Q: As I research remodeling options online, I keep seeing the term “design-build.” What exactly is a design-build company, and should I hire one for my project?
QA:: Design-build is a simplified approach to remodeling in which a single business provides both design and construction services.
Traditionally, homeowners looking to remodel would seek out an architect or qualified interior designer to draft the plans and specifications for their project. They would then take their plans to a contractor for an estimate based on the original design — hiring two different parties for design and construction.
Design-build companies offer a more streamlined process, handling the design and construction under one roof.
For many homeowners, a one-shop approach is easier and more cost-effective. Others prefer the traditional approach, hand-selecting an architect for their specific style or goals. When it comes to choosing, there’s no right or wrong choice. But it’s good to know the differences.
Here are a few of the most common ways that design-build can make remodeling easier, particularly for small and mid-size projects:
It prevents major cost discrepancies. A designer at a design-build company is involved with every stage of the process, so they’re more accountable for estimates given during the design phase. The designer can also solicit realistic and timely estimates from the construction crew. Since both parties are on the same team, they can comfortably discuss cost-saving options that retain the integrity of the original design.
Some independent architects, knowingly or not, design outside of budget or with a very rough estimate. They may not account for current pricing trends, the cost of quality labor/management or fluctuations in material costs such as lumber. This can be precarious if the actual cost ends up significantly higher than your budget.
It gives you a single point of contact. Your designer will act as your advocate and teammate in your absence. Instead of explaining your requirements to multiple parties during each step of the process, you can depend on the designer to know the ins and outs at every stage. For busy homeowners, this can be a huge time saver.
It’s efficient. Everyone from sales reps to the carpenters are involved in your project for a longer period of time. From the moment you start the design process, your project is on the construction team’s radar. This extra time means more opportunities to discuss and debate, potentially staving off unforeseen construction challenges. It also gets the team invested in your project from the start, giving you and the company more opportunities to build a strong rapport.
When might a design-build company not be the best choice? For a whole-house renovation where the approach is more nuanced. For example, you may have a designer friend you’d like to support, or perhaps your project requires a new technology that a specialized architect has experience using.
Another instance is when you’re not ready to commit to a builder. Perhaps you want to design something, then save up until you can afford the project you want. In that case you, may want to use two separate companies.
Jason Legat is the founder and president of Model Remodel, a member of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties (MBAKS). If you have a home improvement, remodeling or residential homebuilding question you’d like answered by one of MBAKS’s more than 2,600 members, write to [email protected]