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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

Design Options for Design/Builders: In-House Design

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Tue, Apr 03,2012 @ 05:00 AM

Design Options for Design/Builders: In-House Design

Design options for design build



Design/Build contractors have come to realize the need for and importance of design as it relates to getting and producing the construction of a project. Typically, there are two options for getting the design done; In-house or out-sourced.  This article will discuss in-house design.  In my next blog I will discuss partnering with others to get the design work done.


The Designer Must be Qualified To Do The Job

Choosing the right designer for design buildNot all contractors or homeowners have creative design skills, but most can tell a good design from a bad one.  A drive through your local area may provide a few good examples of projects where the contractor completed the design, but perhaps should have stuck just to the build part.  The project could have met the client’s needs for space or function, but the end result may have been a T-1-11 box added onto a Victorian gem.

The first consideration before offering in-house design services should be an assessment of the designer’s skills and qualifications.  Depending on the type of projects you do or the design expectations of your clients, do you have the experience and skills on staff to complete the required designs and drawings?  Also, consider the legal requirements for the design or designer in the market area you work to be sure your designer and or your business can even offer such services.


In-House Design Considerations

If you are currently doing your design work in-house, or plan to, consider the following before it’s too late:

  • Do you have the time in your schedule to add or keep up with the demand for design, particularly if your business or volume grows?
  • If you bring a designer on staff, will you have enough work to keep him/her busy and productive?  If not, what other skills do they have or what other skills does your business need that this person could bring with them?
  • Are you limiting your client’s projects and design desires to your in-house capabilities and experience?  Will that be a problem?
  • What will happen if you or your only designer is injured or otherwise unavailable to do the design work?
  • If you do not have a professional designation, what will you do if your prospect or client wants the prestige of a professional architect, or the project requires structural engineering? 
  • Even if you plan to do the design work in house, should you find an additional resource or two as back-up to get the design work you need done when you needed it?

If any of the above could affect you or your business in a negative way, partnering with others may be the answer.  Watch for my next blog for some insight on partnering with others to get the design done.

download shawn's free sample design build retainer agreement


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