As a practicing architect since the early ’80s, I have dedicated my practice entirely to residential design/build. My first project was a fourplex which I financed at a whopping 18 percent interest, standard in those recession days. I had a blast with the design and really enjoyed seeing the project through completion. It presold, thankfully, and evidently with enough margin because I was hooked from then on.
I have always felt strongly about reaching out to my peers, both architects and builders. Even starting out, I actively pursued membership in my local American Institute of Architects chapter as well as the home builders association. I was dumbfounded by the cold shoulder I initially received from the members of both organizations. It turns out, I didn’t fit the norm. As a hybrid, I was the odd man out.
Builders who were accountants or pilots in former lives came up to me and said architects couldn’t possibly succeed at building a good house or running a construction business. I persevered, however, and was eventually embraced and rose to become president of the Home Builders Association of Greater Austin and cofounder of the Custom Residential Council.
Similarly, camaraderie was nonexistent at AIA 30 years ago. There was no room for an architect doing residential, much less design/build. Now, with the emergence of AIA’s Knowledge Community called Custom Residential Architects Network a few years ago, things are beginning to change for residential architects and hopefully this change will include those of us in design/build.
In the commercial and institutional world as well as production home building, design/build has become a standard project-delivery system. It is controlled by builders and is a huge business. Single-sourcing is a tried and true concept that is creating much buzz and acceptance within our industry and clients.
Custom builders are proactively adapting their services and associating their companies with designers and architects to become more competitive. Homeowners are seeking out design/build entities that can offer the convenience and expertise all-in-one. It’s a win-win for all parties involved … except that most architects don’t seem to be getting it. For some reason, as a group, we seem to look down on home building. The more that builders embrace design/build, the more architects seem to turn away.
Let’s stop chastising builders, pull up our boots straps and go for it. It’s daunting and requires a whole new skill set as well as a sense of entrepreneurial spirit, but you can either hire on or partner with any of these things. If design/build is not for you, that’s fine but celebrate those architects who have the guts to do it because it is the way of the future.
This is a call to action. It’s almost too late for architects to jump on the commercial wagon, but we can still make it happen in custom residential. If we don’t do it now, builders are going to totally dominate custom residential while we’re left ruminating about how the market has rendered us obsolete.
For years, I have felt like I was reinventing the wheel. Well, that wheel is in full motion today and I’m continually sharpening my tools to keep up with the competition and keep the phone ringing. And ringing it is. Homeowners are seeking out proven single-source providers of quality design and construction for the convenience and ease it inherently promises. It requires having the team to back up the promises and it’s not the easiest approach, but I find it totally gratifying each and every day.
I feel strongly that design/build brings great potential for controlling one’s destiny. The growing momentum is exciting to see and I encourage everyone to take an interest. You’ll find more seminars dedicated to design/build both locally and nationally through AIA. I welcome your inquiries or comments.
Luis Jauregui, AIA, has been a member of the local and national chapters of the American Institute of Architects for more than 20 years. He is an active leader within the Homebuilders Association of Austin, Texas. Send email to email@example.com. Read past columns at ForResidentialPros.com.