The U.S. population is moving back into the cities in record numbers, and American is playing a major role in this movement by Reshaping Urban Life®. Our work, since 1989, includes building nearly 4,000 multifamily urban rental and for-sale homes and mixed use neighborhoods in California, Texas, and New Mexico.
During the last twenty-one years, American’s work has included multifamily and mixed use neighborhoods for adults, seniors, students, affordable housing for low-income, families and seniors. These projects have been built for private clients, including Pulte®, Lennar®, CIM Group©, Standard Pacific Homes®, Legacy Partners® and Newhall Land and Farming® . The Company has also built a number of university projects (principally student housing), including projects for the University of California at Los Angeles, California State University Stanislaus, and Chapman University. Historically, about a third of the Company’s workload has been in the prevailing wage sector.
American has been designing and building multifamily projects in California since 1989. The Company has permanent offices in Garden Grove, California and has built projects in New Mexico, Texas, and throughout California.
Although American’s work has predominantly been building ground-up multifamily and mixed use urban neighborhoods, other projects have included renovation, seismic retrofitting, and historic preservation. The Company has self-performed up to 80% of the trade work on some projects, with in-house crews performing demolition, excavation, concrete, steel-erection, framing, masonry, plaster, drywall, painting, and high-pressure epoxy injection to repair seismically damaged concrete. Although some past projects have been competitively bid, all of the Company’s work for the last several years has been negotiated. American has taken the complete responsibility for development, design, and construction on some projects, and the design and construction on others. On most of the company's general construction work, American has participated in the preconstruction phase as part of the project team. In addition to the company's architects, the Company is licensed as both a general building and engineering contractor, as well as carrying trade licenses for plastering, concrete-related services (including concrete restoration and granite), and the application of synthetic products. The Company also employs licensed architects and engineers.
American's multifamily building experience involves complex high-end, four and five story mixed-use buildings over retail and subterranean parking structures. Recent American-built urban multifamily homes have sold for over a million dollars. Work has also included design-build student housing, historic renovation of early California hotels to provide housing for the homeless, and rebuilding of the guest suite facilities for the historic UCLA Lake Arrowhead Conference Center. Densities on projects range to over 300 units per acre. Project have ranged in size to $112,000,000 and have included pile foundations, mat foundations, one, two, and three levels of structured subterranean parking below the water table with systems to mitigate methane and tar.
The Cornerstone of American's success has been our innovation, coupled with our ability to provide the highest quality work at the lowest price, while successfully balancing our client's needs.
Fully Integrated Advantage
American is a fully integrated multifamily and mixed use company. On the development side, we are pioneers in very high density projects for the Echo Boomer Generation. We not only have award winning architects, our technical architecture knowledge for multifamily and mixed use projects is without peer. The Company’s construction experience involves successfully taking the most complex large mixed use building projects, and consistently delivering them with the highest quality in the industry.
Our experience with each phase of the business allows us to be of greater service to our clients, no matter which phase of service we are engaged to perform. The most successful projects are the projects that have the greatest synergy between the players in each phase. If our designer thinks a particular architectural element will look better than another, we can quickly determine the effects of this decision on project costs and then on project rents. With this data in hand, we can equate how this decision will effect the size of our target market from the demographic data we are continuously collecting, to give our clients the hard data to be able to make an informed decision.
American's ability to provide its clients value is not limited to its quality construction and low pricing, which have been American's hallmark for over 30 years. With American's staff of in-house architects, under the direction of its CEO, who has been a licensed architect and building multifamily projects for over 35 years, American has developed a full product line of innovative multifamily and mixed use products, that can be configured from garden style slab on grade to multi-story urban podium style projects, to accommodate singles, couples, families, students and seniors, in project sizes from 1 to over 100 million dollars. This product line has been individually tailored for the tax credit, affordable, market rate, and luxury markets. American’s product line has been designed for the "New Economy," where efficiency and price will be the primary differentiators. Our product line, including American’s proprietary Pre-Value Engineered® Apartments meet these goals with great architecture. The principle behind American's multifamily and mixed use products is the use of American's inside-out design process and the use of highly repetitive elements to regain the cost advantages of site manufacturing lost to the "one-off" design process utilized during the last decade. To showcase American's new product line, a full-sized prototype has been built and fully furnished in American's warehouse, allowing clients to walk through, touch, and feel the finished product before any design costs are incurred. With selected Pre-Value Engineered® components from American's product lines, American's design architects configure buildings to uniquely fit each project site in a systematic way that creates an appearance of architectural diversity, with a palate of architectural styles comparable with each site's environment. This architectural treatment is added without losing the cost efficiencies of building using highly repetitious pre-value engineered components, the key to American's exceptional pricing. Our finished products, acceptable to the most discriminating city planning departments, have been designed to be at home in any neighborhood. See the Architecture pages of our website for examples. American’s design services are available independently or as part of American’s design/build delivery system.
