As they say, there is more than one way to skin a cat – and there is definitely more than one way to approach building a custom home. At Gowler Homes, we approach custom home projects with the Design + Build philosophy.  In order for me to explain what Design + Build is, it’s probably easiest for me to start with giving an example what it isn’t.

First, as we’ve covered in another article called How To Assemble Your Custom Home Dream Team, there are (or, should be) 3 critical people that you make sure are part of your custom home dream: The Architect, The Designer and The Builder. A custom home project has the highest likelihood of success when all 3 of these people are working together on the same team, toward the same vision, with a clear leader. 

What Design + Build isn’t: The Traditional Way

The traditional way that most custom home builders work is very disjointed. It is known as design, bid, build. 

Traditionally, the Owner will contract directly with an architect to draw house plans. After the plans are drawn, the Owner will then contract separately with a builder to bid the plans. Additionally, they may also sign yet another contract with an independent designer if they choose to have one involved. 

The Owner, by default, becomes the single point of contact and bears responsibility of coordinating the architect, designer and builder. Whenever a project is designed, bid, and built in multiple phases by multiple different companies, it is very difficult to ensure that everyone is adhering to the project budget and working toward the same project vision.

Without clear direction and management by an experienced custom home builder, the architect may design a home that looks incredible, but can’t be built within the budget. A designer with no established budget as a reference point will easily over design any custom home! And a builder without a designer will defer to the client to make color and style decisions, resulting in an overwhelmed client an underwhelming finished product. It really takes all 3 professionals working toward the same goal to have a chance of a custom home that is well designed and can be built on time and within budget.

Without a leader keeping everyone working toward the same goal as a Design + Build team, the chances for a successful project diminish greatly.

The result of this type of fragmented project team is an all too familiar scenario: The client gets a plan set from the architect that they are super excited about. It’s amazing!  Then, a builder prepares a price for a set of plans that they didn’t design. But according to what specifications? What level of finishes should be included in the budget? Since he wasn’t involved in the initial planning and design meetings, he really doesn’t have a thorough understanding of the clients’ needs and wants and it can be very difficult for him to accurately estimate the true cost of construction without making some assumptions. So, the builder ends up using allowances for unknown items, such as carpet, tile, cabinetry, etc. (Read this article to see what you should know about Allowances.) When the builder presents their cost estimate, it ends up way over the client’s budget. So, the Owner must re-engage the architect to change the design (which takes time and costs more money) in attempt to reduce the overall budget. Weeks go by and then the builder must re-bid the revised plans (which takes time and costs more money). By the end of several months of revisions and additional design costs, the client is understandably frustrated and many times the project gets scrapped all together. 

Even if the Owner were to approach a builder first,most traditional custom home builders will direct the Owner to first contract with an architect to get plans drawn – and we’re in the same predicament as explained above. 

The Better Way: Design + Build

According to the Design- Build Institute of America, in a Design + Build project :

“The (Owner) manages only one contract with a single point of responsibility (The Design Builder). The designer and contractor work together from the beginning, as a team, providing unified project recommendations to fit the Owner’s schedule and budget. Any changes are addressed by the entire team, leading to collaborative problem-solving and innovation, not excuses or blame-shifting. While single-source contracting is the fundamental difference between design-build and the old ways, equally important is the culture of collaboration inherent in design-build.

At Gowler Homes, we are a Design + Build company. We are the designer, estimator, project manager and general contractor. We are the single point of responsibility and communication for your custom home. We work together as one team under one roof, ensuring that your project vision comes to life on time and on budget!

Benefits of Design + Build:

Saves Time

By hiring a single firm that can perform the design, estimating and build components of your project, multiple phases of the project can be done concurrently instead of sequentially, saving you time.

Saves Money

You will have the ability to make more informed financial decisions during the design phase, allowing you to value engineer the project before it goes under construction, saving you money in the long run. The alternative is finding out how much things cost during construction, when it’s too late to change.

More Accountability and Less Risk

Since the Design Builder is the single point of communication as well as the single point of responsibility for both the design and construction phases of the project, you as the Owner will have better accountability and less risk by having only 1 person to interact with rather than 2 or more. If an issue does arise during the project, there is only 1 party who is responsible. 

Better Coordination

It is much easier to coordinate the design, performance and cost elements of the project when they are being performed by 1 entity vs multiple individual contractors. This flexibility and nimbleness of a Design + Build team translates to a more streamlined and efficient project due to quicker design time, fewer mistakes during construction, and an overall better experience for the client!


If you decide to build a custom home, I recommend that you seek out a Design + Build company rather than a traditional custom home builder. You’ll save yourself time, money and frustration in the process.

If you are in the Colorado Springs, Monument or Castle Rock, CO area and are looking for a Design + Build for your custom home, I’d love to meet you and hear more about your project! Click here to schedule a consultation.