Consult - Design - Build


In this series of blog posts, we’re walking through the steps to plan, design, and build a custom home. Last time, we talked about architects and certified professional building designers.

This time, let’s talk about another way to go about it – the consult-design-build process.

What is design-build?

Design–build construction methods are sometimes compared to the "master builder" approach of residential building. A client hires a contractor, who hires an architect to design the building which the contractor then builds for the client.

More recently, some architects have begun to take a lead role in the design-build approach. Do a quick web search of "design build Austin" and you’ll find many more firms driven by architect or design firms than by builders or contractors.

The Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA) takes the position that design–build can be led by a contractor, a designer, a developer, or a joint venture, as long as a design–build entity holds a single contract for both design and construction.

However, some architects have suggested that architect-led design–build is a specific approach to design–build.

So do you want a team that’s designer-driven or builder-driven?

Should the lead role for custom home construction be the architect/designer? Or should it be builder/contractor?

You have many considerations –experience, philosophy, approach, personality, fit, and so forth.  

Suppose you pick a design-driven firm. What do you know about their building component? Do you like the quality of their work? Is there a personality fit?

Or, suppose you’ve selected a builder-driven firm – what do you know about their design component? Do you like the quality of their work? Is there a personality fit?

How can you get answers to questions you don't even know to ask?

Is there a third option?

Yes, but first let's talk about the most important part that’s missing -- you, the client.

Ideally, you want a three-legged stool – the builder, the designer, and you. And you’re the most important leg! The team should be focused on your needs, desires, wants, ideas, story, life, and everything else that goes into designing and building a custom home? Sounds simple, right?

But what if you need a bench?

We believe a discovery phase should begin the entire process. And one way to do that is to add a consulting leg to your stool. Heck, maybe you don’t need a stool, maybe you need a bench.  

Let’s look at this third option – consult-design-build. This is the method Solluna prefers.

During an up-front consulting phase, you slow down, lay all your requirements and options on the table, and puzzle out your constraints. A budget, for example, is a constraint. The need for utilities and permits – those are constraints. How do you get the best bang for your buck? What’s the best use of your property? What other experts will need at least a temporary seat at the table to help flesh out your ideas? Some of those players – depending on your project -- might include surveyor, engineer, permit authority, septic designer, rainwater expert, arborist, interior designer, or cabinet designer. It's not just about designing a house and then building it. 

The time spent in discovery will repay itself to you ten-fold by eliminating unpleasant surprises down the road. And it allows you time to discover any hidden costs long before construction begins.

During this discovery/consulting phase, your goal is find out what you need to know in order to hand-pick the right team of players for your project -- the right builder, the right designer, and others to support your goals. How do you follow this path? Look for a builder or an architect/designer who offers consulting as part of their up-front services.

Next time, we’ll talk about financing. 

-- Wayne and Mary