Transcript of Episode 24
David Supple: All right, so this is The Design Build Show. Welcome. This is Matt Knittle from MK wood Works, and we’re in Enfield, New Hampshire, right on the border of Vermont, kind of mid state, and we’re going to get into it.
David Supple: Matt is a design builder and wanted to … The purpose of the show is to increase people’s awareness of Design-Build and educate folks on it because I feel it’s lacking. Folks don’t really know their options and how the game works. And you have a background from the trades as a carpenter for building?
Matt Knittle: I have a mixed background, and luckily I have some background in some other business, some sales background combined with decades of hand work, skill work. My trade profession would be woodwork.
David Supple: Cool.
Matt Knittle: Not heirloom quality furniture, but everywhere from general construction to very high end joinery would be my trade’s profession.
David Supple: Neat. But you also, in terms of the building methodology that you are interested in executing and do, is very high energy efficient, sustainable. Can you talk about that a little bit?
Matt Knittle: I look at building as not only energy efficient, but labor efficience, and in closing the shell of your home or your structure, your living space efficiently in a timely manner so that we can focus on what we really are good at, which is the interior wood work.
Matt Knittle: But when you work in that, with those materials that allow you to build efficiently, energy efficiency just comes with those materials. When you’re building with structural insulated panels or insulated concrete forms, high-end windows, closed cell spray foam. The faster and more efficiently you enclose your structure usually means you’re using more energy efficient materials.
Matt Knittle: We get energy efficiency based on the materials we use. So we’re not out there to get energy efficiency, it’s just coming with our projects because of what we use. It’s a way we look at it.
David Supple: But that’s not the norm for this area.
Matt Knittle: No.
David Supple: I’m interested in how you came up as a builder, but came away with still this idea of a new way to build than the majority of our [inaudible 00:02:46].
Matt Knittle: We run lean as a business, and so we rely on the best materials in the marketplace, and so versus the best labor in the marketplace. I’ve developed a way to bill that decreases labor and increases efficiencies. And that’s relying on, I’m going to continually say efficient materials out there, but that’s really what we’re relying on. Really good engineer designs, really good
architectural designs, efficient designs that allow us to work with the efficient materials that are on the market, on market.
Matt Knittle: Up here in the North Country, when you’re talking about outside north of the Boston area, let’s say, there are still a lot of traditional trust structures, stick frame. And there’s their place for that. Stick framing is not … It’s still got a great place. I’ve kind of used a background, a little bit of that I had in timber framing, combined it with some efficient use of stick framing, and then using the materials that are out there, for example, the structural insulated panels is just an efficient way to build.
David Supple: It seems to me like you set things up to capitalize on you. You’ve enabled yourself to do more, in terms of you as the design builder are looking at how can I maximize my efficiency and do more. And that kind of led you to this system that you have in place.
Matt Knittle: Absolutely. Like the place we’re sitting in right now, I wanted to build this on my own and in a pretty quick time frame. I quickly found out that using, again, efficient use of materials and options out there is just a smarter way to build. I know firsthand that some contractors won’t even offer this type of a build because they’ve got too big of a crew.
David Supple: They have the way they do it. And even if there’s a better way, they’re kind of already entrenched in this.
Matt Knittle: And most subcontractors sub out the interior work. We sub out the exterior work. We enclose the structure as fast as we can so that we’re not subbing out any of the interior work, which is really much different than most general contractors. A lot of them are overseeing the general contracting and they’re subbing out the trade professionals, which is mechanicals and finish carpentry, and a different person for each component of your bill.
Matt Knittle: Where we’re focused on bringing in the site crew to do the site work, bringing in the crane to do the panel work. And really, again, getting that shell of your home and your living space or your office enclosed quickly so we can take over and do what we’re really good at, which is a woodworking.
David Supple: Awesome. And when I talked to you about design build, you immediately brought up the design build team. That’s kind of how you structure, you look at it [crosstalk 00:06:01]. Instantly, you started to talk about the design build team. It’s important, and it’s significant because people need to understand that there are different professions. There’s the architect engineer, multiple of different trades, but they’re not necessarily coordinated. In this traditional design bid build methodology, they’re separated, almost set up to be adversarial. Whereas, your approach is not that. Can you talk about that?
Matt Knittle: Our approach is start on paper and get really good designs, that in this day and age you can email, text, PDFs around. And most likely you’re emailing those to your relationships you already have, whether it’s a lumber provider to get the right structural lumber, whether it’s a timber framer to get a quote on a timber frame structure, or it’s your panel person to get the panels, your roofing supplier.
