Love story turns to a Lean bromance

August 7, 2012

After last weeks blog  about the great match up of Lean and custom homes I received the following inspiring "boots on the ground" letter from reader and fellow Leanista Roger Bess:


Thanks for the timely post. By coincidence, I had a client with an expensive custom home plan, who was extremely frustrated with his architect, contact me a couple of hours after I read your post. (I do drafting and design work on the side of my day job)(I know, architects probably hate the guys like me) Initially, the frustration was over the amount of time it was taking, and the client wanted to know if I could simply finish drafting the nearly completed plan more quickly than the design firm could. After looking at the plan, with your blog post about custom homes in mind, I couldn’t help but tactfully (very tactfully) suggest that the plan was very inefficiently designed and overly complex for the sake of complexity. Instead of offering to finish drafting the plan, I offered to start from scratch, overhauling the plan entirely with the lean concepts I have learned through our lean blitz with Scott, and from your various blog posts.

Since the client would have to pay for the rights to the plan already produced, the client initially couldn’t swallow the idea of paying for two house plans, and thought I was just trying to pad my pockets. Why would anyone want to pay for two house plans to have one house built, right? But in ten minutes, I found enough savings to cover my fees. A curved concave metal roof they had not asked for, 3 large rear patios supported entirely with foundation walls instead of slab on grade, A round foundation wall at one of those patios, etc, etc, etc. All things the client was not even aware of and didn’t care about at all. Simply ideas of the architect they had put their trust in.

Over the next two days, I succeeded in reducing the number of roof planes from about 60 to about 35 and reducing the number of foundation jogs by about 25%. The floor plan has not noticeably been affected. I have easily given them a 10 times return on their design investment with me. Needless to say, they are thrilled, and the best part is they love the design of the home more than the original because it is a cleaner, simpler, and a more elegant approach to their design goals. As a designer, that is the most satisfaction I have ever gotten from working with a client; Improving their love for the design of the home while saving them tens of thousands of dollars.

I couldn’t help but share this experience as this all occurred within days of your blog post about the marriage of Lean Design and Custom Homes. This could not have been a better example of that. I can’t imagine designing a custom home without having lean design concepts in my tool bag.

Thanks for continuing to share your thoughts and ideas about lean design.

Roger Bess
McArthur Homes

Roger, thanks so much for sending this letter.  Personally I love guys like you that are working hard to provide the customer with the best possible value while still creating dramatic beautiful homes.

If you have any Lean Design stories of your own  you would like to share, don't be shy, send them to me at


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.


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