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Technology brings customized homes to next level

Daily Journal of Commerce

April 27th 2015

The design of each residence in the revamped Rose Villa retirement community will be unique.

That's because the future residents of the 75 units that are under construction in a $60 million redevelopment of Rose Villa's 22-acre campus in Southeast Portland are customizing their new homes with the help of a computer program.

"They know every corner in their floor plan," said Sadie Bach, a transitions coordinator with Rose Villa who meets with owners of the pre-sold units to record their design preferences using software called Blue Fingerprint. "That's the beauty of the program, they make it their own because it's their home."

Blue Fingerprint, developed by the Des Moines, Iowa-based construction software company Canvis, allows Rose Villa staffers to catalog and report to the project's general contractor, R & H Construction, custom selections for nearly every feature of the planned apartments and cottages. This includes the types of flooring, countertops, cabinets, blinds, paint colors, fixtures and light switches as well as where each item will be installed in the unit. The program can then report back the estimated cost for each modification.

"I'm able to put in notes what type of toilet (residents) want and where they want it," Bach said.

Other customizations could include removing a closet to enlarge a room or requesting additional features like a fireplace.

"It really is a remarkable amount of options," said Morgan Fredrickson, a project engineer with Portland-based R & H Construction. "A project like this, in the past, you could choose your paint. Rose Villa took it to a whole new level."

The Rose Villa project is the first time R & H Construction crews have worked with Blue Fingerprint. The technology has been great to keep track of the individual preferences of future residents, but it's also added another level of complexity to the construction process, Fredrickson said. One of the challenges has been ensuring subcontractors are aware of differences in each unit that affect various aspects of the construction, such as the electrical wiring or plumbing.

"In the field, once I get everything from Sadie, then it becomes an organizational thing on the part of the (general contractor)," Fredrickson said. "Any time you do a variation off the typical plan, there is confusion."
R & H Construction crews started work on the redevelopment project about a year ago. It was designed by Portland-based Myhre Group Architects with the aim of giving Rose Villa a neighborhood feel, make it more pedestrian-friendly and add more open space. This included tearing down and replacing apartment buildings constructed in 1960s. The new residences will be divided between cottages and urban-style apartments in two mixed-use buildings also containing various amenities, including a fitness center, dining area and cafe.

Craig Witz, a Madison, Wisconsin-based senior living development consultant, suggested Rose Villa officials up the ante in a transformation that targets the baby boom generation by allowing the future residents to custom design their new homes. To facilitate the process, he introduced the project team to Blue Fingerprint, which he's used on other senior housing developments.

"It's a nice way for us to allow a level of customization to people," Witz said. "We want to give people the sense that they're building a custom home."

One reason why the Canvis founders developed Blue Fingerprint was to help better organize and track custom changes to senior housing units during construction, he said.

"They saw this need for managing the selection process with residents," Witz said. "We used to use spreadsheets. It was brutal."

Of the 75 planned new units at Rose Villa, 71 have already pre-sold, Bach said. The future residents of these units typically have two or three months to decide on how to customize their new homes as they're constructed, she said. To facilitate the process, Rose Villa and R & H have set deadlines for when the basic features of the unit must be selected, followed by the finishes.

While giving a tour of one of the new cottages that's under construction at Rose Villa, Fredrickson pointed out a laminated sheet of paper posted on the wall. R & H crews and subcontractors use the list, a printout from Blue Fingerprint, to keep track of modifications to the basic plan for the cottage that have been requested by the future residents, she said.

"This is documenting where the changes are," Fredrickson said. "All those are sent to subs. We use Blue Fingerprint as the document to officially track the changes."

She also meets weekly with the subcontractors to coordinate custom modifications to each residence as it's built.

"If you're using this program, start early," Fredrickson advised. "It's adding more steps. You should leave enough time to do it properly."

For an added level of oversight, Bach walks the project site once a week with an iPad displaying a checklist from Blue Fingerprint to ensure that the individual preferences of the future residents have been incorporated into the units as they're constructed.

"Having Sadie walking around I think is going to be vital to make sure all these details get checked," Fredrickson said.

The effort will be worth it when the project wraps up in spring 2016 and the new Rose Villa residents move into apartments that suit their individual tastes, Bach said.

"They really do appreciate all the options," she said.