Past Experiences of projects, panelized kit homes and our clients

Past Experiences of projects, panelized kit homes and our clients

Show Notes:

In this episode we go through some past experiences with customers and projects we have helped design in taking advantage of the views of property that somebody might be building on, controlling the budget and how to avoid pitfalls.


Interviewer: Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Panelized Prefab Kit Home Building Show. With me in the studio, as always, is the President and Founder of Landmark Home & Land Company, a company which has been helping people build new homes where they want, exactly as they want across the nation and worldwide since 1993, Mr. Steve Tuma.

Steve, how are you doing, buddy?

Steve Landmark: It’s an excellent day. Another good day helping customers and we had a few customers from 10 and 15 years ago get in touch with us this week that wanted to go along and build again or they had a family member that needed help building a home, so.

 Interviewer: Well, that’s got to be exciting. That’s very –

Steve Landmark: It’s a great feeling to think that they – people remember you 10 and 15 years ago. But I guess, you know, it’s a big thing building a house, so people remember we helped them out.

 Interviewer: That’s right. When I go buy a pair of jeans, I usually go back to the same store if I liked the jeans.

Steve Landmark: Yeah, well.

 Interviewer: So I thought today we might – I think with the last episode, we were having some fun with just some weird requests or not weird, but just kind of off-the-wall requests for design, some sort of design variations on plans, and that was a fun one. I liked that a lot.

So I thought today, we might, I don’t know, just go through some of your past experiences with customers and situations where you’ve helped – where you have helped Landmark homebuilders through, let’s say, specialty use homes, you know, like a guy that has a huge car collection. We talked a little bit about craft rooms and gaming and home theaters and – but I’d like to talk today about some of the other design things that would take in sort of, you know, like taking advantage of the views of property that somebody might be building on, things like that. And, you know, we’ll talk a little bit about controlling the budget and when you run out of money, which I’m sure you run into that a lot with customers.

So let’s start with that and talk about some of the experiences you’ve had working with customers in specialty situations.

Steve Landmark: Yeah. So because every project is different, you know, where they build is different, just different site conditions, different design requests that customers have, different budget situations, and you brought up, you know, how do people stay within a budget and control it so that they don’t get into problems, and that’s where we’re able to help at Landmark because that’s an important part. It’s not just the excitement of designing the home, but it’s making sure it works so that your family enjoys it. If it’s on land, you get permits. But also, make sure that, you know, the wallet is happy with it at the same time.

 Interviewer: Mm-hmm.

Steve Landmark: So yeah, initially, it brought up different like, you know, special design things and we’re running into a lot of customers that have special requests for the design. We’re able to take care of all of them. But sometimes, families are condensing homes. You know, their in-laws or grandparents are moving in to make for a better lifestyle. The grandparents can babysit the kids allowing the, you know, center generation to, you know, go out and do things, and also the kids being around helps the activity of the grandparents.

So we’ve had situations where houses are sometimes built as one family unit, but you could kind of see two distinct living areas. You know, we’re working with a family in Pennsylvania and there’s kind of two families, the grandparents and then the parents with the kids. So it almost looks like two ranch homes that are put together with a big common central area. But each end of the home is – or like its own suite. So there are situations like that where just people’s lifestyles, budgets, whatever needs there, medical help, whatever it is, they would like a certain type of home.

And then there’s other situations where people have hobbies. We’re running into a lot of, you know, “car guys” where they have car collections or they like to work on cars. Other people are into craft rooms. Home offices are becoming more and more important for Millennials or even people that can telecommute with – you know, with the strength of the internet these days, they’re – we’re able to do that.

So it’s pretty cool to be able to work through and figure out what really enhances the design of the home so people get the best value, you know, in the home and makes it worth their value. We believe people should drive up to their home and be proud of it and say, “Wow, this is cool. I have the home theater I want,” or “Our family is a bunch of movie buffs,” or, “Hey, we like to cook. The kitchen is really laid out right or –”


Interviewer: Or dad wants a man cave.

Steve Landmark: Yeah, exactly. There’s more and more man caves and also lady caves showing up, too.

 Interviewer: Lady caves. You’re right, yeah.

Steve Landmark: Yeah. So there’s a lot of that and that’s the cool thing is that we’re not stuck using a standard plan. If someone wants to do it, it’s – you know, we can adjust the plan to exactly how they want it, which enhances their lifestyle.

