Star Tribune coverage of Stonewood & BuildTools

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A Wayzata homebuilder developed software to make construction easier and create a better experience for clients.

As a fourth-generation homebuilder, Sven Gustafson knows he’s not just selling houses. His customers expect far more than that.

“All builders build a pretty nice house,” he said. “As much as they’re buying a new house, they’re buying a really nice experience.”

From start to finish, builders juggle thousands of moving parts and a mind-boggling array of expectations, but there’s no industrywide standard for managing that process.

For decades, Gustafson’s company, Stonewood LLC of Wayzata, has relied on a combination of tools, including spreadsheets and computer programs, but all of them fell short. “We’ve always had cobbled together systems,” he said.

Many of the software programs he was using didn’t pass muster, he said, because they didn’t allow everyone involved in the process to access or input information, and to communicate with one another.

“They were more frustrating than they were useful in that they didn’t actually enable our employees to do their job,” he said. “And they provided limited information to the client.”

Gustafson, a former accounting software developer, knew there had to be a better way.

About three years ago, he commissioned a software developer to build a Web-based tool that’s able to manage the entire process of construction management, from keeping track of budgets to updating the construction schedule to an inventory of materials.

“It’s a connection point for everyone involved in the process,” he said. “It cuts down on the verbal communication.”

The software, called BuildTools, remains a work in progress that gets updated almost daily as users discover new ways of making it more useful or efficient. For Gustafson, it’s also become a thriving business.

Although selling the technology to other builders was never part of the plan, Gustafson’s competitors caught wind of what he was doing and wanted the program themselves.

“It’s a heck of a tool,” said Jon Schoenheider, owner of Regency Builders in Milwaukee.

His company has gone paperless because of the software, Schoenheider said. His buyers always know how much money they’re spending and they can easily access information about every aspect of the house, including the paint color they picked for every wall.

“Instead of going into the basement to look at the paint can, it’s now in the cloud,” he said, referring to a computer network. “Customers love it because if seven to eight years from now they need to repaint, they can go to the initial source — they have all the contacts right there.”

Subcontractors benefit, as well. Instead of driving to his office at the end of every day to review construction drawings, contractors can view them online. Buyers are also able to see exactly what’s happening on the job site without visiting so that they can accurately plan their move.

Clients can access the software via the Web or on free apps for smartphones and tablets.

Like Gustafson, Schoenheider says that BuildTools has given his company a competitive advantage over homebuilders who don’t offer such a system.

“Most homebuilders are still pretty old school, and most custom builders are ma-and-pa shops that don’t want to invest in this,” he said. “So it’s a differentiator for me.”

BuildTools now has hundreds of users in 23 countries and eight employees in Costa Rica who are constantly updating the software and offering support to its users.

While the company has grown considerably, Gustafson is still focused on homebuilding and has hired someone to manage the software business.

“It’s a really attractive diversion because it’s fun and I enjoy it,” he said. “But I have to be intentional about not getting too involved.”

Jim Buchta • 612-673-7376

Original article

Stonewood is hiring!

We are seeking only the best in the business. We are looking for a project manager with experience in new home construction and remodeling.

If you want to be involved in building the finest homes in the Twin Cities, are highly motivated and organized, and are passionate about home-building then we would love to speak with you.

Please contact our office at 952-697-5590 or send your resume to info@192.190.82.15

Stonewood gets a bit of press in Luxury Home Quarterly

Original Article:  http://luxuryhomequarterly.com/stonewood-llc/

Full Print Article: http://www.192.190.82.15/files/LHQ_Winter_2012.pdf  

by Rodric J. Hurdle-Bradford

As Stonewood continues its fourth-generation legacy as a premier builder in the Minneapolis market, owner Sven Gustafson has shown why he is a leading custom builder in the city by adding new talented employees to his team.

“We believe we have the best team in the area,” he says. “They are fantastic and our talent level is at an all-time high.” Stonewood’s recent personnel additions include a new purchasing manager who had been a homebuilder and is adept at design and construction. In June a staff architect joined and instantly increased the firm’s efficiency in its design processes and protocol.

“We have made major enhancements in the implementation of technology in our design process,” says Gustafson. “The extended use of advanced three-dimensional technology has enhanced our creative abilities.” Joining the recent personnel additions is a new project manager that has previously worked in Europe on high-end projects as well as the Colorado and Montana markets.

