Congratulations, you’ve made the decision to invest in a remodeling project!
This is an exciting time for you, your family and your home. If the renovation is more complex and not just a simple replacement of fixtures or finishes, one of the first things you’ll need to do is assemble a capable team to help plan your project.
Starting a complex project can make engaging a design team your best early investment. During your interview process, consider how the design and development approach could be enhanced by having the architect or interior designer supported by a reliable builder who is invested in protecting your interests by exploring the hidden conditions of your old home. Research invested in understanding your home’s existing conditions will reduce your risks during construction and will always inform your design development process. Experienced homeowners know the value of finding out early about delays and costs associated with insufficient knowledge about their home’s existing conditions. Avoiding house surprises reduces stress and increases appreciation for the entire experience.
Our perspective is that major renovation planning should start with a thorough exploration of cost and structure. Rather than employing an independent architect that may not prioritize collaboration during the initial concept stage, we suggest finding a team that works well together right from the beginning. Architects working alone are generally slow to confirm the costs and structural solutions for home design options, with a resulting inefficiency of process and escalation of costs.
Architects will be able to help you finalize your design but not the price. They may consult with an engineer who may not visit the site, causing a lack of ownership of the actual conditions. Often, the homeowner has emotionally committed to a design before the pricing and existing structure or mechanicals are explored in any detail. Many of these designs are never built because the final dream is unaffordable.
Consider another option; engage a design team and a trusted builder early on, beginning the exploration of options with everyone at the table. This approach will streamline the process by holding a single firm (a design-build firm) who is capable of taking responsibility for the development of cost options, structural conditions and all existing mechanical systems and necessary modifications. Design-build speeds up both the development timeline and the construction process because there is greater ownership and fewer design development mistakes. Design-build offers the opportunity to consider the costs of various options before you waste your time and emotional investment with solutions that are outside of your budget.
Here are some factors that we feel are important when choosing to go with an architect vs design-build:
A team approach for your home renovation project is essential. In contrast to the uncoordinated model of architect vs. contractor, the design-build remodeling approach coordinates multiple responsibilities within a single entity. Since the design and construction staff are on the same team, it ensures that plans, budget and timing are more accurate. Beginning with the initial concept stage, everyone on the team is collaborating with greater insight to support the homeowner, aligned with the goals of the project which allows the group to work more efficiently and effectively.
The divided approach in which a homeowner begins work with an architect and then brings plans to a contractor to build and develop, ensures less collaboration. Costs and possibilities are not confirmed from the start, and can lead to unrealistic expectations. If you are already working with an architect, we recommend discussing the projected costs and how your expectations will be managed.
With design-build there is a single firm taking full responsibility. A design-build firm is responsible for driving quality and efficiency in every stage of the process, from design to construction to warranty. A good design-build firm is not only the experts in design and construction, but are also experienced in estimates and managing risks.
One of the primary advantages of partnering with a design-build firm is budget transparency and reliability. The architectural designers working on a design-build team will only draw and present options that fit within your budget and goals. Realistic expectations are communicated early on. In contrast, when working with independent team members (architect, engineer, builder) individual firms may not have the end goal or budget in mind when presenting you with design solutions or ideas.
Because the design and build team is involved in the project from the beginning, costs are much easier to estimate. Plumbers, electricians, carpenters, HVAC contractors, and other professionals will all contribute valuable information about your project long before construction begins. Focusing on these solutions in the design and development phase eliminates surprises in the budget that will otherwise surface during construction when working with a separate architect and builder.
As we mentioned, the main factor to consider for design-build is that it ensures a single point of management and accountability. Instead of a homeowner investing time and money into hiring and coordinating multiple contracts, a design-build project is managed by a project development team during design who will then work closely aligned with a project management team during construction. This project manager serves as the homeowners point of contact for the project and works directly with the architect, engineer, and subcontractors - minimizing the work of the homeowner. With the responsibility of the project in one firm's hands rather than three or four, the design-build approach tends to produce higher-quality results in less time, for less money when compared to the traditional divided service approach.
The greater the scope and complexity of the project, the more you’ll find it attractive to hire a reliable design-build firm. Not only does the design-build model offer the advantage of improved direction from a seasoned architectural design team, but it also alleviates the stress of managing any surprises by having a project management team that is deeply familiar with your project before construction even starts. As the homeowner, you can rest assured that your experienced team is handling all items needed to deliver a successful project, on time and on budget.
It's important to discuss your goals with a professional before starting a home remodeling project. If you don’t have reliable information during this step, it is likely that your designer or builder will not clearly understand what you’re looking to accomplish. When working with any remodeling professional, clear answers to your questions and a proven process are essential to ensure a smooth and successful project. Never settle for vague promises.
At Bellweather Design-Build, we will help you align your project goals to fit within your desired budget. If those two items are not aligned, then we keep exploring options with you. Our process supports your decision making through education and solutions.
Interested in learning about our design-build process?
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