Uniformity Among Plan Sets: Ensuring Consistency in Home Building

Uniformity Among Plan Sets: Ensuring Consistency in Home Building

Show Notes: In-depth conversation about the intricate process of designing and building custom homes that meet the unique visions and needs of clients. From architectural and structural design to energy codes and customer support, highlighting the importance of seamless coordination and attention to detail in creating panelized homes that exceed expectations. Landmark Home and Land Company’s role as a conductor in orchestrating a team of experts to deliver top-notch customer service and satisfaction shines through, emphasizing our commitment to quality, communication, and personalized solutions in the home building process.


Steve Tuma: Because our plan sets that we do at Landmark Home and Land Company are meant to be communication devices so that your contractor knows what’s going on, your financing source, your family, your building department, yourself and anyone else involved knows exactly what’s going on.

Interviewer: Welcome everyone to episode 54 of the Panelized Prefab Kit Home Building Show with me as he usually is in the studio for the podcast is the president and founder of Landmark Home and Land Company, a company which has been helping people build their new homes where they want exactly as they want nationwide and around the globe since 1993. Mr. Steve Tuma, Steve, how are you, my friend?

Steve Tuma: It’s another day, another podcast. Some excitement talking about making plans match up and uniform plans. Is that what we’re going to talk about?

Interviewer: Today we’re going to talk about uniformity among plan sets. Some people might go, what? What are you talking about? So that’s why you’re here. That’s why we have you here.

Steve Tuma: This is an interesting topic because it’s kind of, today’s a consumer today. You figure, hey, if you buy a pair of running shoes, the shoe’s designed for running. Or hey, if you buy a truck with big wheels, it’s designed to go off road or whatever it may be. If you buy a boat, it’s good for the water. So sometimes it’s kind of interesting with the plans of if people attempt to work with an architect individually, a structural engineer, a green code person, an energy code person, a civil engineer for grading and drainage plans, it’s kind of assumed that they’d talk and make sure the plans match up. But we just find that it doesn’t happen. Everyone takes care of their discipline and kind of has that, well, it’s not my job. Hey, I did what you asked me, but how do you know it matches up? That’s kind of the whole situation. I kind of equate it to saying, hey, go to a shirt store and ask a guy for a shirt. Go to the pants store, ask the salesperson for a pair of pants. Go to the shoe store and ask a guy for a pair of shoes and then put it together and hope it all works. You know, are you going to a formal dinner or are you going jogging or are you sitting at the beach? Obviously, you need something. So you want to make sure that what you’re doing works well. So that’s what we call making sure the plans are uniform so that they match up for the intended purpose and make sure that the information across the plans matches. So that’s the main reason a lot of people assume, well, I had my local designer, my local engineer do it. It doesn’t happen that way. That’s why we’re in business to do the plan set for what people want and make sure it’s unified so that it makes sense. It’s consistent. The details are equal across the plans and it’s easier to build, creating less problems on site, creating less problems with your budget and your schedule.

Interviewer: So did you say that’s the main benefit of matching plan sets just for consistency and design?

Steve Tuma: Well, consistency and design for permitting, for your understanding. Because our plan sets that we do at Landmark Home and Land Company are meant to be communication devices so that your contractor knows what’s going on, your financing source, your family, your building department, yourself and anyone else involved knows exactly what’s going on. Because we all know what happens if I were to say, hey, Steve, remember this, unless it’s written down, people don’t remember it. So that’s why you want to have the plans with all consistent details to make sure that the home goes together right and the building department understands it so that you can avoid issues on site, issues with inspections or previously, issues with permit application.

Interviewer: So what are the biggest issues that as new home builders that people run into? I mean, let’s just run down a list of things that people should be prepared for. Let’s start with, let’s say, truss design.

