Cast-in-place smooth architectural concrete walls

Like everyone who has been to Tadao Ando's Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, one of our clients fell in love with the smooth architectural concrete walls. Their new home will be in a primarily traditional neighborhood with an architectural control committee governing plans and material selections. While the committee was concerned about allowing concrete walls in the neighborhood, they were open to letting us demonstrate and present exactly what we were proposing. After a long process they have now approved the change. Below you can see our presentation slides for the final review hearing.

Experimenting for custom finishes: modern steel pivot gates

A series of 8 foot tall pivot gates totaling 40 feet wide will make a statement, especially when they stand at an entry courtyard facing the street. Being a focal point of the project it is critical the detailing and finishes are done just right. So, taking the clients preferences into account we launched an experiment to perfect a patina finish. A quick first round narrowed the field from 6 products to 3. The second round showed effects of combining products and presented a challenge where the patina would not adhere to sections that were super heated during fabrication. On the final round we were able to alter the fabrication techniques and layer up 4 steps on the patina to create the look the clients were going for.

con·tem·plate /ˈkäntəmˌplāt/ Verb: Look at thoughtfully. Think about.

When in doubt, make a template...Consistent reveals and smooth operation was important for these 11' tall pivot doors which will have gaskets installed to dampen mechanical noise from the room behind. A close study of hinge specifications and sketches is a good first step. But actual round-over bits available for profiles, and challenges with installation tolerances may not be obvious in sketches. This is an example of our carpenters making and fine tuning a template prior to working on the actual door slabs. After the first round of templates, we also had a chance to swap one profile and change the order of how two doors opened. 

Constant value engineering

Our contracts are typically a "cost-plus" format which requires a lot of trust from all parties involved. We deliver value from the initial planning stage but also strive for constant value engineering through the project. This is an example where the plans called for a specific pocket door track and roller for every location. After we finalized the door slab quotes we asked the supplier for door weight by location. Using this info we were able to propose appropriately rated tracks by location in the same high quality brand of hardware. This resulted in a total potential savings of $7,470...the client accepted the substitution.

Value Engineering : Details by Constructive General Contractors architecture by award winning architect Joshua Nimmo AIA of Nimmo American Studio for Progressive Architecture

Value Engineering : Details by Constructive General Contractors architecture by award winning architect Joshua Nimmo AIA of Nimmo American Studio for Progressive Architecture

Typical details are not always applicable

Architectural plans often show "typical details" that are to be used throughout a home. However sometimes applying these details to unique conditions in one room can cause awkward finishes. We try to spot these instances in advance of completing the work and give our input on different ways it could be handled. This is an instance of the typical "reveals" between doors, walls, and floors meeting a unique condition abutting a cabinet panel. Rather than expressing our concerns and questions verbally we produced 3D sketches of the possibilites we could envision and asked the architect for his preference.

We pull strings

Often times, measuring will not be enough to locate pipes and other rough-in items. Particularly for modern projects which have critically aligned walls or finished concrete floors. We pull strings to ensure pipes are in a straight line along walls. This prevents walls from having to be thickened or shifted at the framing stage. It allows floor roughness around pipes to remain hidden under walls rather than be visible in the room.

How much will it cost to "upgrade" this material?

While it's sometimes frustrating, the opening line of the response is often "it depends." When a material changes during construction it's important to be clear on the detailing so a well intentioned "upgrade" doesn't become a detractor to the overall scheme of design. This is an example of a stucco wall the client requested be changed to mahogany. Since there were no existing plan details for wood siding, we provided these sketches to the architect for options on corner detailing ranging from lowest labor intensive to most labor intensive.

Before we build it, is this OK?

Sometimes details work in plan view, but hardware limitations can cause potential issues. In this instance the operation of a pivot hinge was not going to allow for all aesthetic alignments shown in architectural plans. Before constructing we made these sketches to communicate our concern and give the architect a chance to approve or adjust details as desired.

Pivot Door Alignment.jpg

Defining scope matters just as much as skill of labor

Nothing kills quality as much as a misunderstanding during the bid phase. In addition to collecting and reviewing subcontractor bids, we do our own take-offs and share them with subs after obtaining their proposals. We do this to make sure each sub has included all areas, details and phases for their portion of work. If they've provided a lump sum proposal and discover a take-off discrepancy during installation it's too late too change course and someone has to compromise. We try to prevent this and at the same time we get to calculate and monitor price/unit and ensure fair pricing vs. expected quality.


Finishes are dependent on early planning

You only get one chance to rough in an item. If you discover something needs to be moved at the end of the project, chances are, framing members, insulation, or costs of patching will prevent you from moving it. We plan rough-ins based on final product specifications such as these electric meter, disconnect, and solar panel boxes. When the boxes arrive on site the rough-ins allow the boxes to be evenly spaced and centered on the section of wall.

Meter layout Zoomed with Dimensions.jpg

Thinking in 3D

It can be tricky connecting the dots between plans and elevations to truly understand how things look in 3D. Rather than simply handing the plans off to framing subcontractors, we think through the framing ourselves and produce notes and interpretations like these. Prior to construction we meet with the framers to discuss each person's interpretations and ask architects for clarification on details.

Minor Adjustments

We work hard to find the hidden information in plans to meet the aesthetic expectations of high quality modern architecture. Multiple planes intersecting are common challenge where we know a crisp point will be important. We made these sketches to demonstrate an issue for architect approval, then used them to communicate its importance to the framers.