building information modeling architects and contractors work together

For My Contractor Friends: 4 Ways Architects and Contractors Work Together in Home Building

The power of general contractors is their hands-on skills, insight on costs, clients, and market conditions. That’s why I always tell my clients from the Chicago suburbs to engage and partner with a builder as soon as possible. As an architect, I partner with many contractors and I understand the challenges they face — the fear of ‘what could go wrong?’ I’ve worked as a carpenter and have long history in design-build. It has taught me a lot. When an architect and general contractor collaborate, we experience greater clarity and less stress … and provide that for our client.

But first a word to those who doubt that they need to hire an architect. Cost is an important consideration, I understand and agree. We deal with fear of cost in our field. But hiring an architect actually keeps costs under control, boosts resale value and reduces anxiety about the project. Plus, you get a design that stands out from your competition, a well defined and developed design solution that is more affordable than a rushed solution where things could go wrong. An architect’s work often reduces cost. And it always enhances the client’s experience and the quality and value of the completed project. The possibilities are endless. For my contractor friends, here are 4 ways architects and general contractors can work together to enhance the home building experience:

Gain clarity with 3D design modeling

As the architect, my firm provides 3D Building Information Modeling (BIM). Clients usually don’t know how to read architectural plans. Both clients and contractors benefit from a clear, interactive visual. I’ve seen 3D modeling work as a conduit for communication for the whole team. Today’s homes are typically more complex than simple colonial homes; there is a lot of relief – ins and outs, things that aren’t easily conveyed in 2D architectural drawings. BIM is an invaluable tool for everyone involved who needs to see the home from every angle.

Stay on the same page with budget

For the client who appreciates spectacular design, it’s better to know the budget up front rather than deal with disappointment and increased costs in the future. The architect-builder team gets all the cards out on the table. Then everyone works from this baseline — a common goal. In this way, architects and contractors work together for success.

I recently spoke with a builder, bidding on a set of drawings provided by an architect. He recognized a number of unique and challenging details, not easily discerned from the drawings. He understood that these details represented significant costs, but could easily be overlooked. The competitor’s bids were all coming in the range of $1.8M. Now that the home is under construction, the price is approaching $3M, largely due to the miscues in the design. That’s a bitter pill for any client to swallow. Architects and contractors work together and the client would have been prepared or perhaps adjusted the design to fit expectations.

Give the team a realistic schedule

Without an architect, the builder and client begin with generic quantities (like a 3700 square foot house). Their team can estimate, perhaps 9 months to completion. When the architect and builder work together, we have the opportunity to be much more granular. We’re able to analyze all of the quantities that go into every phase and trade. Rather than using an average or typical number, we can know and understand actual quantities, offering a more accurate accounting of the required work.

When architects and contractors work together, I like to envision a funnel: at the beginning of the design, we start with broad ranges of time and cost. As we refine the design, these become more solidly defined. My logic: focus on elements that are most costly, like rough-framing and concrete, then once you’ve mastered them, we work our way down the list (plumbing, electrical, HVAC, drywall, finishes, etc … as the architect, I can draw out all those values found within the design.

Get leads with marketing materials

Then we close the loop. My firm creates high-quality marketing materials that help our partnering contractors get leads and win projects. A product of our collaboration is an example for other clients. I automatically generate portfolio projects with the location, photos and all sorts of media that respect the homeowner’s privacy. Rather than pull out of a set of old drawings covered in mud, you could show a client a curated marketing package. Organized content shows how we work and what the clients can expect when designing and building with us. Then we move forward. Once we do a few homes together, we’ll have a library of projects to show future clients.

3D modeling plays into marketing, too. In the past, clients could only experience virtual reality in their architect’s office. Now, we use BIMx which allows clients to view their 3D model on any device. They can do a virtual walkthrough and see a completed house without having to schedule an appointment. Builders benefit from this great technology asset because clients make quick, informed decisions — what architects and builders love to see.

Benefit from the architect-contractor team

Architects and contractors work together in the design-build process, we all want to feel less stress and gain understanding and control. My architecture firm partners with contractors to make this happen. We think through the whole life cycle of the project … from the 3D models, the budget, and schedule, to the marketing materials … and develop creative solutions that make our contractors stand out. We build a powerful team.

Allow me to help you attract and win great home building and remodeling projects. Let’s work together to design and build better homes in a way that everyone enjoys. We can present a compelling story of a well-coordinated team with an established plan for success.

To arrange a 3D & BIMx demonstration in your office or over coffee, give me a call (847-412-0692) or email me MarkBenner@MEBArchitect.com