Crews hired to do the framing, heating and ventilation ducts, plumbing, and rough electrical pushed hard across their respective trades' finish line in a long, typically brutal early August Tuesday heat this past week in Pardee Homes' Bella Verdi neighborhood, in the heart of Inspirada, a master plan on the make in Henderson, Nev., just outside Las Vegas.
They wrapped up, cleared out, and left our two Responsive Home sites pristine. And, the next morning, as the ridges to the south and east silvered just before dawn, the unwrapped shells of the tall, classic, contemporary farmhouse and the broadly elegant bone structure of the contemporary transitional home etched bold new lines, mass, and energies against the sky.
At 6 a.m., an early-bird exercise walker in gym shorts and a jersey top stopped mid-stride, turned and looked back at the project before heading down Veneria Avenue on the trail system flanking Potenza Park, and said to me as he fixed a glance at the two newly-framed structures amidst a fair hive of six to eight new construction homes in the immediate vicinity, "They're different."
Later, as dawn broke and the mercury snuck unashamedly toward triple-digits, pickups pulled up, clipboards and magic markers came out, thick sheaves of plans were unrolled, and 25 or so of us donned hard-hats for a full 7-to-Noon morning's work through myriad details, visual markers, issues of challenge and concern, and even some new ideas and opportunities for the two homes.
This was the pre-dry-wall walk-through, and a larger than typical posse of stakeholders--ranging from design director Bobby Berk, to Hans Anderle and Ken Niemerski, senior architects from Bassenian Lagoni, to the corporate TRI Pointe and Pardee Homes brass, to the engineers, to the carpentry, electric, plumbing and HVAC managers, project manager--proved that, while the basic external and internal structure of the homes was complete, the frame walk calls for scores upon scores of decisions, considerations, debates, ideas, workarounds, and discussions that will figure critically into the livability and ultimate experience our home buyers--whom we figure to be young late-20s to late-30-somethings at two distinctly different parts of their career and family formation trajectories.
All told, the homes are about a third of the way toward completion, with the hardest part of the work yet to do, which is all about making the places "live" as they're intended. The frame walk, in this case, was less a quality check of the proper placement of structural elements, and more a big collaborative "hack" of the user experience of our two new Responsive Homes. We were to imagine not the three-foot stacks of dry wall in the middle of every room, but instead, we were to conjure being there of an evening, the kids playing computer games, the in-laws visiting, the house alive as it would be in the years hence. We were to imagine mood lighting, and functional lighting, and noise levels, and room to roll the big heavy tool chest out of the way in the garage, and the privacy we'd require "to get it on" if one of our sets of parents was staying for awhile in the casita suite.
What we figure our young adult buyers will want in their new homes--and, to them, they'll feel as if it's a need, not a want--is leeway. But, it's not an amorphous, blank-sheet-of-paper leeway, but a certain kind of structured and aided optionality that might trace from the financial status of their lives. Whatever its origins or impetus, it plays a massive role in how they can and desire to live. It's here that Bobby Berk's forensic sense for inspired detail and flair for hitching finished "Aha" ideas to raw carpentry play an essential role in making these homes "live" responsively. As he calls for "a new can light here," or a "waterfall tile countertop" there, or a graded shower floor that would flow water through a narrow seam in the tile into an invisible drain below, here, he's projecting, in every instance, ahead into how the home will live.
It's here, too, that Pardee purchasing director Bill Hughes' photographic memory for product specs down to the SKU level on thousands of options plays into the viability of the direction Bobby thinks he might like to explore.
It's here that project superintendent Justin Zaricki's intimate knowledge of every header, footing, sill plate, beam, joist, and rim board, every minute detail in a total of 7,500 square feet across both homes, comes critically into play. He's prepared with explanations on every nuance of what's happened, and quick on his feet to explore new options and point up consequences to each modification as it arises.
It's here, as well, that Pardee Las Vegas division president Klif Andrews' expansive retrievable knowledge of both minutia and big picture issues kicks into high-gear chief executive, to keep us 25 moving-target critics focused through the process, with a unified eye on the prize--homes we'll all be proud of and excited by, delivered on time.
After nixing one of Bassenian Lagoni principal architect Hans Anderle's ideas--which would have meant a "pour" some changes to footings, and a potential lot-line compliance red-flag--Andrews offered this as olive: "I got shot down far more than you did on this project when it came to our permits."
It's here, too, that Pardee Las Vegas valley director of project management Larry Simon's encyclopedic knowledge of code, engineering, the architectural plans, the take-off decision-chain, and a mind-numbing array of executional alternatives, explored and resolved, so that he can point up three dozen-plus areas of the two home with the phrase starting, "What we changed here is ...," each time launching discussion of the ramifications and implications of every change to the latest set of plans, major and minor.
We've found in our research of emerging adult buyers and prospects that they're comfortable with a kind of filling-in-the-blanks themselves, but working with templates that somewhat pre-engineer choice so that it has structure and has eliminated kinks and defects and time-waste. It's personalization within a rule-set that gives them a feeling of abundance without the tyranny of too-muchness.
This need not only overarches the thematic design direction of our Responsive Homes' DNA of playful and energized classicism, hybridized highly urbane-suburbanism, indoor-outdoor repartee and rapport, its choreography of natural light and engineered lit-up-ness and luster. Get ready, Las Vegas. We'll be here soon. And we're having fun in the journey.