Building a home is a miracle of vision, teamwork, and communication. It’s not like manufacturing a car or knitting a sock. There are lots of people involved in every stage of the process who each handle a small piece of the construction.
Today I went with my dad, architect Mike Lau, on a site visit in an east Honolulu neighborhood above Kalani High School. Construction is in the early foundation clearing and creating phase, mostly dirt and holes.
The lot posed extra challenges for the design and build teams:
- A pitched lot
- Original rock walls positioned right next to the house’s footprint will be preserved.
- Height restrictions to preserve the neighbor’s ocean view
- An irregular lot shape
The foundation team also removed an old pool, raised the ground level between the retaining walls, and installed # posts to secure the house to the mountain and prevent foundation creep.
There are a mind-boggling number of factors that need to be assessed, calculated, and addressed in order to create a safe, secure, delightful result.
This home requires a six-man foundation-building team to clear, dig, build cement walls, and install support posts in about a month. Each man must understand and complete his work to near-perfect standards since everything else rests on the durability and stability of the foundation.
The architect inspects and signs off on each key stage of building.
Did you know?
- Support posts and cement block walls in the foundation must be treated for termites. Termites eat cement!
- A design team includes: the architect, soils engineer, civil engineer, structural engineer, erosion and sediment control coordinator, and a surveyor who provides a topographic map, soil samples report, drainage, foundation, framing, and ESCP (erosion and sediment control plan) recommendations.
- The build team includes: the architect, foundation contractor, electrician, plumber, licensed contractor, and their crews. Sometimes an interior design and a landscape architect will be involved as well.
This particular home is a multi-family conglomerate. Years ago, Mike Lau worked on another house for the homeowner’s father, an engineer, and they kept in touch over the years. His son hired Mike. Solomon Manupule, the foundation contractor’s project superintendent is my sister’s father-in-law, and the contractor is Solomon’s brother. Goodwill and family ties are as much a part of the house as cement and paint.
Whether you build new or remodel, people, intentions, and envisioning the goal are just as (or more?) important to the process as the materials and budget.
Everyone has to be willing to listen, work hard, and be diligent. Without the proper attitude and experience your home won’t be done right and you won’t be happy.
The final piece – the homeowner
Just like the various teams, the homeowner must communicate clearly with the project leader. That builder, contractor, or architect wants you to be happy and recommend him to others. Every change you make means more time and money. Express your budgetary, space, and use intentions and limitation in the beginning so the team can accomplish your goals. If the project is taking a long time remember that the City is also involved in the process:
- Department of Planning and Permitting
- The Board of Water Supply
- Department of Health – Wastewater Branch
Those departments have no shared incentives for timeliness, efficiency, or user satisfaction. But they are run by people like us so we can only hope for the best and envision the ideal outcome.
Your house is not an office building, a road, or a store. It is more important. As your home and your space it is where you can relax and be yourself, rest, be comfortable, and regroup for another day. Choose the architect and build team carefully. Matter absorbs energy. Your home will absorb the positive or negative energy of the intentions and attitudes of the people involved in its creation.
I am fortunate to have witnessed the early construction stage of a home inspiring happy, meaningful memories for decades to come.
May your home relax, calm, refresh, and energize you.