I’ve never understood how some architects prefer to only design projects and never see them built or only provide drawings for permitting, but do not provide construction administration to finish out the project. The process of designing a building, both the exterior and the interior, is exactly that … a process. It begins with a site, then initial sketches and ideas, then drawings and then, ultimately, it ends with construction. During the construction period, design continues, details are resolved and puzzles are solved. No matter how good a set of drawings are, existing conditions or even details that just can’t be foreseen due to the nature of the beast, are dealt with, but only during construction and not by oneself. It allows the architect to work out details, but more importantly, it allows the architect to create and foster relationships with the men and women building the project. These relationships create a team and that team creates a better project for the owner. The feeling of putting on boots in the morning, rather than my Pradas, grounds our profession in what architecture is really about … getting dirty. Because when you get dirty, it means it’s being built and you’re a true part of that accomplishment.
One thing architects strive for is to create new or updated architectural features. We look for opportunities for new shapes, materials, forms or even entire systems. The challenge is often related to modern technology, modern day desires or even the architect’s or client’s wish to simply be different. However, in a recent project, we found an ironic twist to this “new age” challenge of being beyond creative. For the renovation of the Mar Vista restaurant, an old fishing shack turned popular Florida restaurant, we chose to match the existing weathered cypress siding rather than create some new material. Those new features happen in the interior and in other ways throughout the exterior. But … in the process of determining how to go about recreating weathered wood, the contractor had an extremely creative and simple solution. Vinegar and steel wool pads. New material … old look … way simple solution. Sometimes, you just never would have guessed.
As they say, if it was easy, everyone would do it. Our goal, as a firm, is to ultimately develop our own projects. There are many reasons for this decision, but recently, we bought a property and began the process of developing it. We created pro-formas, designed it, negotiated leases, worked with the city for permitting and the contractor on pricing. As the title describes, it is extremely difficult. Mentally, physically and financially. However, there is an inherent advantage for architects to evolve into developers. Our ability to constantly design during the entire process puts us ahead of other developers. It saves money and/or helps to resolve the financial pro-forma, in real time. There’s no need to call your architect and then wait for their response. We can do it on the fly which is invaluable. The only thing they don’t tell before you begin your venture is … developing is tough!
By Barron Schimberg, AIA LEED AP
Some architects prefer to focus solely on the building-design work and would rather not get involved in the construction phase. I prefer the opposite. While I enjoy designing buildings, it is equally satisfying when clients hire me for construction administration. Not only does it allow me, as an architect to engage in problem solving, but I can also resolve the problems in a way that preserves the integrity of my designs.
No matter what, changes will be required on every construction project—big or small. And each time a change is required, someone must make a decision about how to proceed. While many contractors are indeed qualified to recommend a solution, they may not have sufficient time or technical resources to determine the best solution for each change that occurs.
When clients hire me for construction administration, I am “on call” for the duration of the project. I set my fee to remain the same from month to month, whether the contractor needs advice once a week or every day during the month. We’ve been asked everything from alternative ways of building the structure to selecting a railing cap to waterproofing below a slab.
While the building is being constructed, there will be far less finger-pointing about who is to blame each time a change is required. We simply work together to fix the problem.
It’s a win-win-win situation for everyone. As a client, you’ll get the peace of mind that comes with predictable monthly fees for expert problem solving. Contractors often feel relieved that they don’t have to make decisions on the fly and I get the satisfaction of helping the project run more smoothly and seeing the buildings I have designed through to completion.
If you would like to learn more about construction-administration services, please give me a call at 941-894-6888 or drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Barron Schimberg, AIA
In recent years, there has been a noticeable improvement in collaboration between architects and construction firms. Relationships between the two, often adversarial, have evolved into a more positive working experience. Due to the current economy, clients naturally expect to bid projects out in order to get the best possible price.
We have found that including a contractor or builder, negotiated up front, during the design process provides a more efficient and cost effective result. By requiring the contractor to have an open book policy and bidding the trades to multiple subcontractors, it still allows for a competitive and cost-conscious project.
It has been encouraging to see that many contractors recognize the value that a collaborative architect can bring to a project. Improving relations between architects and contractors will hopefully continue into the future.
Our built environments can only benefit from architects and contractors working together to make our visions as designers reality and cost effective.
By Barron Schimberg, AIA
At The Schimberg Group, we historically have worked with contractors instead of builders for the construction phase of the projects we design. Unless you are a professional facilities manager or construction worker, you might not know that the terms “builder” and “contractor” are not really synonymous. Although the comparisons below will not be true in all cases, here are some differences that I have observed as an architect.
I certainly don’t mean to disparage the work of skilled and reputable builders. Builders offer a valuable, cost-effective, one-stop-shop alternative for people who don’t need or want a customized home or the services of an architect. Some builders I have worked with have been master carpenters who have had an exceptional understanding of some of fine details. Their craftsmanship can be stunning.
Still, in my opinion, it’s best to hire an architect and contractor for:
- New or renovated commercial buildings that must comply with specific building codes.
- Waterfront residential properties that must withstand high winds and potential flooding.
- Custom-designed homes that accommodate certain lifestyles, aesthetic styles or fulfill personal dreams.
If you have any questions or additional insights, give me a call, leave a comment on this post, or shoot me an e-mail. I am interested in hearing your thoughts!