Whether the project be a kitchen remodel, an addition, or a completely new home, the initial decision about the business framework between the Owner and the necessary building professionals will greatly influence whether the project is successful or not.What defines success? I think we can agree, if a project is completed on time, on budget and with quality, success has been realized. But how is this best accomplished?One way is to combine the separate components necessary to organize a building project: Design, Engineering, and Construction. Doing this with a one-stop resource is called”‘Design-Build”. In other words, when the architect in charge of designing a project is also a licensed contractor in charge of the building process, it is both efficient and cost-effective and allows for a stream-lined communication and decision-making process. This helps assure adherence to the budget and to meet high quality standards, throughout the entire design and construction processes.During 26 years in the trades, actively practicing as both licensed architect and general contractor, I have seen the evolution of these separate and distinct professions. They are both critical to a project-but little regard is sometimes given to how they are expected to integrate as one entity for the life of a project. For instance, communication, drawings, specifications, accounting, and field operations are often conducted from multiple offices, in various cities or states, with a project unfortunately paying the price for this fragmentation.Today, we have learned from many successful projects, that if architecture and general contracting are unified into one qualified single source, an important goal is achieved. That is a happy Client.Here is a compilation of questions and answers that clients have asked me over the years, which I hope will provide some insight to the “Design-Build” concept.Homeowner: We want a new home or major addition designed and built, but don’t know where to start. I understand that there are many different companies and people that will be needed for this process. What is involved?BSA: A typical project will require three major categories of professionals; an Architect, an Engineer, and a General Contractor. You can hire them individually, or as one entity. Either way, knowledgeable coordination is vital to the success of a project.H: I’ve heard that I can hire a designer or an Architect; what’s the difference?BSA: Many times, the difference is the level of experience and professionalism that you will receive. In most cases, a designer has not graduated from an accredited school of architecture, nor is licensed by the State Board. The typical path for an Architect is to obtain a degree from an accredited School Of Architecture, followed by work experience with an architectural firm and ultimately, licensure by the State Board.H: What cost advantages are there for me to hire a Design-Build firm, over hiring separate companies?BSA: A firm with in-house Architects and General Contractors, work in unison on a daily basis, on every part of your project as it proceeds. Even before the construction has begun, the design and engineering plans are conceived by the General Contractors pragmatic sense of cost efficiency, along with the Architect’s creativity and quality- conscious mind.H: What other costs am I saving?BSA: Professional fees can add up to at least three separate overhead and profit costs (Architect + Engineer + General Contractor). In a Design-Build format, there is only one fee- significantly less than all of the other fees added up separately. It’s efficiency in packaging.H: Will my project be built faster with this Design-Build process?BSA: It certainly should be, yes. For example, I was meeting on a job site with a building inspector to obtain a framing approval, when he questioned a structural connection that he felt required clarification from the Architect or Engineer, before the job could proceed. I explained to him that in addition to being the General Contractor, I was also the Architect of record. After a short discussion regarding the connection, my permit was signed off and the job immediately continued, without any delay.H: How will the quality of the construction be assured?BSA: This is actually another cost savings as well, since the Architect will be on the job observing the work performed, assuring quality-control, and each step along the way. The client is not paying any additional fees for this time; it’s already part of a “Design-Build” package.H: What qualifies a company to call themselves Design-Build?BSA: Unfortunately, there isn’t any regulation for this terminology. It’s up to the Homeowners to assert themselves, to ask for the company’s qualifications, licenses and experience. Beware of companies that cannot produce for you licenses verifying their professional standing as a licensed Architect and licensed General Contractor.Hopefully this short article has provided a basic understanding to what the “Design-Build” option provides to a Homeowner. Specific questions or concerns about your project can easily be answered during an initial consultation. Please visit us at www.bsadesignbuild.com (Barry R. Shaw AIA, is licensed as an Architect and General Contractor in the states of California, Hawaii and Idaho. He is a graduate of Samohi with an Architecture Degree from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.)
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