Where American has the opportunity to provide the design, as well as construction, we are in the position to control the selection of materials and detailing to ensure they provide the best finish appearance and durability through the years. Where American has not been engaged to do the design, our approach during pre-construction is best described, as "design assist." In this role, we work to help guide the Owners consultant team to use the right materials and equipment to provide a quality product that meets both visual and functional requirements, not only initially but through the test of time. Our plan review Architects work with the pre-construction team to help produce final plans and specifications that are complete, correct, coordinated, and include details that work. Frequently, the design assist process includes design/build mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire sprinklers. We then further detail and translate key elements of the plans and specifications into vehicles that help us ensure full compliance. These include shop drawings (to further define elements of the projects) and detailed trade scopes, to further clarify the specifications and to state our quality standards. The final step of quality is execution. Our focus on quality execution is orchestrated by our independent quality control program, which organizationally reports directly to our President, and has the mission of completing the work in accordance with our plans, specifications and the further detailing we have provided. To achieve this goal, we employ proactive procedures to ensure there is a clear understanding of our expectations prior to commencing production work for each element of the project. We then follow through on a programmed basis to ensure that the established standards are maintained.
The opportunity to save money on a construction project diminishes from the first line drawn on the project's design. By the time the plans and specifications are complete, the opportunities for the largest savings are gone. And in fact, if the plans and specifications contain significant mistakes, the opportunity for cost increases far outweigh the opportunities for cost savings. It is the early "broad strokes" that have the greatest potential for savings, and by the time the process gets to the selection of material and equipment, on a percentage basis the largest opportunities for savings have evaporated. Unfortunately, in too many instances the "broad strokes" are done at the early entitlement stages where the project's success is still unknown and the appetite for spending design dollars to get the most cost effective project is small.
Where American has not been engaged to do the design, we work with the remaining tools to control project cost. The principal component of cost at this stage is subcontractor work. Creating an environment in which our subcontractors can perform efficiently and can make the same or greater profit working for us, at a lower cost than they can for our competitors, is the key to obtaining the best pricing at this stage. This involves a four-pronged process: creating an environment which allows our subcontractors to get in and out quickly; providing a production environment in which our subcontractors can achieve a high level of productivity; providing the right type of training at the right time that allows our subcontractors to build it right the first time, minimizing the amount of rework; and creating an environment in which our subcontractors are paid on a timely basis.
In providing an environment where subcontractors are able to get in and out quickly, we need plan and specification problems worked out to the best of our ability before construction starts. We accomplish this with our in-house architects and staff involved in the plan review process. Bringing the problems out of the plans and specifications is key to containing cost and the cost of lost time. We use state of the art, centralized scheduling and utilize the latest web-based version of Primavera’s P5 software, which is updated on a weekly basis. All schedules are then reviewed by our Executive Committee each Monday morning, with appropriate action taken immediately.
We are in the site manufacturing industry. To this end, we have adopted a number of manufacturing practices which have allowed us to consistently provide the highest quality product at the lowest cost. These manufacturing processes include centralized estimating, purchasing, scheduling, quality control, and cost accounting. We work from the beginning of the pre-construction effort to try and guide the development of the plans and specifications to utilize our site manufacturing processes. We have an extensive subcontractor selection process which is audited on a quarterly basis by the Zurich Insurance Company, our Subguard insurer. With our site manufacturing focus, we select only subcontractors who truly understand this site process in addition to having the financial strength to meet our other requirements.
To achieve our goals of producing the highest quality at the lowest cost, it demands that we get work done right the first time. Rework and extensive pick-up all cost money and take time, which subsequently gets built into subcontractor pricing. We work through a disciplined program of proactive training and timely follow-through to ensure that there is very minimal rework and pick-up.
