Building Something New
Stress-Free Custom Homes from Kellcon Construction
by Cassidy Mantor
Reducing stress is a key component to living a healthier lifestyle. As urban dwellers relocate and more people make Bend a permanent home, there’s an opportunity to make choices that support our overall well-being and eliminate unnecessary stress, starting with the homes we build and how they are constructed.
KellCon Construction is a refreshing option in the building industry that is a highlight of Bend’s healthy attitude. KellCon was founded on the belief that building is enjoyable. It’s not every day that your builder quotes a TED talk, but that’s exactly what differentiates KellCon’s founder and owner, Rob Kelleher, from the others. Rob is a thoughtful career professional with unparalleled experience who found a way to build stress-free custom homes. KellCon consistently delivers upon that promise across a diverse range of commercial and residential projects.
A native Oregonian, Rob has watched Bend transform from a sleepy tourist town to the thriving outdoors mecca that it is now. In 2007, Rob moved to Bend for a commercial project and wound up putting down permanent roots. Working for two global commercial construction companies for 15 years exposed Rob to the stress and anxiety often felt when building, both on the client side as well as internally for the builders. His vision for the future of construction was clear – to remove the stress from the building process so that clients can enjoy what is being built. That mindset also means the team is happy and does its best work.
Thus, in 2015, KellCon Construction was born. KellCon has an extensive background in commercial construction. Some notable projects include Silver Moon Brewing, River Pig, Life & Time, and a new project by St. Charles Hospital called East End, which will house nine new tenants.
Within its first year of being in business, Rob recalls that their commercial clients began asking KellCon to do residential projects for them. At first, he declined, but he wanted to provide good service, so they started to do home projects exclusively for their existing clients. They remodeled condos and townhomes and continued to get more requests for residential work.
As KellCon’s residential business grew, Rob sought out a project manager and superintendent with extensive custom home building experience. His residential leadership team members, who have lived in Bend for decades collectively, include project manager Klint O’Neal, field superintendent James Thornton, and Rob Ring, the region’s top field superintendent who oversees all of the residential and commercial projects.
The process of building a home is a little different than commercial construction and can be more intense with more details and moving parts. While Rob had the vision, he knew he needed specialized management to lead the residential side of KellCon and continue to take care of its clients. Thus, Rob built a residential team at KellCon whose experience stems from working in some of Southern California’s most desirable communities, spanning from Laguna Beach up to Malibu.
“You plan your life around the build.”
–Rob Kelleher, Founder/Owner, KellCon Construction
The Commercial Advantage
KellCon applies the same operational standards from its commercial business to its residential work. Budget and schedule are two of the most important considerations on any project. Rob points out that a commercial project wouldn’t be approved without a firm budget and the importance of sticking to the schedule. While COVID-19 has caused some delays, KellCon learns and adapts to make things work on a daily basis. Rob sees it as part of KellCon’s role to responsibly manage the anxiety and unexpected events that frequently arise from all of the moving parts.
“You plan your life around the build,” says Rob. “There’s also a lot of emotion involved with a custom home, and we don’t want our clients to be stressed out about whether they can host their summer barbecues or if they’ll be able to move in for Christmas.” KellCon’s scheduling process gives clients confidence so they can enjoy the process and look forward to getting into the home.
KellCon’s heritage as a commercial builder means it has a diversity of experience and a broader perspective than other residential builders in Bend. “When I was coming up through the ranks, it was common to focus on building one type of structure, so you’d just build hospitals, Target stores, or go out to Nike’s campus and build in that style,” says Rob. “I was lucky that my employers would send me to a variety of projects. While my peers became one-trick ponies, I was building a warehouse, then a mall, then a hospital, then Intel, then a fabrication facility, and so on. It was great exposure and I learned so many different aspects about construction. It’s been amazing for me throughout my career to continue to see how much of that translates forward to another home or commercial project.”
KellCon is currently working on a 7,000-square-foot house for homeowners who have young children. They wanted the house to be soundproof so that they could be downstairs working and not hear the kids playing upstairs. To meet that need, KellCon brought in Gypcrete, a flooring underlay frequently used in hotels and apartment buildings that Rob explains is the best way to reduce sound transfer in a wood frame.
Concrete flooring and specialty finishes are an area where KellCon’s commercial experience transfers well to residential. As more homeowners want exposed concrete floors, Rob estimates they’ve done hundreds of thousands of square feet of polished concrete floors.
“There’s also a lot of emotion involved with a custom home, and we don’t want our clients to be stressed out about whether they can host their summer barbecues or if they’ll be able to move in for Christmas.”
“With larger modern homes, we’re also seeing larger open spans where structural steel is utilized rather than wood construction,” he explains. “Structural steel is a norm in commercial construction. Commercial projects can also have very complex multi-zone heating and air conditioning systems, whereas a residential home typically has forced air.” KellCon’s commercial experience means the team brings more options and solutions to all aspects of residential custom home building.
Knowledge of commercial-grade building fire safety codes is another asset that KellCon brings to residential projects. The fire marshall, Bend’s City council, and Deschutes County have all increased fire code restrictions, such as requiring fire sprinklers and two-hour fire walls. They’re new codes for residential builders, which can translate to delays while they get up to speed on the intricacies of these new elements. Unfortunately, that inexperience is commonly passed along to the client in the form of a lack of confidence. Comparatively, KellCon has worked within these fire standards every day and incorporates the required fire safety elements with ease.
