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  • Can I break the project down into more cost-manageable phases over time?
    That depends on the size of the project and the size and nature of the phases. Some phasing may be pretty easy, like a detached ADU or garage. On the other hand, adding a second story is a very complicated addition to do and may not be cost effective to split up. One thing to remember is that splitting things up will always be more expensive. Additionally, smaller projects cost more per square foot; this is why we prefer that a PHNX Home be a minimum of 1,800 SF. Smaller projects become more and more difficult to hit our cost per square foot target. No matter how small the project, concrete trucks still need to come out. A portable toilet, site fencing, trash, and other site conditions still need to be implemented. There is a minimum cost to every trade just to be on site, whether it’s a small ADU or a large luxury home. Finally, know that any phasing will have to be permitted separately. Everything in your permitted plans needs to be completed before the inspector will final the building permit and issue the occupancy permit. The inspector will not issue you an occupancy permit if you decide not to build the detached ADU that is in your approved plans. You will have to go back to the permitting jurisdiction and get plan review to sign off on the “construction change” before the inspector will sign off on final. Once that ADU is removed from the permit, its plan approval is void. Later on when you want to build it you’ll have to go through the whole process again. In the State of California, we have regular updates to the building code every three years. There are usually a couple of things in the new code that do impact building design, some more than others. In the example above, since it’s already been approved by the jurisdiction if you manage to build the ADU before the next code update the jurisdiction will likely give you a break in plan review. Probably not in fees, but the review process would go more quickly. It will always be preferable and less expensive to do all the work in one shot if you can. If you are interested in phasing the project, be sure to discuss that with your PHNX Designer right away, and they will work with you to determine the overall feasibility of a phased plan.
  • I didn't lose my home in a wildfire; can I still have a PHNX Home?
    Yes; however, our streamlined approach was created with traumatized fire survivors in mind and the need for rapid design and construction turnaround. If you did not lose your home but like what PHNX Home has to offer, contact us; we also provide services that are more tailored to people looking to build a custom home.
  • If I decide to move forward after getting my PHNX Concept Design Package, when do we sign the actual construction contract?
    You will have 21 days after receiving the PHNX 10% Concept Budget & Schematic Design Package to make your decision whether or not to continue your project. When you decide to move forward, there will be about 2-3 months of additional time to prepare the construction documents, and about 3 months of plan review for permitting. There will be periodic budget check-ins before submitting the plans for permit approval, and once we feel confident that plan review won’t require any changes that substantially affect the budget, PHNX will finalize the budget and provide you with a construction contract fixing that amount.
  • How much does it cost to start, and how long will it take? When does construction start?
    An approximate $6,000 fee is all it takes to get started, with no commitment. PHNX will work with you to create a unique, site-built custom home. That process takes about a month, and upon completion you will have a full Schematic Design set of your concept (plans, elevations, sections and 3-D modeling), Tentative Design and Construction Schedules, and the PHNX 10% Concept Budget. Only if you decide to move forward will you then commit to the full design contract (Typically about $35,000, including the initial $6,000 deposit - but design fees are included in your PHNX 10% Concept Budget) It takes about two months to produce a set of construction documents, and about three months to process through a jurisdiction’s plan review/approval system (although this varies greatly, depending on jurisdiction. PHNX has very little control over this phase of the process, but we do our best to plan for a reasonable length of time and stick to it). Construction of a PHNX Home takes about eight months - much less time than a traditional home, in wood, steel or even ICF. PHNX has analyzed the entire design/build process, finding many opportunities to streamline materials and methods, resulting in a more efficient process from start to finish.
  • Who handles permitting and will that cost be broken out in the overall estimate?
    PHNX handles all permitting, and our fee for that service is included in your budget estimate. A permitting fee estimate is also included; however, some jurisdictions are more opaque than others in their fee calculations. PHNX will do the best we can to get as close as we can. If we don’t feel confident that we’ve hit it within 10%, we’ll let you know.
  • I’m a big do-it-yourself fan. Is there anything in a PHNX Home that I can do myself, like set tile or do the painting?
    No; PHNX achieves its unprecedented predictability and cost-effective delivery by having total control over the entire process. Letting someone else outside the PHNX team perform any of the services or work leaves us vulnerable to time/quality/cost issues that can jeopardize our promised schedule and budget. Please see the PHNX Tech Bulletin post “Five Things to Know if You Want to DIY Your New Home” for more information and this subject.