 Interviewer: Yeah. I’m actually – I actually know a woman right now who’s – who just built sort of her own woodworking shed. And so, you know, we can’t get locked into that where it’s always the man who’s looking for that. There’s a lot of women out there who are building shops and things like that. It’s pretty cool.

Steve Landmark: What’s the interesting portion about this is sometimes, you know, they figure hey, it’s the guy thing to have a classic car and go out and shine it, but it’s – you know, the whole family jumps in that convertible when they go to the ice cream stand. So it allows the family to go have fun, you know, learn different things and, you know, kind of eliminate some screen time, and go do different things.

There’s – yeah, gaming is becoming a good thing. A lot of people are using it for stress relief. Some people just enjoy it. Home theaters, you know, with the cost of going out to movies, it’s expensive. And now, with all the different streaming services and stuff, we can design a room so that people can enjoy, you know, entertainment at the – at their house, and that’s the key thing.

Interviewer: I actually saw some online magazine I was looking at. People that are building little mini ballrooms in their house with the wood dance floor and a little stage, and they bring in DJs, that’s some entertainment value there.

Steve Landmark: Oh, we’re seeing people that are doing that, especially with walkout basements more – you know, mountain areas or lake areas where it’s becoming the recreational spot. So instead of just having a walkout basement, you know, the cement walls with, you know, your bike in there, there are bars, eating areas, sitting areas, additional spaces for big family get-togethers. We’ve had a few families do that where, you know, if they have 15, 20 people coming over for the holiday, they’re in a basement in a big kind of luxury, you know, Bankwood area.

Interviewer: I like what you said about, you know, the parents and grandparents. I have a friend. She – no one else in the family was really willing to do it. And so, she took on the task of moving her grandfather in with her and her two grown kids and they’re the ones taking care of him. And she was telling me about how she’s kind of had to rearrange and adapt the house because he is a man and he’s 90, but he’s still a guy, you know, and he has certain things that he wants. And I can see how people might just build a house specifically with the thought that, you know, we’re all living a little longer now that maybe instead of putting grandpa or grandma in a home, we bring them to our home. And if you’ve got the right house for it, that’s great.

Steve Landmark: Yeah, and that’s what we’re able to do. A funny one, this will make, you know, all the guys laugh. Sometimes, there’s a woodshop or a man cave, they’ll actually ask for a urinal.

Interviewer: Oh, that would be great.

Steve Landmark: You know, it’s kind of funny. So – I mean, the point is that everyone kind of chuckles when I say that. But in a sense, doesn’t that make sense?

Interviewer: Oh, that would be great to have a man cave with a urinal.

Steve Landmark: Yeah, yeah. So there’s a lot of – there’s a lot of little details that can be put into it and it doesn’t necessarily have to cost more. It’s just a situation of, you know, a conversation. What does your family do? You know, does someone work so they need a separate area, but there’s kids and those kids still need a different area that – you know, where it might be a little noisier? So do we have to do things with soundproofing on walls or just put the room on the other side of the house or – you know, the home offices are becoming more and more popular and they – sometimes, they need separate entrances or distinct separate areas.

Every – a lot of people talk about the guy in the home office, you know, he’s getting up and working in his pajamas until 2 in the afternoon. A lot of the customers actually tell me they get up just as if they were going to the office. They get up, take a shower, wear a suit, and go right into their home office, just the formality of I’m at work. So –

Interviewer: Yeah. I don’t see anything wrong with it myself. I don’t do it, but I see nothing wrong with it.

Steve Landmark: Yeah. So it’s – that’s – the point is, we can customize it for what your priorities are. And like I say, it doesn’t always have to cost more. To make a separate office with its own separate exterior entry isn’t a big deal. You add a door, you know. So it’s a pretty cool scenario.

Interviewer: Something we hit upon and I’ve written it down, I keep forgetting to bring it up again because we didn’t really expand on it enough. But a lot of times, people will buy a property because of the view and then I would imagine that some customers come to you and say, “Well, now, we’ve got it but what design can we put together that will take advantage of that view?” And maybe they love the view, but unfortunately, the way they have to build, the way the land is, they’re facing the wrong way. How do you take care of issues like that?