Steve Tuma: Well, the truss design, that’s an interesting thing. So a truss is a structural component that used generally to build a roof system or a floor system. So let’s just take it for a roof. So let’s just say that there’s a house, a relatively complex Victorian house, you know, from the early 1900s. There’s a lot of roof alleys, roof ridges, overhang situations, different situations where they might need girders, they might need different beams to support it. You need to make sure that that truss design matches the architectural design, also matches the structural design. So are the loads transferred properly from the roof down through a beam down to the ground or down through the wall down to the ground? And then also, is it the architectural look that someone wants? So a simple thing that people will understand are the overhangs. Are the overhangs a foot, 18 inches, two feet, three feet? Whatever it is, are they at the right pitch? What’s the tail done? How all these details are put together? So sometimes what’ll happen is people will get truss designs done, but someone has to verify that they match the structural issues, the snow loads, the ground snow loads, the code year that the building department’s asking for, make sure it matches the structural design. There’s just a lot of little details. It’s tying it together to make sure that everything works. So that goes into architectural design and structural design as well. So it’s kind of everything’s got to work together, otherwise you could end up with trusses that don’t give the look you want or don’t have the consistent structural features.

Interviewer: Yeah. It seems to me we’ve talked in the past a little bit about energy calculations and I’m sure there’s a lot of issues going into a house build with energy calculations and getting them correct.

Steve Tuma: Right. It’s not just the actual calculation, it’s making sure that what is calculated fits in your house. So someone could, say you’re in an area where it just gets really cold and you need an R-48 insulation, does it fit in your roof system? If you have an R-21 wall, does it fit in your wall? If you need a certain insulation in your foundation under the slab, around the footers, is it designed in there and do people understand that it’s there? And that again is tying it all in. So sometimes people say, hey, I got these energy calculations, it’s like there’s not enough space to put it in the house or in order to do so, you’ve got one of the more expensive types of insulation, do you realize that?

Interviewer: Right. That’s why it’s good to tie all that together and have us do our plan set with those details so we can understand, so we can review it with a customer so that they understand what’s going on with their project.

Steve Tuma: Right. Because the energy calculations can also affect and will also affect the design of their HVAC system. So all of these are kind of tied together and it’s important to make sure that the people designing the HVAC understand the architectural and structural design as well as the energy calculations. The energy calculation people should also understand the structure to make sure that it’s there. So sometimes people will come to us and say, hey, I got this and this, and I’m like, well, it’s kind of a little bit of a mess, we got to clean it up and put it together, which is why we always say, hey, just come to us for the plans, we’ll work on it. And then if you have questions, we can substantiate why something’s done. Or if someone needs a change, we can kind of domino effect the change through the whole house.

Interviewer: Right. You know, if you break it up, when I hear you talk, you break it up into things like architectural design is the sexy part of building, energy calculations, like you were just saying, that’s not really sexy.

Steve Tuma: People don’t think of it.

Interviewer: Yeah, but it’s very important. I think grading and drainage plans are the same thing. They may not be the most exciting, glamorous part of building your house, but it’s just as important as anything else.

Steve Tuma: Well, you’re right, because, you know, you go to a cocktail party or get together for the holidays, who’s sitting there talking about their drainage pipe?

Steve Tuma: That’s right. Like no one. They’re all talking about the cabinets or the cool fireplace or the family room or the pool table they’re getting and how they were able to do it. But it’s those things that avoid the hassles. Proper insulation, your energy bills are less and the house is more comfortable.

Interviewer: Right.

Steve Tuma: And making sure that your house doesn’t flood is probably important, which is why it’s good to understand the drainage, you know, make sure that water drains away from your house. So people don’t always think of it. They’re always like, well, you know, we’ll just figure it out on site. I’m like, do you really want to do that? You know, because if, you know, let’s just say your neighbor did that and they raised their house and suddenly the water went into your house. That’s not the way to do it.

Interviewer: Yeah.

Steve Tuma: You know, people have to be responsible for what’s going on. So I agree. People don’t think about it. You brought up a great point because everyone’s excited to say, I want my kitchen this way. I want my garage this way. I want the family room to have this. I need a view of the tree or the sunset or the sunrise. But it’s like, how do we do that? And make sure that you can enjoy the home and get the design. So that’s the reason for the uniform design. This is an extreme situation, but we did a house on the West Coast. It was 10 or 15 years ago, but the people had a very expensive lot in a very exclusive neighborhood and they wanted to take advantage of every inch of the view. And there was a situation there where they wanted to have a window about six inches wider. Well, just going that six inches wider changed the structural design and the energy calculations. Right. Now, someone would say it’s a huge window. What’s six inches got to do? You took so much of a structural member out and that bigger window allows more cooler heat transfer into the home. So we’re able to work with them to architecturally, structurally and energy and green code wise, make sure everything’s tied together so that they get what it is, or at least understand what the situation is to see if they still want to move forward with it.

