Design/Build is a process by which the entire design and construction process comes under one umbrella. Design/Build has been growing as a preferred option for many homeowners for a number of reasons. In our experience over the last 25 years bidding plans from architects, we have discovered that a few problems consistently come up.
Budgeting is divorced from design.
While some architects make an effort to design to a budget, we have found that they rarely achieve it. Usually, when the bids come in, all of them are higher than anticipated. There is a simple explanation for this: architects are not builders, and they are not constantly pricing work. They do what they do well, but can’t be expected to know costs. Square foot pricing is at best only vaguely realistic, especially in rehab work where different parts of houses are touched to varying degrees.
In the Design/Build process we engage in, we speak specifically to pricing from the beginning, and work the design to the budget. This helps ensure a smoother process, with no big redesign at the pricing stage.
The overriding advantage to Design/Build, in the most general sense, is the continuity and seamlessness of the process. The “hand-off” in the traditional architect-to-builder model is always the most difficult part of the job. Months of design conversations are lost, any specific aspect of the design not spelled out in the drawings is lost, and the intention of the project is reinterpreted by a whole new set of people. This can lead to problems in the homeowner getting exactly what they want. After spending valuable time and money deciding what you want, and paying to get it drawn, it seems disadvantageous to then start over with a builder.
On a more specific level, the process we engage in handles the design and material selection as the design is being done, and the intention is to have all the material selection done before construction is started. This eliminates a major source of stress for homeowners- having to make decisions “on the fly” during the construction process. We strive to have 100% material selection done by the start of construction.
Having this done in advance helps the process in another way—it enables us to compress the schedule, eliminating decision making during construction. While this may seem hard to believe, with the less than stellar reputation most contractors have regarding scheduling, we implement and stick to schedules during construction, and we do so aggressively. Homeowners who are making material selections during construction often find it very difficult to keep up with the pace of construction.