Design Options for Design/Builders: Partnering for Design

The design build model’s greatest strength is the single-source responsibility and accountability it offers to homeowners. But that single source is not one person, it’s the team that has been carefully put together to ensure a smooth and successful project. That’s why it’s imperative that contractors and designers work in partnership for the mutual benefit of everyone involved, including the homeowner. Contractors more often than not now find themselves in the position of “interviewing” and choosing designers, which represents a major role reversal in the industry.

One of the greatest challenges in subbing is finding someone worth partnering with. Yes, the sub must embrace the same high quality standards as you do, but at the same time he or she must also complement your team and meet all legal and insurance requirements. This works both ways, and equally applies if you, as the contractor, subcontract the design work for design build projects. There’s no shortage of design professionals out there, but that number decreases if you’re searching for one who subs or works as project partners with general contractors.

Relationship Guidelines

A truly successful designer/contractor partnership is one that includes working together to find a process that works, and then communicating that process to the entire build team. Understanding each person’s responsibility for the project, establishing a clear order for reporting information and making decisions, and embracing a team approach to resolving issues throughout the project, will all result in an enjoyable and mutually beneficial experience.

A lack of effective communication is one of the key hindrances to a good partnership, so don’t let ego clashes get in the way of working through design and construction dilemmas. If mutual respect for each other’s areas of expertise can be agreed upon early on, a rapport can be established that serves the most important needs of all – those of the homeowner. The client will also end up with fewer change orders, which always means a better project experience, and there will be far less stress for everyone involved.

Some topics you might want to consider when choosing a design build firm to partner with include:what to expect_3

  • The ability to design within a budget
  • The willingness to incorporate construction methods your team uses
  • If they’re agreeable to pay to fix the plans if mistakes are discovered
  • If they’ll cover the errors and omissions insurance coverage in case of design failure

Good Relationships Take Time

As in all areas of life, it takes time to establish a solid relationship with a design build partner. The cultivation of the partnership will evolve over the time you spend getting to know each other. Propose a lunch meeting to discuss expectations and areas of concern before meeting any homeowners. The more comfortable you and the designer are together, the more united a front you will present to the homeowners, which in turn gives them peace of mind.

Follow-up any homeowner meetings with another sit-down debriefing session to discuss what went well and what issues need further work. The time you spend cultivating an effective partnership with a design build firm not only helps both of you advance and improve your own working relationship, but can result in true friendships that last for years to come.

If you’re looking to improve your business’s results, contact Wyatt today, and he’ll be happy to expand on this discussion.