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The Advantages Of Design Build For Remodeling Clients

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Tue, Jun 24,2014 @ 06:00 AM

The Advantages Of Design/Build For Remodeling Clients

couple looking at plans wr


Selling Design/Build isn’t easy. Many consumers haven’t heard about it and most of those who have really don’t know that much about it. If you want to sell Design/Build, or for that matter sell any product or service, you must let the buyer  know what benefits it will have for him or her.

Rather than put on a dog and pony show for your clients, take time to uncover their real concerns, underlying motivations and project requirements. Then share with your clients those advantages of the Design/Build process that address what you have uncovered, provided you are confident in taking on those responsibilities. As more contractors and consumers come to understand and realize the benefits of the Design/Build process, selling and buying the concept will become easier for everyone.

To be successful with Design/Build consider the client’s advantages and the Design/Builder’s responsibilities described within this article as interdependent.


Single Source Responsibility

Perhaps the most appealing and easy to recognize advantages that Design/Build offers are the convenience and comfort of one-stop shopping. The client looks to a single entity to take full responsibility for design, construction and satisfactory completion; delivering the project on time and on budget. As a natural consequence there is less finger pointing because as ideas are generated, all team members make decisions with a cooperative approach. This means greater efficiency, cooperation instead of conflict, and a better project for the time and money invested. When this team approach works well, it fosters an enjoyable and mutually beneficial way of doing business for the client and the Design/Build team of professionals. As the design phase of the project moves forward, all parties get to know each other while working out and establishing the terms of the relationship. This establishes trust as well as a mutual respect for the realities of living through a project, long before the dust takes over, rather than trying to do so while the dust is created. These advantages are often removed or compromised if those involved, including the client, work separately of each other during the design stage.


Cost Control

Advantages of design build for consumersTrust is the key consideration here, and can become the client’s most valued benefit.  Provided that a realist budget is established and agreed upon prior to entering into a Design/Build agreement, the Design/Builder takes on the responsibility of protecting the budget as design happens. Do not sell this as an advantage unless you are confident that you and the client agree on the scope of work. Savings and or budget control are then achieved through better planning. The Owner can exercise his desired degree of control over design, with the added advantage of knowing the cost implications of each decision as it happens. In the client’s eyes, the trust will be broken if he or she sees the Design/Builder as the cause for going over budget. It’s their money, not yours. To avoid this perceived breach of trust, before you offer or entertain alternate design ideas that will increase costs, ask your client for permission to spend more than the agreed budget.

Promising your clients cost control must be backed up with design and construction expertise, as well as the company systems required, to know what should (or will not) be included and how much it will cost. By having this ability, professional fees such as engineering or surveying are kept to a minimum as they can be determined before beginning design of the project. The client benefits by having a guaranteed maximum price that is set as soon as the scope of the project is determined.

download shawn's free sample design build retainer agreement

Quality Control

Quality of the design and construction of the project can happen by default if the Design/Builder’s team is working “together” to meet the client's performance requirements. The architect, engineer, and contractor are able to focus on the project, with an emphasis on quality, rather than protecting their own individual interests. The lines of communication are simplified and the chances for misunderstandings are reduced. The construction expertise of the contractor and the design expertise of the design professional are melded together to produce a greater value for the owner than that which might be realized if both were working independently, perhaps in a vacuum. Additionally, quality is maintained by the discovery of most problems before starting and the implementation of real solutions.


Quicker Delivery Time

Design Build speeds up construction


The client saves time and trouble by dealing with a single source for all matters rather than separately with a contractor, an architect, an engineer, and subcontractors. Bidding periods and redesign time are eliminated. Overall time to design and build the project is substantially reduced because design and construction activities overlap. The contractor can proceed with early procurement of critical materials and scheduling of labor and subcontractors for greater effectiveness. This means the project can be on the contractor’s production schedule sooner.

If it is necessary to meet client’s deadlines, Design/Build lends itself readily to "Fast Tracking", where construction begins while detail drawings are still in process. The project can be completed in less time because work can begin before all the elements of the design are complete. For example the foundation can be completed to beat the frost, while the selection of windows and doors and how they will be detailed have yet to be completed. This fast tracking can reduce the owner’s interim financing costs and will permit the owner to occupy the project at an earlier date.


