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3 Ways To Build

3 Ways To Build
The classic approach to building a house is "Design-Bid-Build,"
Let’s say you’ve got the land. You’ve found the design that will work for you, but know you’ll have to make some changes so that it fits your needs and the site. You know you want to customize the design to achieve something special and unique but you’re concerned about cost overruns or possible schedule delays. So now you’re at a crossroads. Do you contact an architect first to make the changes to the design and then bid out the plans to a few builders, the traditional design-bid-build approach?  Or do you contact a firm that can provide both the design services needed to customize the plan and the build services required to complete the home in a design-build approach?  Or is there another option, such as integrated project delivery, to get the plans modified and the home built? Let’s look at the pros and cons of each of these options so you can evaluate them and determine what’s best for you.

In this approach you first hire an architect to customize your plans and then bid out these plans to obtain competitive prices from multiple builders. Since each of the builders builds to the same quality and has a stellar reputation, you’ll likely opt for the lowest priced bid. While you certainly don’t have to take the lowest price, you’ll likely do so unless you simply feel more comfortable with one of the builders or perhaps one of the builders can better accommodate your timing. The advantage of using this approach to getting your home completed is that you’ll have direct control over both the architect and builder as you’ll have separate agreements with each and you should, as a result of the competitive pricing, get your home built for less total cost. And another very important advantage is that the architect you hire will have a professional responsibility to be your advocate during the course of the project. This isn’t to say that a builder can’t be your advocate, only that an architect licensure requires that the architect has a legal responsibility to be your advocate.

The disadvantage of this approach is that the architect and the builder could very well blame the other if things go awry. You’ll find yourself sometimes having to referee the situation and, as the lay person, never being quite comfortable with what the issue really is and how you can make the best decision to go forward.
Another disadvantage is that it could very well take longer to get your home built. It’s simply that the process is linear, one step after another, so it doesn’t allow for multiple steps to occur at the same time. For example, permits won’t be applied for until after the drawings are all complete and the builder selected, something that can add many weeks, if not months, to the time it takes to get your home completed. But if you have the time and are the type of person who prefers having control over every aspect of something, the design-bid-build approach is likely going to be your best option.

This approach became very popular in the 1980’s as a result of high interest rates and steep inflation, and has remained popular as it streamlines the process. You hire one firm to customize your desired plans and build the project. Because there’s no hand-off from architect to builder and because the design-build firm can do things like apply for permits before the drawings are complete, a design-build firm is efficient.

The disadvantages to a design-build firm are that you’ll typically pay a premium for the convenience of a one-stop-shop and resulting lack of competitive bidding; and you’ll not have an advocate watching out for your interests during the process. This isn’t to say that a design-build firm isn’t trustworthy, only that you won’t be able to be in a position to “trust but verify.”
Another disadvantage to this approach is that you’ll likely never pick from the universe of options available but rather from the few options that the design-build entity can offer. 

But if time and efficiency are what’s important, a design-build approach will likely be your preferred approach. If so, interview possible design-build firms to find the one you’re most comfortable with. For example, you might be more comfortable with an architect led design-build firm because the design is the most important thing to you. Or you might be more comfortable with a builder led design-build firm because staying on budget is more important. However you find the firm, whether through referrals or a service like Angie’s List, make sure that the design-builder firm’s approach is what you want.

Integrated Project Delivery
Over the last few years there’s been a new approach to getting a project built that combines the advantages of both design-bid-build and design-build. It's called integrated project delivery, or IPD, and, at its core, allows the owner to engage separately with the architect and builder while making sure that each of those parties is contractually obligated to work with the other and be your advocate. To take this approach requires that early in the process you simultaneously engage the architect and builder and set-up the contracts for each to ensure they work together. 

You might think that because this approach essentially eliminates competitive bidding, it will cost more, but that isn’t necessarily the case. In fact, having a builder involved at the onset to check and price out design options as they unfold, will likely result in a smoother running process where there are few, if any, cost overruns.
So if you want to maintain your advocate during the process and want to maintain an option for the universe of possible selections, taking an integrated project delivery approach could likely be best for you. If so, interview a few architects and builders to see if they are familiar with this approach and are willing to use it for your project. If they are, select the architect and builder you are the most comfortable with and can put your trust into. And keep in mind that it’s best that the architect and builder have worked together previously. If they haven’t, you’ll have to make a judgement call as to their abilities to work together using a team and collaborative methodology and do what’s best for you.

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