Getting our subcontractors paid on time is a total team effort, which involves our subcontractors, our field personnel, our accounting department, our client Owners and their lending institutions. This involves getting subcontractor change orders processed quickly so they can bill for work on a timely basis, getting the Owner’s pay applications prepared properly and submitted on schedule, and closing out each of our projects quickly so we can achieve full payment within 35 days of Certificate of Occupancy.
Completing our projects on budget, on time, and ensuring all of our dealings with our clients include the highest level of professionalism are the keys to our business philosophy, of designing and building the highest quality neighborhoods at the lowest cost. With American's focus on maintaining repeat clients, taking control of design was an inevitable step. Our biggest frustrations through the years have been dealing with problems in mostly "one-off" plans and specifications. Solving these problems during construction has cost American and its clientele money. Through the years, we have worked proactively to mitigate the problems resulting from consultant errors and omissions by hiring in-house architects to do plan review and to help catch as many problems as possible during the plan design process.
Not only has the "one-off" design process robbed American and its clientele many of the cost efficiencies of site manufacturing, with its differentiations rather than consistencies, it had also significantly undermined the quality of plans and specifications. With each project different from the last, there was little opportunity for lessons learned in either the design or the construction processes. With this realization, American developed the concept of "repetitious diversity." Recognizing that to reduce the costs of construction, it would be necessary to recapture the full cost efficiencies of site manufacturing, which can only be gained by the repetitious use of the same elements. American also recognized that it had to use this same repetition in the design process, to significantly reduce the number of errors and omissions in plans and specifications. With the further recognition that the movement to architectural diversification was deeply rooted in planning criteria, planning department opinions, and in public opinion (however, we believe to a lesser degree), American needed to design a product line of pre-value engineered components that would also have an appearance of diversity. American has completed the development of this product line, giving us a significant additional tool to help manage its clients' profit goals. Whether engaged to do the design or not, American recognizes that a major component of our success is completing the work within our client's budget. Completing projects within budget has six essential components. These components involve: (1) establishing a detailed budget; (2) consistently revising the budget as the situation changes, ensuring that all participants and stakeholders are aware of when the budget is changed and what the alternatives to changing price are; (3) ensuring that the budgets and buyout are complete; (4) selecting the right subcontractor; American has a highly disciplined subcontractor selection process which is monitored by Subguard to help ensure we have no subcontractor failures (the score is 4 in 20 years); (5) helping reduce the time and subsequent cost lost to errors and omissions in the plans and specifications discovered during the construction process. To do this, American employs in-house architects to review plans and specifications; and (6) completing projects on time. Our focus of completing projects on time involves carefully establishing a completion schedule based on our history and with major subcontractor input on the uniqueness of each project. We update each of our schedules weekly and review the progress of each updated schedule at the Executive Management level on a weekly basis. Most important is maintaining a discipline at all levels throughout the organization that schedule dates must be met. We have learned through the years that effective client relations involves five key tenets: (1) no surprises, proactively leading all of our clients through each problem; (2) recognizing that perception is reality, and appearances as well as substance counts; (3) understanding that trust is fragile, it is hard to earn and easy to lose; (4) managing expectations, writing, selling and delivering a creditable script; and finally, (5) recognizing that aftertaste is everything. Our goal when a project is completed is to allow all of the participants and stakeholders to be able to sit back and appreciate the success that the Team has accomplished and not to be bogged down with the inevitable problems that occur as projects progress. This requires dealing in proactive and timely ways with all issues as they occur, putting them behind us and moving ahead swiftly.
Any way you slice it our services include practical innovation and unparalleled technical competence.
As an architect with over 30 years of experience building large, complex mixed use and multifamily projects for major clients, including Pulte, Lennar, Standard Pacific Homes, and Legacy Partners, with a fanatical drive for quality, we know what works and what doesn’t. Equally important, we know what our designs cost to build and how to keep our projects within budget. Although our designs are Pre-Value Engineered® using our construction experience, they are created with the practical innovation. Our unparalleled technical competence has been developed from thousands of hours in the trenches, dealing with third party design and detail issues, while building complex Class A multifamily and mixed use projects. No other multifamily architect we are aware of has had our bottom line responsibility to make it work in the trenches.
