The Pros and Cons of Design/Build

It seems as though more and more contractors are branding themselves as design/build these days.  The process is attractive for both homeowners and contractors.  Rather than seeking the services of an architect, the homeowner only needs to engage one professional for the design and execution of a renovation project.  The contractor has a great marketing tool.  He can advertise as a “one-stop” shop that provides both the design and construction as part of a seamless, efficient process that will result in a less expensive, successful project.

What I have found in practice is that design/build has both advantages and traps for the unwary contractor and consumer.  The pros for the contractor are many:

  1. Earning a fee for both the design and the construction aspects of home improvement projects.
  2. Working with a design that has the necessary components for the construction phase. No unclear specifications that handicap the builder.
  3. Dealing with known in-house or independent contractors who have a preexisting relationship with the contractor. Fewer conflicts with unfamiliar design professionals.
  4. Longer-term projects and the ability to provide a greater variety of services to the customer.
  5. The ability to provide a lower bid for a job, since the specifications will not require as much detail as modifications can be made onsite.
  6. An additional creative outlet for the contractor
  7. More “bang for the buck” on one’s website since photos will reflect both design and construction ability.

That said, numerous clients have run into issues with design/build that can be prevented.  The most common problem is when client(s) wants to terminate the relationship before the construction phase, take the design and have it executed by someone else or want to stop the project altogether.  In addition, clients frequently don’t understand the process and request numerous revisions or designs beyond their budget.  Finally, I have seen numerous instances where clients do not understand the pricing and payment schedule associated with the project.

All of these issues can be prevented with a proper design/build contract.  This will be the topic for my next blog post.