Topics: Advantages of Design/Build, Defining Design/Build, Sales Considerations, Design/Build Process, Differentiating your Business

What Separates Successful Design/Builders From Other Remodelers

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Sun, May 20,2012 @ 05:00 AM

Characteristics That Separate Successful Design/Builders From Other Business Models Include:

  • Business plan for remodelers and Design BuildersAn experienced Management Team that has created and follows a strategic and sustainable business plan, implements industry best practices and continuously identifies and mentors strong leadership within the team in each department.
  • A strong Financial System that that predicts, tracks and analyzes the cost of doing business and producing projects, and includes an estimating system that facilitates timely and accurate "What-if" project pricing abilities during the entire design process.
  • Sales system for Design Builders and sales training for remodelersA Marketing System and Strategy that identifies and attracts targeted prospects qualified to do business with the Design/Builder and helps them discover the unique values and advantages of the Design/Build project delivery method.
  • An established and tested Sales System used and or supported by all employees which prequalifies that a prospect's purpose, budget and decision making process is a match with the Design/Builder's Business model and provides a consistent approach and results for those prospects who become clients.

download shawn's free sample design build retainer agreement

  • Technology for Remodelers and Design BuildersA Design System that properly identifies and documents the information needed by the client as well as the Design/Builder's project team and serves as a communication tool to make sure the design and final project serve the client's purposes within the agreed budget and timeline
  • A Communication System and Process that uses technology to create, capture, manage, and distribute timely and accurate business and project information between team members, trade partners, design professionals and the client in a way that manages and meets established expectations.
  • Design Build Training for Design Build SystemsA Production System that produces a quality project and experience for all of the parties involved within the established budget and puts management of the project at the jobsite and in the hands of a qualified Lead Carpenter and or Project Manager.
  • A Personnel System that identifies, attracts, advances, recognizes and rewards those employees who best support a true Design/Build Business model and project delivery system.


If you are looking for help or training to create or switch over to a Design/Build Business Model contact Shawn today.  Will you be ready when the economy improves and there is money to be made?


"The topics you touched on yesterday really hit home and the light bulb has gone off!
We will take this information and start to apply to our business immediately."

David Haney, Dave Haney - Custom Woodworking


Topics: Starting a Business, Success Strategies, Advantages of Design/Build, Defining Design/Build, Design/Build Process, Marketing Considerations, Business Planning, Business Considerations

Guest Blog: Design Build Definition; Ours or Theirs?

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Tue, Mar 06,2012 @ 05:00 AM

Robert Wright Guest Blogger


One Person's Opinion: Robert Wright

 His Dad a civil engineer, Rob has grown up around construction sites in Canada from a young age. In the early 1990’s, he and his Dad set up a construction company and took on projects in the commercial and residential fields.  In 1994, he joined and took over Citadel Renovations in Ottawa. He has been active in the Greater Ottawa Home Builders Association for many years, including holding the position of Renovation Council Chair in the past and now sits on the Health and Safety Committee.  He also continues to volunteer at Algonquin College on the Advisory Committee of the Building Construction Technician program.


Design Build Definition

Design build discussion and conversationEveryone seems to be getting on the design build bandwagon lately.  Strange, I was talking about it and trying figure it out over 20 years ago.  The more things change…..

What is design build anyway?

I have in past newsletters suggested my thoughts on what design build is.  Basically its a process where the homeowner(in this case); the builder, and design pro in a collaborative process ensure the homeowner receives value for dollars invested; and the design to project completion experience is pleasant.

This seems to me to be a valid starting point for the design build definition.  We would all look at the various parts of this and based on our experiences have some comments about how to improve this – usually to have our viewpoint take priority.  This conversation is ongoing and I would strongly suggest that our professional associations should get involved in this conversation and set the standard.

This is not a new idea; the architects do it; the engineers do it; doctors do it; and everyone’s favorite whipping boys - lawyers do it also.  I have long considered myself a professional, and think its high time that, we in the construction industry and the renovation industry in particular, need to be considered professional and that what we do is an honorable way to earn a living.

