Calera Creek Case Study

Our team specializes in custom home designs, tackling challenges like flat lots, flood-prone zones, sloped terrains, and varying site conditions with innovative structural solutions.

We recently had the opportunity to sit down with one of our Senior Engineers, Ian Provan, to learn more about the single-family residential project, Calera Creek.

Introducing Calera Creek: Intricate Structural Systems

Question: Can you provide an overview of this project?

IMP: This project is located atop the scenic hills of Milpitas, California. Covering 8,029 sq ft, this contemporary design with a mix of steel and wood framing, features a 2-story residence, expansive open floor plan, a serene detached recreational haven, and a 3-car garage with a covered carport – all linked by a protective trellis.

The Design Process: A Collaborative Endeavor

Question: Can you describe what the design process was like?

IMP: A collaborative design process was a critical aspect of this project to ensure that there was strong communication between our engineering team, the architect, and the general contractor.

With high-end residential projects, there are a lot of very specific architectural aesthetics and areas that they’re looking for, so taking the additional time and care to focus on the detailing and design is critical to its success.

Working closely with ODS Architecture and JCD Builders, we transformed the client’s vision into reality, ensuring that every detail from the layout of the main residence to the placement of the trellis system was carefully considered and executed within budget.

Innovative Strategies for Success

Question: Walk me through the various project phases and what were some of the challenges that came up?

IMP: During the various project stages, we encountered unique challenges that required innovative and creative design solutions while still being mindful of overall project costs.

One of the unique challenges was our approach to the lateral resistance system as there was a strong desire for expansive views that also posed challenges to the lateral resistance system. Working closely with the architect, we devised strategies to leverage hardy frames, lightweight yet robust panels, as an alternative to heavy steel, thereby reducing costs while maintaining structural integrity. This required multiple discussions to address specific requirements and logistical constraints.

The end result was that our team was able to successfully integrate hardy frames into the design, ensuring seamless alignment with the architectural vision and structural specifications.

Another unique challenge was encountering a boulder field obstructing the planned foundation system for a carport’s retaining wall which required us to quickly devise an innovative solution. Through collaborative efforts including site visits and coordination with the contractor and geotechnical engineers, we implemented a soldier pile design with a friction-based approach, tailored specifically to work around the boulders. This creative solution not only avoided the need for costly boulder removal but also ensured timely project completion, highlighting our ability to innovate under pressure and overcome unexpected hurdles.

The third unique challenge was navigating the complexities of the structural design for a project featuring expansive windows and a challenging layout. Particularly, accommodating large openings like a five-panel slivered door and addressing deflection requirements in the supporting header posed notable challenges. The design intricacies extended to the living room, characterized by a two-story vaulted space with a substantial fireplace and numerous upper windows. Overcoming these challenges involved creatively transferring lateral loads from the roof to the floor while maintaining structural integrity amidst the open windows. The architect’s desire to expose steel elements further added complexity, necessitating strategic placement unconventional for typical lateral systems.

We approached each challenge with grace and expertise, ensuring that Calera Creek remained on track for success.

A Difference in Approach

Question: What makes Element’s approach unique?

IMP: Working on a complex project requires strong collaboration and communication. Each team comes to the table with their areas of expertise and is focused on meeting project expectations.

When working with architects, we prioritize seamless coordination to ensure any changes to the plan are thoroughly vetted for potential structural impacts, leveraging our experience to anticipate and address unforeseen challenges before they arise during construction. We’re always communicating with the architect, making sure we understand what they want because if we don’t know what they want, we’re not going to detail it right. This is critical as it can greatly impact project success both from a timing standpoint and also a budget standpoint.

We also do more custom detailing than a lot of our developers because we have our standards that we make which makes it easy to get a project rolling. But for a single-family project, there are always cases where you need to go beyond just standards.

For general contractors, our emphasis on transparent communication streamlines project execution, as demonstrated in our effective utilization of the RFI system to facilitate timely coordination and prevent costly rework.

Additionally, our commitment to homeowners extends beyond the technical aspects, emphasizing our dedication to serving their best interests by providing cost-effective solutions and enhancing overall project efficiency while maintaining architectural integrity.

Celebrating Success Together

From the initial concept sketches to the final construction drawings, every aspect of this project speaks to our dedication to excellence, our passion for innovation, our collaboration and communication, and our turning a vision into reality for the homeowners.

Learn more about the Calera Creek single-family project here.

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