When the opportunity presents itself, building a relationship with an architect can offer an enormous benefit to any contractor looking to expand his or her business. Architecture firms are continually working with new clients to build projects, both residential and commercial. They rely on good, professional contractors to make their work a reality. If you have their trust, you and your business can benefit greatly.
In times past, the general contractor and builder was the architect. He was considered the master builder. They relied on their hands-on skills and knowledge of the entire project to push the creativity of the designs they would build. Today, each segment of construction has become specialized.
The standard process
When it comes to designing a building, there are a few standard processes. In the most common, the owner hires an architect. The architect then takes the owner’s needs and desires and works on a draft to create building plans along with specifications for construction. The architect helps shape the owner’s vision and put it on paper.
The owner’s responsibility is to commit the financial resources for the project.
The plans then go out for bid to contractors. The contractor who is awarded the job commits to the project for a specific price. Now, the team is in place. The owner, architect, and contractor are equality important in the success and completion of the project.
A change of mindset is occurring
An understanding by the contractor of the role and responsibility of the architect can help in the relationship. The owner, architect, and contractor all have a responsibility to each other.
The contractor can feel like an outsider because the relationship between the owner and architect is established before the contractor came on board. This is just part of the process and not intended to diminish the contractor.
It is important to realize architects communicate through written documentation, which helps them to be more detailed and understandable and also helps protect them legally. They don’t like to commit to verbal instruction. A contractor can feel uncomfortable about this, but it is important that they work together to ensure the owner’s vision becomes a reality.
Consider these actions to help build a relationship with the architect
Request that the owner obtain the service of the architect to make on-site weekly inspections. This will eliminate a lot of problems and enhance communications tremendously. The architect should inspect the site and progress to see if his or her work is being followed and conforms to the contract documents. It also gives the architect the ability to review materials delivered on site prior to installation, which can help prevent problems that may arise as the issue will be brought up prior to work being performed.
You can never be too organized before the start of a job. It is easier to pick up time in the beginning of the project than at the end. Keep the job schedule realistic and accurate. Update the project plan as necessary, including all site deliveries so the architect can have a general idea what he or she is going to look at before coming to the site.
Inform your subcontractors and suppliers not to contact the architect directly. All communications should go through the general contractor in a memo that includes a response date for the architect in order to stay on schedule.
Keeping frequent, open communication is vital. Additions and changes should be discussed with the architect and contractor before a final decision is made. Input from both sides will help the outcome and the relationship.
In my experience, contractors who have taken some courses in drafting have a respect for architects. Likewise, architects who have some field experience with the tools of the trade have respect for contractors. Commending the architect on his design work can sometimes break the ice and lay the foundation for a great relationship—words we can all benefit from.