Steve Landmark: Well, it’s pretty interesting because the majority of the time, most people will be like, “Hey, we’ve got an idea. We want a chalet design overlooking a mountain,” or “Hey, we want a ranch home, but we want one side of the house just to have a lot of glass wall so we can sit in there, you know, look at the fireplace and look at the glass and, you know, see a beautiful view of a lake or a mountain or open prairie or whatever it is.”

So the concept of what they want to look at, they kind of understand. It’s how do we take advantage of that. Because a lot of people will think, “Well, just put big windows and face them at what you want to look at.” Well, it’s true, but a lot of that is also affected by the roof structure and, you know, some structural components because there’s different ways of fitting different windows into space. And depending upon where you’re doing it, if it’s a place with a lot of engineering requirements, earthquakes, snow loads, high wind speeds, you know, like hurricane areas, you can accomplish that but it can end up costing a lot more.

So that’s where we can come into it is go through and figure hey, a family wants a big picture window here, but they’re on Key West facing south. You know, the structure of that home might be a little different than if someone said, “Hey, I’m in the open prairie in the Midwest and I just want to view these expansive sunsets.” They may have a different design, so we’re able to work with them to get the end results and then design and engineer the structure at the affordable price point, so that they’re ending up being able to take advantage of the view.

Generally, this is kind of funny, but it’s extremely true. People want to take advantage of their view more than they want to pay for an expensive roof. So if we can do certain things to – in roof design, to allow for a bigger open space, for bigger windows, that’s something that we can provide. So sometimes that taking advantage of that better view doesn’t necessarily have to cost you more.

Interviewer: Well that’s – but that’s something you really have to hit early on in the process, right? I mean, that has to be talked out a lot.

Steve Landmark: Right, it does. And I – I think somewhere, we’re probably going to talk about that view and how it affects energy going to as well, because, say, you’re in a place that has very tight energy calculation requirements, like parts of Colorado, like, Olive, California, is if you have a glass wall facing south, that glass just magnifies the heat going into your house. So your air conditioning system might need to be a little different.

So there’s situation and I can go back to the roof, different overhangs, orientation of the home, orientation of the windows, insulation around the home in general where we can – where we can work with that. So the initial idea is, “Hey, how do we get the view in?” The other one is, “How do we make sure it’s in affordable and passes the codes?”

Interviewer: You’re right. We hit on earlier, a little bit, just in this podcast, about the designing for a budget. And like I said, people, I’m sure get to a point where they’ve planned poorly and ran out of money and I’m sure that’s something that Landmark is really good at kind of helping to control that early in the process. But –

Steve Landmark: Right.

Interviewer: – what kind of situations have you run into when working with people who have, you know, they just have a finite budget?

Steve Landmark: Well, it’s interesting because in – since 1993, about 25 years, we’ve only had one or two customers that don’t care if it goes over a million, like, “Hey, add another million is not a big deal.”

Interviewer: All right.

Steve Landmark: So generally, whether – you know, no matter how many zeros there are in your budget or how many digits, there’s always a restriction. So if you’re spending 100,000 or five million, it’s the same problem, your eyes are bigger than the wallet wants to go.

So what we always suggest is – people have to really kind of just be honest with themselves. Because the over budget situation from what I have seen, is generally taking from people’s changes. So they fall in love with the house. They see the house going up and then they’re like, “Oh, honey, let’s put that hot tub in the back deck –

Interviewer: Oh, right, yeah.

Steve Landmark: – let’s extend the deck, let’s do this. Oh, we’ll find that extra 10,000.” Well, my opinion is just design it right up front. And if you have an extra 10,000 to spend, be honest with yourself, are you going to spend it or would you rather not.

Interviewer: Right.

Steve Landmark: Because it’s the changes during the building phase that can create the issue. If someone has a properly designed home with an accurate set of plans, which is what we supply, they can take those plans and go get the cost estimates.

So people that run into problems just say, “Well, I talked to my friend. He’s a concrete guy, you know. He’s at my bowling team and he told me a foundation’s 30,000.” So they write that number down, they think they’ve done a good job. We say, “Well that’s great, maybe your friend does know the cost. But isn’t it better for him to look at the land and see your foundation plan to determine the cost?”

Interviewer: Right, right.

Steve Landmark: So he may go out and go, “Oh, you’re right, it is 30,000” or he may say, “Hey, I didn’t know you were on the slope on the side of a hill. And this and this and that and all these other things maybe it’s 34,000.”

