FAQ

If you’re asking this question, you are in the Feasibility Phase. If you don’t have property yet, you need to find one that is feasible for your project and your budget. If you do have property, or have lost your home in a wildfire, your first step is to roughly determine what you can build for what you can afford.

We invite you to use our PHNX Cost Estimator tool to give you a general idea of the size, scope and cost of what you want. It’s easy to use and play with; you can try out as many different variations as you want. You can also enter your email address to send yourself a copy of the result.

If you would like help selecting a property, PHNX Architectural Services is available to help you determine the feasibility of any property you’re considering for your project. This is highly recommended, as there can be costly hidden issues that could render your project unfeasible, especially on undeveloped properties.

If you have lost your home in a wildfire, feasibility issues are a little different. PHNX can help you work with your insurance company to determine a path forward that will minimize additional investment on your part. Every policy is different; we’ll help you create the right design for your budget.

With a typical design/build, or design/bid/build process, you will not know how much your new home will cost until you have approved plans and start receiving quotes. Even if they provide a preliminary conceptual budget, the labor and materials market is so volatile that by the time you’re ready to build, that budget will be obsolete.

With PHNX, we provide you with the PHNX 10% Concept Budget before you have to spend tens of thousands of dollars. For a $6,000 non-refundable fee (for most homes under 3,000 SF), PHNX will work with you to create a unique, custom design. Deliverables include a full Schematic Design Package (plans, elevations, sections, 3-D modeling), Tentative Design & Construction Schedules and a budget estimate within 10% of eventual cost. This 10% Concept Budget includes hard costs (actual construction) and soft costs (fees - design, permitting, and outside consultants). Depending on site complexity, it may or may not include site work. If there are complex site issues, their potential cost will be addressed - but we may need to do additional work before we get a more accurate cost estimate.

There are no overages in the PHNX Process. California law requires all construction contracts to include a contingency to cover unforeseen circumstances. We include a 5% contingency in our 10% Concept Budget. PHNX minimizes reliance on the volatile labor and materials market and controls the entire delivery process to such a degree that we are confident any bumps will be absorbed by the contingency. Anything remaining in the contingency after completion will be refunded to you.

A $6,000 fee (for most homes under 3,000 SF) is all it takes to get started, with no commitment. PHNX will work with you to create a unique, site-built custom home. That process takes about a month, and upon completion you will have a full Schematic Design set of your concept (plans, elevations, sections and 3-D modeling), Tentative Design and Construction Schedules, and the PHNX 10% Concept Budget. Only if you decide to move forward will you then commit to the full design contract (Typically about $35,000, including the initial $6,000 deposit - but this amount is included in your 10% Budget)

It takes about two months to produce a set of construction documents, and about three months to process through a jurisdiction’s plan review/approval system (although this varies greatly, depending on jurisdiction. PHNX has very little control over this phase of the process, but we do our best to plan for a reasonable length of time and stick to it).

Construction of a PHNX Home takes about six months - less than half the time of a traditional build - wood, steel or even ICF. PHNX Development has painstakingly analyzed every aspect of the design/build process, looking for any opportunity to reduce steps and streamline design and construction. A good percentage of a PHNX Home is built with Component Based Design materials and methods; this is what enables PHNX to have a higher degree of confidence and certainty in the project delivery process.

PHNX handles all permitting, and our fee for that service is included in your 10% Concept Budget. A permitting fee estimate is also included; however, some jurisdictions are more opaque than others in their fee calculations. PHNX will do the best we can to get as close as we can. If we don’t feel confident that we’ve hit it within 10%, we’ll let you know - when you get the PHNX 10% Concept Budget.
The very first thing to do is to use the PHNX Cost Estimator to give you an idea of what is feasible for your budget; you won’t waste time in the design process with a wish list that isn’t feasible for you.

The next step is to start looking out for things you like (and don’t like!) online and in real life. Snap, clip, post, save… Keep everything organized, and be sure to make notes on why you liked or didn’t like a particular image. Share these with your PHNX Designer ahead of your kick-off design meeting.

