Unless you're involved in the construction industry, chances are you don't know what a design-build company does … and you're not alone. Friends invariably call to ask what “design-build” means? They want my advice on working with a design-build firm and my answer is almost always yes, unless the project scope is too small or the homeowner has already completed more than 80% of the design in which case most builders can use their plans, and avoid the design costs (although you'll need engineering).
The simple answer is working with a design-build company will save you time, money and stress! Most people will talk about the time or the money but I think the stress is more important, as homeowners don't have a lot of experience building or remodeling homes, and like anything new and different, along with the excitement comes lots of stress.
Missing Door Openings So Please Don't Tell!
We'd all like to live in a perfect world but we're human and that means mistakes happen. The construction industry has it's mistakes so if you don't hold it against me, let me share a story.
The foundation without door openings (photo) could have been avoided with a design-build company, if the design work involved the architect and the builder. Following a traditional design process, the architect drew up the blueprints and the homeowner gave them to the builder. Only after the foundation was poured, did the homeowner question where the doors (3 planned) were and oops, only the garage door was on the blueprint.
This wasn't a huge mistake but here's what it took to correct the situation:
- Delay while architect produced new drawings showing the doorways.
- Waiting for the concrete company to cut away the door openings.
- Someone had to pay for the concrete work, approximately $800.
- … and don't you think there was a bit of stress for everyone involved?
Benefits of Design-Build Companies
This story helps explain the difference between more traditional building and the newer, design-build method which saves homeowners time, money and stress. The biggest difference is how the building or remodeling team is structured. With jobs taking months or often more than a year, it's really important to focus on building a strong partnership at the outset.
Tradition Building Puts Homeowners in the Drivers Seat!
- Homeowners collect ideas in a notebook, or now you can use Pinterest.
- Homeowners buy a set of house plans or … find an architect to draw up their plans. Having done both, experience says there are benefits and drawbacks to each approach but that's for another story.
- Homeowners get bids from several builders or remodelers. This is when you learn working with an architect is worth their fees, as they know which builders deliver on their promise!
- Homeowners pick their remodeler and then the fun begins. The homeowner gets to act as the middleman between the architect (design) and builder who knows (and their bid assumed) how to build and where to cut costs. Often the homeowner is clueless and when you realize something is not according to your blueprints, you have to decide if you want to spend the time to negotiate a compromise … which increases time, cost and stress.
Design-Build Starts with ONE Team!
With the design-build process, the architect and the builder work for the same company. Your building project starts with planning meetings that include you, the homeowner, the person designing your home and the person building your house. You are a team from the beginning, with everyone learning together what priorities are important to preserve as the design comes together within the homeowners budget – the company assigns one person as the project owner, relieving the homeowner of this pressure.
So what happens differently with design-build?
- A cost-effective design gets created faster with collaboration among the team members.
- Construction moves faster with fewer questions and problems to slow things down.
- There's one person responsible managing all problems and concerns and it's not the homeowner! This includes building permits or inspections, pre-ordering materials with long lead times, scheduling specialty sub-contractors, job site issues, change orders, etc.
The timelines illustrate how one team working together from the start, gets the project done faster. When everyone works on the design together, quality improves and there are fewer change orders, so overall project costs are lower. All of this adds up to substantial savings for the homeowner.