Constructing the three-story, six-condo structure on its postage-stamp–sized lot proved surprisingly straightforward, says Jim Miller, who served as site superintendent for the builder, Leo Moore & Associates of Formosa Beach, Calif. The underground parking garages posed the only real challenge.

“In some cases, we had to dig almost up to the lot line of the neighboring property,” recalls Miller. “In fact, at one point, a neighbor's concrete-block wall collapsed and fell into our excavation. We had to rebuild it.”

To prevent other such events, Miller and his crew covered the excavated soil with a waterproofing fabric and sprayed it with Gunnite, a type of fast-hardening concrete. That held the outer walls in place. “We then poured the footings right under those walls and put a structural concrete slab on top of that,” says Miller.

From grade-level up, Miller says, the first two floors went up like any other project—one floor at a time (doing all units at once), standard stick framing—with surprisingly little fuss.

On the fourth level (the third floor above the garage), however, steel columns and I-joists had to be used to meet California's seismic codes. Miller says his crews simply put in the steel header for the angled window walls, and a specialty company came in and built those on site, using aluminum framing.

“We also had tarps over the whole building during stucco application,” Miller says, “because we were so close to the neighbors we had to avoid overspray.”