When planning a detached two-car garage for the matching PT Cruisers he bought with his lottery winnings, Muculus Grigsby assumed he didn’t need a building permit. This assumption was confirmed by his brother-in-law, Kenny, who agreed over a few cold ones to build the garage for "cost plus a dime top-nut," which was Kenny-speak for "construction cost plus ten percent."
A week after their fateful agreement (solidified though a spirited beer bump), Kenny got a $5,000 deposit from Muculus and started digging the grade beam that would define the perimeter of the garage. His construction documents consisted of a series of shakily drawn lines on a piece of plywood, with the words "two cars + mower" written in the middle. The next morning he called in his order for concrete, which he referred to as "hot sauce." Kenny and his ragtag crew did a passable job of forming the grade beam and finishing the slab on grade—the final five minutes of which were observed by a scowling man wearing a "Building Inspector" hat, who seemed to have materialized out of thin air. Pointing at the wet concrete with a rolled-up Termite Infestation Probability Map, the inspector asked to see Kenny’s building permit. Kenny looked quizzically at him and replied that no permit was needed for hot sauce. The meeting went south, as did the meeting between Kenny and Muculus later that evening, resulting in Kenny getting the boot.
Because the structure that he wanted was already delayed, Muculus approached a contractor who specialized in garages. Strangely, he was also named Kenny, and Muculus took to calling him "Other Kenny" to avoid confusion. Over a couple of weeks, Other Kenny developed the proper construction documents, which showed the proposed garage in relation to Muculus’s property lines and house. He met with the building official, who issued a building permit after confirming that the garage adhered to the requirements of both the building code and the zoning ordinance.
The foundation built by the original Kenny had to be replaced and the site regraded, which set Muculus back $5,000 on top of the cost of the garage. Other Kenny worked quickly, called in the building inspector at all the proper times, and passed the final inspection a month after he broke ground. That night, certificate of occupancy in hand (but $5,000 poorer than planned), Muculus backed his one PT Cruiser into the garage, having had to sell the other to pay for the garage.
Dan Maginn is an AIA-member architect who lives and carpools to work with his wife, Keri, in Kansas City. Although he and his partners at El Dorado Inc. are extremely interested in promoting sustainable design on all scales, he does not consider himself to be an "eco-warrior." Instead he prefers the term "eco-tainment specialist"