Working With Alward Construction? [PART 1 of 13]

By | Case Studies, Frank Lloyd Wright

A story of a Frank Lloyd Wright Residence in the 21st Century BACKGROUND An architect recently confessed to struggling with how to promote Alward Construction over smaller contractors with less overhead.  They referred clients to contractors who had worked successfully for other clients.  While these contractors did not have our reputation, their work and service were both quite acceptable.  They had smaller companies with less overhead and were assumed to be less expensive. This is the first challenge for marketing.  What distinguishes us from our competition? I want to address this in an ongoing series of short articles all focused on Frank Lloyd Wright’s Buehler House, which Alward Construction rebuilt and restored for the original owners, Maynard and Katie Buehler.  It was designed by Wright for our clients and originally built in 1949.  It sustained a serious fire in 1994 and we rebuilt it with the guidance of the original Clerk of the Works, Walter Olds, who Wright assigned to the project in 1948.  This was a rich experience on many counts and there were numerous ways in which my company showed itself to provide special value to our client.  I’m hoping some of the following not only tell about…

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Working With Alward Construction? [PART 2 of 13]

By | Case Studies, Frank Lloyd Wright

A story of a Frank Lloyd Wright Residence in the 21st Century THE PRICE Maynard understood my reluctance to give him a price for replacing the lost house.  After all, it wouldn’t be a very meaningful number since the house as it existed wasn’t going to be rebuilt.  But a bid for a new house seemed a reasonable request.  Walter and Maynard both wanted to know if I would give a price for the new house once the plans were far enough along.  I really preferred working on a Time and Materials basis without a fixed price and thought this project really called for that approach.  I would have to wait to propose this. The day of my second visit to the house was the day the issue of a fixed price first came up.  It was also the day Walter brought out two new sets of drawings.  One was a drawing with lots of details on how the new house would have a rain water leader system to handle roof water.  In the original house, Wright had drop outlets (gutter pipes) that penetrated the wide overhanging eves.  Water from the roof drained through the drop outlets and splashed onto…

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Working With Alward Construction? [PART 3 of 13]

By | Case Studies, Frank Lloyd Wright

A story of a Frank Lloyd Wright Residence in the 21st Century THE AGREEMENT Plans continued to be developed for the new house, but I was left out of the loop.  I suppose a settlement with the insurance company had been accepted, but I was not in the know one way or the other.  Many months after I was first introduced to the Buehlers, Walter called and wanted to know if I was willing to give a bid for the new plans he was finishing.  Work by the soils engineer, Joe Provinsano, the structural engineer, Jerold Turner, and the architect of record, William Simpson were now complete.  Van-Catlin Construction and Canyon Construction were giving bids.  They would be happy to have one from Alward Construction or if I wished to withdraw, there were plenty of other contractors willing to give bids.  I wasn’t sure what part Walter had in the final plans.  The drawings were all in the style of Simpson’s office.  I could only imaging that as the project unfolded, there would be a stream of Walter’s drawings detailing all of the matters only hinted at in the bid set.  How could this be bid?  The real drawings for…

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Working With Alward Construction? [PART 4 of 13]

By | Case Studies, Frank Lloyd Wright

A story of a Frank Lloyd Wright Residence in the 21st Century THE TENT Demolition began around Thanksgiving 1995.  The fire happened in, 1994.  We were at last underway. The Buehlers were anxious to have their house back.  Demolition went well and though there was some rain, we were working on a concrete slab and were able to erect some temporary tent off the remaining structures of the house.  However, when the slab was gone and we were down to bare dirt, the rain started to have a significant effect on progress. During the planning we had discussed creating a tent over the building area so that we could proceed unimpeded through the winter.  We looked into renting a tent.  The $15K or so was more than Maynard wanted to spend.  Possibilities of building or buying one on our own had been kicked around but not in such a way as to lead to any action. The rain seemed never to lift and the mud got deeper and more impossible.  Plans called for deep piers and extensive excavations.  The equipment operators were unable to proceed.  Maynard was becoming increasingly impatient with my constant refrain to his query about progress.  “Maynard,…

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Working With Alward Construction? [PART 5 of 13]

By | Case Studies, Frank Lloyd Wright

A story of a Frank Lloyd Wright Residence in the 21st Century LIFTING THE WALL The Buehler House is essentially composed of two wings at right angles with a two-car carport at their intersection.  The shop wing and the carport form what might be thought of as the front of the house and are constructed of grey concrete block (Concrete Masonry Units) with the horizontal courses between blocks “raked” to form horizontal groves.  The vertical joints are “buttered” to cancel the vertical joints.  The effect is to accentuate the strong horizontal lines of Wright’s architecture. The second wing is the residential wing, which at 90 degrees from the shop, recedes from the front of the house.  The entry to the residence, typically of Usonians, is secluded at the end of a long narrow entry that follows the residential wing from the carport to what might be considered the rear of the house.  The entrance pathway is covered by a wide overhang from the house that also extends the roof of the carport.  The walls of the residential wing are redwood as is the ceiling of the wide overhanging roof and the ceiling of the carport.  Wright’s perforated boards have a…

