MK Development LLC
MK Development specializes in the true design/build of contemporary and traditional homes
in the Arlington, Va., and Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.
By Russ Gager
Architects, engineers, and construction professionals at MK Development use the techniques they have developed and experiences they have had in commercial projects to construct high-quality luxury homes using true design/build techniques. “Some companies market themselves as custom builders but in reality, they simply sell off-the-shelf designs,” President Kyu Jung asserts. “We take the holistic masterbuilder approach where we are helping the user through a process and taking ownership of every development throughout the building lifecycle. I think a lot of that has to do with our corporate background in design/build delivery on large commercial projects which require a greater attention to customization.”
Approximately 40 percent of MK Development’s business is commercial. “Given the diversity that we have, we’re able to afford the infrastructure necessary to put in place a more commercial-type of project management process that translates better for the customer experience,” Jung declares.
“The luxury clientele we market MK Homes to demand this extra level of customer service,” Vice President Mark Ilich emphasizes. “The skillsets we apply in the commerical world apply really well to that demanding CEO who wants to build their house with an attention to detail on very specific design elements.”
For example, the synergy between on-staff Architect Slade Elkins and Project Manager Bob Luckett can result in economies in planning, design and construction that would be unavailable with a separate architect and construction company. “We iron problems out ahead of time, and that pays dividends in the field,” Elkins maintains.
That process was used on a recent project, the Dickerson house. The plans for it were input into Revit 3-D modeling software and the design for systems such as HVAC were confirmed. “We figured out a route for the HVAC duct system before the first truss was delivered,” Elkins says.
The Revit 3-D model is all in one source, not scattered over various 2-D computer-aided design systems that are not updated with changes simultaneously. It allowed “camera views” to be taken inside the virtual structure of what certain areas would look like. Other software can show where the sun will hit a structure and what shadows it will cast.
This allows customers to see accurately on a 50-inch flat-screen TV in the MK Development offices what their home is going to look like. “When they see this space fully in 3-D, they immediately understand the issues and what they want,” Elkins points out.
About half of MK Development’s customers in the Arlington, Va., and Washington, D.C., metro area where it designs and builds its projects want traditional exteriors on their homes to match their historical neighborhoods, but contemporary interiors. However, Jung observes that younger buyers are entering the market and commissioning a more contemporary style on the exterior that accounts for the other half of MK Development’s projects.
Other trends Jung is observing is that clients don’t feel they need extra living or dining rooms or 4,000-square-foot homes. “‘I just want space that makes sense for us,’ people are saying,” Jung reports. “They want to do more with less, and that is the trend in the modern houses.” Clients coming from California expect more light in their homes than traditional Arlington homes have, for example.
Elkins observes a trend toward durable, low-maintenance materials, and simpler interior ornamentation. “We’re finding clients after they run the numbers whether to renovate or take down and start over, they’re almost looking at an apples-to-apples, break-even point,” he says. “For some clients, it doesn’t make sense to renovate. The ultimate tear-down decision lies with out client, not MK.”
Energy efficiency is built into many of MK Development’s homes, especially since Arlington established its own LEED-like program called the Green Home Choice (GHC). “We’re finding out that geothermal has a 10- to 12-year payback, but customers are willing to swallow the upfront cost of that system because they will get a better-performing system,” Jung maintains.
“Of the six homes we are currently building, four of the six homes are geothermal,” Luckett reports. “We start out with a GHC Silver goal and we’ll do as much green building as the customer wants to pay for.” MK Development also uses best practices from the National Association of Homebuilders’ Green Building program. “They came up with something that is more unique and specific for residential houses,” Luckett says. “So we tend to subject our homes to that standard instead of LEED.”
Luckett estimates that MK Development self-performs about 20 percent of the work on its projects, such as for the foundation and framing, carpentry, trim, drywall and paint. The rest usually is performed by 12 to 15 subcontractors.
Mobile computing devices are used extensively during the design and construction of MK Development’s projects. “That’s an important aspect of our company,” Jung emphasizes. “We do all of our collaboration and file-sharing through Google Drive.” Recently, Arlington County put permitting for construction projects online, and Elkins already has taken advantage of it.
MK Development emphasizes its focus on the user experience, to which its executives attribute the company’s success over the last 10 volatile years of the construction market. “We’re not a cookie-cutter production group,” Jung stresses. “We are a user-experience, customer-focused company.”
Ilich praises MK Development’s quality staff. “They care about their projects and take pride in their work, their professionalism and constant attention to quality,” he says. “We’ve gotten feedback directly from clients that they appreciate that extra TLC into a variety of details that we emphasize more than other builders. We want to make sure the satisfaction is very high on every project.”
“Inevitably things go wrong, and when something does go south, we’re on it and we’re fixing those problems,” Elkins says. “We’re happy doing six to 10 custom homes focusing on the user experience,” Jung adds.
Jung maintains MK Development’s future is in responding to clients’ evolving taste. “We’d like to see our buiness grow more into these modern houses. I think that’s what excites us. You can find a lot of pleasure in doing a really nice bungalow, but a modern home design can really be a thrill. We are always looking for challenges.”