As the old saying goes, there’s more than one way to skin a cat and definitely more than one way to approach building a custom home. At Gowler Homes, we follow the Design-Build philosophy when constructing custom homes.
But in order for me to explain what Design-Build is, it’s probably easiest for me to start with an example of what it isn’t.
First, as we’ve covered in another article called How to Assemble Your Custom Home Dream Team, three critical people should be part of your custom home team: the architect, the designer, and the builder. A custom home project has the highest likelihood of success when all three of these people work together on the same team, toward the same vision, with a clear leader.
How Are Homes Traditionally Built?
Most custom home builders use a disjointed construction process known as design-bid-build. The process starts when the homeowner contracts directly with an architect to draw the house plans. After the plans are drawn, the owner contracts separately with a builder to bid the plans. The homeowner may also sign yet another contract with an independent designer if he or she chooses to have one involved.
The owner, by default, becomes the single point of contact and bears the responsibility of coordinating the work of the architect, designer, and builder. When a project is designed, bid, and built in multiple phases by multiple different companies, it’s very difficult to ensure that everyone adheres to the project budget and is 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 and an underwhelming finished product. It really takes all three professionals working toward the same goal to create 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.
Potential Issues with Design-Bid-Build
Unfortunately, problems can occur when the builder prepares a price for a set of plans that they didn’t design. What are the specifications? What level of finishes should be included in the budget? Since the builder wasn’t involved in the initial planning and design meetings, he really doesn’t have a thorough understanding of the client’s needs and wants, and it can be very difficult for him to accurately estimate the true cost of construction without making some assumptions. 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 a cost estimate, it often ends up way over the client’s budget.
The homeowner must then re-engage the architect to change the design (which takes time and costs more money) in an 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. Frequently, the project gets scrapped altogether.
Even in the scenario where the homeowner approached a builder first, most traditional custom home builders will direct the owner to first contract with an architect to get plans drawn – resulting in the same predicament explained above.
So, What Is Design-Build?
One company controls your entire project from design through construction with Design-Build. The Design-Build construction process eliminates unnecessary aggravation and delays, streamlining the entire home building system. At Gowler Homes, we handle every aspect of your project, from concept to design and through construction. Our team includes architects, designers, estimators, project managers, and general contractors who are all involved from the very first meeting. As the single point of responsibility and communication for your custom home, we work together to ensure that your project vision comes to life on time and on budget!
The Design-Build Institute of American (DBIA) provided this helpful example that explains how a Design-Build project works :
“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.”www.dbia.org
Benefits of Design-Build:
Design-Build Saves Time
Building a new home involves a lot of wasted time if you use the Design-Bid-Build approach. After you approve your architect’s plans, the plans are sent out for bids to construction companies. Receiving and comparing the bids can take weeks and perhaps longer. If you’ll also be working with a designer, you’ll need to allow time to review those bids too.
Once you’ve settled on and hired a construction company and designer, work still doesn’t begin immediately. The company must order and purchase the materials needed for the job and most companies these days are booked out well into the future before they can start a new project anyway. Depending on the complexity of your project and the types of materials used, you may need to wait weeks or months until construction can begin.
By hiring a single firm that can perform the design, estimating, and building components of your project, multiple phases of the project can be done at the same time instead of sequentially, saving you time. When you choose a Colorado construction and design firm, you won’t need to waste time with the bidding process. The team will begin making a tentative building schedule and estimating your final costs during the design phase, which can save considerable time.
A Design-Build team will also coordinate contractor schedules to ensure that any downtime is minimized. Their experience in managing custom house construction will prevent delays that could extend the timeline of the build.
Thanks to the Design-Build company’s all-in-one approach, seemingly minor delays that can eventually cause major time drains are less likely to happen. Your builder never has to wait for the designer to get back to him about a crucial question that could halt construction temporarily. Since everyone is on the same team, communication delays aren’t as big of an issue.
The time-saving benefits of Design-Build can be significant. In fact, Design-Build projects are delivered 102 percent faster than Design-Bid-Build projects, according to the DBIA.
Design-Build Saves Money
Design-Build construction also helps you keep costs under control. Since the builder and designer work closely together, team members often recommend changes or suggest a few tweaks that will reduce costs without affecting quality. The ability to make informed financial decisions during the design will allow you to value engineer the project before it goes under construction.
Design-Build firms also help you limit the number of costly change orders. Change orders are issued when a change is requested after the plans have been finalized or construction has begun. Changes may require reworking plans or removing walls, flooring, or other features if construction has already begun and in almost all cases add cost and time to the project schedule.
Fortunately, change orders are less common in Design-Build. The design and build team is more likely to identify potential issues before plans are finalized and offer solutions, avoiding change orders weeks or months into the construction of your custom home. Of course, as a homeowner, you can always request a change order if you decide you’d like to add or change something.
Design-Build Provides More Accountability & Minimizes Risk
The Design-Build process improves accountability and decreases risk by establishing a single point of communication as well as a single point of responsibility for both the design and construction phases of the project. You’ll never have to deal with conflicting points of view or spend too much time trying to determine who’s right during a dispute. If an issue does arise during the project, there is only one party who is responsible.
Design-Build Is a Less Stressful Process
The traditional Design-Bid-Build approach requires much more work on your part. You’ll need to check in with the various companies on a regular basis to ensure they’re communicating with each other and that there aren’t any snags. If there’s an argument between any of the groups working on your project, you’ll need to step in and serve as a peacemaker.
It’s impossible to make building a custom home completely stress-free, but Design-Build comes pretty close. With the entire team under the same roof, communication issues won’t be an issue. In fact, problems can be solved quickly and easily and won’t require any input from you unless the issue is major.
Design-Build Improves Coordination
It is much easier to coordinate the design, performance, and cost elements of the project when they are being performed by one company 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!
Choose Design-Build for Your Colorado Custom Home
If you are considering building a custom home, you should consider hiring a Design-Build company. Choosing a Design-Build company offers many more benefits than working with a traditional custom home builder. You’ll save time, money, and frustration when you opt for the Design-Build approach.If you’re in Colorado Springs, Monument, Black Forest, or Castle Rock, CO, and are looking for a Design-Build company for your custom home, I’d love to meet you and hear more about your project! Click here to schedule a consultation.