When a prospective new home buyer begins the design/build process he will hire an architect and a builder. All three parties have a responsibility to create and sustain a win-win-win relationship so the completed home can be delivered on schedule, on budget and can meet or exceed the client’s expectations.

Like all consumers, home buyers seek quality, value and service when selecting a design/build team. Likewise, successful architects and builders try to identify clients who trust their expertise, are reasonable and realistic as to their budget expectations, scheduling and their acceptance of finished work. The ability to merge each party’s objectives and responsibilities requires each to fulfill a role so the team feels a sense of accomplishment and pride.

The client’s role

After selecting a site, architect and builder, the client needs to identify his primary objective and share it with his team of professionals. What is the client’s most important overall factor? Is it aesthetics, budget, or space planning? The client should carefully reflect on this question with the team and clearly communicate his decision.

One custom client of ours told us to design his home and create specifications and a budget for a “Cadillac” finish, but requested upgrade options during each and every phase of construction, so that 22 months later we completed an awesome, award-winning 7,000-sq.-ft. French country home that has only “Rolls Royce” features and finishes. Had the client committed from the start to prioritize quality and aesthetics over budget, i.e., told the team to plan and deliver a “Rolls Royce” custom home, not a “Cadillac,” the home would have been built faster and more efficiently from beginning to end. Again, communication with the building team could have saved time and money.

The architect’s role

The ability to balance the client’s needs and desires with the architect’s vision and construction realities is a key element of the concept plan process. Having worked with many talented architects during my career, I continue to be amazed at their ability to transfer the often mixed signals of the client into a buildable plan.

Discussion of the maximum square footage of the project is a subject that should be clearly agreed upon early in the design process. Advising the clients that their request to “just add two more feet” may increase the total size beyond the agreed-upon parameter is critical feedback the client deserves. In addition, understanding the client’s financial goals and limitations is crucial to the design process. There is no benefit to creating a great plan that the client cannot afford to build.

The builder’s role

The builder/client contract details both parties’ obligations and expectations. Balancing client desires with the reality of the budget is one of the primary roles of the custom builder as well. The builder needs to educate the client on the most cost-effective way to achieve their construction goals. Managing client changes during the construction process on a timely basis within a system of documentation also is a critical responsibility.

As the team leader, the builder must communicate clearly and openly, and deal with the unexpected in a relaxed, congenial manner. This allows the client, architect and builder to create a win-win-win, rewarding experience.