So the budget in the situation really comes down to, you know, keeping tabs on yourself so that you draw a set of plans for a house that you’re happy with and then stay with that happy house and move forward. And, you know, I jokingly tell people turn your TV off, don’t watch anymore of these renovation shows and all these – all these great things, because, you know, those are all there by people selling products and they make it sound like it’s just so cheap to, you know, put an airplane hangar in the back of your house.

Interviewer: Right.

Steve Landmark: And do all these things. So, you know, generally those are high-dollar projects, but, you’ve got to be realistic with yourself.

Interviewer: Right.

Steve Landmark: To go through and make sure that you’re shooting for an accurate situation. So when people go through and are honest with themselves and do their proper budgeting, design the house to the way they want it to be, those issues are avoided. So that’s what we tell people. I always say it’s doing your homework up front.

Interviewer: Right.

Steve Landmark: Let’s do all the things that can change on paper. It’s easy to change something on paper, it’s very hard and expensive once the house is up. So take the time to be honest with yourself and say, “Yes, we do want a fireplace” or “Yes, we do want a deck” or “Do we need a two-car garage or a three-car garage,” or “Do we need to have gold faucets or can we use chrome ones?” That’s – those are the details they have to be – kind of worked out. And at a certain point, you just got to say, “Hey, the chrome ones are beautiful, they’re timeless, they’re going to look good in two years and ten years and 20 years, it’s the standard one. That’s the one to go. So we don’t end up paying for thing two and three times.”

Interviewer: Yeah, that makes sense. Speaking of things that would be real expensive to change after the fact, let’s talk about some customer sort of questions about, you know, when you – when you’re excavating for a foundation and maybe the soil conditions aren’t great, things like that. That’s a problem you definitely have to start early, I would imagine.

Steve Landmark: Yes. And that – in my own projects, I found that things that can affect your budget that – are kind of those, uh-oh moments. And my experience from the projects I have done myself, they’ve had to with ground because you can’t just walk in a piece of dirt and look at it and go, “Hey, I could tell you what’s four-feet down.”

So let me tell you some extreme situations. I wouldn’t think most people are going to run into it, but it’s the extreme story for people who don’t understand the value of knowing what you’re building in.

So some people go through and say, “You know, my grandfather had this land for a 100 years, you know, nothing’s happened, nothing’s changed to it.” Well over the course of time, people have filled wetlands in it to make more agricultural land. Well, you know, when America was 95% farmers, they needed land, well now, it’s flipped to where there’s 5% or 10% farmers. So the land is going from being a wetland or whatever it may be to farming lands to now, land for homes –

Interviewer: Right.

Steve Landmark: – and home developments.

So we had a customer. We always tell people check their soils out. He was in Southern Illinois in a rural area. And he wanted a crawlspace. I told him, “Check the situation, you’re an agricultural land, who knows what happened 100 years ago, 150 years ago.” Well he wanted a crawlspace, so in that area you dig down three, four feet and put a foundation in. He ran in a muck.

What happened is someone way back filled in a pond. So you and I know that if you rock to the edge of a pond, you’ll sink. There’s just muck, you know, rotted leaves, dirt stuff like that. So you take a regular 150 or 200 pound person, you sink in that muck.

So what happened is the people – someone way back filled the pond in. You know, they don’t go tell anyone, much less does the story transfer around for 100 years.

Interviewer: Yeah, it could’ve been decades ago.

Steve Landmark: Yeah, they dig the hole and right where the footers are going to be is where the bottom of this pond was.

Interviewer: Right.

Steve Landmark: It was all muck.

Interviewer: Huh.

Steve Landmark: The person ended up with a 12-foot-tall basement. Wow. By the time they were able to dig to the bottom of the muck.

Interviewer: Right.

Steve Landmark: Now it’s interesting about this is a soil test before that, a couple 100 bucks. Someone could’ve taken a bore in to find out.

Now the interesting thing is this is more of an extreme story and most building departments don’t require stuff like this. So they say, “Oh, you don’t need it, you know, the land’s the same, just do this.” But ultimately it is your responsibility to know what the ground conditions are. And that’s it. And sometimes people say, “Well, we took a soil test 300 feet over there, it’s the same here.” Well, soil can change in a foot.

