All too often, clients come to us with a construction budget that does not account for the “soft costs” like permit fees, architecture/engineering costs and the (very necessary) contingency line for the surprises that surely occur along the way.
Whether it is an allotted dollar amount per square foot or an anticipated bank line of credit, every project has an expected cost that carries a perceived value, and that number is typically “all in” for the homeowner. The entire scope of the project is part of an in-depth process that needs limitations to be affordable AND the project line-items must account for every expense (if you want some tips on how what to look for in a bid, read this). So, the answer is to hire a design-build architecture firm and get all the costs in a lump sum, right? Wrong.
Here’s why there is a case against design-build:
Every home improvement or new construction project needs three distinct “players” – an owner, an architect, and a builder who, respectively, represent funding, creativity and labor – to get the project built. And whenever one person or company plays two parts, the overall project inevitably suffers by one third.
Worse still, the checks-and-balances of reporting are thrown off and any potential problems are more easily masked. It is tempting for architects to serve as the contractor, allowing for any lacking details to be worked out on site. And builders love to claim their design expertise based on their experienced inner-workings of how things are assembled on-site. But then, how are issues being reported to the owner – if at all? Yes, you remember the owner; the one player in this scenario that will be the actual inhabitant of the space, long after the others have gone.
The best professionals know that their role is to be part of a balanced team. And owners should always encourage a healthy, confrontational environment from their architect and contractor to get the most out of their project – because, let’s not forget, this project belongs to the owner.
Each partner must play a part to safeguard the budget. And each should take pride in the talent that they bring to the endeavor…which is something that is lost in a design-build project.
If you are planning a project and your contractor says that they don’t need an architect to get things done, this is your cue to get a different builder and make that next phone call to demand a beautiful and efficient design. Here at Debowsky Design Group, our office believes that the final product is more valuable than the team that produced it.
Measure twice, cut once, and be sure that someone gave the right directions to do both!