Spend time paying attention to how you live. If you are a wildfire survivor, walk yourself through a typical day in your previous home. What’s the thing you loved the most about your previous home? What would you have loved most to change? What one thing would disappoint you the most if your new home didn’t have it? The PHNX Design Questionnaire is a great tool to get you on the right track.

We will need a survey of your property to be completed in order to start design. Whether you go with PHNX or someone else, if you are going to build a new home you will need a survey so it’s not a bad idea to have one done right away. They usually take about three to four weeks to be completed by a licensed land surveyor. If you aren’t sure how to find a land surveyor, your PHNX Designer can help you find one. If your property isn’t very complex, we might be able to begin concept design while waiting for the survey to be completed.

Collect any documents you have about your property, your neighborhood, your HOA… it’s important that your PHNX Designer has everything they need right from the beginning in order to avoid costly delays.

Most importantly, what we want to know from you is the “What” and the “Why”. Let us figure out the “How” - it’s what we do. If you find yourself saying things like “I want the stairs to the right” or “the master suite needs to be between the bedroom and the kitchen”, you're getting into the "how". Your PHNX Designer needs to know WHY you want the stairs to the right, or WHY your master needs to be between those two rooms.

When we design buildings, there are many more things to take into consideration than how the plan lays out. Budget, code, structural feasibility, massing, roof shapes, etc etc etc…. Your PHNX Designer needs to have the flexibility necessary to find the right solution that satisfies your needs, as well as all of those other concerns; being armed with a solid understanding of your priorities enables us to not only give you what you want, but also ensure that we can actually build it!

Construction loans are different from mortgages because there is no home to be used for collateral; this is why they are more difficult to get than a mortgage. It is a short term, higher rate funding vehicle.

Typically banks want a large down payment, usually in the range of 20%-30%, or even more. There are even circumstances when they want to see assets equivalent to the amount of the loan. In certain cases, some banks will accept the land as collateral.

When a project is being financed with a construction loan, the lender becomes part of the design/build team. They want to see the plans, budget and schedule, and they have to review and approve the contractor. A loan will cover the cost of design services and permitting, but the money won’t be accessible until the funding is in place at the start of construction - so you will have to fund those services yourself and get reimbursed once the loan is funded.

You will not receive a lump sum. Instead, the loan is disbursed through a service called Fund Control. The owner and contractor jointly file for a “draw”; documentation is required, and the appropriate funds are paid out, usually in a few days, over the course of construction. Sometimes the lender will send an inspector to the site to evaluate progress to ensure that what is being funded is being completed.

Upon receiving the occupancy permit, your loan is then rolled over into a mortgage and paid back over time. If at completion there are unused loan funds, those will not be paid out but instead used to reduce the principal of the mortgage.

The PHNX process achieves its cost efficiency by employing two principles: Component Based Design and Coordinated Design/Build.

The manufacture of proprietary, engineered structural building components is an emerging industry. We are now seeing second and third generation companies producing remarkable products that, in tandem with advances in Building Information Management (BIM) technology, are able to deliver custom designed structural systems in unprecedented time.

PHNX works with several of these Component Based Design manufacturers to design and build the PHNX Home (see our PHNX Specification Manual for more information). We send them our detailed schematic plans during the initial concept design phase, and they are able to design a system and cost it out - sometimes to the penny - in less than a week. Since these elements are manufactured and not site built, the costs are more stable and predictable. There are regular price increases, but these are scheduled and the PHNX team will try to schedule a purchase prior to an increase if possible. If not, we know it will happen and can write it into the budget.

Component Based Design systems are also much quicker to install in the field. Not only does this enable us to reduce construction site waste and slash construction time, but it also reduces our dependence on site labor - another volatile industry market factor that makes budgeting so unpredictable.

The other PHNX principle is Coordinated Design/Build. Not everything in a building can be made in a factory; on site labor is unavoidable, and all trades are still necessary. The two arms of PHNX Development, Architectural Services and Constructions Services, work equally hand in hand to design the home with materials and methods that make sense for the contractor. From product specification, to location and layout, to even the length of walls and overhangs, PHNX Designers have a set of “rules” to design by. Mostly imperceptible in the overall design of the home, these guidelines enable us to streamline the design and production process, further reducing time and cost.

