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SIPs Delayed Another Week & Lessons Learned

by Chad Ludeman on October 23, 2008 · 6 comments

in 100k project,Construction Updates,event,Press and News

Another unforeseen delay in construction has caused us to delay our SIPs Week event once again by a week. The new dates for those of you interested in participating or just stopping by will be November 4th – 7th. See the once again updated flyer here.

This dissapointing delay has prompted me to jot down some lessons learned to date in the construction process. To me, just as important as building these homes on budget and on time is learning from our mistakes so that we can improve the process the next time around.  Construction delays are inevitable and these lessons are not meant to point blame, but rather document our learning process. Like everything else we do, our failures are public on this blog as well.

Lessons Learned from 100K Foundation Construction

  1. Fully document LEED pre-construction tasks and hold a pre-construction meeting with the construction team
  2. We were a little behind in documenting all of our pre-construction items on our LEED checklist. This did not really cause delays, but everyone was not on the same page with our LEED reqs in the first few weeks and we were a bit late on our site erosion control measures. We finally fully understand the huge LEED for Homes spreadsheet and this will go much more smoothly next time.

  3. Fully document any out of the ordinary construction details and communicate them to the responsible subcontractors
  4. We did a great job with this on the SIPs but dropped the ball a bit on the foundation and slab. We did not have the insulation detail correct on our construction drawings and failed to realize that the slab edge insulation was unusual to implement in Philly. We should have had this nailed down and thoroughly reviewed with our GC and foundation subcontractor from the beginning. This is doubly important due to the efficient design of our radiant system which will now have only R-5 on the edges rather than the R-10 planned.

  5. Deliver specs for any pre-fab components on time and review plans for approval in a timely manner
  6. This caused us one week delay in the SIPs delivery (which is now irrelevant…). After we signed the contract with SURETIGHT and the bank cut them their initial deposit to begin work, it took us an entire week to deliver they updated construction drawings. They needed these to create panel layouts for their shop and for us to assemble correctly onsite. Once we recieved panel layouts from SURETIGHT we also did not review and approve them quickly enough. Lastly, a site survey from the beginning to ensure that actual dimensions of the lots equaled the cities records would have saved us another few days in this process. Reducing the SIP lead time is imperitive to our future plans for shortening the overall construction schedule and right now it looks like the improvements are all on our end and not the manufacturer’s.

  7. Verify that the bank has all of the documentation they need up front to prevent delays in construction draws
  8. There was some confusion with some of our insurance documentation with the project that required us to redo and resend our insurance docs to the bank. This happened as the person responsible for cutting the checks at the bank was reviewing our second draw to the GC. This ended up costing us four days as we couldn’t get the city their check to permit us to tear up the street and access the water and sewer hookups from the street. This is ultimately responsible for our second SIPs Week delay we are announcing here and could have been avoided by double checking all bank required paperwork up front.

  9. Develop a detailed draw schedule with the bank and GC that will eliminate delays with subs, material delivery or permits
  10. We reviewed our draw schedule with the bank at the beginning and made some tweaks to get the first SIPs payment off right away. What we didn’t look at in detail wast the second SIPs payment which is due prior to final delivery. We could also have made sure the draws were more inline with certain payments we needed to make prior to services being started like the water department payment that caused a delay this week. Experience with these homes is really the only reliable way to determine what the best draw schedule for everyone will be for the next projects.

  11. Review permits to be pulled by subs with GC to make sure they do not cause any delays
  12. The delay in pulling our plumbing permit was partly a miscomunication on the team’s part as to who was handling this and partly due to not getting the draw in time to pay for it. Slightly improved communication and planning will easily solve this next time around.

Even though we’ve had some delays and mishaps, nothing major has gone wrong that will jeopardize the final project and we still have ample time to make up our schedule delays. I am very pleased with the team’s work overall and confident that we are learning valuable lessons from our mistakes that will translate into weeks of time shaved off our next projects. Time is money, so this should positively effect our future budgets as well which will be translated to the buyer.

If you enjoyed reading this post I can promise you'll love our new writing over at Postgreen Homes. Yeah, we know that's the same thing your favorite band said and their new album is nowhere near as good as their early stuff, but seriously, we are actually still getting better.

There also isn't much conversation to be had here . . . at least not with us. So come on over to the Postgreen Homes Blog and tell us what you think of our new(ish) digs and crazy ideas. We will be sure to tell you what we think of your opinion.

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SIPs and Sips | 100K House Blog
October 29, 2008 at 1:37 pm

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kevin D October 23, 2008 at 10:38 pm

Welcome to!

All this Murphy’s Law stuff tends to nudge us toward modular builders who deal with State for the inspections, and don’t really have subcontractors per se, and way fewer permits. As the State becomes familiar with their product, inspections are minimized.

The developer has just one point of contact, so the finger pointing is minimized.

Now, is it possible for one of these modular builders to assemble a house from SIP panels in a non-factory-like setting? Yes.

2 Rob October 24, 2008 at 9:45 am

Chad, first off what you are trying to do here isn’t exacty charted waters, so a few bumps in the road had to be expected. And I commend you and your team for the product that you have produced so far. In a little less than three months we will have evidence of all of your successes. The end is near, so to speak (for the first two houses at least).

Regarding the foundation details, they aren’t exactly easy, but I agree they could have been figured out before hand. The best resource that I know of for residential construction details is “The Builders Guide to…” series by Joseph Lstiburek. Found here

The information in these books is not typical builder details. I currently have and have used the 2000 edition of Cold Climates, which is the guide that pertains to PA, though we could be considersed Mixed humid as well. In general Lstiburek’s books are very good, though I have not read all of them.

3 chad October 24, 2008 at 10:13 am

Thanks for the link Rob. To clarify, I am not expecting everything to go smoothly or really all that disappointing with our delays. We expected delays and planned for them by padding our construction schedule.

We are simply documenting our lessons for next time around just like everything else we have documented on the blog. Before we embark on the next project, these posts will be invaluable to review and set measures in place to improve upon the entire process the second time around.

4 chad October 24, 2008 at 10:17 am

Kevin – I’m confident we have the right team to build on site with SIPs in less time and cost than any prefab manufacturer in the country. Maybe not this time around, but we will be faster the second time around.

Also, there are about three prefab projects that started well before us in surrounding neighborhoods, and from my observations, I am pretty sure we will finish our construction ahead of theirs as is.

We have been fortunate with inspections so far and I don’t think we have actually had a city caused delay yet. The lull in construction projects and Nutter (our new kick-ass mayor) expecting better service are in our favor in this area.

5 Grant October 26, 2008 at 3:24 pm

Thanks for sharing your experiences. I plan on Owner-Building, and such insights will hopefully help me plan better to avoid delays. Having never done this before myself, your experiences are being added to a growing checklist for my project management controls.

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