NMHC: Roundtable Addresses Apartment Development Issues

By Keat Foong, Executive EditorBoca Raton, Fla.–Developers at a roundtable at the National Multi Housing Council (NMHC) annual meeting here suggested a diverse range of approaches to overcoming common development and redevelopment challenges. Value engineering, community relations, consumer needs and green building were some of the topics covered at the session entitled “Roundtable: Construction Challenges with Development and Redevelopment.”John Doherty, practice leader of the development consultant FMI Corp., moderated a panel that consisted of Paul Hutchinson, president of Lane Construction LLC; Gregory Lamb, executive vice president and regional managing partner at JPI; Guy Poux, director of construction at The Laramar Group; and Tom Shuler, executive vice president and COO of Berkshire Property Advisors LLC. Poux explained that The Laramar Group’s approach to value engineering is to begin by determining the company’s identity, the nature of its product and standards of production.   First of all, Poux said a company has to its identity its focus before it can proceed with value engineering. Once that is accomplished, the company can then attempt to standardize the product and obtain volume leverage. JPI’s Lamb said that this company’s approach to value engineering is not so much on value engineering itself as on execution. He said the company focuses on providing general contractors with as perfect a set of documents as possible that will enable them to finish the project on budget and on time.  With regard to green building, Hutchinson said that it is still an open question whether it is possible to obtain returns from green building. Lamb, however, said it appears to be inevitable that environmentally sustainable development requirements will be eventually written into laws, so the company might as well begin building green now. Speakers said it is important to establish relationships with the local community and government. In more complex areas such as Washington, D.C., an inordinate amount of time is spent working with municipalities, said Poux. He emphasized the need for the developer to be clear about what is required by the municipality.  Hutchinson advised developers who are developing in urban areas to always expect the unexpected. He said developers should also work to know their neighbors so that they can work better together if the neighbors are negatively affected by the development. As far as serving consumer needs, Shuler said that could be as simple as asking residents what features they like or do not like. As an example, he mentioned the installation of kitchen backsplashes behind stovetops in developments that target the Hispanic demographic because the residents surveyed said they preferred them.