You don’t often see exposed concrete inside a house. When you do, it is in the basement, or on secondary structures like sit walls. Then again, a Koru house is not your typical house. The concrete wall in Red Butte is the mother of all concrete walls. Three stories high, 52 feet long and curved on a 180-foot radius, with cantilevered steel stair treads and lighting conduit, it is the house’s structural and aesthetic core. The wall is in two sections: one that divides the kitchen from the breakfast nook, and one that divides the living room from the entry room.
With such a complicated and important feature, there is no room for error. We had to be absolutely sure of the components and process before the form went into place or the concrete got poured. So, we created a mockup: a test structure five feet by five feet, curved to the same proportions as the interior specification, board formed for the same wood grain look, fitted with three steel stair treads identical to the ones that would be used inside the house. Architect, homeowner and structural engineer all got the chance to look at the mock up and either confirm that it looked and functioned the way it needed to, or propose that something be changed. Most importantly, our crew got the chance to practice the complicated procedure.
This level of thoroughness is central to everything we do at Koru. We understand that every once in a while you need to take a step back before you move forward. By taking a moment to get everyone on the same page, we ensure that the construction process runs as smoothly as possible, with fewer surprises down the line. It makes all of our jobs easier and all of our experiences that much more enjoyable.
After work last week, five Koru employees spent a few hours climbing at a local crag in Redstone, a few miles west of Carbondale. They piled into one of Koru’s signature trucks, carrying all the essentials: ropes, draws, climbing shoes, chalk. Scott, Tom, Ariella, Sheila and Kirk all climb for fun on weekends; but this was the first time Koru has had enough climbers on staff to warrant an official Koru climbing day. Needless to say, Scott and Tom—Koru’s lone climbers for many years—were psyched.
I have always believed that a happy workplace is a productive workplace, and that the strongest teams are those made up of coworkers who spend time together outside of the office. It’s about more than just a few organized company trips each year. Adam, Andy and Chewy were fishing guides together; Scott and Tom are climbing partners; Scott and Jim coach the Carbondale youth Lacrosse team. We trust and respect one another, because we have formed personal connections on the river, at the crag, on the playing field and in the mountains. We know how to work together, how to collaborate, how to communicate openly and honestly, all of which translates into a more efficient and enjoyable building experience.
To experience Koru, it is essential that you understand koru.
Literally, koru is the name given by native New Zealanders, Maori, to a new fern frond. The unfurling frond creates a golden section, a harmonious spiral that is prevalent throughout nature and has been recognized by many (including the great masters of the Renaissance, Fibonacci and the early scholars of Indian mathematics) as a pure mathematical sequence and an ideal design ratio. Symbolically the koru is prevalent throughout Maori culture. It appears in traditional and contemporary art, tattoo and carvings; and symbolizes growth, strength, harmony and new beginnings.
At Koru, we feel it is the combination of these attributes; growth, strength, harmony and new beginnings, that make us who we are.
Both at the beginning and end of the building process, we want our clients to feel a similar sensation – awakening to a new beginning. The end product is not just a building, but the structure within which new life experiences unfold.
Every day, in almost all of our purchases we are faced with the decision of price versus cost. While an item may initially be priced higher, the cost of that item over its lifetime may well be less than that with the lower initial cost.
There are so many purchasing decisions through the course of building or remodeling a home, that it can become overwhelming. At every turn we are presented with the price versus cost challenge. Managing a project’s budget successfully must always incorporate this question. It is never enough to budget or purchase simply on the upfront cost of an item. Each purchasing decision should be evaluated on the life expectancy of the product, its lifetime performance, maintenance cost and its ability to meet the spectrum of the project goals.
Today this question is further complicated by our broader definition of cost. Where previously, it was enough for us to ask whether the items we were comparing were of similar quality and could be expected to perform similarly over their lifetime, now we must investigate their origins, the environmental cost, community cost, cost on our health (day to day and over a lifetime), and this list could go on ad infinitum. Given this, how can we ever make a decision that we can comfortable with? How can we ever feel like we have addressed this question completely? In many ways, asking the question is enough. The question forces us to stop and contemplate the price versus the cost, and in doing so our final decision is vetted and will ultimately be more likely to meet our goals.
Early in my construction career a mentor of mine took me to an area of floor framing that we had just completed and asked me to sign my name on one of the joists that we had installed. “That way,” he explained, “in the future if any one were to open up this ceiling they would know who was responsible for the work”. Not that they would need to know who had installed each joist on the project, but his point has stuck with me.
Much of the work that is completed in a construction project is hidden underground or behind drywall at the completion of the home. This does not mean that every aspect of it is not critical to the final performance of the home or the quality of the installation of the finishes. In fact it is quite the opposite. It is the elements that are hidden from view that ensure a home’s performance and enable the highest quality install of the visible finishes. But more than that it is contained in how we view our work and how we view ourselves. It is the work we do when nobody is looking, how we behave when we are not being “watched” that is a true reference to who we are. At work, in our communities, in sports, it is a great philosophy to live by.