Matt Knittle: So what we do is we really oversee all of it. We have our partners we reach out to with these electric files. So it starts with the architect, and he’s a very important part of the team. And then everybody is a valued part of the team, but the team’s not … It’s not huge.
Matt Knittle: You’ve got your dirt workers, your site workers, you’ve got your panel guys. In our instance, we rely on those a lot. You get your lumber suppliers. And we get the place wrapped really quickly. And then the team of electricians and plumbers are really important in any home. And then we take over all the finish work. The team thing is really good.
Matt Knittle: And when I think about design build, for me, it’s working with one team the entire process. And you’ve got one firm leading the charge, one person overseeing the entire design and the build of the project.
David Supple: When you’re designing a project and you want to consult on the foundation of form work or plumbing or electrical, do you go directly to your subcontractor?
Matt Knittle: Absolutely.
David Supple: So there’s that continuous continuation there.
Matt Knittle: Yeah. We’re involved from the ground up. We’re there helping compact the sand in your foundation. We’re running rough septic lines helping out. We’re really making sure that our hands are involved at every step of the project so we know we ended up with.
Matt Knittle: But we have a team of guys that really look out for the entire project as well, because everybody is a little bit hands on. The dirt guy’s not just ending and handing it off to concrete. He’s in communication with the concrete guy, the process. They’re in communication with the well person, as are we. The end goal is efficiencies. And if everybody’s working really efficiently, everybody’s working to the same goal, it’s amazing the money you can save.
David Supple: Folks aren’t just thinking in a silo with their independent trade, but are aware of more.
Matt Knittle: Yeah, and we’re really flexible on timing. We’re all about our trades and our subs working on a time that meets their needs. And if they work at a time that meets their needs, they’re going to do that same thing with the next gentleman and the next work woman, the next professional. And that allows them all to get on the same page and work quickly.
David Supple: What do you mean by that? Like what within your schedule? But then timing is very important.
Matt Knittle: Timing is very important, but we allow our projects to start and end on the timeframe of the most important subs. We really believe that it starts with-
David Supple: So you might delay a start date-
Matt Knittle: Absolutely.
David Supple: Make sure the right team’s in place. And I would advise any person building, it’s such a real project, that timing … The time of the build is crucial. But the time of when it starts, it’s all about when it finishes. It’s not about when it starts.
Matt Knittle: [crosstalk 00:10:35] preaches that.
David Supple: It’s about when it finishes. And so, if you can condense the timeline, because you’re working in with your trades guys, to their schedules and really plan ahead, then you’re able to really deliver a good, efficient built.
Matt Knittle: Awesome. And you do custom homes, obviously. This is a beautiful, incredible home.
David Supple: Yeah, we do. We’re really focused on woodworking, but we really like the challenge of a general contracting project. If you want a really beautiful interior home of custom woodwork, that’s really where our strengths are.
Matt Knittle: But it’s neat you have that perspective. If you’re doing a trim work or built-in work for a builder or design builder, you can think with the big picture, what’s important.
David Supple: Yeah. We’re steps ahead on the project. We know that the trim package that’s going in the house before the house breaks ground. We’re really focused on being ahead of the project, not behind the project.
David Supple: And the nice thing about design build too, is everything matters in a project. That one piece of insulation that doesn’t get put in because it’s not a real team atmosphere, that’s going to equal a less efficient home. And that’s when you get certain people focused on certain jobs. “That’s not my job. My job is just to put the flooring down.”
David Supple: I’ve seen this play out so many times on job sites. And the homeowner’s the one that loses out in those situations. That’s the only person losing out in those situations. So I’m a big supporter of the right team, seeing a project from start to finish.
Matt Knittle: Awesome. And on your own, when you’re just doing a trim package or cabinetry built-ins, do you typically do the install and why?
David Supple: Yeah, we do. We like to be in control of our finished product. We really like to do that. And so, we do like to see through our wood work, our millwork. But at the same time, we also know that there’s really skilled installers out there that are part of the full team. We don’t push it. Most people take us up in our installation of the kitchen.
David Supple: And when you’re talking custom woodwork, having the person that built it install it, allows for really quick changes. A cabinet’s wrong dimensions, we can build a new one in a day. We’ll do that really, really fast when we’re the ones sawing it, because we want to install it really well, really, really, really efficiently. We want to install another kitchen.
Matt Knittle: Cool. Well, Matt’s expanding his … He just broke ground in his new facility and we’re going to go check it out.
David Supple: Yeah, let’s go check it out.
Matt Knittle: All right. Thank you very much for being on the show.
David Supple: Absolutely. Thank you.