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Working With Alward Construction? [PART 6 of 13]

By | Case Studies, Frank Lloyd Wright

A story of a Frank Lloyd Wright Residence in the 21st Century THE KOI The Buehlers, as a young couple, could not afford the house Wright designed for them.  When Wright was told this, he simply made the house one module narrower and this was enough to make the house affordable.  Now the house was being rebuilt and the Buehlers could afford to have it larger.  Simpson pushed the residential wing one module to the west.  When we were laying out the east foundation, Maynard decided to move the house ½ module towards the east.  In sum, the house was 6 feet wider than the house that was destroyed. As a result, the residential wing was now 4 feet closer to the former swimming pool, now the koi pond.  At an area near the dining and kitchen back door, this felt uncomfortable to Walter.  He addressed this with three new drawings.  Each showed the patio cantilevered over the koi pond.  I was with him when he presented the drawings to Maynard and Katie.  I had already seen them and knew that Walter preferred the plan with the skylights in the concrete cantilever.  It was however, the most expensive alternative.  He…

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Working With Alward Construction? [PART 7 of 13]

By | Case Studies, Frank Lloyd Wright

A story of a Frank Lloyd Wright Residence in the 21st Century THE CHEROKEE SLAB Most construction problems involve a human factor.  Our company motto is that construction is a social activity more than a mechanical one.  I think where Alward Construction brings exceptional value to its clients is often related to the social aspect of our work.  We’ve seen this in the preceding episodes and in this one as well. It was spring and work had been underway for 4 or 5 months.  Things were going well.  All the structural concrete had been poured, including the concrete slab of the patio and cantilevered patio over the koi pond.  The structural slab included all the electrical and plumbing stub outs as well as the bolts that would hold the new walls and steel frame to the slab.  The tubular steel frame system that would help the house meet modern seismic and strength requirements was in place as was the new block walls of the entry and between the kitchen and dining room. We were now preparing for the 3 inch concrete topping slab that would be the finished floor of the inside and exterior patio/walkways.  This was really our first…

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Working With Alward Construction? [PART 8 of 13]

By | Case Studies, Frank Lloyd Wright

A story of a Frank Lloyd Wright Residence in the 21st Century THE TROWEL Preparations for the 3-inch Cherokee red topping slab were extensive.  The radiant heating tubes were in place and needed to be protected from the concrete pouring which could damage the plastic pipes.  The location of all the score lines for the 4 x 4 module needed to be laid out on all the wall surfaces abutting the floor slab.  Where no walls existed, batter boards needed to be set up so that the concrete finishes had clear points from which they could snap their lines on the wet concrete.  Plastic had to be draped over all the finished surfaces, such as new and existing concrete block walls so that they were not discolored by the Cherokee color being broadcast on top of the wet concrete.  The powder colorant that would be troweled into the concrete had to be strategically stockpiled around the site so that there was enough mix at each location.  It also had to be placed so that it would not hinder dragging the heavy concrete hose that was going to deliver the wet mix.  There would need to be a means to move…

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Working With Alward Construction? [PART 9 of 13]

By | Case Studies, Frank Lloyd Wright

A story of a Frank Lloyd Wright Residence in the 21st Century LAYING UP THE BOARDS Up to this point all the work had been of a rough sort, with the exception of the concrete block and toping slab.  First there was all the demolition and clearing.  Then there was the digging, forming and placing of concrete reinforcement bar followed by the placing and finishing of concrete.  There was the installation of structural steel and the rough framing of the walls and roof.  All of this along with the supervision of the subcontractors and the building of our tent had required a good deal of care in planning and layout.  Now the crew was anxious to get to the pretty stuff, the placement of all the beautiful redwood that was sitting in the living room waiting to go up on the new walls and ceilings. As the day approached, the crew took on a manifest change in appearance.  One day I came to the job site and everyone was wearing brand new white carpenter bib overalls.  Nothing was said about the expense or decision, but clearly the crew saw itself on a special mission.  From now on, the crew would…

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Working With Alward Construction? [PART 10 of 13]

By | Case Studies, Frank Lloyd Wright

A story of a Frank Lloyd Wright Residence in the 21st Century THE CABINETS A great deal of the interior of the original house was cabinetwork.  Surprisingly, a good deal of the cabinet doors survived with minimal charring and/or smoke damage.  Maynard intended to reuse as much of this material as possible.  We built a storage shed on the grass of the grounds near the house.  Jorge and I built a simple structure of plywood walls and floor and a gable roof with plastic covering.  Into the shed went all the cabinet doors that could be salvaged.  They were all made of redwood plywood.  In some cases, the charring was so deep that they could not be used except by cutting them down.  Maynard wanted everything saved that could possibly be reused. As Walter proceeded with a design of the new interior, now having exact dimensions of the rooms as the interior siding went up, Maynard instructed him to design the new cabinets to accommodate the old doors.  A catalogue was made listing their size, the location of holes for cabinet pulls and what kind of effort was needed to restore them. It was a daunting task to design cabinets…

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