Because Coordinated Design/Build happens in conjunction with our pre-selected team of reliable PHNX sub-contractors, cost estimates are more predictable and accurate. Our subs know exactly what to expect on any PHNX Home. They spend less time preparing quotes and visiting the site. Your PHNX Designer is equipped with predetermined cost data, enabling them to see the cost of your new home almost in real time.

PHNX Development LLC is a partnership between LC Fisher Architecture Inc. (LCFA Studio) and Penna Construction Inc. The PHNX Design Contract is an agreement between you and LCFA, and the PHNX Construction Contract will be a separate agreement between you and Penna Construction. This is a requirement of State law governing the provision of architectural and construction services.

After approving the concept design and PHNX 10% Concept Budget, there will be about 2-3 months of additional design time and about 3 months of plan review for permitting. We will do another budget check-in before submitting the plans for permit approval, and once we feel confident that plan review won’t require any changes that substantially affect the budget, PHNX will finalize the budget and Penna Construction will provide you with a construction contract fixing that amount.

That depends on the size of the project and the size and nature of the phases. Some phasing may be pretty easy, like a detached ADU or garage. On the other hand, adding a second story is a very complicated addition to do and may not be cost effective to split up.

One thing to remember is that splitting things up will always be more expensive. Additionally, smaller projects cost more per square foot; this is why we prefer that a PHNX Home be a minimum of 1,800 SF. Smaller projects become more and more difficult to hit our $300/SF target. No matter how small the project, concrete trucks still need to come out. A portable toilet, site fencing, trash, and other site conditions still need to be implemented. There is a minimum cost to every trade just to be on site, whether it’s a small ADU or a large luxury home.

Finally, know that any phasing will have to be permitted separately. Everything in your permitted plans needs to be completed before the inspector will final the building permit and issue the occupancy permit. The inspector will not issue you an occupancy permit if you decide not to build the detached ADU that is in your approved plans. You will have to go back to the permitting jurisdiction and get plan review to sign off on the “construction change” before the inspector will sign off on final. Once that ADU is removed from the permit, its plan approval is void. Later on when you want to build it you’ll have to go through the whole process again.

In the State of California, we have regular updates to the building code every three years. There are usually a couple of things in the new code that do impact building design, some more than others. In the example above, since it’s already been approved by the jurisdiction if you manage to build the ADU before the next code update the jurisdiction will likely give you a break in plan review. Probably not in fees, but the review process would go more quickly.

It will always be preferable and less expensive to do all the work in one shot if you can. If you are interested in phasing the project, be sure to discuss that with your PHNX Designer right away, and they will work with you to determine the overall feasibility of a phased plan.

No; PHNX Development’s primary mission is to help survivors of wildfires rebuild their homes back, better than they were before.
No; PHNX achieves its unprecedented predictability and cost-effective delivery by having total control over the entire process. Letting someone else outside the PHNX team perform any of the services or work leaves us vulnerable to time/quality/cost issues that can jeopardize our promised schedule and budget.

Please see the PHNX Tech Bulletin post “Five Things to Know if You Want to DIY Your New Home” for more information and this subject.

No; similar to the answer above. In addition, PHNX has carefully pre-selected our trade sub-contractors that fulfill multiple criteria. They are trained in the installation and implementation of the various components that we use, many of which are relatively new technologies and are not familiar to most traditional sub-contractors.
Unfortunately no; as explained in the above questions and answers, the PHNX process requires tight control over the design of the home in order to achieve our unprecedented predictability, streamlined schedule and reduced cost. The structural method used is a big factor in how the home is designed, so a home designed to be built with wood construction may have aspects that can’t be implemented in a PHNX Home and vice versa.

However, we will be happy to walk through those plans with you find out what things you like or don’t like about the design, and use that input to help us design your new PHNX Home. Having already gone through the design process once, know that the experience will absolutely benefit both you and the PHNX design team. The effort will not have gone to waste.