“We are always looking for people to expand our capabilities and bring in new processes,” says Gustafson. “They bring fresh eyes to what we are as well as personality and experience, those are things you cannot teach. We are not arrogant enough to think we cannot make improvements; we have a real team approach to what we are doing.” In recent years Stonewood’s marketing strategy has increased demand and sales by making proactive efforts to communicate the firm’s process with prospective clients. The combination of earned reputation, new talent and transparency in marketing has led Stonewood to avoid the cyclical ups and downs experienced by many Minneapolis builders during the recession.

“We have remained steady with our business because we do not chase trends,” says Gustafson. “We do not build a lot of spec homes; we build custom homes so our clients are trying to avoid trends. Our clients want to build a home that is not easily identified by a certain era in 20 years. It is fun because we end up doing more historical renovation projects instead of running after the latest architectural style or trend.”
The Minneapolis residential real estate market has not faced the valleys and peaks that many of the markets south of the Twin Cities have faced, however in a sign of the times Stonewood has seen an increased amount of projects centering around empty nesters downsizing to custom homes in the 5,000-square-foot range, from a previous residence that usually was double in size.

“We are doing a wide variety of projects for empty nesters,” says Gustafson. “Even though they are the same demographic, they all have different needs, and often their design is based on their personal interests and hobbies.”

With such a wide variety of client needs, Stonewood’s stellar reputation allows them access to Minneapolis’ highest quality of contractors and suppliers, along with stable material prices. One project with a historical angle Gustafson is excited about is the renovation of a Tudor-style home. The challenge of the project allows Stonewood to use its resources and use history to set its own trends in design. “It is fun to have to figure out how to create things that were hand-carved 150 years ago,” says Gustafson. For future projects, it is important for Gustafson that Stonewood continues to take on projects that are fun for him and his team.



“For the next year we just want to find fun projects that are as interesting as the projects we have done the last couple of years,” says Gustafson. “We want to continue to work for interesting people and do our 12 custom homes every year. Any more than that and we lose the personal touch that our clients love about us.”

See more work from Stonewood, LLC.

Stonewood featured in Luxury Home Quarterly!

We’ve been featured in this fine publication a few times now – Luxury Home Quarterly.

http://luxuryhomequarterly.com/

In discovering the array of custom homes that North America has to offer, Luxury Home Quarterly takes its readers into residences large and small, showcasing the people, projects, designs, and products that make up the custom-home industry.

Download the full article

Stonewood is featured on Houzz.com

Check out Stonewood’s work, as featured on Houzz.com – www.Houzz.com

Minneapolis Luxury Home Builder

The people of Stonewood have been building and remodeling homes in Minneapolis and the surrounding suburbs for over 40 years. Stonewood has been a custom-home innovator that combines honest craftsmanship, time tested processes and innovative technologies.

We strive to make each stage of the building experience rewarding and enjoyable for our clients by delivering:
Integrity in materials, construction, schedule and detailing.
Character through accountability, cost awareness, enthusiasm and trustworthiness.
Competency in craftsmanship, efficient processes and attentive project management.
Creativity in design, technology and sense of space.
A signature Stonewood home is a story revealed through landscape and personable living spaces. Each project reflects our love of craft applied to home, life and style.

Welcome to our new Blog!

We decided it was time to let everyone know about the great work that has been going on at Stonewood. In addition to updating our portfolio, we wanted to create a site that is clearer, easier to navigate, and most importantly a site that includes content that will provide value to our clients. Over the next several months we will be adding content in the form of articles, links, and presentations related to important topics in the design and construction industry. This is the first post of this new section of the site called Blog. Hope you like it and please share your thoughts with us by commenting on each post.

Stonewood renovation of a classic minneapolis home

The Gustafson family, founders of Stonewood, have come to be known not only as a builders of fine new homes, but also as a renovators of older historic homes.  “We’ve always done remodeling for past clients and friends, but since 2001 we have a seperate division devoted soley to remodeling.” Sven Gustafson, President

See more of our new and remodeled homes at www.192.190.82.15

This project entailed the complete renovation of a home built in 1890 and the addition of 3500 sq. ft.   Stonewood was able to restore this home to it’s original character, undoing the mistakes of many past remodels.  Only the shell remained after our demolition.  We were able to source the stone and roofing form the original manufacturers and quarries.  A very rewarding project.

Interior selections by Stonewood’s staff interior designers.
Furnished by Rebecca Enck of Martha O’Hara Interiors.

Lake Harriet, Minneapolis MN