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Design Options for Design/Builders: Partnering for Design

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Thu, Apr 05,2012 @ 05:00 AM

Design Options for Design/Builders: Partnering for Design

Finding an architect for design buildDesign/Build has caused a major role reversal.  In most Design/Build situations, the contractor is now choosing the designer, after the project or design retainer has been sold!   Finding a design professional who will work in this new role can be a challenge, but if the relationship is built for mutual benefit, all parties win, including the homeowner.

Typically, the hardest part about subbing is finding a good sub worth partnering with. High quality standards being a given, a good sub also complements your team and meets all the legal and insurance coverage requirements. The same will be true if you subcontract the design work for Design/Build projects. There are plenty of design professionals out there, but how many are working as subs, better yet work as project partners with general contractors?  

Agree to Agree

If you truly want to partner with a design professional on a subcontracted basis, start with the guidelines of the relationship. Contractors and design professionals can both have strong personalities and have been observed on occasion to let ego compromise the project or relationship. Working out what each expects of the other and how the relationship will work before partnering on a project will help avoid some of the disappointments typical to a blind date.

Topics to consider might include the ability to design within a budget, incorporating construction methods already familiar to the contractor’s team, who will pay to fix the plans if mistakes are discovered, and who will cover the errors and omissions insurance coverage in case of design failure.


Take Time to Establish and Evolve Your Design/Build Partnership

Design build lunch



Consider a lunch meeting together with your designer to discuss expectations and workout any kinks before meeting with any clients. Blind dates may be fine if you have no expectations for a long lasting relationship, but don’t lose a client by double dating with a stranger.

Fortunately, in a true Design/Build setting, the contractor and designer are together at every meeting with the client. This provides a great way for both to observe and monitor the dynamics of the meeting and the contractor/designer relationship. Be sure to include time (maybe another lunch meeting) for a debriefing discussion right after leaving the design meeting to work out any issues and or confirm what worked well.  Doing so can help both of you advance and improve your process and your working relationship.

Successful Design/Build doesn’t happen by accident!


Read this previous blog post about doing design in-house

download shawn's free sample design build retainer agreement

Be sure your business is ready when the market improves!  If you are looking for better results from your Design/Build business contact Shawn today.  



Topics: Design/Build Process, Plans and Specifications, Design Options, Working with Design Professionals