Builders * Developers *
Custom Design Home Builders
Builder / Architect is proud to honor George Robak Associates
as our Builder of the Month
Homes of Distinctive Design and Uncompromising
clients get more than a unique living environment. They get years of satisfaction
knowing their new home is structurally superior and will be free of many costly
problems that plague homeowners years down the road. They have a home that was
designed and built with their specific needs in mind. And, as an added bonus,
Robak homeowners come away with something few others do: a valuable education
in the materials and methods of construction.
able to provide personal and professional home design and construction service
by tapping his comprehensive experience. A licensed architect, engineer,
builder, developer and licensed broker, Robak is uniquely suited to take
clients the entire route from selection of a lot to a finished, custom home. As
a former educator and self-described lifelong learner, he is also suited to
impart a great deal of information to his customers. "I enjoy sharing
information," he said. "I guess after teaching for 18 years, it just comes
Clients Receive a Valuable
interested in learning valuable information about the design and construction
of a good home, Robak fills the ticket. Throughout the process, customers can
expect to learn about architectural design theories, materials and construction
methods. Robak even recommends that clients take short courses from Milwaukee
Area Technical College or other sources if they will be building a home.
"I encourage people to learn as much as
they can about construction because then they know what should be done and what
can be done to build a quality home," he said.
Robak taught architectural design,
drafting, computer aided design, structural analysis and other courses at MATC
from 1971 to 1989. Throughout that period he developed his practice as an
architect, builder and developer of commercial, industrial and residential
projects. Several of the skilled tradesmen and subcontractors with whom he now
works are former students of his. Robak's new crop of students-his
clients-learn the basics of construction: from the essentials of choosing the
best lot and building a good foundation to quality finish carpentry.
Robak's approach means he spends more time
with each client. In addition to explaining the construction processes, Robak
invests time in learning about his clients' specific needs. Rather than become
a high volume builder, Robak has chosen to focus on providing personal and
professional service, limiting his business to between five and ten homes per
year. This is the best way for him to understand his clients' needs and budgets
and to design very special homes just for them. He has never built the same
While many builders specialize in custom
homes, Robak is one of the few whose architectural qualifications allow him
to personally meet the design needs of the customer. Clients can bring in a
floor plan from a magazine or newspaper to serve as a basis for a design. Or,
as he prefers, the custom design process can begin even before the client has
settled on a specific lot. Robak makes himself available to help clients evaluate
and choose among selected lots. He takes into consideration the angle of the
property to the sun, the topography, the soil conditions and other factors in
helping pick out the best place for a home. Once the lot is chosen, whether
from his own development or outside of it, he will sit down with the client
to custom design the home of a lifetime.
Five Steps to
a Custom Design
Robak asks the client to make up a three-pronged wish list of needs, wants and
desires. The list encompasses how many rooms, approximate size of the rooms,
features that are essential, those that would be nice but not necessary, and
others that would be great if money were no object. Clients indicate the
importance of garden space, patios or decks, views of nature from the kitchen
or other rooms, and so on. Robak then compares the list to the features of the
lot and to the budget.
The budget is one of Robak's primary concerns.
"The design is very dependent on the budget," he said. Most people put many
more items on their wish list than they can realistically afford, and Robak
keeps them conscious of the costs. "The most difficult part of my job is telling
them what they can't afford," he said.
After the wish list is narrowed down, Robak
creates a "bubble diagram." The diagram is first laid out to show the shape of
the floor plan relative to the cardinal directions of the lot, and it indicates
prevailing winds and the surrounding topography. Then he and the client lay out
the active areas of the house: family room or great room and the kitchen,
moving outward to the bedrooms, baths and other areas. The bubble diagram is
intended to show a general relationship between the various rooms in the house.
Next Robak takes the bubble diagram
and creates two or three variations of "single line plans" that give a more
concrete relationship between the rooms. In a second meeting, he and the client
critique and modify the design to the client's satisfaction.
At a third meeting, Robak shows the client
the "design development drawing'!-the developed design based on the critiques
of the single line plan. At this point, the client usually approves the drawing
as it is or with slight modifications. In addition, the client approves one of
several sketches of what the outside elevation will look like.
After approval of the design, Robak produces
the blueprints and specifications. Here Robak recommends specific types of finish
materials such as countertops and plumbing fixtures he would like to use, based
on the budget. "Clients are then free to go to suppliers to look at what's been
recommended and either upgrade or downgrade the item," he said.
Robak's approach to the business
is very specialized, and each client is treated specially. Each home is
carefully tailored to fit the lifestyle of the owner, with respect to the
functional and mechanical aspects of design. Years of knowledge and experience
are used to provide the highest level of quality consistent with the client's
budget. Robak does not get involved with bidding wars. "I am price conscious,
but I also want to deal on a professional basis, give them the service they
want, educate them, and make building a home a comfortable experience."
Functional Quality Sets Robak Apart
For the homeowner who cares about the
future and appreciates long-term quality, George Robak is the perfect choice.
The uniqueness of a Robak home is often hidden underground in the basement and
between the walls. "It's not the things that people see easily," Robak said.
The attention to quality lies in the foundation, the superstructure and in
energy conservation. The basement will be drier and more comfortable over the
years, the heating bills will be lower, and the exterior will be
Robak's idea of
quality is to take the time and spend a little bit extra up front to prevent
costly, long-term problems down the road-particularly regarding the basement.
