Don't Feel Threatened

Do design/build firms threaten the existence of architecture firms? Does design/build reduce the importance of the architect? Are architecture-only firms losing business to design/build shops? Are the customers of design/build firms seeking only convenience rather than top-quality architecture?

There are no simple answers to these questions. And there are as many opinions on these matters as there are readers of this magazine.

So why ask these questions? Because I connected with an architect at the American Institute of Architects conference this past June, who said he’s concerned about the client who thinks he’s getting a masterfully designed home from a design/build firm, when all he’s really getting is something churned out by design software. He thought if this is occurring somewhere, an architect might feel threatened.

This is not the case with most design/build firms, of course. Plenty of design/build firms have highly skilled, award-winning architects and designers on staff, working closely with engineers and construction pros to deliver the most beautiful, safest and efficient homes for their client’s money. Still, I’m sure some of you can think of at least one competitor who is selling his new software as design/build.

What can an architect do to compete with design/build firms? Option one is to stay the course, knowing that your work will continue to stand up against that from design/build firms. Plus, there will always be clients who want to do business with a specialist. Option two is to join a design/build firm, or form your own. Option three is to connect with the local AIA chapter for help, if you need it. You wouldn’t be the first business leader to need help. Am I forgetting any options?

So, should architects feel threatened by design/build firms? Absolutely not. Instead, architects should feel threatened by uneducated clients who don’t know how to appreciate creative, high-quality residential design. It’s up to you to teach them how.

Speaking of quality custom residential architecture and construction, Residential Design & Build magazine is proud to present its 2006 class of Excellence Award winners. They know the importance of solid business practices, making a profit and delivering a quality product, and we share their stories with you.

The owners of these 10 firms have different life experiences, but they all share the same drive to improve, be on top of trends and run a tight operation. You can read short profiles of each firm beginning here. I believe you’ll agree they are smart enough not to feel threatened by a competitor who bought new design software.