|Consumers who decide to stay in their existing house usually tackle a kitchen or bath remodel. The Community Addition incorporates an updated kitchen and eating area and a luxurious, over-sized bathroom.
Model reMODEL 2000, as with its two predecessors, is not about pretty pictures and construction techniques. Those are important, of course, but the bigger target for the Model reMODEL has always been to demonstrate best practices. In New Jersey, Model reMODEL proved that new rehabilitation codes saved money and helped spur on the incorporation of those provisions into the International Residential Code. In Philadelphia, the project showcased emerging technologies through the Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing (PATH) and project management techniques that enabled remodelers to learn how to run projects more profitably.
This year in Detroit, The Community Addition, a 616-square-foot addition, brings together best practices in remodeling, student involvement, a membership drive, and PATH technologies. Since DetroitÆs housing market reflects whatÆs happening nationally, Model reMODEL can address those issues with local solutions. Construction remains strong, and labor remains tight in Detroit, as with the nation. "We have had five strong years in a row," says Dave Kellett Sr., president of Building Industry Association of Southeastern Michigan. "The building industry is expecting to remain robust into next year, even though we are still dealing with labor shortages in many trades."
This doesnÆt bode well for remodelers in metropolitan Detroit, one of the top residential remodeling markets in the country, where many homeowners select older homes with the intention of renovating them. And itÆs not just Detroit; remodelers across the country struggle to find the talent to alleviate the swelling volume of work.
The Community Addition is the answer to Detroit-area housing needs. As the Model reMODEL 2000, itÆs also an answer to remodelersÆ labor needs. Designed as an addition off the back of a Colonial, The Community Addition meets the needs of an upper-middle class suburban family in the Detroit metropolitan area. With two childrenùone each in middle school and high schoolùthis family has looked to move in the 15 years theyÆve lived here. But the neighborhood offers more than they could find elsewhere, so theyÆve decided to update their kitchen and add a luxurious, over-sized bathroom.
Fairway Construction, one of the top remodeling companies in the country, and the only one to win Silver and Gold National Remodeling Quality Awards in consecutive years, designed and built this upper-end addition. Led by president Adam Helfman, CR, Fairway is a 75-year-old firm based in Southfield, Mich.
Model reMODEL 2000 has partnered with the Detroit Job Corps, too, in order to show how the industry can work together to bring new labor into the marketplace. Job Corps students helped build Model reMODEL, and will attend seminars on-site given by Fairway staff, and participate in the RemodelersÆ Show.
The completed project will be displayed at the 2000 RemodelersÆ Show in the Professional Remodeler booth (#1101). Local and national Remodelors Council membership drives will be held at the booth, product sponsors will present installation seminars, and Job Corps speakers will invite remodelers to become more involved in the training of incoming workers. After the showÆs completion, The Community Addition will be transported to the Detroit Job CorpsÆ new facility, where it will be used as a training module. Students will practice various renovations on the module, such as window and flooring replacement.
Fairway built The Community Addition at the new Job Corps facility. Helfman and his team brought Job Corps students into the project, showing them how to construct and introducing them to the opportunities in remodeling. A complete schedule and history of the construction process is online at www.housingzone.com. The project incorporates an expanded kitchen with eating area and a luxury/oversized bath with jetted tub and a fireplace. Kitchens and baths rank one and two as the projects new home buyers would have done had they stayed in their existing homes, according to research done by Professional Builder magazine.
Fairway thrives on its 70-percent rate of repeat and referral business. Helfman says the Fairway brand is strengthened in the marketplace through its association with quality products. "We co-source our advertising with our clientele," Helfman says. "Homeowners see it as a brand. Clients call with the expectation of a brand."
With its strong brand, Fairway avoids the "three-bids syndrome." It also uses a sales brochure to differentiate itself from other companies, titled "Can the Contractor YouÆre Considering Pass This Simple Test?" The brochure includes the test for the client to use, and the brochure answers the seven test questions from FairwayÆs perspective (see www.housingzone.com and access "Business Tools" for FairwayÆs answers). The questions Fairway suggests are:
"We donÆt call it fear selling," Helfman says. "We give enough information to the homeowner that [they can make a sound decision]."
Fairway defines customer expectations upfront, manages them during the project, and follows up to ensure that customer satisfaction was truly achieved. Beginning with the first customer contact and continuing through a series of post-production surveys and analysis, Fairway makes sure its clients know what to expectùand that expectations are met.
"Once the contract is written, we send the homeowner a package: the homeownerÆs remodeling survival kit," Helfman says. "It includes a book weÆve written on the doÆs and donÆts of remodeling." Fairway considers customer communication key to the success of the project. At the preconstruction meeting, all team members meet with the homeowner to review the project and process again. Fairway treats each meeting with the customer as an opportunity to build the brand, to reinforce the fact that itÆs a professional company with professional execution.
Helfman made FairwayÆs professional standards and attitudes toward quality a key concept to pass along to the Job Corps students, too. This interaction promises to provide lasting benefit to the organizationÆs involvement in Model reMODEL, says Keith Albright, vice president, placement service for the Home Builders Institute. Albright works with students in Job CorpsÆ building trades programs. "Students interact[ed] with the remodelers as they buil[t] it," he says.
Jim Hangii, facilities maintenance instructor at the Detroit Job Corps, worked along side. Hangii owned his own remodeling business for four years and spent 20 years in the Navy Seabees. He joined Job Corps as an instructor because he wanted to give back to the community.
"[Model reMODEL] will go a long way in showing [students] what it takes to remodel, how to build it and the step-by-step process," Hangii says. "We have mockups, but thatÆs something that students know will be torn apart. When they see this, and participate, they get the feeling and experience of a real job. It will also teach life skills. This is key for remodelers," he says, because working requires excellent people skills.
The Job Corps partnership is in no way a one-way street. Job Corps hopes to send a message to the industry, too. Albright says the Model reMODEL projectÆs presence at the RemodelersÆ Show will provide a platform for sharing this message. "At the Show, we hope to let remodelers be aware there are people in training," he says. "[Yet] there are not enough new workers coming in to replace those who are leaving." Remodelers must become involved in order to bring more students into the trades.
"It starts in our school system with teachers and guidance counselors not being aware of the career ladder available, therefore not providing the information to students to make their career choices," Albright says. "There is some ignorance on their part, but with the world of technology, the thinking is all the dollars are to be made in electronics or computers. [They believe] the less intelligent go to work in the trades. ThatÆs totally untrue; you need highly skilled, intelligent people in the trades."
Hangii says at a local level, the best thing a remodeler can do is contact the training center or school. "Let them know [youÆre] available for these students when they graduate. One of our biggest problems is getting students placed. We need to be in touch with the local community." Albright says remodelers can show students how they can advance within the industry. "Offer the career ladder," he says. "Get involved with the local school system at the junior high level; make presentations in the class rooms or at least with the guidance counselor."
Remodelers can also target instructors and help shape curriculum offerings. "Introduce the instructors to the needs of the industry so they know how to train," Albright says. Hangii says in Detroit, they can emphasize specific areas if they know a remodeler needs somebody specific. "We can train a student to a level specific to a remodelerÆs needs," he says. He hastens to add that itÆs not a specialized curriculum, but "if a remodeler says æI need somebody who knows lighting,Æ we can [help] to prepare them for that position. We can get a student ready for a job."
The communication and partnership Hangii hopes for will bring students into the remodeling industry. The Community Addition moves the industry a step closer to realizing the benefits of such partnerships.