So we always suggest checking that. We had another situation on a very nice family building in Colorado. They – they went out, they had a test done and they decided move their house 200 feet. They suggested take your test again and well, when they got to that point, they dug down a foot and they hit granite.

Interviewer: Oh, right.

Steve Landmark: So we had to re-engineer, they had to get rid of some granite, we have to the stuff go. They got through the issue, the point is it would’ve been nice to know about that up front.

So that – what I always suggest to people is understand what’s – what your ground conditions are. It can affect your excavation, your ability to have a basement, crawlspace or slab. It can also affect your septic system, so it kind of affects the use of your land. You know, you don’t want to put your house in a drainage area. You know, someone makes, “Oh, it hasn’t flooded here in ten years,” well, all you need to do is watch the news to know that, you know, there’s a 100-year flood every five years in certain parts of the country. So we always say, you know, sit back and take a look at what’s there and if you need it, hire a civil engineer or soil scientist to check it out.

Now, the situations that I’ve brought up to you are more on the extreme side. It doesn’t happen to everyone – it’s pretty rare. It’s probably 1%, 2%, 3% of the people that run into that situation. I’m just saying that, you know, it’s something to consider, so.

Interviewer: Yeah. And consider early with something like that.

Steve Landmark: Right.

Interviewer: Let’s, you know, let’s talk about the environment of the land you’re building on, and I don’t mean environmental, I mean, the – your neighbors. Let’s say you’re building in a neighborhood. And I’m sure there are a lot of restrictions on your lot, height restrictions and calculations that you, like, you know, if somebody’s got a ranch home and you come in and build a three-story monstrosity and it cuts out all their light, I’m sure there are restrictions and rules to all of that.

Steve Landmark: Yes, there are. It’s the enforcement of it. So, you know, the simple one that’s easy for people to understand are height restrictions.  Generally, in communities, there will be a height restriction, 25 feet, 30 feet, 35 feet. And they may calculate to the peak of the house, they may calculate to the average of the bottom eave and the peak. There’s a variety of different ways that they calculate it. And then also, if you’re in the side of the hill, you know, each corner of the house maybe at a different now of elevation. Like, in the case of a walk-out basement on the rear, and then, just a floor system and just a little bit of above grid at the front. So, how do you calculate that?

So we’re able to do that and sometimes people like, “Hey, it doesn’t matter. No one’s around.” But there are parts of, you know, very scenic parts of the country where they don’t want someone building a big house and blocking the neighbors view.

Interviewer: Sure.

Steve Landmark: It defeats the character of the neighborhood and it devalues someone else’s house. So they want to make sure that a house is uniform, the neighborhoods are uniform, and some guy doesn’t have a 17 story house, and everyone else has a, you know, 15 foot tall house. So, they want to make sure that there’s some continuity in there for the overall urban planning of the home.

We’ve also run into a few communities, and again, this is a rare thing but it’s an interesting thing of how we’ve help people through, where they have light restrictions. So, as you can see, you can’t create a certain shadow. So they don’t want you – if you had a lot, and say that was, 50 feet, or say, 60 feet wide, with 10 foot setbacks in each side. So, you have 40 feet to build. They don’t want you to build a big block, 40 feet wide, 20 feet tall. There’s restrictions to make sure that light comes in to your yard. You know, you’re not putting shadows all over your neighbor’s yards, all over your neighbor’s house, because light and air is very important to the enjoyment of the community.

So if you live in one of those communities, we can – we can help develop the calculation and the graphical representation showing that light passage passes for the requirement. Light’s important though, there’s a lot of people that can –

Interviewer: Oh, yeah.

Steve Landmark: – that can have, you know, depression issues if they don’t have the right amount of light.  No, for all, that showing that light just makes people happier and more enjoyable.

Interviewer: Right.

Steve Landmark: So –

Interviewer: There’s another I wanted to get into that I had written down here about working in a real tight lot You’ve bought up all this place where you want to build your house and – but it’s a pretty tight neighborhood, houses are close together. Let’s talk about retaining wall design and fitting those in to tight lots, and you know, I wouldn’t even know where the footers go. Where do you begin?

Steve Landmark: That’s an interesting one that you bring up because as people, you know, work in an infill lots and cities or different places their – they’re building pretty cool homes. Sometimes they have lockout basements, sometimes these lots are sloped. So, what ends up happening is sometimes to take advantage of a walk-out basement, or lookout basement, or work around different terrain, they require certain amount of retaining walls to hold the soil back so they can have a walk-out basement in these urban areas.

