For our second installment on the topic of the Client/Designer/Builder relationship, we asked our frequent collaborator Tavis Griffith of Griffith Homes to weigh in on the subject. Here’s a summary of the comments of Tavis and his administrator, Kim Rodriguez:
The relationship between the Customer, Designer and Builder can be referred to as the “Construction Delivery Process”. The builder relies on the designer to capture the customer’s vision; then it’s the builder’s job to turn that vision into reality. It is imperative that the communication between the three parties is clear and precise in order to execute the project effectively.
Builders work with designers on a regular basis. The builder relies on the designer to provide detailed drawings that express the needs and wants of the customer, while taking into account local building code specifications. It’s the builder’s job to ensure that the project is flawlessly executed and completed within budget. A good builder will do a feasibility study and produce a preliminary budget to help the client to make material choices. Any changes proposed should be reviewed with the designer before the build begins.
In most cases, it’s best not to make major changes once the final drawings are finished and construction has begun. Such changes may seem minor to the customer, but can impact the entire project’s scope and could lead to additional and unnecessary expenses, as well as lengthy delays.
Some customers fear that if they share their budget in advance, the builder will inflate costs to maximize profits. However, it is always best to begin by clarifying the budget for the proposed project. This will help to optimize design choices and avoid unrealistic expectations. It can also help the designer and/or builder to propose options that the client may not have thought were possible. For this reason, it is very important that the client selects the designer and/or builder based on trust that these professionals have the client’s best interests at heart.
It’s also best to ensure that the builder is licensed and insured, and to obtain references from past clients if possible. Any reputable builder will maintain good communication and transparency with customers.
When budgeting, it’s important to factor in details – some design elements can make all the difference in a successful build. For example, stamped concrete is more durable and looks better than pavers, but may be forfeited because of the higher cost. The choice of siding, windows, and other exterior façade components may also be determined by the price tag. Or a client may want to change roofing materials or even the pitch of the roof to save money. Removing details to cut costs can have a negative impact on the integrity and functionality of the design, making it look less attractive and quickly dated. Since a newly-built home is the biggest investment that most clients will make, it deserves to be done well.
Some people may be influenced by friends or family members who “know a guy” who can do it better/cheaper/faster, regardless of that individual’s qualifications. Or they may talk to someone who had a genuinely bad experience with a builder who sub-contracted the job to less-qualified tradespeople who did the work for less money. Such occurrences are unfortunate and give builders a bad name, but they are relatively rare. Due diligence in selecting a builder is critical, as is open communication at every step.