Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Alive and Kicking

Over the last four months I have attempted many times to compose a post that accurately portrayed the status of this project, my frustration with it, and my associated state of mind. But I just couldn't find the words, as shit seemed to be coming at me from all directions. To my friends, neighbors in Redhook, supporters and readers, we are still alive and kicking, even though I feel like the featured "kickee"!

Since my last post we have encountered many delays, clearly it’s almost October and we have not dug up a spoon of soil. Those delays were primarily in three areas, but none will be huge surprises to any of you. First, was Garrison Architects completing the final construction drawings, with the not so surprising realization that this is one complicated building, finalizing all of the moving pieces was much, much more time consuming than ever imagined. Next the NYC permitting process (need I say more), not simply at the city level, but also with what is ironically named the “expeditor”, which in total was was slower than even anticipated (or communicated to me). And finally we recently received the “knock out punch”, when we requested final pricing from a few qualified construction teams, only to find out that given the complexity of the building, so goes the price. OK, I guess I should have figured that one out on my own!

Jim Garrison and his team have done an amazing job, integrating design, technology and function into this fabulous net zero energy building! But given the uncharted nature of we set out to accomplish in an urban setting (new building processes, materials, energy creation just to name a few), it is no wonder that the timeline has stretched to the point of breaking (my sanity and budget that is).

Completed plans to the Department of Buildings, originally projected to be submitted by December of 2009, did not arrive there until late July for many reasons. One that deserves special mentioned is the “expeditor”. That is a person that is alleged to assist the architect and developer in reviewing the plans and making sure they are ready for submission to the Department of Buildings, in order to obtain the various permits required to build in the City of New York. Given the “supposed” knowledge of the intricate workings of the DOB, they are to shepherd the project throughout the entire process. They claim to insure that our package does not get “stuck” anywhere within those intricacies and are well paid for it. Well months later, we technically don’t HAVE permits, or very much good usable information, even though the list of issues raised by the DOB were microscopic as compared to the complexity of the project. In my humble opinion, our expeditor (write me if you want to know who to avoid) has been a drag on this project and is a prime contender along with our mechanical engineers for “REDHOOK GREEN TEAM LAGGER*” (*defined as to fail to keep up a pace; straggle). In almost every case they have not never met a date they could not miss or follow-up they could not avoid. I am paying for all of this, so I am entitled to my opinions :)

The last and most devastating blow during these last four months was in the construction pricing. In late August, three reputable and qualified general contractors were paired with the same caliber of steel modular builders to bid the complete project(see construction drawings). In mid-May one of those teams, provided us with a rough estimate for the project that came in at 125% of budget (aargh). At that point I was comforted by the fact that no real competitive bidding was done amongst the trades and the real bidding process between GC’s was yet to begin. So it seemed that the budget was still do able. Well, on August 23rd, this all came crashing down, as the bids came in from 150% (that was from our May estimator) to 280% of budget (sadly, this one came from my out of town underdog team that I was really rooting for)! HOLY SHIT. Where did we go wrong? Did this spell the end of Redhook Green? There was no way I was going to raise the budget, so what to do?

Jim assured me that he would stand behind his commitment to build me a great house at the agreed to budget, even if he needed to go back to the drawing board and redesign the house. So at post time, it seems like a full re-design won’t be necessary as Jim and his team have extensively rebid various trades, reviewed materials and are working hard to get the home back to budget. In my next post I will review some of the changes proposed and where we see our next steps.

With this blogs one year anniversary around the corner, I will be getting more prolific and will discuss lessons learned and whether I'd do this again if I knew what I know now. Stay tuned.


P.S. Check out the recent press posting and CNN story!