And what ends up happening is, if you have a skinny lot, you want to basically, put a wall right up to the corner. Those retaining walls have a footer that may proceed underneath your lot line into your neighbor’s yard.

Interviewer: Yeah, right.

Steve Landmark: It’s kind of, an interesting situation, a very few people think about. So, when we get in a design some type lots like that which are generally closer in city areas, we’ve got to look at the design and the big scope to say, “Hey, what are you doing?”

Now, if you’re just going to put a simple ranch over there and follow within the setbacks, it’s fine. But if you’re trying to, you know, work with the grades in different situations to have access around the house for walk-out basements, and things are tight, and you do need retaining walls, we have to watch where the footers of the homes go. And that – it’s not just retaining walls, some communities do allow you to build right up to the lot line. So, the situation that comes in is a basement wall, say it’s an 8-inch or 10-inch thick basement wall, that footer at the bottom might be 18 inches, 24 inches wall. If you’re building right on the lot line, that footer is going into your neighbor’s yard. So there’s legal issues and stuff like that.

Again, this is very strange and we’re talking today about unique, funky things that have come up, and how we’ve organized and work through with our customers. So, again, if someone’s working at a tighter lot, generally, you know, in smaller spaces, putting a lot of stuff, there’s a little more detail work that has to go in. And sometimes it’s just where do you put the driveway, where, you know, where water and sewer connections, where’s the view.

Sometimes people don’t think of it. They’re like, “Hey, I want to put my house, you know, as close to the lot line as possible.” And then they realize their bedroom windows looking right into their neighbor’s bedroom window. Maybe that’s not what you want.

Interviewer: Right.

Steve Landmark: So, it’s good to think – think those things through. And we’re not expecting every customer to know everything about this. We’re bringing ideas up and when things like that pop up, we’ll – we’ll jog the idea and say, “Hey, do you want this? Can we consider this?”

Interviewer: Right.

Steve Landmark: So it’s pretty cool.

Interviewer: Speaking of tight lots, how do you – in a tighter space, how do energy calculations, perhaps, restrict your home design or orientation on your lot?

Steve Landmark: Well, sometimes it’s a, you know, the tighter lot could limit the orientation as to how your house can face. But also, it’s not just the tighter lot, it’s the tighter energy calculate – requirements that are coming in certain states.

You know, in some places like, you know, they tighten up a little every year. It’s not a huge deal. There’s other places where they’re getting extremely tight every year. So, what we have to do is – if you’re out in the country, you know, I’m going to tie a few things together . If you have a specific view that you want, you know, you want your living area to have this great view through big glass windows to look at – to look at a mountain range, well, by chance that mountain range happens to be at your southern view. Like we mentioned before, the sun’s going to go in and, kind of, cook that interior of the home.

Interviewer: Right.

Steve Landmark: So, sometimes we have to work on adding porches, or covered areas to restrict the sun coming in, or counteract with a higher efficiency heating and cooling systems, water heating systems, insulation values, or shading of certain types to allow things to work.

So if you’re in an area, and California’s the one that definitely comes to mind, where you’ve got restrictive – more restrictive energy calculations, it can affect the orientation of your home. So if you’re building in a community with smaller lot sizes and you want big glass walls facing south where the southern sun just beams right in your living room, it might be a little bit more work to design it. We could do it, but people should understand that in certain areas, your energy calculations might dictate some of the design. You might need more area in your roof system for added insulation. You might need – if you’re building on a slab, you might have to insulate the slab considerably more.

Interviewer: Mm-hmm.

Steve Landmark: There might be geothermal units. There is likely and definitely going to be the use of solar. Now, as a little side note, a lot of our customers build in the mountains, where they have 100-foot tall trees that completely block the sun. I don’t want to say completely but they block a considerable amount and they’re pine trees so the sun doesn’t get through. The code still dictates you have to have solar panels on your roof starting very soon.

So there’s a little bit of an oxymoron in the whole situation, but those are the details that were here. We have the energy code professionals to go through and do it. And by the way, just because your area doesn’t dictate stricter energy codes, it doesn’t mean that you can’t have an interest and still desire to have a more energy-efficient home than the code requires.

