Seeing is believing
Builders use 3-D design system to help shape dreams
By Mike Mathes
Christel and Heiberger Builders have added a 3-D capability to their design build approach to home and commercial remodeling and building. They can conceptualize with a customer via their new computer imaging system, as seen above. Later, they take the visual plan and build it into reality for the homeowner, as noted below on a recent project.

Most people are visual learners.

At Christel and Heiberger Builders, the design-build team has taken that to heart, implementing a full three-dimensional, computer driven design process to help customers visualize how a building project will turn out.

The results have been remarkable, as Christel and Heiberger Builders has become a visual planner for its clients.

“A pencil drawing or floor plan just doesn’t do justice to what a project will look like when it’s finished,” partner-owner Tom Heiberger said.

“We like the 3-D design system because it helps our customers by letting them see exactly what they can expect in a project,” Glenn Christel, his partner noted.

Design-build emphasis

Christel and Heiberger Builders has always taken a design-build approach to customer projects and the use of this 3-D computer-design system really enhances that experience.

Portions of homes, home additions or remodels take shape on the computer screen at the hands of Jackie Christel, who works for the company doing design, estimating and sales. She sits in on a listening session between the homeowner and Tom or Glenn, and gains insights into their wants and needs.

The program allows her to build a visual tour for the customer and builder alike. Both can see the proposed changes right down to the detail of surface finish and coloration. “It really helps them to visualize what the changes will look like. We can swap out the different sidings, for example, or change trim. Sometimes they might want to see what a different door would look like. All these changes can be made in minutes,” Christel said.

Homeowner involved

Heiberger said it is a critical part of the communication process to involve the homeowner in the 3-D visual tour of each project.

“When people get a chance to see the changes, there are no surprises. Jackie is really good at how she puts these things together. She usually hits a home run with her first impressions,” Heiberger noted.

The beauty of the 3-D software is that it allows the homeowner and builders to “tweak” portions of the project in the planning stages.

With a few clicks a planned wall can be moved to change the living space.

A window can easily be added or removed as the homeowner’s focus or needs change.

The design can literally evolve as the discussions take place.

Homeowner focus

“We want this to be the homeowner’s project,” Heiberger said. “So we listen a lot at first. We absorb everything they say and then share our ideas on how to make it even better. We have good people here with lots of experience, so we enjoy planning with them and using the 3-D system to help build the best possible project.”

Through the 3-D tour, the homeowner can see the “finished project” including material selections, stain finishes, fabrics and color schemes from every angle. They can look at suggested furnishings and walk down hallways to see what a room or addition will look like from top to bottom.

Rooms can be viewed at actual scaled dimensions. Hallways can be accessed to show where storage nooks and closets are located. Appliances can be built in. Furnishings and fixtures are added. The 3-D program will even put your pictures up on the virtual tour wall!

Floorings, finishes, window treatments, walls even counter surfaces can be matched to the design specs.

Everyone on same page

The 3-D design system has another great benefit. With a visual of the finished project, and the virtual tour, everyone in the process lands on the same page as far as project expectations are concerned. The homeowner, builder and sub-contractors all get to see the same dreams visualized in life-like fashion.

While it may be hard to get excited over a floor plan, 3-D designing boosts a homeowner’s enthusiasm for a plan. Glenn Christel said, “It’s pretty amazing. When we give people the views of what a project will look like, they get pretty excited.”

32 years together

The partner-owners Glenn Christel and Tom Heiberger have operated their construction business together for 32 years, having worked together for six years prior to that.

Their experience in the building business proves invaluable for their customers.

“We like to brainstorm with them,” Christel said.

“We talk about the project and try to find things we can do better, whether it’s the flow of traffic, which way a door swings or the usage of space,” Heiberger added.

At Christel and Heiberger Builders, the 3-D design work does carry a nominal price tag. “We do charge a fee for the service,” Glenn Christel said, “but it’s a whole lot cheaper than paying architectural fees, which can range from $2,000 to $5,000.”

Company info

In addition to Jackie Christel, Christel and Heiberger Builders have other gifted staff members on board to lend their hand to the design-build process.

Other staff members include Jennifer Pitzen, office manager; Wayne Casper, project supervisor; Scott Kleinhans and Tommy Heiberger, foremen; and carpenters Kevin Kleinhans, Keith Niemczyk, Craig Steinhardt, Phil Plagemann and Jacob Muehlbauer.

Christel and Heiberger is located at 2820 Altona Avenue in New Holstein, south of STH 32/57. The office is open to customers 8 a. m. to 5 p. m. daily, or by appointment. For more information call 898-2820. You can also visit the Christel and Heiberger team online at