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Why Architects and Builders Can't Get Along - The Non-Love Story


We recently came across an insightful and hilarious article from addressing the age-old question: Why can't architects and builders get along?

It's very funny, especially when we look at it from the Chateau perspective; where working together on our custom built homes is an absolute must and something we're extremely proud of.

We thought we'd share the reasoning writers Paul De Groot and David Wilkes present. Paul is an Architect and David a builder, the two were asked to place their friendship and their reputations on the line with a challenge for them to 'come clean' with their complaints about one another.

It starts by presenting perspectives from both sides of the fence.

"It’s an old prejudice, passed down through generations. Builders think architects are snooty and impractical. Architects think builders are stubborn and unimaginative." 

Then goes deeper..

1. Builder proposes: "Architects need to understand that all builders aren’t created equal."

This premise is based around the tendency of Architects to lump all builders into the same 'bucket'. Instead they should find locate builders they trust and build a good relationship with them. Builders should be selected based on the needs of their clients so they have the best chance of delivering on expectations.

Architect replies:
Most architects are fully aware that builders come in different stripes. There are different tiers based around what they tend to charge for their work - lower, middle, and high end. For bidding, I try to match the project budget with the appropriate tier. Asking a contractor to bid against others who aren’t comparable wastes everyone’s time.

In any case, Architects will not assume that every builder will be able to produce the same results. It is not always wise to go with the lowest bid based on price "quality trumps economy in some cases". It's important to coach clients by directing them towards the outcome results they desire, adhering realistically to the budget.

2. Architect suggests:  “'Custom' means everything to an architect and nothing to builders."

It’s well known that architects love to customize things, often to a fault. It’s our way of showing cleverness and creativity, and of proving our self-worth. When our special little details are ignored or botched, our feathers get ruffled. When you see a curious detail on the plans, why don’t you ask us about it? Design is the architect’s calling card; neither he nor the homeowner who hired him wants to hear some builder say, “But that’s how we always do it.

Builder response:

Architects should select good contractors who can read drawings and execute their details. Choose the right builder, create the right team from the beginning, and this will not be a problem. If the clients insist on a cut-rate builder, take the time to inspect that builder’s past projects to see the quality of his work. If it’s not up to your standards, inform the clients that they will get what they pay for.

3. Architect on the effects of poor craftsmanship:

Architects want to see parts fitting together precisely on all projects, regardless of budget and poor, sloppy work, especially on eyelevel things, really grates on us. Nothing says “I don’t care” like a big gap between trim boards, a door hung out of level, or a crooked AC vent. Builders who rush through the finish-out—the work that homeowners touch and see every single day—have callbacks and disgruntlement that they and we both hear about.
Builder reply:

It is something that unfortunately makes everyone look bad! For example, expensive glass tile installed by a sloppy tile subcontractor can look terrible, while inexpensive subway tile can look amazing when installed by a conscientious craftsman.Architects need  to recognise that it's important not to just overlook builders who produce work at the high-quality end simply due to the constraints of a budget. Sometimes it can be in the best interest of the client to instead, simplify designs or materials. Quality building can cost extra, but the final outcomes are long-lasting and well worth it!

4. The builder says: Please give us better drawings to work from

Architects could help us out a lot if their provided a complete set of drawings at the start of a project! This would allow the builder to make provisions for special details and other contingencies. What is usually the case however are builders chasing up changes and details getting stuck in the line at busy offices. Drawings reflected dimensions to frame and not to finishes or—what I call “framer-friendly” drawings would be helpful. "Builders can read drawings, but they cannot read minds!"

The architect replies:
Some architects can feel as though the time required to invest in detailed and complex drawings is not time well spent: "we feel we’re not paid enough to draw". Truth be told, we have a big-time inferiority complex regarding our salaries compared to other professionals. For example we can rather unrealistically compare our fee to design a custom home to the commission a real-estate agent gets to sell it. Based on this you find that poor sets of plans start with a poor fee structure. Not all clients are willing to pay for a complete set of drawings. We understand in this instance how this can because of frustration for some builders.

5. Builder declares: Bring us on board earlier!
Architects should encourage clients to get their team in place early in the process. Clients often secure the services of engineers and architects but wait until the drawings are complete to engage a builder. A builder involved early in the process can make a positive impact on the process and can help to keep the budget in check by being a sounding board

The architect replies:
This is absolutely true! However the challenge lies with many homeowners wanting competitive bidding. It can prove difficult to ask a builder to donate hours of time early in the design process if they have not yet been commissioned for the work. It makes a huge difference when everyone’s in the loop from the start. Having this input early on can help the design remain uncomplicated and keep costs down.

6. The architect says: Too often, builders cut corners.

Unfortunately, cutting corners often involves eliminating important things that homeowners don’t know much about. Missing insulation, inadequate supports, missing junction boxes, pinched ducts—you name it and the list can go on. Considering the overall cost of a house, these are nickel-and-dime items, but dodging these chump-change costs can lead to big-ticket repairs down the road. What's wrong with this picture?

The builder replies:
This can happen if a builder doesn’t supervise his subcontractors and the subcontractors adequately. It’s important that architects select a builder whose superintendent will actively supervise the project. Cutting corners happens when clients select a builder based solely on price instead of looking at the overall company and processes.

7. Builders: "Stick around, we need you"
Builders love to see architects on site! It would help us immensely if architects would take the time to walk the project throughout construction. For example, architects should come on site before the drywall is hung to check outlet heights, sprinkler heads, alarm boxes, placement of recessed cans—anything that may prove problematic to the design.

The architect replies:
Many architects don't feel particularly welcome on site and some architects can find job sites intimidating. This can be an experience thing though. More than this however, more time on-site would be valuable and perhaps fees should be adjusted if firms don't make this a possibility for their architects. It’s always helpful when the builder and the architect can discuss construction problems that are relevant both of them.

All in all it seems these two are dependant on the work of the other. If the architect praises, respects and listens to the builder, then in the same vein the builder is more likely to take a closer look at those plans, and seek to understand more of the vision. Chateau's Architects and Builders are part of the same family.. literally! In this way, the design and construction team work together on every singly home to ensure it's unique style and integrity is maintained throughout the entire process.

Chateau Architects & Builders offer their valued clientele a point of difference: integrating the architectural design, pricing, approvals, consultant’s services and construction all under one roof. This ensures everything is covered, total accountability, the early assurance of cost and a seamless process from creation to completion, saving clients stress, time and money.

For 44 years Chateau have operated as a family owned business, creating individually designed homes. Every one as unique as its owner, be it traditional, contemporary or modern. Chateau's experienced staff will guide you through every step of the process, making bespoke home creation easy.

Get in touch with our Architects and Custom Home Builders and start an obligation free conversation today about building your custom made dream home.

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