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Builders * Developers * Realtors

Custom Design Home Builders

Builder / Architect is proud to honor George Robak Associates as our Builder of the Month


George Robak
Homes of Distinctive Design and Uncompromising Quality

{short description of image} George Robak's 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.
Robak is 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 naturally."
Clients Receive a Valuable Education
For people 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.
{short description of image} "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 house twice.
{short description of image} 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
First, 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.
{short description of image} 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.
{short description of image} 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 maintenance-free.
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 the start."
{short description of image} 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 consideration.
Newest Technologies Utilized
{short description of image} 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.
Community Involvement
In 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 building/development business.
By 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 another builder.
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 right."
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


AIA

Robak Associates, Inc.
11813 W. Waterford Ave.
Greenfield, WI 53228
Office: (414) 427-0777
Email: gerobak@robakassociates.com

MBA

Copyright©2003 Robak Associates, Inc. All Rights Reserved. This text may be reproduced in electronic media so long that it remains completely intact and includes this notice. Hard copy reproduction requires the written permission of Robak Associates, Inc. E-Mail your comments or questions to: Robak Associates, Inc.and we will be happy to get back to you!