In addition to its vast knowledge of commercial materials and techniques, as well as operational procedures, KellCon also has a 30,000-foot view of a larger pool of subcontractors, both commercial and residential. “On larger custom homes, we’re seeing where commercial contractors can deliver better quality and work from a performance mindset that achieves what the client is looking for,” says Rob.
Rob recalls walking through a house belonging to a neighbor who lamented that the drywall looked nowhere near what they’d asked for. KellCon’s drywaller does a mix of residential and commercial and understands how to achieve the client’s goal. That’s not to say that residential contractors aren’t also better at times for KellCon’s jobs, but they are not limited to one area of construction. KellCon’s versatility on both commercial and residential projects helps pick the right subcontractors for the job based on their skill set, not just who might come in with the lowest bid.
In addition to familiarity with materials, methods, and codes on the grander scale of commercial building, KellCon maintains a crew of craft employees including laborers, carpenters, and equipment operators. “We’re able to self-perform small excavation, concrete, rough carpentry, finish carpentry, siding, painting, flooring, appliance installation, and accessory installation,” says Rob. “We also own our own equipment including scissor lifts, forklifts, an excavator, and a skid steer.” That broad inventory and specialized experience help KellCon manage costs and scheduling.
Working with Clients Who Also Want to Be Stress Free
“The goal is to do business with people who believe what you believe.” Rob cites that quote from Simon Sinek’s TED talk and illustrates how that principle is what will continue to guide KellCon in the future.
Doing both residential and commercial work, KellCon has a mix of clients. Their singular goal is to become a trusted advisor for construction-related projects. Many of KellCon’s clients have several projects a year. They come to KellCon because the firm is open, honest, and efficient.
“We’re efficient because of our vast experience and ability to manage multiple complex projects simultaneously,” says Rob. “Our efficiencies help make us very cost-competitive.”
While some of KellCon’s clients are used to having multiple projects at one time, other clients may only do one project in a lifetime. For them, the construction process may be a daunting task, which is where KellCon’s versatility comes into play. They seamlessly work with a wide range of clients and consistently meet budgets and schedules, ultimately delivering a valuable return on investment.
“When I was working in commercial construction in corporate America, all the processes created turmoil internally and that was transferred to our clients,” recalls Rob. “Everyone assumed that construction was synonymous with anxiety, and that seemed unnecessary to me.” Essentially, nobody in the market treated clients and subcontractors the way Rob thought they should be treated.
“Nobody should go through what I went through for 15 years,” he adds. “If you’re stressed out, it translates to the people you work with. There’s no reason for any contentious relationships.”
KellCon’s purpose is to remove the negative stigma that follows contractors. They are committed to being instrumental in the success of their clients. They take pleasure in helping make a budget work, creating spaces where people want to be, and making the construction process easier, less stressful, and even fun.
Rob adds, “We don’t hide anything. We talk about everything. There are no secrets. We want to help in any and all aspects of the construction experience. We know that if our clients are happy, and have a good experience, we’ll continue to work together in the future. We are transparent so that the process is a true partnership.”
“The goal is to do business with people who believe what you believe.”
Transparency: A Look At Kellcon’s Process
To build a house with KellCon, clients can expect an initial meeting either in person or on Zoom. The client will discuss if they’re building a vacation home, a forever home, or something else. The initial meeting is also an opportunity for the Kellcon team to introduce themselves and talk through their experience, specifically how they help clients through the process of permitting, pricing, scheduling, constructability, finishes selection, and anything else the client may need for the project.
KellCon will partner with designers and architects and also offer creative insight. The team talks through its clients’ visions in the design process and can recommend architects for their projects. “Having a builder involved means we can look at constructability and address modifications early on,” explains Rob. “We’re pretty creative too, so if a client wants more input, we like to provide it.”
KellCon assists with picking an architect as well if clients don’t yet have that relationship. They usually recommend two or three architects whose style reflects the vision the client has so the clients can get a better feel for who they want to work with. Additionally, KellCon welcomes working with designers who help with lighting and plumbing fixtures as well as other design selections to ensure that the process runs smoothly. KellCon views these partnerships as additional ways that they take care of their clients.
Rob refers to a project they started a couple of weeks ago that highlights the collaborative nature of KellCon’s process. “When we started to build the stairs, our clients realized it wasn’t what they had envisioned in their mind from the blueprints and drawings. We stopped, offered several different options based on how the construction was coming to life, and then found one they really liked.” Rob notes that KellCon was able to reconfigure the stairs at no additional cost.
If clients already have drawings, KellCon moves more quickly along its timeline directly to the scheduling and permitting process. With more people moving to Bend, the time it takes between buying land and getting the permits to start construction takes approximately 50 percent longer than what people tend to expect. For example, Rob’s team met with a client in August and they hope to be able to have the permits processed in time to start construction in March. While external timeframes are often a source of uncertainty, KellCon’s experience managing the process helps to solve problems that are out of the homeowner’s control and keeps the focus on the end goal of a beautiful custom home in Bend.
Rob is inspired by what he sees for Bend’s future. Over the past ten years, the median home price has increased to $580,000, with higher-end properties selling on a daily basis. It’s completely changed from the small town it was, and values and prices are compounding as more people move to Bend from big cities seeking a change in lifestyle. Rob delights in Bend being a town comprised of entrepreneurs who enjoy the outdoors and are looking at it as a place to start something new.
“As we’re watching the Bend economy change and shift, like all small towns in America, anyone who is done with corporate America knows there’s a better lifestyle to be had here,” he says. Kellcon’s diverse experience and core values make the building process stress-free and clearly aligned with a healthier lifestyle in Bend.
For more information about KellCon Construction call 541.312.4034.