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What Can a GC Do for the Owner Before Construction?

The best luxury home builders and top construction companies in Napa and Sonoma have developed the expertise to help guide owners to the point where construction can begin.  With all the overlapping regulations and environmental considerations in our beautiful area, it can easily take 2-3 years to go from finding property to digging the first footing.  Considerations like water availability, waste disposal, zoning constraints, scenic restrictions and easements, geologic instability, erosion control, and fire danger management can have substantial impacts on what can be built on any given site.  If the design team leaders are not intimately familiar with the local peculiarities, they can get frustrated and be inefficient.

Commercial builders and new home builders can support you in the process.  They can connect you with the local building authorities and utility providers early on to avoid wasted time.  If needed, top construction companies can be your representatives before them.  I’ve heard from owners that the most disturbing thing is when an application disappears into one of the agencies and cannot be found.  That is when it is handy to have someone on your side who has long-term relationships with key personnel who will let you know what the holdup is.  You won’t get special treatment, just a quick path to the truth.  Builders also can connect you with respected local engineers in many specialties who are used to designing efficiently to meet the local regulations and who have the confidence of the reviewers.  If you have not built recently in earthquake country, you could be shocked, but also comforted, by the current state of the art of structural design.

Once the goals have been set, GCs can also help you with their knowledge of local resources, typical construction practices, and reliable vendors.  Sometimes, just being able to find a source for the right stone or recycled lumber can be a real challenge.  Also, each region has its own traditional divisions of responsibility.  For example, in Southern California most HVAC shops don’t make architectural sheet metal fabrications, although here many of the best do.  Similarly, in some areas the best quality cabinetry is done by large factories far away, but in this area the pinnacle of the cabinet profession is found in boutique woodshops around the corner.  GCs have an incentive to also guide you to specialists and suppliers who are dependable.  When you come into a new community, it can be hard to separate the wheat from the chaff.  As Texans say, you don’t want to get locked into a relationship with someone who is all hat/no cattle.  The ones who have been in business here for many years have learned who can be trusted to come through with the right product on time.

Having an advocate in the neighborhood with ready access to resources can be handy.  Before the main construction starts, GCs can arrange mowing, clear access roads, supervise tree harvesting, stake and mark out detailed layouts to help finalize siting of structures, build story-pole frameworks to show the mass and visibility of a future building to the authorities, schedule heavy equipment to explore the site, and assemble scaffolding or even furnished boom lifts to show the team views that will eventually exist.

You also need someone with local knowledge to give you realistic schedules.  Anyone can promise the moon but not be able to pull it off.  Many times, project completion hinges on just a few crucial trades or long-lead-time materials.  Once you are at the back of the waiting line, it is either impossible or expensive to recover the time you unknowingly gave away.  A GC is able to warn you in the planning stages if an early commitment is needed or prudence means progress will be slower than hoped in order to optimize the rest of the process.  While the building process takes a long time, the structure must work well for you way, way, longer.  There is no point in hurrying to the wrong destination.

Last, but certainly not least, is cost.  Too many times a project gets right to the starting line, with a totally unacceptable price tag.  Not only has the process been wasteful and must be re-done, it can be incredibly painful to let go of a dream that seemed within your grasp.  Experienced builders have seen enough preliminary drawings to know what will be needed but is not yet shown.  Their budgeting process protects you from facing inefficient last-minute cutbacks in quality and/or scope that could have been avoided.  Frankly, you need a guide through this maze.

For more information about our home and commercial construction services, please contact our team today!

Jay True, former vice-president of JMA, became partners with Jim Murphy in 1987. In 2015, Jay and his wife Elaine True, our office manager, retired from JMA and moved to Michigan to escape the cool summers and warm winters in Santa Rosa.