The Art of Residential Construction

Bob Borson —  May 23, 2011 — 13 Comments

One of the neatest tricks about modern residential design is that everything looks so obvious, clean and organized … and it takes a lot of work and coordination to make things look easy.

I recently had a coordination meeting on site with the contractor, site superintendent, and the foreman for the HVAC company. Our task was to make sure that all the air conditioning registers were laid out where we wanted them and they looked like they were where they were supposed to be in relationship with all the other things going on in the ceiling

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Complicated Ceiling Drawing

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The ceiling plan above – what a cacophony of lines. This is a composite drawing that I put together so that all the information from different designers and consultants would show up in one place. The resulting drawing indicates the location of  the following items:

  • Structural Steel Beams
  • Recessed Down Lights
  • AV equipment (speakers)
  • Linear Slot Diffusers
  • Rectangular Supply and Return Air Registers
  • Duct work pathways (approximated) and sizes
  • Location of HVAC equipment on the roof and it’s penetration spots

To provide some perspective, that drawing has about 1,650 square feet of space shown – the entire house has over 16,000 square feet. Consider locating over 800 light fixtures and 40+ speakers, making linear slot diffusers and rectangular supply and return air registers – all while missing structural beams and air conditioning duck work. Whew! It is enough to make your head explode and this is why you always provide construction observation!

Finding out that your light fixture spacing doesn’t work because there is a beam conflict is expensive if you make that discovery while actually hanging lights.  One way that we coordinate all the installation items in a cost effective manner is by marking the locations of everything on the floor with spray paint. This isn’t rocket science but it is good construction technique.

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Art of Residential Construction

Straight Yellow Line – This is the symbol for a linear slot diffuser. See that leaf print in the concrete? It just worked out that way As a bonus, I had the contractor place a leaf in the concrete anticipating the creation of this post and ultimately this photograph. It’s just another example of how organized my brain is and how forward thinking I am. I do it all for you because I’m a giver.

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Art of Residential Construction

White Circle and Gray Blob – in this instance, the white circle represents a speaker in the ceiling. The gray blob is the spray paint equivalent of an eraser.

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Art of Residential Construction

Green Circle – in this photo, the green circle’s represent recessed down lights.

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Art of Residential Construction

Straight Yellow Line with a Swoop – maybe you could guess?….. a slot diffuser and the swoop is the direction that we want the supply line to take.

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Art of Residential Construction

Orange Lines and Swoops – the orange lines represent where we are bringing sheet rock up to the underside of the decking. We do this to control noise movement from room to room and to reduce the areas above the ceiling to conform with fire zone requirements per building codes.

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Art of Residential Construction

Green Circle – recessed down light

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Art of Residential Construction

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Art of Residential Construction

Yellow Rectangle – ceiling mounted air register

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Art of Residential Construction

Green Dot – recessed wall fixture … in this case a step light in a stairwell.

The entire house is covered in spray paint hieroglyphics as if some urban graffiti artist snuck in and tagged our project … but once you know the language and the intent, there is a story being played out on the floor. Most of our projects are not any where near this large or complicated so this is not a typical level of coordination. The intent and process on all of our projects is very similar – but a little more relative to their size and complexity levels. This is also an indication of pride, craft and coordination from the contractor, after all … it is their language. I am just an interpreter.

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  • thatguymuchai.wordpress.com

    what is the main work of a quantity surveyor and what more do you know about them

  • http://funandfit.org AlexandraFunFit

    Oh, I have some alternative captions in my brain for some of those pictures.

    Straight line w/yellow swoop – Bob is really happy to see Michelle
    Orange lines and swoops – Happy happy smiley smiley
    Green circle – put your finger in here. Pull
    Orange arrows pointing opposite directions – Bob’s mind travels in opposite directions at the same time

    Please have a contest w/these marks, but don’t tell us what they mean. Have us make up captions. The best one wins a valuable prize – your old wall sconces.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      No way on the sconces!! Well, maybe on the sconces but not on the pendants of lost souls. The only problem is I don’t have light fixtures to replace the old ones yet so this contest will have to wait.

  • Robert Ross

    So I take it you aren’t staining the concrete floor! :-)

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      decidedly not – although, prior to spray painting everything all up, the floors looked really nice and I found myself thinking … except the price point on this house is a little beyond finished concrete floors.

  • http://designkula.com Corey Klassen

    Love the geek-factor. BTW: Don’t give me a can of spray paint. Or better yet, DO give me a can of spray paint.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      multiple colors of spray paint at that! 

  • http://twitter.com/mondo_tiki_man Jonathan Brown

    So is this something the contractor does and you verify?  Is there a post-graffiti walkthrough?

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      It’s on-going. In fact, many of the spray paint images I used in this post were done during our walk through with the contractor and the HVAC foreman – at least some of the “erases” and revisions.

      • http://twitter.com/mondo_tiki_man Jonathan Brown

        It’s a great idea. 

  • babydoc99

     Wow!  I stand in awe….       

    Being thrifty (read: cheap) I used a “designer” instead of an architect when I built my last house.  Imaging how smart I felt about that when I discovered one of the teleposts in the basement was, while three feet away from the entrance from upstairs, intruding about six inches into the space on the right  and, according to the builder, not movable due to the very open design of the home.  In the five years I lived there, I kicked myself every day for that.   

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      I feel your pain –  coordination on modern style projects is critical to the success. It really does take a lot of work and skill to make something look so simple.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      I feel your pain –  coordination on modern style projects is critical to the success. It really does take a lot of work and skill to make something look so simple.