So if you go to certain places in the Midwest, generally 70%, 80% of the country, there are energy codes. They want to know if the house passes but they are what I would call stringent. So if someone wanted to have a house that excelled way beyond it, it’s always possible to say, “Hey, I want to do what I can to control the cost. What can we do to upgrade insulation, to have better installation, to verify that the installation is done right, to make sure the mechanical systems are done right?”

Just because someone says, “I’ve been an insulation installer for 30 years,” that doesn’t mean that they know how to use modern insulation and install it properly. So there’s a lot with the energy the energy codes where we can help people. And that’s a situation where people are always concerned about their energy bill after they move into it. They don’t always think about it upfront. They look at it as a government regulation hindering them. The realty is it allows for a more comfortable home.

Interviewer: Yeah. Here’s the thing I was saving for last because you and I have talked about it privately before and never on the podcast, but I’m sure that customers come to you with this all the time. When somebody chooses a design and they come to you, it’s not a Landmark design but from an outside designer, and it doesn’t get approved, how can you help at that stage?

Steve Landmark: It’s very easy for us to help because typically times where people pay for a set of plans and they don’t get approved, they have gone to the local guy that’s doing it as a side job and he’s more interested in making his few hundred bucks than he is truly knowing structural design, energy calculations, working with civil engineers, and code issues.

So when we get plans like that, and it happens a lot, people innocently work with a friend or whatever and get it, and I don’t want to say that –

Interviewer: Your brother-in-law.

Steve Landmark: Yeah. And I don’t want to say that some of these people can’t do it, but that’s generally the situation is we can go through and work from the point that they’re at to go get a set of plans put together so that they can continue on with permitting, or if they work with a less sophisticated building department and they’ve actually obtained permits on plans that aren’t detailed enough to know exactly what needs to be built, we can go through and work with it.

Again, it’s kind of like what I spoke about upfront, do your homework upfront. The design element, engineering element, other details for permitting, that’s kind of the roadmap to building. If you have a bad set of plans upfront, you will have problems when you’re on the building phase, because the plumber’s going to come back and say, “Hey, it’s not clear where your toilet is.” Suddenly you’re out there trying to figure it out. A framer’s going to come through and say, “Hey, it doesn’t say if you have a flat ceiling here, a cathedral ceiling, or a tray ceiling.” Or it doesn’t say, “Hey, what type of floor system are we using?”

So we’re believers in do the homework upfront, develop the plans accurately, and understand your project.

Interviewer: Mm-hmm.

Steve Landmark: So if someone does get stuck or they buy some plans that just don’t seem to do the job, we will gladly help them through the process and get it on track. It’s easy. We do it every day, you know, developing accurate sets of plans. So they shouldn’t be embarrassed to call. We’ll do whatever we can to help them.

Interviewer: Awesome. Well, this has been a pretty long podcast. When we started talking, it seems like it’s gone by really fast. I’m looking at the clock, and this –

Steve Landmark: Well, this is interesting stuff. It’s kind of just interesting stories that is not meant to scare but it’s meant to say, “Hey, Landmark can help us. Look at this, look at this stuff, I never thought of it.”

And that’s what we try to do is give our customers an understanding of the project because maybe they’ve never built before, maybe they’re on their fourth home. There’s always new experiences, upgraded codes, different situations where we can help them.

Interviewer: Right. Well I want to thank everyone for joining us again on the Panelized Prefab Kit Home Building Show. And before we go, of course, as always, Steve, why don’t you let our listeners know how to contact you guys at Landmark Home & Land Company?

Steve Landmark: The quickest way is to take a look at our website which is, so it’s kind of like the initials Landmark Home Land Company – And on there you can see plans, there’s different discussions on how we can help with permitting, working in different states, you know, just different ideas.

They can also submit a message to us. They can also call at their convenience at 800-830-9788. And they’d work with Mike to go through and have preliminary discussions on what we can do to help them.

They can email Mike at or I’m also available at They can email, we’re very responsive, we’re knowledgeable, and we’re proactive. A lot of our customers say, “Steve, without you, you’re kind of the engine driving the project because we understand what needs to be done and how it needs to be scheduled and worked through.”

Interviewer: Oh, nice. Well, we are going to wrap it up now. So for Steve Tuma and myself, thanks again everybody for joining us on the Panelized Prefab Kit Home Building Show and we will see you next time. Thanks.

Steve Landmark: Happy homebuilding.

About Landmark Design Team