Homebuilding is entering a new era of meticulous planning, sophisticated processes, smart home technology, and precision construction that help savvy builders achieve the holy grail — delivering high tech homes on time and on budget, with no surprises.
Loudermilk Homes is an example of this new era, with a pre-construction process that begins months before the first shovel of dirt is turned.
The Atlanta-based company’s advanced planning includes refining the home’s entire floor plan to look for efficiencies and cost savings that don’t impact the quality and elegance of the home, such as opportunities to stack walls, shorten HVAC runs and using engineered components such as I-joists and trusses.
Founder & CEO Sherwin Loudermilk calls this process “progressive value engineering” and it continues throughout the entire process as framers, electricians, plumbers and other workers are encouraged to proactively look for ways to make the home more efficient.
Sometimes it’s as simple as keeping a meticulously clean job site. If lumber is neatly stacked according to size and within easy reach, it eliminates waste. “The sheer amount of waste that we eliminate by keeping a clean job site is astounding. It’s usually several thousand dollars per home,” Loudermilk says.
The cost savings add up, and Loudermilk embraces the idea of complete transparency to show homebuyers the exact cost of their custom home project in real time through their app, Loudermilk Connect.
The app features a live video feed of the site, daily work logs and photos that show what was done that day, and a complete digital archive of the Design Guideline Book that Loudermilk’s professional designers created to capture all the selections for things like tile, cabinets, light fixtures, paint colors and other finishes. Their sister company, Loudermilk Designs, also helps homebuyers create the perfect interior design.
There is also a detailed project schedule and running budget that are updated in real time. If two days of rain prevent the framers from working, that’s reflected immediately. If the homebuyer decides to upgrade to a different kind of marble in the bathroom, that’s instantly reflected after they sign the change order, which is also done digitally via the app.
The app brings complete transparency to the building process, which means showing homeowners everything. If an electrical inspection fails, which isn’t uncommon during construction, that’s recorded in the daily work log along with a plan and timeline for fixing the problems and scheduling a new inspection.
“We’re giving homeowners a peek under the hood of the car, and that means you’re going to see a little grease,” Loudermilk said. “When you’re building a custom home from scratch onsite, there is a lot of complexity. Our disciplined process brings structure to what would otherwise be chaos.”
Loudermilk’s embrace of technology extends to the homes they build, too. The company installs top-of-the-line smart home technology as a standard offering in every home. A central server connected to touch-screen controls runs all major systems like lighting, HVAC, audio, security and sprinklers, which can be programmed to pause for 5 minutes when someone rings the doorbell so visitors or delivery workers don’t get wet.
The smart home technology can be voice activated with Amazon Alexa or Google Home, and each member of the family can program simple commands that change settings to their exact preferences. For example, when a teenager comes home and speaks her command phrase, the system can brighten the lights, raise the temperature in her room, turn on the television or her favorite music in her room, and automatically lock the door behind her.
Loudermilk also learns each family’s unique lifestyles and preferences to customize features and placement of lights and charging ports. A busy executive may want extra USB chargers in the master bathroom. A family with children who play sports may want extra closet space to organize and store equipment. Couples who don’t like to wear their shoes in the house may want a custom-designed shoe closet at the entrance between the garage and the home.
“When you take the time to really understand how each family lives and what they need, you can create a custom smart home that supports their lifestyle in every way,” says Loudermilk. “The technology is everywhere, but you want it to almost disappear and fade into the background so it just seems like things happen naturally and easily.”
To keep everything running smoothly, Loudermilk Homes created a 9-step “Process to Perfection” that tracks progress on each home. These advanced planning techniques and use of technology help Loudermilk Homes build houses more efficiently and a little faster than other builders. Before the homeowners move in, there is a final 500-point inspection of the home to make sure that no detail is overlooked — electrical outlet covers must be exactly straight, and there can’t be any scratches on the hardwood floors or scuff marks on the countertops.
“Our commitment is to deliver a custom home that is perfect in every way,” Loudermilk said.