Emeryville, Calif.-based New Avenue is a comprehensive resource for clients who want to remodel their home or build a new one. The New Avenue platform provides clients with a private project page that improves communication across the entire team, standardizes proposals, and optimizes the design and construction process. The firm has been instrumental in building several small-house projects in California (see slide show at left).

Here, BUILDER talks with Kevin Casey, founder of New Avenue. 

Please explain how New Avenue works.
Our mission is to elevate the knowledge of the process of design/build among the general public so they can better trust the professionals who will design and build a remodel or custom home.  New Avenue provides two services: client education and budget administration. We educate homeowners about the design/build process with a particular focus on the real cost and timeline for a custom project.  We then introduce them to both architects and contractors. 

Any team member starts by using Newavenuehomes.com to request or submit a proposal.  We walk clients through the five phases of a project (program development, schematic design, design development, construction documents, construction)  and provide a roadmap so they understand that over 100 steps occur in any project. 

Architects and contractors process their billing through our payment system. We then use this information to aggregate how long projects really take and what they really cost so that clients can be better prepared to hire a professional. 

What caused you to explore this type of business model?
We studied the state of housing in America in 2009 and found that there was a massive demand for high-quality custom design and custom construction. People wanted to improve the homes they already own but they are often afraid of the horror stories and nightmares they hear about.  We found that a platform that builds trust between owners, design professionals, and builders can change the entire dynamic on a project from the very beginning.

Why is it important to get a builder’s perspective on a home early on?
Builders are the ones who understand both construction methods and costs.  Codes are just changing too fast for many designers to keep up and the input of someone who is in the field can get recent changes back into designs six to 12 months earlier.  We are finding that when the architect and contractor collaborate on our system throughout the entire project, they are able to eliminate inefficiencies that cost 10-20% of the time that goes into a project.  This doesn't mean the project is completed quicker, it means less time is burned sorting out headaches during construction.  

What types of projects have you worked on?
People have used our system for anything from $40,000 to over $1 million projects.  This includes bedroom additions, custom homes, whole house remodels, accessory dwellings, and landscaping.

Does your process cost the builder and/or home buyer extra time or money?
The system is free to use and easier collaboration saves so much time that the architects and builders can actually earn more money while saving the client 10%.  It just works - anyone who has had to submit multiple permit revisions or move a wall mid-construction will know why this is so.