From a structural engineer's standpoint, Robak prefers using a reinforced
concrete foundation instead of concrete blocks. He also recommends using larger
size drain tiles than are required by code and back-filling with extra amounts
of gravel so that water percolates better. Recognizing that most people want
dry, comfortable basements, he said, "I try to eliminate the problem right from
Like many people today, Robak is also concerned
about the environment and routinely applies the highest standards in energy
conservation. In addition to maximizing insulation (he has built several super-insulated
homes with double walls and insulation), he also tells his clients about the
benefits of insulation - 1 " or 2" of Styrofoam on the outside of the foundation
wall that extends all the way down to the top of the footing. Full foundation
wall insulation keeps the basement wall warmer and thereby reduces condensation,
which is a major cause of basement mildew and mustiness. "A warmer wall will
feel more comfortable," Robak added.
While these additional quality features
tend to cost more than the standard, they do not significantly add to the
overall budget, and they pay back over time. The most expensive items in the
budget tend to be luxury finish features such as marble, leaded glass or
ceramic tile. "The extra insulation or higher efficiency furnace will be paid
back in the life cycle of that building, and will benefit society in the 50100
years that the home might be up," he said.
Clients won't have to worry much about
exterior upkeep of their Robak home, either. They usually feature
maintenance-free materials such as brick, aluminum siding, aluminum soffits and
fascias, and aluminum-clad windows. "That way, people don't have to spend a lot
of time maintaining the outside of the building," he said.
Most of Robak's customers are second or
third-time home buyers looking to develop a living environment that is unique
and well made. Many have owned tract or model homes from other builders, and
have learned what kinds of deficiencies are possible. "They want something a
little bit better," he said. "I can inform them, I can debate with them the
pros and cons of one way or another. In the end, I will help them get what they
want out of their house, and they will be assured the house is done correctly."
Much of his work is residential,
single family, with a minimum of 2,000 square feet. He specializes in two-story
homes in the 2,400 to 3,000 square foot range, which can be a wide variety of
styles. Robak has built ranch-style homes, Colonials and contemporaries. He
will often utilize roof angles or overhanging soffits to take advantage of the
sun or to provide shade. The angle of the sun plays an important role in all of
his design decisions, from positioning a building on a lot to room layout and
window placement. The principle of "solar orientation" is a major design
Newest Technologies Utilized
Clients of Robak can rest assured that their
builder will be up-to-date on the latest advancements in design and construction.
As an educator, he has been absorbing new information continually and passing
it along to his students and clients. Materials and methods are changing faster
than the schools and many people can keep up with, but Robak does his best.
"You're always learning something new about a material or method of construction,"
he said. "I look at it as you're continuously learning, and you are never too
old. I myself believe that I will never know all there is to know."
Active participation in
professional and civic groups allows Robak to stay current with new
technologies and do a better job for his clients. He is a member of
professional organizations such as the Wisconsin Society of Architects, the
American institute of Architects, the Metropolitan Builders Association, and
the National Association of Home Builders.
addition to the professional organizations in which he participates, Robak has
also been on the City of Greenfield's Planning Commission and Economic
Development Commission for five years. "I find it very personally rewarding to
let my experience help the city evaluate different projects and give the
politicians some information as to what's good and what's bad," he said. He has
also enjoyed being part of the democratic process.
Robak has been very active with the
Eleemosynarians of St. Francis Hospital and the Milwaukee Society. He is also a
member of the South Side Businessman's Club and the Rotary Club. "I believe it
is important to give to the community," he said. "It is true that what you give
is multiplied and comes back to you."
Born and raised on Milwaukee's south side, Robak developed an
interest in drafting at Pulaski High School and went on to earn his
architecture degree at the University of Illinois in 1966. After working
briefly in Ohio, Robak came home to work with a large consulting firm in
Milwaukee. There he contributed to the design of major projects such as the
Milwaukee County Court House Annex, the Eye Institute on the Milwaukee County
Institution grounds, and the Winnebago County Airport. In 1971, he accepted an
invitation to teach at MATC and began his dual career in the
end of the 1980s, Robak decided it was time to focus more completely on
building. The teaching responsibilities were holding him back from doing larger
projects. "Besides," he said, "the energy level to keep up the pace of two
fulltime jobs was not what it used to be." He resigned from MATC at the end of
1989 and is now building and developing full time. He develops subdivisions
himself and sells lots to individual customers who can choose either Robak or
Robak is married to
Sandra, and he has four children-three daughters and a son. His oldest
daughter, Rebecca, works for him full-time during the summers. He anticipates
that she will join him in the business one day, after completing her degree in
economics and international studies at Northwestern University. He looks
forward to that day and to the knowledge she will bring to the company. Another
daughter, Sarah, in high school, works with him part-time throughout the year.
Quality Custom Homes Prevail
Although Robak has designed and built one
model home, he has yet to build a copy of it. Building models reduces the cost
of custom home building by eliminating the time and need for a new design. "But
building models is not necessarily as much fun as doing the design and the cost
analysis of each one," he said. "That's part of my service. It does cost a
little bit more than buying a model home or a copy of a model. But then you
have a house that is unique and it's yours, and I like to think that it is done
In the end, Robak's customers
tend to have in common a living style that appreciates quality. They also share
a confidence that the house Robak has built for them has been carefully thought
out, is tailored to their lifestyle, and will last well beyond their years
there. And they can also be assured it is a unique and special kind of home
that they probably could not have found anywhere else.
Builder / Architect is proud to
honor George Robak of Robak Associates as our Builder of the Month. Robak
Associates, Inc. is located at 12344 W. Layton Avenue, Greenfield, WI 53228,
(414) 427-0777. B/A
Robak Associates, Inc.
11813 W. Waterford Ave.
Greenfield, WI 53228
Office: (414) 427-0777
Copyright©2003 Robak Associates, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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