  • Does PHNX do additions or remodels?
    No; PHNX Development’s primary mission is to help survivors of wildfires rebuild their homes back, better than they were before.
  • I had a full set of plans for my home drawn up; is it possible to turn it into a PHNX Home?
    Unfortunately no; as explained in the above questions and answers, the PHNX process requires tight control over the design of the home in order to achieve our unprecedented predictability, streamlined schedule and reduced cost. The structural method used is a big factor in how the home is designed, so a home designed to be built with wood construction may have aspects that can’t be implemented in a PHNX Home and vice versa. However, we will be happy to walk through those plans with you find out what things you like or don’t like about the design, and use that input to help us design your new PHNX Home. Having already gone through the design process once, know that the experience will absolutely benefit both you and the PHNX design team. The effort will not have gone to waste.
  • My cousin is an electrician; can I sub him in?
    No; similar to the answer above. In addition, PHNX has carefully pre-selected our trade sub-contractors that fulfill multiple criteria. They are trained in the installation and implementation of the various components that we use, many of which are relatively new technologies and are not familiar to most traditional sub-contractors.
  • What kinds of decisions will I have to make before we start designing? What do you need from me?
    The very first thing to do is to use the PHNX Cost Estimator to give you an idea of what is feasible for your budget; you won’t waste time in the design process with a wish list that isn’t feasible for you. The next step is to start looking out for things you like (and don’t like!) online and in real life. Snap, clip, post, save… Keep everything organized, and be sure to make notes on why you liked or didn’t like a particular image. Share these with your PHNX Designer ahead of your kick-off design meeting. Spend time paying attention to how you live. If you are a wildfire survivor, walk yourself through a typical day in your previous home. What’s the thing you loved the most about your previous home? What would you have loved most to change? What one thing would disappoint you the most if your new home didn’t have it? The PHNX Design Questionnaire is a great tool to get you on the right track. We will need a survey of your property to be completed in order to start design. Whether you go with PHNX or someone else, if you are going to build a new home you will need a survey so it’s not a bad idea to have one done right away. They usually take about three to four weeks to be completed by a licensed land surveyor. If you aren’t sure how to find a land surveyor, your PHNX Designer can help you find one. If your property isn’t very complex, we might be able to begin concept design while waiting for the survey to be completed. Collect any documents you have about your property, your neighborhood, your HOA… it’s important that your PHNX Designer has everything they need right from the beginning in order to avoid costly delays. Most importantly, what we want to know from you is the “What” and the “Why”. Let us figure out the “How” - it’s what we do. If you find yourself saying things like “I want the stairs to the right” or “the master suite needs to be between the bedroom and the kitchen”, you're getting into the "how". Your PHNX Designer needs to know WHY you want the stairs to the right, or WHY your master needs to be between those two rooms. When we design buildings, there are many more things to take into consideration than how the plan lays out. Budget, code, structural feasibility, massing, roof shapes, etc etc etc…. Your PHNX Designer needs to have the flexibility necessary to find the right solution that satisfies your needs, as well as all of those other concerns; being armed with a solid understanding of your priorities enables us to not only give you what you want, but also ensure that we can actually build it!
  • How do construction loans work?
    Construction loans are different from mortgages because there is no home to be used for collateral; this is why they are more difficult to get than a mortgage. It is a short term, higher rate funding vehicle. Typically banks want a large down payment, usually in the range of 20%-30%, or even more. There are even circumstances when they want to see assets equivalent to the amount of the loan. In certain cases, some banks will accept the land as collateral. When a project is being financed with a construction loan, the lender becomes part of the design/build team. They want to see the plans, budget and schedule, and they have to review and approve the contractor. A loan will cover the cost of design services and permitting, but the money won’t be accessible until the funding is in place at the start of construction - so you will have to fund those services yourself and get reimbursed once the loan is funded. You will not receive a lump sum. Instead, the loan is disbursed through a service called Fund Control. The owner and contractor jointly file for a “draw”; documentation is required, and the appropriate funds are paid out, usually in a few days, over the course of construction. Sometimes the lender will send an inspector to the site to evaluate progress to ensure that what is being funded is being completed. Upon receiving the occupancy permit, your loan is then rolled over into a mortgage and paid back over time. If at completion there are unused loan funds, those will not be paid out but instead used to reduce the principal of the mortgage.
  • How do I get started? What do I need to have in place to build my new home?