Interviewer: Right. Well, it seems like you guys at Landmark Home and Land Company have to walk kind of a tightrope because you have to make sure people are realistic about what they need to make the, basically just to make the house pass inspection to start with. But at the same time, you have to be aware of the personal vision of your customers and clients, what they want their homes to look like. And that’s important.

Steve Tuma: Right. And it’s kind of interesting because different people have different concepts of what’s important to them. Some people are just energy efficiency. Other people are, give me the garage, I need my man cave. Other people are, hey, when our family gets together, there’s 23 people on the holidays. So I want to have a great room area where we could set tables up and everyone can mix. But then again, people can split up. Other people, it’s the view. Other people, it’s the inside, not as much the outside. Other people, it’s the outside, less the inside. We’re working on a project now that people want a glass entry door that you can see through the house, out the glass wall in the back. So as you approach the front of the house, you see through it and see the beautiful view in the back of the house. It’s their thing. It’s pretty cool. So we’re working with them. Other people, they just want to have a house there that’s set. And then the backyard, a fire pit, barbecue area, whatever it is, to go work with it. Other people, it’s a view of the lake. One customer, we helped Bill in Michigan. He wanted to know that he could be in the master suite and watch the sun rise and the sun set. That’s nice. From his master. So we worked on stuff. And someone says, well, just stick a window facing east and a stick a window facing west.

Well, there’s a lot more to it. There’s roof lines below it. There’s overhangs. There’s just the seasonality of the sun. There’s just the position changes. So there’s a lot of things that we had to work with. So that’s the thing, is to be able to take the vision of the priorities of what they want. Now, we’ll wrap other things in there, make sure structurally it’s right. Make sure the energy codes work. Make sure things flow. Make sure the codes work in general, you know, hallways are the right width, enough space around toilets, enough space around cabinets. You know, doors are the right size, different details like that. So it’s not just the vision, it’s understanding what they’re getting to. Because sometimes people will say, hey, I want a wide hallway. Well, we might ask, what’s the purpose of the wide hallway? And they might say, well, I have a big dog. I want to walk down the hallway with my 200 pound St. Bernard or whatever it is. They want to be able to do it. Or their kids are constantly running back and forth. Or they envision a wheelchair or something in the future, and they want to be able to get stuff taken care of. So sometimes it’s asking what they want, but then also asking why or what’s the purpose of something. Because sometimes people just don’t know, or they need to develop the idea, or we need to draw it up.

They look at it and say, hey, that’s what I asked you to draw up, but can we change it again and make the adjustments? So there’s some time spent up front making sure the house is right. Because we have found that even though if someone says, hey, this is the house I want, that’s from their preliminary review. As you get into it, hey, think about the kitchen, hey, think about the garage, hey, think about the bathrooms. And as they start getting deeper into the thoughts of different portions of the home, invariably something will change. Some houses have a tub and a shower, and some people are like, I haven’t used a tub in 10 years. Let’s just make a big shower, or let’s put a double vanity in there, or have a separate toilet room, or put a closet off the bathroom so we can work a lot of those details.

Interviewer: Yeah. I know you’ve probably never thought of it this way, but whenever I hear you talk on these podcasts, it seems to me like you act as sort of a conductor. You’re like leading this orchestra of architects and engineers and other department heads to make sure that the plans match what they’re doing and what the customer is looking for. That is quite the feat, I guess, sometimes to get through.

