Civil Engineering Firm Selected
March 25th, 2011 | View Post
As of today, we have selected Nobel Surveying and Engineering Works, LLC to be our civil engineer for the Axel project. This firm came highly recommended to Preston Graham (my general contractor and president of Fig & Co. Builders). We had a few different meetings with the founder of Nobel and had his firm run a few different site-plan ideas for us - really just to get an idea what we’re looking at.

To those not familiar with this process, the civil engineering firm is required by the City of Austin for commercial development projects. They will design and oversee dozens of city-required outlets such as water hookups, parking lots, erosion control, landscaping requirements, impervious cover laws, and on and on.

The civil engineering part of commercial development in Austin can unfortunately be a very expensive piece of the puzzle. The sad part as a resident of Austin and small-business owner, is that the civil engineering cost structure of a million dollar building is roughly the same as a small facility like ours. Nevertheless, it is a required component if we’re going to move forward.

We are hoping that they will be able to design our property in such a way that the City of Austin will not require us to have water retention ponds, but that remains to be seen.

The three images above show three different concepts for how a simple warehouse could be constructed on the land. In particular, they consider the amount and type of impervious cover that would be needed (given parking requirements, sidewalk requirements, and etc.) and figure how large the retention ponds theoretically would be.

The plan will now be to alter the building in such a way so that we can avoid those requirements.
SkiLudlow 2011
March 22nd, 2011 | View Post
For the past 6 years, my good friend Jason Kujda has put together a marvelous ski trip to Breckenridge, Colorado for he and all of his friends. He handles every component of it and even lets people pay in installments. Since he has been busy this year building up his career (namely saving money so that he can finally get married), he decided that he was no longer going to do the ski trip.

After some discussion, I finally decided that I would go ahead and take it over and last October announced to everyone that I would be handling it this year. The following is the text that I sent out to everyone:

The rumors that you have no doubt heard by now are true. The annual SkiKujda trip has been successfully hijacked in a carefully planned and executed coup d'etat. 2011 promises to be bigger and better than all other years combined.



Front of the skiludlow card everyone was given
But let us not forget the many years of wonderful rule by Jason Kujda. From overseeing the great fight of 2006 to his blessing laid upon the conception in 2007. Perhaps the introduction of Catchphrase in 2008, or the engagement that would soon follow. And let us not forget the Banana-Man-Skier of 2009, the diplomatic relations with Tyler Canon of Missouri, and of course "SkiKujda the Movie" which premiered in 2010. Only time will dictate this man's place in history.
The Basic Plan


Back of the skiludlow card everyone was given
Most everything has already been explained to people individually, but for anyone still on the fence, here are the details and a breakdown of what is included. We will fly into Denver on Wednesday March 23rd, 2011. Depending on the flights available, we will try to arrive between 10am and 1pm MST. We will pick up our rental cars, head into the mountains, and get settled into our condos at Sawmill Creek. Thursday morning we will pick up our ski rentals and then plan to ski all day Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Per our previous few years, we'll likely try to organize a group trip to Vail on Friday for anyone who is interested in going (our lift tickets will include this in the price). Each day after skiing is usually met with some relaxation, a social hour in the hot tub (with plenty of beverages), and a dinner on the town. For the super-human, Keystone also offers night skiing. As per our custom, we will be planning a large group outing at The Dive Bar on Saturday night. On Sunday morning we will check out, drive back to Denver, and fly back home.
What the trip includes

For about $650 (probably less), you will be getting 4 nights in a condo, basic ski rentals for 3 days (upgraded skis and snowboards will be more), a 3 day lift ticket (also good for one day at A-Basin, Vail, Beaver Creek, and Keystone), and a rental car (with gas included) to get you to and from the mountain. There is a good chance of a few additional surprises too.

As always, any excess money will be refunded appropriately. There is no attempt to make any money off of this trip.


And since there has always been a t-shirt for the occasion, this is the outlined version that I sent off to the printer of the first skiludlow shirt.


