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How to Create a Winning Relationship Between an Architect and Commercial Contractor

Updated: Dec 7, 2022

The building process is an exciting one no matter what role you play in the design or construction. But with so many professionals doing different things, conflicting approaches can emerge. If those involved are not careful, these differences can delay the construction schedule, increasing costs and impact the project in other ways. No one wants cost over-runs especially an owner-developer, who has exacting time frame for completion with a set budget in mind.

Those who play the two largest roles in the design-build process, the architect and the contractor, must forge a solid working relationship so a project can unfold smoothly. When a shared vision is acted upon early, good things typically happen—quality craftsmanship, on-time delivery and few if any scheduling concerns. On the other hand, if trust or respect are not firmly established, or working styles vary greatly, a project can be derailed very quickly.

Historically, designers took a more hands-on approach in the building process, and it would have been common to have a design-build team that followed a job from start to finish. But today, the roles of those in the commercial building world are often more specialized. Architects may have little or no experience in hands-on construction, while builders may have little or no experience in the design process. This can make a collaborative approach somewhat challenging.

Sometimes an architectural design and the practicalities of what can be built on-site may differ. Not all beautiful designs are practical or make sense to build. To mitigate this, constructability, a project management approach that reviews the construction process in preconstruction, and focuses on minimizing errors and cost overruns—will allow a builder to offer their feedback. But the constructability process is not always available to the contractor, especially if they are brought onboard right before the construction phase. So it can be wise to hire a contractor in the pre-design phase and reap the benefits of their professional experience.

If a job is bid out to a contractor when the building plans is approved, it will often limit a contractor’s input and all the benefits that go with – a valuable building perspective and a way to improve quality, streamline scheduling without reducing quality. A two-way street of communication from pre-construction through the building phase between architect and contractor will help maintain a healthy relationship between them, and often result in fewer project delays and lead to a more successful project. Get started now.

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