Custom builders, architects: Be team players

Custom builders and architects have their differences, but a good working relationship can lead to a well-designed home that exceeds the client’s expectations – and doesn’t exceed the budget.

March 01, 2008

The needs and expectations of custom-home clients are changing, and that means the builder-architect relationship is more important than ever. To ensure that the quality and design of your homes will attract new customers in today's market, it's critical to establish a good working relationship with a design professional.

Home buyers are more educated about good design thanks to home-friendly television programs, design-oriented publications, architectural reference books and an affordable variety of architectural products available at home-improvement stores. Now they're looking to you, the home builder, for both innovation and creativity combined with value. In many cases, design ideas and proper architectural products are readily available, but you need the direction of an architect to skillfully piece them together. This is where a design professional can make a huge difference in determining the success of any project.

One of the obstacles to creating a successful partnership with a design professional is that builders and architects have different points of view. During a project, the builder may be thinking that the plans won't work, the details are ridiculous and that such projects are always over budget. Meanwhile, the architect is thinking that the drawings and details aren't fully understood, that certain aspects of the design should not be so costly to build and that budget overages are due to changes and modification of details well into the construction phase.

It's a case of "builders are from Mars, architects are from Venus," and it can contribute to a poor working relationship — and a final product that does not meet the client's expectations.

There are a few guidelines that can assist you in establishing a successful partnership with a design professional. The most important is to select an architect who is experienced in the type of project you are working on and who will act as the "quarterback." Remember, this is a team effort. Work together with your architect to plan your budget accurately, realistically and ahead of time. This will help control the process along the way rather than at the end when it's too late to change the size of the home and the level of detail.

You must also have the confidence to let your architect know at the beginning of the project if you feel that something will not fit within the client's budget. If the budget doesn't call for it, don't select a style of home that is inherently expensive to build.

If you create a strong partnership with an architect, you'll be a difficult act to beat. Not only will you impress your clients with innovative designs, but you'll also stay within your budget and exceed your client's expectations. Establishing this partnership can help build your reputation as a builder and assist you in giving potential clients a reason to move from their existing homes, which is a critical factor in today's economy.

Dominick Tringali,

Author Information
Dominick Tringali, AIA, is the founder and president of Bloomfield Hills, Mich.-based Dominick Tringali Architects, a firm specializing in luxury custom estates, market-rate housing and commercial design. He's a licensed architect in 10 states as well as a licensed builder and interior designer. You can reach him at [email protected].

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