An efficiently built house
While Sarcon Construction is best known as a commercial contractor, the Santa Fe company also builds homes. And for one current residential project, the owner hired Sarcon specifically because of the firm’s stringent commercial protocols.
He began the house project with a local custom homebuilder, then switched to Sarcon, also working with architect Hunter Tidmore Redman and design consultant and owner’s representative Mark Little. During a recent tour of the northside property, Little pointed out distinctive design features including steel framing with sharp-cornered walls, deep crown moldings on the interior, black-steel windows with fancy but rugged handles, intriguingly offset roof trusses, and splendid stonework fashioned by J. Harris Marble & Granite.
The homeowner ultimately chose to work with the commercial builder for more of a priority on deadlines and efficiency. Recent projects by Sarcon (which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year) include Levan Hall at St. John’s College, Warehouse 21, and the New Mexico History Museum. The company’s president, Peter Brill, noted that the average high-end custom home in Santa Fe rivals the scale of average-size commercial projects in the city. “They require all these resources, with vendors and subs and suppliers, and the coordination is intense.
“Also, as I understand it, most custom-home builders work on a cost-plus basis, so the schedule and budget are not priorities. We’re on a lump-sum basis and wework on a very tight schedule. You sort of reverse-engineer these projects and you have to be on top of them in a very urgent way. Something I think is also true is that we manage our subcontractors and I think in custom residential here, it’s often the other way around.”
One bottom line is that this client (who requested anonymity) is coming froma domain, a business world, in which efficiency and accountability are paramount. “That’s right,” Brill responded. “I think a lot of people want accountability and somehow this market has convinced everyone that you don’t get that accountability, so people don’t expect it.”
Asked about the challenges in this project, he said the client “made a lot of changes, and this design has a complicated layout with lots of floor heights, so we were dealing with elaborate geometry in multi dimensions.”
Brill lauded the work of his superintendent, Joseph Martinez. “He’s from Córdova and he’s very quiet and relentlessy smart about how to put things together. He figured it all out and how to really create what the client wanted. Then we have Katrien Deylgat, our project manager, who figured out all the schedules and money. With those two, one froma small village in Northern New Mexico and the other from Belgium, we’re able to achieve tremendous results.
The owner agrees. “I think Peter has done a great job implementing something I dreamed up,” he said.
The basic concept for the house came fromthe owner. “It’s similar to a house he previously owned on the East Coast,” said Hunter Redman with Architectural Alliance Inc. “He and I sat down to adapt that idea to fit the site. This was a process we’ve never done before, because commercial projects have everything documented and there’s a lot more backup, and the construction type is typically different. We don’t usually use a metal frame in a home.”
Asked about the owner’s issues with what he described as a too-casual approach by his original builder, she said, “Well, I think part of the residential draw of Santa Fe is the very organic nature of the homes here, the softness of the adobe. When a homeowner is involved in building a project, it’s a little bit easier if the project goes slower because it gives him time to pick out the finishes and to be a part of the process. Most people don’t have the luxury of being onsite every day to make sure everything is done in a timely manner. So I think the goal from the beginning was different, because he didn’t want an organic Santa Fe pueblo house; he wanted something very crisp and clean and that just requires different methods and materials, and the deadline he imposed required a different mindset.”
Her client ended up working with a two-tier strategy, first focusing on the building shell and then in a second phase all the detailing and finishes— just as commercial spec projects are carried out with the later work focusing on improvements specific to the tenant. “Exactly, and that’s howwe all approached it,” Redman said. “It’s been a learning experience for everyone, but I think it’s been really successful.”
Below, the site plan, courtesy Hunter Tidmore Redman of Architectural Alliance Inc.