Collaboration Between Architect and Builder is Essential for a Successful Project

I read an interesting article yesterday, written by a builder. It was about how you must hire your builder before you hire your Architect, “…because Architects don’t know anything about building…”

That might be true for the Architects that builder’s run into, but that’s a pretty broad, self-serving statement. He hasn’t met my colleagues, who spend as much time on jobsites as they can, and put together construction drawings influenced by feedback from people doing the actual construction work.

Architect and builder are supposed to work together. It’s not the Wild West, with nailgun-slinging cowboy builders riding in on silver pickup trucks to save the day from the Architect in the black hat.

We each have our roles in the project, but designing and building a home is a highly collaborative process, with multiple professionals working together for the homeowner’s benefit.

But if this builder’s just a bit confused about the roles we all play in the design and building process, I understand. The picture has gotten a little muddy lately and frankly, Architects are partly to blame.

Yessir, us Architects used to wear the chaps and spurs when it came to wrasslin’ with pencil and paper. But then we started forgettin’ our trail manners. Got out there ahead of the herd a little.

Left the barn door open.

And before we knew it, the builders had lassoed some of the Architect’s clients and ridden off into the sunset.

Good for the builder; bad for the Architect.

And bad for the client.

The writer of the article I mentioned above was probably used to working with Architects who did little more for the client than “draw plans”. Not surprisingly, those plans probably didn’t come close to addressing all the needs of the client, leaving the builder to fill in the gaps.

And that’s no one’s fault but the Architect’s, since his job is to find out about all those needs and then design a project that satisfies them in creative ways.

Architectural services are supposed to start way before the drawing begins, with detailed discussions about the project and detailed study of the building site.

A lot of back-and-forth at this early stage helps make sure the client and Architect understand each other before any design work is committed to paper.

It takes time, but it’s time extremely well spent – something much harder to do when you’re focused solely on getting to the construction stage.

Great projects begin and end with unique creation; whether that’s unique Architecture, unique problem-solving, or the requirements of a unique client (aren’t they all?).

And unique creation is what Architects do best.

Yep, we want to see the project built – after all, that’s why we’re all in this business. And yep, we want to see it built on time and on budget – that’s as much a part of “unique creation” as the Architectural design.

But it’s in our client’s best interest to work out all the possibilities and problems on paper before we commit to bricks and mortar.

That’s tough, I know, for a guy who wants to build first and ask questions later. So holster that nail gun, pardner, and sit tight…your turn is coming.

I run a Residential Architecture firm and our clients hire us for much more than just “plans”. We do what an Architectural firm is supposed to do: manage the entire project for the client including site selection, Architectural design, Interior design, and budgeting.

We help our clients choose quality contractors to bid on the project, then thoroughly analyze the bids when they’re submitted. We recommend the bid with the best value to our clients. We help them scrutinize the builder’s contract and proposed schedule.

And then, when every option’s been explored, when every decision’s been made – we invite the builder to build.

I’ll give credit to the builder who wrote that article – he’s trying to turn a problem into a business opportunity for himself – he’d prefer not to have to wait on the often time-consuming and sometimes expensive design process before he can get his hands on the project.

If you ask him, he’ll tell you he can design it for you.

But that shortcuts a well-understood and well-regarded process that recognizes the appropriate roles of the Architect and builder, a process that recognizes the strengths of each, and more importantly, allows both to work together to accomplish the client’s goals: getting a well-designed project, built by skilled craftsmen, for a reasonable price.

So builders – before you start lumping all Architects together, get out there and find better Architects.

Find Architects that understand and respect your role, and make sure you understand and respect theirs. Realize that properly delivered Architectural services are much more than “drawing plans”; can save you time and effort; and will let you focus on what you do best.

Architects – offer and deliver all the services you’re trained to. Recognize that designing a home or remodeling is an intensely personal experience for your clients, and that they deserve your full attention throughout the project.

Help your clients find the best builders available, and give them great projects to build.

And homeowners – don’t be tempted by what sounds like a shortcut to get your project done faster and cheaper; get the right professionals to design your project, and they’ll help you get the right professional to build it.

‘Cause you can put yer boots in the oven, pardner, but that don’t make ‘em biscuits.


Need expert Residential Architectural advice for your new home or remodeling project? Contact Richard Taylor, AIA at Richard Taylor Architects.

5 Comments
  • Anonymous
    Reply

    I am an architect student and reading about these articles makes me wonder what it would be like when I graduate and head into the real world…

    11/13/2011 at 9:36 am
  • Anonymous
    Reply

    I'm a owner-builder, planning to build our home in 2013. I value the architects expertise and craft. If a builder said this to me, it would be a red flag. The architect is the first person I would consult.

    12/08/2011 at 8:12 am
  • Now all we need to do is get this article out to every potential client and try to have the "Builders" understand why. Great, well written and blunt!
    I have a project now where the builder has asked me for a design fee to include in his construction cost to get a new client. Fee & construction before a design!

    12/24/2011 at 10:42 am
  • Great article and written in a way that everyone can appreciate. Maybe if we keep saying it, people will eventually listen. It's like teaching our kids to say please and thank you.

    12/30/2011 at 9:01 am
  • Thank you, pardner. It's a team effort, and we each have our roles. The results are better in the end when we each focus on what we do best.

    12/30/2011 at 9:03 am

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