Mike Tuma: Yeah. And a lot of people don’t understand that because they’ll say, well, doesn’t an architect do that? It’s like, not always. Doesn’t an engineer do it? Not always. And I finally boiled it down as to why. We actually design homes that get built. We’re not here just selling plans saying, you paid me, now it’s your problem. Right. It’s your problem. You can come back and add another bill. We make it part of our process and our predetermined set cost up front so customers know the cost of the house to make sure that it’s put together because we have to deliver a panelized package that goes together well, anywhere in the country or in the world, goes together well, per plan, passes inspections, and people can continue on with the process. It’s a lot different when you say, hey, here’s a plan, go get someone else to figure it out. We’re the ones figuring it out and making it easy, which is kind of the one-stop shop idea where it makes it easier for people to say, hey, I got to get from point A to point Z. We’re there bridging all those gaps instead of handing different people being involved that don’t communicate, don’t get things taken care of. So that’s a situation where I think it’s important, excuse me. That’s a situation where our end product, the panelized home, has to be well thought. All the details have to be put together so we can assemble a home package that someone assembles on site with minimal to no issues. So it’s just assemble the home, then they go to the next processes. Where if those details aren’t tied together, you’re going to spend a lot of time on site going what if, what about this, where’s this, how’s this supposed to go, I thought. And that’s what Landmark’s process avoids is the situation where there’s loose ends.

We work in our process to make sure everything’s put together. And it’s kind of an interesting situation. I say in like medical situations, the doctor always doesn’t talk to the pharmacist or the physical therapist. They’re each different people doing their job, but no one’s really there tying it together. You have to have a master chef or conductor, as you’re saying, and that’s the role actually that I play is getting the idea of what people want and then knowing that the end result will be done right. And the coolest thing is when they call back in five years and say, hey, we’re retired, we want to build a new home, or hey, my kid got married, can you help him build a house? So it’s really the orchestration of the product.

One of my customers, Mike in Phoenix, he actually said, Steve, you’re like the engine driving the project. Yeah, there you go. And that’s the point. You don’t go to a grocery store and someone tell you, hey, here’s a recipe, here’s how you put it together, here how it is. You need a chef. Yeah. Or to have the knowledge yourself, but in that case, we’re the conductor kind of tying it all together.

Interviewer: Yeah. That’s a great word for it. Yeah, I think that’s the way I’ve always thought about it. A chef is more doing all the work themselves, mixing everything in a bowl, and a conductor is more like what you guys at Landmark. You’re working with the musicians who are the architect and the contractors and the customer and leading everybody into a great home build. So what would you say, I mean, is that what you’d say one of your biggest strengths is at Landmark Home and Land Company is to match up plans to make sure that the design is consistent among all the plan details, the architectural and structural design, the site plans, energy codes, all the way down to just putting in foundations, and it seems like you’ve got to be on top of everything.

Steve Tuma: And matching it to the panelized home that we deliver. So we have to draw plans, engineer plans, energy code plans, and manufacture a panelized home package that goes together exactly to the customer’s specs and the approved thing. So that’s the key thing. And what’s interesting about that, that’s kind of the crux of it, the big golden goose type thing, but people don’t always realize it up front. They think, hey, I’ve searched panelized homes or architectural design, but they don’t really realize what they really need is someone to put the whole project together to help them go. And we do this for professional builders, people that have side businesses, developers, and different things like that. That’s the value. Make sure everything comes together. That’s the onestop shop because, Steve, you’ve probably had this situation. You go buy something somewhere, say a big company, and you call up and you say, hey, I have a problem here. And the person’s like, well, that’s not me. You got to go to that person. And then you get to re-explain yourself to that person. And then they say, you know what? No, this is really that other person. And then you get bounced around, and after a while, you’re just aggravated. We’re with us. It’s us. It’s me. You call up. We get the plans taken care of. If there are any questions or concerns or changes or situations that come up, it’s like the buck stops here. I can work with the customer to get through whatever situation they have. That support is the key to it. And that is why Landmark has been around for over 30 years, helping people because you don’t get a bunch of voicemails or push two, push three, all these different things. You have someone that’s actually deeply involved with the day-to-day design and construction of your panelized home package, answering your question.

That’s what we do. And that’s what’s cool about it, and I’d say that’s a big advantage that people don’t think about when they’re first thinking of building a home. They don’t even know to think about it, but I think after they talk to us, that’s the reason they work with us, to make sure that things are taken care of. I kind of like that. You’re making it sound like some huge sophistication of some conductor. It’s a lot of brainpower. It’s a lot of quality people behind me. A lot of knowledgeable people and a full team to make sure that it’s done right. Customer support is extremely important.

Interviewer: There’s nothing wrong. There’s nothing worse than getting on a phone and being bounced around. And not just from department to department, there’s like country to country. All of a sudden you’re speaking with somebody who’s in a completely different country and you have to explain again, over and over again, to each department that you’re passed off to. It seems to me like Landmark has kind of solved that issue when it comes to home building.

