Building costs are higher today than ever before, forcing all parties involved in the building process to make tough decisions. It is now common for Spec builders to design their own projects and hire a drafter or a CAD (Computer Aided Design) operator to prepare construction drawings. Clearly, many of these designs lack the architectural savvy that an architect’s input might provide.
The Problem: Costs and Quality
Alternatively, a homeowner can make two contracts, one contract for design with an architectural firm and the second with a building contractor who typically would competitively bid the scope of work against a select group of other building contractors. Full architectural services would include Bidding & Negotiation where the architectural firm would administer the bidding process, answer contractor’s questions, issue addendums, and negotiate with the chosen contractor and assist in preparing contracts. Full architectural services would also include Construction Administration that would include review of applications for payment, acceptance or rejection of completed work, adjustments and solutions on technical problems, review of shop drawings, and determining dates of substantial and final completion.
The costs for full architectural services are prohibitive for most homeowners today. Since the builder is actually responsible for the work there is a doubling of duties. For example, the builder makes sure the subcontractor has done his job and the architect makes sure that the builder has made sure the subcontractor has done his job.
Very often in an attempt to cut costs an architectural firm is hired to do a skeleton set of construction drawings. Plans are bid out to builders with allowances for many items such as plumbing fixtures, and cabinetry. Often window manufactures have not been selected and finishes have not been selected. The bidding process is not particularly fair to the bidders because the playing field is not level. Often, the design lacks critical construction details that the builder must solve on site resulting in change orders. Design issues are not identified or addressed until their execution. Since the architectural firm has not been contracted to provide full details and specifications, they can not fairly be held accountable.
Alternatively, the architectural firm can be hired to provide full details and specifications for a project. This results in an even playing field for bidding out the scope of work. However, a complete set of construction drawings for bid is the most costly component of full architectural services. Often, more detail is provided than necessary or the wrong type of detail is provided. Also, very often all the bids come in over budget because the builder has not been consulted for selection of products as well as the fact that the architect’s cost estimation system may be less sophisticated than that of many builders.
The Design/Build approach solves many of the above problems by streamlining the entire process. Minglewood Associates Ltd. is an organization with its own construction staff and relationships with design architects who work as independent contractors. Clients hire one company to do both aspects, instead of having to hire two companies. The architect is given immediate feedback on construction costs during the design process. The design/build firm maintains control, working within a budget and is accountable for every problem. With the design/build approach there is a team approach rather than a potentially adversarial relationship. There is no finger pointing, surprises, or change orders. The resulting design has architectural integrity, and details have been customized to provide the builder with exactly what is needed to execute the work. The cost for construction drawings is greatly reduced.
A New Way: Design/Build
The responsibilities of Bidding & Negotiations, and Construction Administration are performed solely by the contractor. The architect is available for any additional design clarification and makes periodic site visits to confirm that the design has been carried out as intended. By retaining a design/build entity the homeowner saves up to 40% of what full architectural services would cost with actual architectural fees coming in at 3% to 5% of total construction costs. At the same time the design/build approach eliminates the inherent problems of other approaches. The homeowner gains a competent team of professionals dedicated to making their dream become reality.
... resulting in Quality and Reasonability.
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