It’s critical in this down market to do whatever we can as professionals to reduce the time it takes to design and build a custom home. Whether you are an architect, builder or part of a design/build company, you can use this time as an opportunity to learn new tricks to improve your production timeliness. Cutting the time of delivery on a project is huge and will serve you even in good times.
There are two impediments in the traditional approach to custom design and build that, if amended, will greatly enhance more timely production. The first is the bidding process with multiple contractors. The second is not having a cohesive team in place from the inception of design. If you are a design/build company, you probably can relate to this better than anybody. If you have a traditional architect/builder relationship, you can appreciate the time efficiencies that will result by implementing these changes.
Advise your clients that they and their projects are better served if the whole team is identified and engaged upfront. The results are better communication and more timely progression overall. If everyone is on board from the beginning and does their job, cost can be established early and continue to evolve throughout the design process. You and the team, and most importantly your client, will be on the same page. The need to bid the project with multiple builders, only to find out too late in the game where you really are, will be eliminated.
This team includes not just the architect and the builder, but also the interior designer. The interior designer must work in tandem with the architect and builder to provide selections for pricing early on, and provide a final package to accompany construction drawings. This will greatly facilitate critical path scheduling and timely purchasing during construction.
The architectural team might also contribute toward reducing the time required for production of final drawings. This might include anything from using existing details and providing hand sketches, to continuous communication with the rest of the team to generate cost information and avoid time lost to bidding after the drawings are fully completed.
A great example of an integrated team that achieves exceptionally efficient contract-to-move-in results is actually production builders, who are in fact design/build entities. While their product is typically much simpler in design and construction overall, these large builders bring the kind of organization that can produce efficient results.
The banker is a team player that must not be forgotten, especially in this new economy and financial conditions. Lenders are taking an inordinate amount of additional time with underwriting to fulfill all of the regulations and deal with the bad news that custom appraisals render these days. It’s not unusual for interim construction closing to take three to four times longer than before, making it especially important for the team to provide drawings and cost months before the anticipated construction start.
By implementing these strategies, the architectural team can begin to establish budget early on through consultation with the builder and the interior designer. The builder will then already have a final cost prepared and be ready to start construction just as the architect puts the final details on the drawings.
Builders need to demand all decisions are made in advance so the construction time frame doesn’t become a victim of design development, value engineering and the drudgery of dealing with decisions not made by the owner at earlier stages. By eliminating bidding by multiple contractors and establishing teamwork early, you will definitely move toward that goal.
We all need to become more professional, more efficient and effective to improve the process of custom design and build. If we focus on what we can do to shorten the time in which we provide our professional services, we will make more money, have more successful practices and have much more satisfied customers.