Steve Tuma: Yeah, that’s basically it. It’s customer service. I’m a consumer. I want to know if I purchased something that there’s a company that truly stands behind it. It’s happening less and less. They all say they do, but the actual standing behind it, answer a phone, take care of issues, answer questions, that’s what we’re about. Let me give you an example. This was about a month and a half ago. There was a family building a home and they found out that there was something that happened with their foundation. She happened to call me 10:30 on a Friday night. By chance I answered the phone. She asked me what I’m answering for. I said, well, you called. That’s what we’re here for. So we were able to work through the weekend, get a few details put together for her so that they could continue on Monday when the process was going. We made a few adjustments to our panelized package and shipped it out. Now that’s turning on a dime. It was extreme situations, but we are set up here to get it taken care of. And that’s, you know, it’s beyond the call of duty.

Interviewer: Isn’t that funny how we’ve grown accustomed to being surprised when somebody actually answers the phone and it’s a real human.

Steve Tuma: Oh, I’ve told a couple of customers, they’re like, well, you sound customer service oriented. How do I know you are? I’m like, you know what, randomly this weekend, give me a call. Yeah. But don’t be surprised if I answer and say, hey, what do you need? How can we help you through it? Now what’s amazing about it is, you know, people generally call during the regular business day or hours or they’re like, hey, Steve, will you be around? We need to catch up. But that’s the nice thing about it is that we are here to help because people don’t just build during their business day, during their work week. It might be with a family member, husband, wife, kids, whoever they’re helping build the house for. And there might be a question that comes up, hey, we just found something out. It happened last week. The family was out there on a project trying to figure out the best location for a house on a sloped piece of land in Colorado. And they wanted to be like, hey, the family’s out here. We want it to face this way to take advantage of the view. But what happens if we do here? What goes on with the foundation? What goes on with the energy codes? And since I’ve done so much of this, I was able to give them an answer. So that five minute phone call was able to help the family make better determinations so that then they could get us to plan changes and we could get a design that they were happy with that works with the land, the energy calculations and structural design. So it’s communication. It’s time to have real conversations with real information, with knowledgeable people. Every once in a while, someone will stump me, but I’ve got the people behind me where we can get all answers. But that’s the situation. It’s a real situation with real support and real customer service. It’s not, hey, email this person and they might get back with you in five days. You give me a call and email, we’re on it right now.

It’s fun. It’s really cool. It’s kind of satisfying to help a family put a house together and then at the end when they take a picture with them in front of it and their dog and the grandkids or their new kids saying, this is it, Steve. I mean, there’s no better feeling. I actually got it. Cheryl, if you’re out there, she sent me a text saying, your mom must really be proud of you for all the people you’re helping and how you changed their lives. It’s just amazing. You sit back and it just feels great. It’s like, bingo, this is why we do it.

Interviewer: And again, that goes back to, it’s not just customer service. It’s- Pride. Yeah, customer pride. Enjoyment. And it’s pride of the company. Passion. Well, that’s about it for today’s episode. And before we let you go, Steve, like we usually do, let our listeners know how to find out more about Landmark Home & Land Company.

Steve Tuma: The best thing to do is check our website out, LHLC.com. One of the initials of Landmark Home & Land Company, LHLC.com. There’s plans on there. There’s videos. There’s podcasts. There’s different discussions of what we include, different ways we can help. You can send an inquiry on plans there. You can email us direct, or you can give a call to 800-830-9788. Again, that’s 800-830-9788. Mike will answer the phone or get back with you very quickly on reviewing your project. We can get into details, specifics on your project to help you, and let you understand how we’re on your team to help you get the house that you want. We just want to work with good people, build cool houses, and have a little fun along the way. And there you go.

Interviewer: Thanks again, Steve. And thanks to all of you for putting up with our stuffy noses and our occasional coughs. Hopefully this cold season will be gone pretty soon, but in the meantime, thanks for listening to the panelized prefab kit home building show. So for Steve Tuma and myself, have a great day, and we will see you next time.

Steve Tuma: Thank you. This was fun. Thanks.

About Landmark Design Team