Best Builders – Best Practices – Best People

Here at SoundVision we have been very fortunate to work with most of the best builders in our area (San Francisco and the North Bay). We do have an interesting vantage point from which to judge, since we are unbiased and able to see who really runs a great project. We certainly have our favorites, but we may judge them a bit differently than a potential client would… Here I am going to share a few experiences I have had with some of our local builders that make them stand out in my mind:

Example 1 – Michael Houts – Red Horse Constructors

We feel a great builder should be able to anticipate and avoid problems that will cause time and cost overruns. One example of a professional who really shines in this area is Michael Houts from Red Horse Constructors. We recently started a project with them on a new home in Belvedere. Before they even started framing Michael called a meeting with us, KC Mauk (the Superintendent), and the electrician to review our scope of work. We went through the scope room by room, system by system. They asked a lot of questions as to why, how and what we were planning on doing. As we explained the systems and the reasoning, they asked questions about camera locations, speaker layout,  shade pocketing, space requirements, power requirements, ventilation requirements, etc. It was also a great opportunity to make sure SoundVision and the electrician were in concert as to our individual roles and responsibilities. When we were wrapping up, Michael asked “Scott, based on your experience, what else should we be considering? What else could result in a need to make changes, or add costs or delays?” This gave me an opportunity to give my $0.02 on issues we have seen that throw us a curve from time to time. I can tell you that the project is currently about 50% completed, and I can assure you it is going more quickly and smoothly than most projects we work on, and it is not by accident.

Example 2 – Rodger Koehler – Caletti Jungsten Construction

Another key to successful completion is good communication and keeping the short and long term goals in mind. We have been fortunate to work on a couple projects with Rodger Koehler from Caletti Jungsten Construction. One of the tools Rodger uses is a White Board that he keeps updated with current tasks, milestone dates and a countdown of remaining days until the promised completion date. This is a great tool not only for the builder and subcontractor, but also for the owner and design professionals to see on a daily basis. I had lunch with a prominent Marin architect a few months ago, and he made a comment that “if Caletti Jungsten could guarantee Rodger would be on the job, he would recommend that builder to every client”. (Although I must say that Matt Lombardi, Jim Curtis and John Battis are also excellent to work with.)

Rodger’s Jobsite Whiteboard

Example 3 – Eric Ilonummi – IR Hadley Construction

We just finished another project with Eric on the Belvedere lagoon. We have done several projects with him, here is what makes Eric great. He gets a clear understanding of the project and he does not make a lot of assumptions. He is not bashful about calling to clarify a detail, or requesting us to come onsite to review how he is going to build something BEFORE he builds it. Eric maintains a calm demeanor even as the project is being changed by the design team. One of my favorite quotes from Eric happened when a client changed his mind again on a project that the electrician just finished. The electrician was whining about how he just finished redoing this work and now he needed to do it again. Eric very calmly told the electrician “I am going to need you to go out to your truck, put on your big boy pants, and come back a get this done for me.” His projects always go smoothly because he has a clear understand of the whole project.

Example 4 – Ed Thompson – Kelly Pacific

We have worked with Ed on a couple large custom homes in Ross. Ed is another Superintendent that I have heard an architect mention he would love to have on his projects. Ed is great about anticipating needs and getting things done. He is always looking for better solutions and if you are onsite doing a walkthrough, Ed wants to know what you are looking at and what you are changing so he can make sure it fits with any other details we may not be aware of. He is a skilled professional that is able to work with a team without letting his ego to get in the way.

Example 5 – Tom Anawalt – Anawalt Construction

Our first of several projects we have done with Tom was a large custom home in Sausalito about 12 years ago. When we started, Tom was like a Drill Sargent, grilling us on every detail. What was going where, how big, etc. We were a bit overwhelmed by him, but as the job progressed we realized that every detail we asked for was perfect. Tom wanted to know all the details early so he could get them perfect when the time came to build. We have done a few more projects with Tom over the years, and when we start the guys come back complaining about how tough he is, but when the job is done, the details are perfect. I would take a tough, detail oriented builder over a relaxed, “we’ll figure it out later” builder any day.

There are several other great builders that we have had the pleasure to work with, and I am not going to list them all. We are not interested in their marketing or sales people. We are not interested in who they have worked for or the awards they have won. We are interested in how they build, and that comes down to the Project Manager and Superintendent. If you are thinking about hiring a builder, my suggestion is to get to know the PM and Superintendent, they will be the key to a successful project.

If you are interested in all of the builders, architects, interior designers and lighting specialist we have worked with in the past and continue to do so, click here.


Until next time,


Scott Sullivan

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