Some people know what they want to do with their life when they’re 8 years old. One of these people is Richard Oswald, who found his calling upon sketching a house while sitting in detention one day, then seeing a similar house in a magazine. He later attended college to study architecture.
A professor advised Oswald he was ready to start his own business, so Oswald left school, passed his architecture exam then started Oswald and Murray Co. in Boulder, Colo. The firm was founded to do design/build work; or in Oswald’s words; “He who designs it builds it.”
“I believe that every architect at some point should be required to build off their own drawings. For me that was the most humbling experience I ever had.” Oswald says. “We don’t take into account the realities in the field, nor who reads those drawings. Often I feel like architects’ drawings are done to impress other architects, but that’s not who we should impress. We should impress the builders and the folks in the field who will use them.”
Unfortunately there’s a shortage of those in the field, such as trim carpenters, who read and use drawings. To eliminate the bottleneck at the carpentry stage, Oswald & Murray formed an in-house trim crew two years ago.
“While under our control, the insurance costs to have them on staff were astronomical, not to mention paying them benefits,” he explains. “So we did that for a year and then created a separate trim carpentry business. We’ve given primary ownership to those on the initial crew. Now the company has a set crew for our jobs, and other crews that solicit work for other GCs. It has proven to be a workable model for us.”
This move allows Oswald & Murray to better apply its philosophy of architect as builder. “Our desire is to see designs implemented as they were conceived without interpretation. Builders in my opinion approach their jobs from the dollar standpoint rather than the design standpoint. That gives homes the wrong energy.”
Crew continuity in the design/build process translates to quick decisions and design integrity. “When a problem occurs on a typical remodel, you stop what you’re doing, wait for the architect to come out, he goes back to the drawing board, and the entire process takes a few days. It takes me about 15 minutes to come up with a solution, sketch it and implement it.
I believe we can build high-quality homes faster and with more continuity than many of our competitors."
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