    If you’re asking this question, you are in the Feasibility Phase. If you don’t have property yet, you need to find one that is feasible for your project and your budget. If you do have property, or have lost your home in a wildfire, your first step is to roughly determine what you can build for what you can afford. We invite you to use our Cost Estimator tool to give you a general idea of the size, scope and cost of what you want. It’s easy to use and play with; you can try out as many different variations as you want. You can also enter your email address to send yourself a copy of the result. If you would like help selecting a property, PHNX Architectural Services is available to help you determine the feasibility of any property you’re considering for your project. This is highly recommended, as there can be costly hidden issues that could render your project unfeasible, especially on undeveloped properties. If you have lost your home in a wildfire, feasibility issues are a little different. PHNX can help you work with your insurance company to determine a path forward that will minimize additional investment on your part. Every policy is different; we’ll help you create the right design for your budget.
  • How do you keep costs down? I’ve seen many articles about the skyrocketing cost of lumber and other building materials.
    The PHNX process achieves its cost efficiency by employing two principles: Component Based Design and Coordinated Design/Build. The manufacture of proprietary, engineered structural building components is an emerging industry. We are now seeing second and third generation companies producing remarkable products that, in tandem with advances in Building Information Management (BIM) technology, are able to deliver custom designed structural systems in unprecedented time. PHNX works with several of these Component Based Design manufacturers to design and build the PHNX Home (see our PHNX Specification Manual for more information). We send them our detailed schematic plans during the initial concept design phase, and they are able to design a system and cost it out - sometimes to the penny - in less than a week. Since these elements are manufactured and not site built, the costs are more stable and predictable. There are regular price increases, but these are scheduled and the PHNX team will try to schedule a purchase prior to an increase if possible. If not, we know it will happen and can write it into the budget. Component Based Design systems are also much quicker to install in the field. Not only does this enable us to reduce construction site waste and slash construction time, but it also reduces our dependence on site labor - another volatile industry market factor that makes budgeting so unpredictable. The other PHNX principle is Coordinated Design/Build. Not everything in a building can be made in a factory; on site labor is unavoidable, and all trades are still necessary. The two arms of PHNX Development, Architectural Services and Constructions Services, work equally hand in hand to design the home with materials and methods that make sense for the contractor. From product specification, to location and layout, to even the length of walls and overhangs, PHNX Designers have a set of “rules” to design by. Mostly imperceptible in the overall design of the home, these guidelines enable us to streamline the design and production process, further reducing time and cost. Because Coordinated Design/Build happens in conjunction with our pre-selected team of reliable PHNX sub-contractors, cost estimates are more predictable and accurate. Our subs know exactly what to expect on any PHNX Home. They spend less time preparing quotes and visiting the site. Your PHNX Designer is equipped with predetermined cost data, enabling them to see the cost of your new home almost in real time.
  • How do I know how much it’s going to cost? What if there are overages?
    With a typical design/build, or design/bid/build process, you will not know how much your new home will cost until you have approved plans and start receiving quotes. Even if they can provide an accurate preliminary conceptual budget, the labor and materials market is so volatile that by the time you’re ready to build, that budget will probably be obsolete. With PHNX, we provide you with budget estimate before you spend tens of thousands of dollars. For an approximate $6,000 non-refundable fee, PHNX will work with you to create a unique, custom design. Deliverables include a full Schematic Design Package (plans, elevations, sections, 3-D modeling), Tentative Design & Construction Schedules and a "slab-up" budget estimate accurate according to economic conditions at the time the estimate is prepared. The PHNX budget estimates hard costs (actual construction) and soft costs (fees - design, permitting, and outside consultants). Site costs "below the slab" are tough to know up front and require more time to fully assess. However, PHNX will still include these items and do our best to address them as realistically as possible. There are no overages in the PHNX Process. California law requires all construction contracts to include a contingency to cover unforeseen circumstances. We include a 5% contingency in our estimates and contracts. PHNX minimizes reliance on the volatile labor and materials market and controls the entire delivery process to such a degree that most bumps will be absorbed by the contingency. Any funds remaining in the contingency after completion can be used at your discretion. Although there are no guarantees - there never are in construction - our streamlined method enables us to be reasonably confident that, outside of economic conditions beyond our control, the budget estimate will be close to your eventual cost. And more importantly, PHNX is the only design/builder in the industry able to offer this degree of predictability and certainty.
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