The periodic table of elements with some slight modifications

Grass on the Field
February 27th, 2011 | View Post
Less than two months after the property was professionally leveled and cleared, we are already starting to see a layer of grass come in. In the evening sun, it really makes the property look warm and inviting. In my opinion, it looks much more like a public park than an industrial compound. I still have no idea just how we’ll be landscaping the property. I’m not particularly in love with the traditional grasses that are so common to the south and central Texas regions. On the other hand, it may prove to be far too expensive to cover the property in any type of greenery, regardless of how nice it is.




To put it into some perspective, an average suburban home sits about 1/4 acre piece of land. 1/4 acre of land is equivalent to a little less than 11,000 sq ft. If you figure that the footprint of the suburban home is roughly 1,500 sq ft, another 2,000 sq ft for a garage and driveway, and finally another 1,000 sq ft for exterior walkways, paved patios, and so on, you’re really only left to cover about 6,500 sq ft of property (and that doesn’t even account for mulching, tree beds, and other similar landscaping amenities).

By contrast, the Axel Project sits on roughly 62,000 sq ft of land. The footprint will take up about 5,000 sq ft, and the remaining paved areas taking up about 7,000, still leaving about 40,000 sq ft of land needing to be landscaped. That’s the equivalent of about SIX suburban lots.



Geotechnical Engineer Reports Great News!
January 7th, 2011 | View Post

The Geotechnical Report was one of the reports that I was very nervous about. We hired Holt Engineering to carry out the work, and they definitely provided us with a quick turn-around.

Basically what these guys do are setup a giant pile-driver in select locations on the subject tract (namely where the building will be), and bore into the ground. Depending on what they find, they’ll go anywhere from 10-30 feet down. It might not sound like a big deal, but they collect this tube of soil (its length is equal to the depth they bore) and then they analyze it in a lab.

Basically they’re looking to see what kind of material the ground is comprised of. Because this property is situated in east Austin, there was a fear that it might be softer clay instead of solid bedrock. Thankfully that was not at all the case and as it turns out, Axel has a very solid and shallow bedrock formation below it.

This is FANTASTIC news because the ground composition could significantly impact the cost of the foundation. The softer the ground is, the more money that has to be invested into the foundation to keep it from shifting. Not only that, but because the warehouse will have the weight spread out with steel beams, a softer ground would mean that deep pilings could be necessary at all major load points. These two factors alone could change the foundation costs from say $4.00 / sq ft to $10.00+ / sq ft. That’s a pretty significant price difference when you’re talking about having a foundation of 5,000 sq ft.

Included below are the soil reports we were provided.
Property Clearing
December 20th, 2010 | View Post
This is definitely something that I’ve wanted to do for a long time now. It wasn’t cheap, but Fig & Co. Builders hired a company to come out to the property, install a silt-fence (as the city requires), and finally level the ground as it was intended to be. There were several dumptruck loads of trash that needed to be removed. Also included was brush, some construction debris, a few knocked down trees, and a bunch of rock.




We also went ahead and had them install a construction entrance at the northwest corner of the property (right where the existing gate is). A construction entrance is what future contractor trucks and heavy machinery will use to enter and exit the property. I’m told it’s not really about traction or anything like that, but rather serves as somewhat of a front-door ‘wipe your feet off’ mat. Basically it helps to remove all of the mud and dirt from the tires of vehicles exiting the property before it gets tracked all over the public street.


Water and Sewer Hookups
December 6th, 2010 | View Post
One of the many issues I’ve long since known we’d have to deal with is with respect to water and sewage taps. Unfortunately the City of Austin does not permit commercial sites to utilize septic systems, so that is already ruled out. We had Rick Selin from the City of Austin run the specs on the property just to get an idea of where the hookups are and how difficult they would be to access.

He was pretty nice and promptly wrote us back with the following:

There is an 8” DI water main infront of the property, however there does not appear to be an existing water service to the property. There is no wastewater main infront of the property. The nearest service points appear to be roughly 185’ north of the north property line near the intersection of Axel & Jackie Robinson or roughly 252’ south of the south property line near the intersection of Axel and Wilcab. To get water service, an engineered tap plan will need to be submitted for review and approval by AWU. To get wastewater service, an engineered plan to extend the wastewater main to the property will need to be submitted for review and approval by AWU. You can speak with Seyed Miri @ 972-0202 to explore the option of an SER for the wastewater portion.


He also provided us with this image of the water lines for the area:


The water lines from the city's GIS data



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