So what is the alternative?  Have something imposed on us...

Goverment regulations affect remodelersWho is going to impose this definition on us?  The least evil choice is going to be the insurance industry.  At least they have contact with us, try to understand us, take our money and provide a service in return.  You can also sit down with your insurance provider and discuss how you can cut costs and increase protection.  This allows us to come to an agreement we can live with.

Who else is going to impose on us?  Courts – they don’t like us, because they don’t understand us.  What makes perfect sense to us makes no sense to a judge and to most lawyers.  So what happens when you get an unhappy client and a lawyer that doesn’t understand construction?  A whole lot of pain for you, and a new way to do things for all of us because our lawyer said so.

Worse case scenario is to have the government impose it on us.  Do I need to say anything but lead? 

So what can you do about this? 

Get involved and insist that your HBA knows about it, gets it sorted and ensures that it is accepted.  Its about your controlling the situation and not the other way around.

Topics: Defining Design/Build, Guest Blogs, Opinions from Design/Builders

Making A Stand For A Standard Definition For Design/Build

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Fri, Feb 24,2012 @ 12:01 PM

Making A Stand For A Standard Definition For Design/Build

definition of design build



Many businesses in the remodeling and home improvement industries claim to be Design/Builders.  Unfortunately many of these businesses have decided to create their own definitions for what Design/Build is.  This might be because one would have a hard time finding the phrase design/build in a dictionary.  I tried several on line dictionaries and came up empty.  I did however find definitions on the web sites of several industry groups.


So, here are two definitions I found on-line from respected industry groups, and one from me.

Design-Build Institute of America Definition:

“Design-build is a method of project delivery in which one entity - the design-build team - works under a single contract with the project owner to provide design and construction services. One entity, one contract, one unified flow of work from initial concept through completion.  Design-build is also known as design/construct and single-source responsibility.”

American Institute of Architects Definition (found on page 4):

“In the design-build approach to project delivery, the owner contracts with a single entity—the designer builder—for both design and construction. The design-build entity can be led by either an architect or a general contractor and can consist of any number of people.”

Shawn McCadden Definition:

“Design/Build refers to a method of project delivery in which a single entity provides to the client or owner all of the services necessary to both design and construct all or a portion of the project with full responsibility to the owner or clients for both the design and the construction.”

Taking a Stand

Confusion about design buildSo if the construction industry has defined Design/Build, and the definitions are mostly consistent, why then do businesses that operate in contrast to those definitions call themselves Design/Builders?  More importantly why does the industry, specifically the remodeling industry, allow them to do so?

I think the entire industry needs to agree on a definition of what design/build is and what it is not, and then strongly defend that definition.  Contractors and all home owners would benefit greatly if there was just one definition to go by.  Here are a few reasons I offer to back up my opinion:

  • Consumers would clearly know what to expect of their contractor if claiming to be a Design/Builder and how the process should work. 
  • Consumers and prospective employees would be able to tell if a business was making false claims very quickly.
  • Businesses seeking to become Design/Builders would know what they would need to change or do differently before adding Design/Build to their company name.
  • Various educational institutions would all be teaching and supporting the same concept.
  • Design professionals and contractors could all be on the same page regarding how the process should work before partnering together.
  • Design/Builders and industry associations could point out those who are diluting the definition.
  • Homeowners would stop expecting the ability to bid out plans created in a design/build process.


"If we do not, at some point one will be imposed on the industry by others who have no clue about our industry. It would be better to get in front of the train and set the agenda instead of dealing with yet another misunderstood situation.....any more lead issues anyone?"

Robert Wright (With permission from LinkedIn discussion on this topic)

No bidding with design build, design build bid



(No offense intended - I disagree with your definition of Design/Build if it allows bidding on your plans.  Doing so isn’t wrong; it’s just not Design/Build if you are separating the design from the build)



I stand strong that there should be just one definition of what Design/Build is for our industry, and therefore, what it is not.  Our industry needs clarity and those we bring into the industry as the future workforce or as future business owners need that clarity as well.  Allowing every contractor the ability to define design/build does not make sense to me.


What say you?

Topics: Defining Design/Build