Category Archives: Design Build

October 5 – Fine Home Builders

When it all comes down to price . . . take consideration.

When a residential remodel or new construction project reaches an advanced level of complexity or dollar value, we believe price becomes less of a swaying factor, while tangibles such as timeline, quality, precision and professionalism become of equal or higher importance.

With all respect to the large big-box home supply stores, which make life easier for the do-it-yourselfer, handyman, or small general contractors, once a notable level of sophistication is reached, materials are routinely sourced from distributors who specialize in windows and doors, plumbing and electrical fixtures, roofing and lumber materials, tile dealers, steel fabricators, etc. These distributors offer a wide variety of solutions and materials not found at the big-box.

The margins on these materials are relatively stable and somewhat controlled by the manufacturers. Sure, one dealer may offer a slightly better discount, but not nearly enough to cover expenses associated with delays or poor attention to details. In addition to materials costs, there’s labor, and most craftsmen know the going rate in their area. Sure someone, in the parking lot of a big-box retailer is going to be less expensive, but the experience, quality and craftsmanship isn’t likely to be there, not to mention licensing, worker’s compensation, insurance, etc., which if not present can be problematic if problems arise.

So what’s left when materials costs and journeyman labor are relatively consistent?

Schedule and Timeline

Is the general contractor running with his or her choke out? Are they bouncing between several jobs trying to stay above water? Have they outlined their construction schedule with clearly defined draw schedule? Have they provided a material order and deliver schedule? Is there a superintendent on the job each and every day?

We remember a project where a general contractor was remodeling a 250 square foot bathroom across the street from a whole-house remodel we were undertaking. He was there for over 10 months, our company was in and out within 5 months. One day the homeowner came over to our job, she was sobbing about the time her project was taking, and asked me why ours was moving so quickly. We mentioned that we plan and schedule in explicit detail.


Simply put, does your general contractor follow the Master Builder Tradition of, “Build it once, build it right, and make it last a lifetime?” There’s no substitute for quality. Ask to see a job under construction. Is the jobsite it a mess with trash and debris all around? If so, turn around and run. That’s an insight into care, attention to detail, safety and pride.

A cleaned and organized jobsite, tells all parties that this is something special, “We expect your best.”

Precision and Professionalism

Does your contractor have lasers? Do they utilize the most modern tools and technologies? Look to see if the superintendent has access to the internet at the job, you can’t imagine how useful that can be to the super.

How do they care for their tools and equipment? Are they up to date on new materials and techniques? A journeyman who treats his tools well, is proud or his talents and it will show in your home.

All things considered, materials and labor are going to be fairly consistent. It’s the scheduling, quality, precision and professionalism of the general contractor that always yields superior best results, which last a lifetime.

Design Build Construction

Design BuildWith the rise in Design – Build construction, traditional hierarchies of the design and construction industry feel vulnerable, and believe me, I’ve witness a few stubborn architects being wary with the general contractor involved during the design phase.

Traditionally, clients locate architects and commission him/her to design or remodel their home.  Early in the process, everyone is tremendously excited about the design and its possibilities.  Homeowners begin to visualize their day-to-day living in the new spaces – the kitchen flows nicely and the master suite is amazing.  Construction documents are finished, and now it’s time to bid the project; how much is all this going to cost us?

All too often, we witness the frustration, sadness and disappointment of projects being seriously over budget, and we am not talking about a few tens of thousands of dollars; let’s just say well over six-figures. We find this sad for everyone (including the architects) because it doesn’t have to happen.

Design, in parallel and cooperation with “real-time” budgeting sets expectations, eliminates uncertainty and provides a clear understanding of the costs associated with design choices.  For example, a good design-build team can promptly inform you of the costs associated with carpeting versus hardwood floors or walnut versus cherry cabinets.

It’s an opportunity to make informed decisions, weighing costs and keeping the budget under control; like having the budget police involved during the design phase.  “Excuse me, but that hand-crafted tile is $140.00 per square foot, and we are currently budgeted for porcelain at $28.00.”

Design – Build doesn’t just keep you on budget, research on selecting project delivery systems have found that design-build projects are delivered 33.5% faster with a minimum of 6.1% savings over projects designed and built under separate contracts (design-bid-build).  It also eliminates the conflicts that inevitably tend to develop between architects and general contractors with fingers pointing at one another.  With an experienced Design – Build Team, the architect and general contractor work in cooperation.  You know it never hurts to have a second set of eyes look at the plans.

At the end of the design-build process, you can expect a full set of construction and engineering documents along with a detailed budget.  We include elevations of all interior walls showing tile patterns, moldings, window and door placements and alignments, etc.  The additional attention to detail eliminates confusion and subsequent change orders; it also speeds up the construction process – on average of 33.5% faster!