Add horsepower to your existing plans — Lean Tuesday with Todd Hallett

August 9, 2011

Growing up near Detroit, I know that old plans are like old cars —sooner or later they start costing you more money than they are worth. It is tempting to hold onto a previous best seller and keep it in the system for no other reason than that you have the bugs worked out. The contracts are set, the variances are low, and the trades know what to do.

The problem arises when the sales start to get soft for the old workhorse; as its sales velocity drops so does the price. The plan is no longer profitable or, if it is, the margins are too skinny for the effort. Should you junk it and develop a new plan that is more competitive? Maybe. But maybe it just longs for a little TLC and elbow grease to get it purring again. Perhaps all the home needs is to be updated and leaned out to once again become competitive and profitable. Let’s look at a case study.


The partial plan above was a nice plan that had a few problem areas:

  1. Too many jogs in the plan — Jogs are OK only if they provide impact with massing/planning and it is clear that the customer would be willing to pay for them. In this case, the jogs were primarily under a covered entry and they provided no benefit to the planning or the elevation.
  2. Secondary bathroom — When a family is blessed with multiple children, the hall bath becomes very important. A bath that provides storage space, privacy, and use for more than person is critical.
  3. Entry from the garage — Customers prefer to walk into a family entry or mud room space over walking into a laundry room filled with clothes after a long day — or even a short one.


Here is how we approached the problem:

  1. Rotating the study allowed us to eliminate jogs and reposition the secondary bath. This change also increased the drama and strength of the home’s first impression: the foyer.
  2. The space gained in the bath by eliminating the previous awkward angle allowed us to create a “buddy bath,” providing ample storage space and a separation of the commode and shower from the vanity. This works well for a few reasons. The added storage space allows for easier clean up. The arrangement also creates privacy and the ability for the vanities to be used while the shower/commode area is in use. This setup is perfect for a family with multiple children.
  3. Finally the square footage saved by rotating the study allowed us to create a mud room with a drop zone consisting of a bench and cubbies for storage, cell phone chargers, keys, and the like. This change also eliminated another unnecessary costly jog in the plan.


We estimated that the savings in direct construction costs relating to the changes, including reducing the front porch, is upwards of $1,400. On top of that, the plan now becomes updated and extremely marketable. Bottom line: We now have a lower-priced home that is far more desirable to the customer.

So maybe it’s time to look under the hood of some of your existing plans and see what you have. Will careful and thoughtful planning restore your classic to its original sales glory? Or are you just nursing along a clunker that will never see cash again? 



Todd Hallett, AIA, president of TK Design & Associates has been designing award-winning homes for more than 20 years. He spent 15 of those years working for a $50 million production building company. Todd designed all of its homes but also worked in every other aspect of the company including purchasing, development, land acquisition, product development, and operations, and was president of the company for three years. Equipped with his vast building experience and fueled by his love for architecture he left to form an architecture firm that is second to none in working cohesively with builders. Todd specializes in Lean Design and works, alongside Scott Sedam of TrueNorth Development, in the trenches with builders, suppliers, and trade contractors. Todd welcomes your feedback at or 248.446.1960.


Related Categories