Unity project manager Rob Vogel points out construction details to local builders.
Over the course of building 100+ homes throughout New England and beyond, we’ve learned that we can general contract the complete construction of a home most efficiently if it’s within a certain radius of our headquarters: about 50 miles—or roughly an hour’s drive—from Walpole, NH. Within that radius, we can usually provide our Whole House service. Outside that radius, we’re typically providing a Shell or Tempo package. With well over half of the projects on which we work falling outside of that radius, we have been providing many more Shell and Tempo packages than Whole Houses.
When a project is too distant for Unity to general contract, we and our clients team up with a local builder who preps the site for Unity’s arrival, and finishes the high performance shell that Unity assembles on site. This scenario allows Unity and the local builder each to do what we do best. Unity provides the high performance shell that helps to ensure that the home’s occupants will enjoy comfort, health and predictably-low utility costs. The builder provides local expertise, skilled carpenters and a team of subs to complete the home efficiently and to a high level of quality.
Clients may come to us with a local builder already in mind—someone with whom they’ve worked in the past, or who comes highly recommended. If not, then we can typically suggest someone from the long list of builders with whom we’ve worked successfully. While experience building high performance homes is a plus, the qualities we value most in a local builder are integrity, clear communication, general experience, and openness to innovative construction methods.
We’ve found that the earlier the local builder is brought on board, the smoother the planning tends to be. For example, during the planning phase of a project, Unity can estimate the costs for the work that the local builder will do to finish the shell, but those numbers are most accurate when they come from the builder. The local builder can also be a good source of helpful information about site conditions, the permitting process, and even construction financing options.
We are continually working to improve our communication with local builders, particularly when it comes to our respective scopes of work. This is especially important when working with a builder for the first time. We’ve developed a comprehensive guide for builders working on our projects, and we may be able to meet with a builder at a Unity job site for a first-hand look at the innovative details, materials and systems in our homes.
Because the learning curve for a local builder is steepest on the first project, we always welcome the opportunity to work on subsequent projects with the same builder. That feeling is usually mutual. As one builder commented recently, “We’ve been spoiled by working with you! Now that we know a project can go from a foundation to a weathertight, heatable shell in less than two weeks, we don’t want to work any other way.”