Commercial architects and design-build contractors frequently have their roles misunderstood. Though the distinction between them is easy enough to understand, comparing the two methods is essential. The key to deciding which is best for you is trust — who has it and how much you give them.
The Function Of A Commercial Architect
A client hires an architect to design a new office and produce the technical drawings needed to obtain a building permit. The architect then helps the client navigate the bidding phase to ensure the client chooses the right contractor for the job. In the end, the client always signs two contracts: one with the commercial architect and the other with the general contractor.
This arrangement sets up what’s often been described as an adversarial model. The architect will visit the site once construction is underway to see if the crew is following the blueprints. The architect also approves payments to the contractor and will make sure that they correspond to the work that’s been completed.
Pros Of Working With A Commercial Architect
There’s nothing quite like having the experience, knowledge, and track record of an established architecture firm on your side. The commercial architect will design every square foot of your new building, recording all vital details into a tight set of drawings. These documents are your golden ticket to comprehensive bids from general contractors.
- The architect can help you review the contract with the builder and provide insight on how pricing and terms compare to other contractors.
- You have an advocate who can guide you through all design and construction issues from start to finish.
- The commercial architect can give independent insight into construction progress.
- A concise, detailed set of documents protects you and your budget from runaway costs.
- You can assemble a team where you get along well with everyone.
- You can hire a specialist architect (and builder) to tackle the specific problems your business is facing.
Cons Of Working With An Architect
When two teams with very different approaches are forced to work together daily, communication can become strained in rare cases. The situation grows tense, and progress grinds to a halt. Often, the owner must mediate between the commercial architect and the general contractor.
- Some projects don’t need specialized teams, and that’s fine.
- Large teams can be overkill for small projects.
- Clients often don’t know how much it will cost to build until the architect’s designs are complete.
- The independent insight on construction progress and builder contracts that an architecture team can provide costs extra.
- Many architects work for years before gaining field experience to understand how things are built.
- You must wait until the architect’s plans are finalized before you approach general contractors for bids.
- In high-demand markets, getting on a contractor’s construction schedule can take a long time.
- An average architect’s knowledge of construction costs is usually six months out of date.
What Is A Design-Build Contractor?
Design-build contractors often give the impression of a one-stop shop, though the reality is more complicated. A firm usually has an in-house design team and a separate construction team. Since these teams are two sides of one coin, the client makes one consolidated business deal the design-build contracting team.
Contractors developed the design-build method because they saw that the adversarial model didn’t always work. Design-build removes traditional checks and balances, so a stronger foundation of trust is required. However, building that trust is well worth it as you benefit from mutual collaboration and cooperation.
Advantages Of Design-Build
Two of the most significant advantages of the design-build process are how it minimizes surprises and keeps projects on budget. Most firms provide cost estimates each step of the way. These estimates mean you can enter the construction phase with a surer idea of the final cost.
- Construction can progress efficiently by hiring a team that works well together, has established processes, and cuts red tape.
- Since everyone comes together at the start, you can see all available options and make educated decisions.
- Projects are fast-tracked, breaking ground as the design is being finalized.
- The crew who builds your facility will be familiar with the design long before they begin, working out potential kinks well in advance.
- When a single firm is responsible for the entire project, they can bake in cost-effective alternatives and solutions.
- You only sign one contract with a single company.
- Fewer change orders mean fewer surprise costs and delays.
- New projects are usually put on the builder’s schedule when the design phase begins, so you don’t have to wait long for your retail store to be built.
Drawbacks Of Design-Build
Though you need to search for only one design-build firm, you should ensure you get along with both sides of the team before signing a contract. You could love your general contractor, but the lead designer gets on your nerves. Unlike the architect-contractor method, you won’t be able to hand-pick all the people working on your new building.
- It’s up to you to insist on a particular design vision or quality standard.
- A strict construction timeline set in advance can be changed, much like with any other type of business project.
- You may need to pay for premium “extras” to get your desired finishes.
- A smaller team might not have specific subject matter experts.
- Hiring a separate architect ensures the design has ample time to perfect itself before the project moves forward, though it takes additional time.
Schedule Your Commercial Construction Consultation Today
Working with an architect or a design-build firm is a personal decision. Ausonio has designed and built many award-winning projects around Salinas, California, but we also have decades of experience working with architects in Monterey County, San Benito County, and Santa Cruz County, CA. Contact us today to schedule your consultation and learn how your business can have the best of both worlds.