Specifications are a legal tripping hazard. Most specification writers don’t fully understand what they are specifying and practically none of the subcontractors purchasing and installing the products do either. The cut and paste practice required by specification writing systems insures that every specification will have conflicts. Further, most specification writing systems have been developed for public work which must allow for open bidding of products, creating complex specifications frequently referring to out-of-date standards and regulations, many of which can not be fully met with commercially available products. In addition, specifications break up the work by industry classification systems, not by trade jurisdiction, creating the opportunity for missed trade work. To create clarity without conflict and avoid the tripping hazards with specifications that can not be met and to insure all of the required work is contracted for, the trade contracts need to specify products and manufacturers that have a history of performance and recognized industry standards for site manufactured products. In addition to this proprietary specification process, our purchasing department has years of lessons with trade work jurisdictions and industry practice with respect to work that is needed for a complete job, including products not detailed in most plans. We can write your trade contracts for you, or better yet, write and negotiate them for you to insure all the processes and requirements are in place.
We have by far the most in-depth and structured quality control program of any multifamily/mixed use general contractor we are aware of. This quality control service is available as an extension of our architecture-only service. If projects end up in a lawsuit dealing with quality, the questions are what was, or should have been required, and what was, or should have been performed. Without control of plans and trade contracts, the effectiveness of quality control is greatly hampered. Where we are doing both, and there is clear and complete follow-through from supervision, we can be very effective in minimizing risk, producing a final product that feels and looks like quality, and perform as expected.
Our fully integrated program includes our state of the art scheduling. Not only do our schedules reflect our understanding of how buildings go together, with all their pieces structured in a sequential process that results in an even flow of work, all our schedules are fully cost loaded. We achieve this by integrating the line items in our trade schedule of values, which is the vehicle for subcontractor payment, into the construction schedule as separate line items. This not only simplifies the payment process, it focuses trade constructors' attention on the schedule as a vehicle to manage their cash flow. We know of no other company that has developed this ability to manage schedule and cost within the same vehicle.
DESIGN / BUILD
Design/build is the most efficient and cost effective approach to multifamily and mixed use project acquisition. The greatest opportunity for savings in any project is at the design concept stage. Our process of design/build moves value engineering from the backend, where substitutions of less expensive materials and equipment is the only opportunity for savings, to the front, where we can develop the design from concept in the most efficient way, allowing us to achieve the greatest savings. This is our proprietary process of Pre-Value Engineered® architecture. We achieve further efficiencies with our inside-out design process which involves developing and refining our unit designs first, then assembling the units into buildings. This allows us to optimize each of the elements within the unit and then, with a high degree of repetition of the same units, we can further optimize efficiency and cost. The units cost ultimately becomes the major factor in project cost in a multifamily project with large numbers of units. In contrast, the traditional design process used by most every other architect is outside-in. This process involves creating the mass first, than cutting up the space into units. This process usually results in a large number of unit types and inefficient use of materials, as many of the cut-up units don’t allow the use of materials in their optimum configurations. Costs are almost always higher with the outside-in design process.
Where we have been retained as a general contractor at the beginning of the design process, our design assist program involves working hand-in-hand with the owner’s architect to provide cost advice, at each step of the process. To help avoid the project becoming over budget, we provide budgets and cost updates at critical stages and make recommendations on alternatives to save cost. In this role we can also employ design/build subcontractors for mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, and for parking garages, which can result in additional savings.
We have built repeat projects for sixty percent of our clients. We believe the best way to describe our general construction service is through the words of one of our clients, for whom we are currently completing a very complex, $75,000,000 mixed use project:
“This Project is the fifth largest bearing steel stud to be built in Los Angeles. The four previous projects all had significant time and cost overruns due to the technical complexities and methods of construction utilized in this new framing system. This Project is the most complicated of the five and through the efforts of American and your subcontractors, you have managed to keep the Project on schedule and within budget…”
“Of equal significance is American’s technical knowledge, most notably displayed through their proactive design assist and preconstruction role. This is the most detailed and rigorous I have seen. It is assuring to know that with the thousands of details in the $75,000,000 technically complex Miracle Mile project that American is proactively into every detail, demanding a level of quality perfection I have not seen in my 30 years of experience.”
“The Legacy at Studio City Project was a financial success and has won a number of architectural awards, which American's previously built for Legacy Partners, and Miracle Mile is certainly on track to raise the bar for success.”