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The Architect/Builder Relationship is Critical to Your Home

In introduction to the concept of teaming up with an “architect,” you should know that the term used for the person or firm designing your new home or remodeling represents varying educational and training backgrounds and abilities. Whether the person is a registered architect and member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) or a trained individual licensed and member of the American Institute of Building Designers (AIBD) relates to the services you might desire for your new home. While both are qualified to do fine jobs for the owner, AIA architects generally provide more services in relation to master planning, site layout, interior design, engineering coordination, total design and on-site inspection with the builder on behalf of the owner. AIBD architects generally provide the design services without interior design or on-site inspection unless contracted to do so. Nevertheless, both types of services are critical and integral to the success of a project.

Over the years we have found that a builder teaming up with the architect or designer early in the conceptual stage is of great benefit to the success of the project. As a team, the combination can listen to the owner, exchange ideas, explore costs and guide the project more efficiently and quickly to a completion to meet the owner’s expectations. The builder learns early in the project the hopes, desires, dreams and expectations of the owner.  As a team player, when the builder reviews the plans at each of the various design stages, he or she can often offer ideas to guide the process. Experience from past projects is used as a database for the benefit of each new customer. However, the typical builder thinks “inside the box” or in regular processes constantly trying to control costs and expedite the project. Conversely, the architect thinks more creatively and “outside the box”, which generates the originality and creativity to make the project unique and distinctive. The combination of the two provides the owner the best of both worlds: an original and unique product hopefully within an allowed budget.

The builder and architect often work as a team to create the specifications, which are critical, to be included in the contract for the owner’s better understanding. With mutual discussions and often dual authorship, both the architect and builder are moving forward with the owner’s interest in mind. As the project progresses, the architect is more confident that the design will be executed to the plan’s expectations and the builder moves more quickly and efficiently with critical decisions made early in the process.

In quality and pricing issues, the architect is an advocate for the owner and a good listening and experienced ear to assure the owner that both are matching expectations in the industry. As an infrequent consumer of new construction or remodeling, the owner is a novice and often does not know what to expect. The architect is experienced and can offer the assurance to the owner.  In addition, the builder who daily works toward quality controls and meeting expectations, has an advocate to comfort his client as to what is being received.

Questions often arise during the construction process relating to details that are important to the project. As a team, the architect and builder work out the details and corporately present the best solution to the owner for decision. In addition, owners typically have questions about changes in the inclusions or scope of the project. With the team in place, the owner’s involvement becomes that of an informed decision rather than having to do tremendous work outside of the team.

Custom projects can be built without the architect and builder working as a team but are much more efficiently and successfully done as a team effort. The end result is often more creative, more cost efficient and done in less time than the owner trying to “wing it” without assistance.

John St. John, is president of JSJ Inc./John R. St. John Construction, Inc., a Past Director of GHBA, Member of the Custom Builder’s Council, Remodeler’s Council and Codes and Standards Committee for GHBA.

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