If you are thinking about adding a custom build to your home, you probably have plenty of questions about how the process will work and who will be involved. Struggling to find the right builder and architect can be a tricky process if you do not have much information about how these people work together. Craig Huseby, of Huseby Homes and L J Huseby & Company Exteriors, works with Matt Zink, an architect with Carlton Edwards Architecture and Interiors. They both understand the power of having every member of a construction process on the same page. As we explained in last week’s article, they complete what is called a “Design Build Process.” This is where renovations or new construction are completed by a team of professionals that collaborate from the very start of the project.
Craig recently spoke with Matt about the “Design Build” process:
Carlton Edwards Architecture
Nicole & Craig Huseby
Huseby Homes LLC
Craig- Matt, my first question is what is a “Design Build”?
Matt- The traditional definition of Design-Build refers to the project delivery method where a single entity is contracted with an owner to provide the design and building services for a project. There a lot of advantages for the owner for Design-Build, the main being there is a seamless integration of design and construction early in the process. At Carlton Edwards, we often employ a hybrid version of this, where we involve a contractor early in the design process to help find efficiencies that impact both the time and budget on a project.
Craig- So the Builder and Architect do not have to be from the same firm? What are some of the advantages of utilizing the “Design Build” process or your hybrid model versus hiring a single company that provides the design services and performs the construction?
Matt-There are several advantage, however two major benefits should be considered. First, it allows the Owner to employ a designer that best understands or is known for the desired architectural style of the project. In other words, the Owners may choose someone who is best known for the style they want to pursue. Both the Architect and Builder are really able to focus on what they do best. Moreover, it is beneficial to have two advocates that are financially independent from each other. It is always good to have checks and balances on any healthy building team.
Craig-What are the primary goals during the design process whether it is for a kitchen remodel or an entire custom house?
Matt- As designers, we are tasked to create something that is very personal for our client, so we have to ensure that we listen very carefully and interpret their desires into a tailored design solution. The biggest primary goal/first step is listen to the client’s needs and wishes to establish a program and project summary. This way, all parties on the same page on what is expected on the project in terms of time, cost, and general aesthetic. Defining a program is just as important for a kitchen remodel as it is for an estate home.
Craig- Who are the members of the design build team?
Matt- The core members of a Design-Build team include the contractor and designer. As a project becomes more complex, the Design-Build can include members such as engineering consultants, interior designers, etc.
Craig- What is the owner’s role?
Matt- The owner’s role is to clearly define their project expectations from the onset of the project. This includes, but is not limited to, initial budgets, schedules, and special construction conditions and considerations.
Craig- What are the roles of the Architect and Builder during the design or pre-construction phase?
Matt- Within my own professional experiences, I have found that the majority of successful projects involve collaborating with Builders early in the process, typically after the concept design has been agreed upon and we move into early construction documentation. Traditionally, the roles are viewed as an Architect completes the construction document set and then hands it over to a builder to begin constructing without much interaction during the design process.
Craig- Matt, the most common practice in Middle Tennessee is for the Owner to engage an architect and secure plans. Typically the next step is for the Owner to meet with 3 builders and to request bids that will be compared. What are the potential risks to this process?
Matt- The biggest risk is that the project comes in over budget from all 3 builders, causing the project to either be scrapped or redesigned at the cost of the Architect. The three-bid process does not allow builders to give advice during the initial planning and design phases, thus they can only quote what they have been given from the Architect and Owner. Another issue is that this project delivery method typically is the slowest, as bidding can sometimes take 3-4 weeks.
Craig- I understand that you advocate for a different process mentioned earlier, where the Builder and Architect are working together to meet the owner’s goals during the design process. Does the Architect and Builder have to be members of the same firm to use a “design build” approach? What are the differences when the Builder and Architect are not the same company? Are there any advantages?
Matt- I do not believe that the Builder and Architect have to be in the same company to ensure a successful Design-Build venture. At the Asheville office of Carlton Edwards we have a very successful build component to the company. However, in Memphis and Nashville we operate as traditional Architect/Interiors offices, but still find our builder relationships during the Design-Build process to be just as successful. Collaboration from beginning to end is the key concept when working through a Design-Build project. Builders and Architects must be able to complement and at the same time challenge one another to complete a successful project for the client, and I feel this is best exemplified during the Design-Build process.
Craig- In your experiences how do Owners compare bids when they are not partnering with a Builder Architect team early on? What are the potential pitfalls as it relates to finances?
Matt- Obviously, the bottom line number and time are the two most important elements to an owner. What is often missing is the human element, and that is the probability that all parties can work together seamlessly. Design-Build projects are often delivered at a lower cost and a more efficient timeline than a design/bid/build project, and a big reason for this is that the Architect-Builder team are working together from Day 1 of the project.
Craig- How does an owner put together a solid team to advocate for them?
Matt- Trust, experience, and communication are the three most important qualities needed to set the base for a successful project team. Our biggest compliment is that new projects are awarded based upon either client or builder referrals, and this more often than not is a direct result of a successful partnership among the owner, architect, and builder on previous projects.
Craig- On a completely separate note, what do you most appreciate about practicing architecture?
Matt- It’s very difficult to pare down to just one item that I appreciate about Architecture. I would say that the chance to create something so personal and so unique for our clients is such a rewarding process. Each project brings with it its own challenges and goals, and with these come chances to creative innovative forms and spaces for our clients to enjoy for generations. The impact we can have on a family or even a community is what drives me to pursue great architecture for my clients.