Company

WHAT IS A HEAT PUMP, AND SHOULD YOU GET ONE?

The cold weather has arrived, and we’re all starting to think about the heating bills. If you’re building a renovation or custom home, you may be considering a new heating system. Or maybe your existing system is ready for replacement. Fairfield County winters can get very cold, and that means the fuel will be flowing.

Heat Pump Photo

There are many heating system options available. Forced hot air furnaces are one of the most common types. With this technology, air is brought into the furnace, heated, and then redistributed as warm air using a high-powered fan system. Forced hot air furnaces can run on oil, natural gas, or propane. Boilers, too, are popular and work by creating hot water or steam. Boilers can also run on oil, natural gas, or propane. Both of these systems can feed radiant (in-floor) heated coil systems, steam-powered radiators, hot water radiators, or baseboards or heated coils in ductwork.

Another heating technology is the heat pump, which can function alternatively as a cooling system. There are two main types: the air source heat pump (ASHP), and the geothermal heat pump or ground source heat pump (GSHP). Although these devices have been around for a while, they’re just now starting to gain in popularity in residential use. Heat pumps are by far the most efficient option on the market. They can be up to 70% more efficient than traditional heating systems. The technology is quite interesting. When you know how it works, you can better understand why the system requires much less energy than a boiler or furnace.

Air source heat pumps work by first pumping cold outside air into the system using a small amount of electricity. Unlike a boiler or furnace, a heat pump does not use fuel to operate. Because even cold air contains some heat, the heat pump can extract and concentrate the heat, even in cold temperatures above freezing. The main mechanical component used to draw out the heat from cold air is a heat exchanger. Inside the heat exchanger, refrigerant collides with the air. The heat from the air warms the refrigerant, and the output is water vapor. The vapor is then compressed, concentrating the heat and raising its temperature. That hot vapor is then passed into the home. It’s important to know, however, that when the temperature drops below freezing, an air source heat pump works better when supplemented with another type of heat. The home that we’re currently building in Wilton will have a heat pump with a backup propane furnace.

Geothermal heat pumps also work by drawing heat from the exterior and bringing it inside. With geothermal, however, the heat is absorbed through pipes that are buried deep in the ground and filled with water or a refrigerant. If you dig deep enough, the temperature below ground stays at about 50 degrees. This provides plenty of heat to make this system work.

Kelly M. Wright
Wright Building Company

GOOD HOMEBUILDERS CAN BUILD IN ALL STYLES

When homeowners begin the luxury custom homebuilding or renovation process, they often seek out a builder with a portfolio of homes similar to their desired style. This is due to a popular misconception that custom builders usually build just one type of home. This is not typically the case, however. Throughout my 29-year history of building custom homes, renovations, and additions, I have built and renovated a wide variety of styles that include colonial, modern, French country, and shingle style, among others. Furthermore, I’ve built some very complex commercial buildings including churches, offices, and medical and retail units.

Home Styles

All luxury homebuilding projects involve similar processes, regardless of their aesthetic values. The builders’ experience with complex home construction projects, in general, should always be a more significant determining factor when choosing whom to hire. The same can be said for Architects. They also face this type of pigeonholing. Like builders, Architects can often design in many styles. Once the Architect has developed the plans, a skilled homebuilder can make them a reality.

When you are considering how to hire a builder, it’s important to understand their role in the process. Experienced luxury homebuilders will start, often with the Architect, by conducting a land and site assessment that may include a feasibility study to determine the best way to connect to electric, water, and sewer, or to install a septic system. This is critical when building on challenging landscapes such as sloping properties, around wetlands, and/or on the waterfront. They will then prepare the site by surveying, clearing, and excavating for drainage and contours. At this point the foundation can be built and framing can go up. After that, the siding, roofing, windows, mechanicals, and finish work can be completed. This is a broad overview of the building process; however, it gives you a general idea of what’s required. These essential steps generally do not vary between home styles. It’s the products that will be different for different styles.

There are, of course, several elements of a custom home that do vary. By definition no custom homes are the same, even if they’re similar styles. One homeowner with a custom colonial may want handmade plaster trim details. Another may want wood trim and traditional wainscoting. The modern homeowner may look for certain walls to be made entirely of polished hardwood. As a result, luxury custom homebuilders employ a wide variety of tradesmen with exceptional skill in their particular discipline. This is the difference between a jack-of-all-trades and a true custom homebuilder. Our tile tradesmen work only on tile. Our masons work only on masonry. And we employ them based on their exceptional skill, experience, and reliability.

Sometimes I think of homebuilders as actors that get typecast. If given the chance, they have so much to offer in a variety of roles. If you like a builder that hasn’t completed the style of home you want, don’t count them out. Their skills and abilities should be evaluated based on a variety of additional criteria.

Kelly M. Wright
Wright Building Company