How to Have a Better Relationship with the Design Folks

How to Have a Better Relationship with the Design Folks

How to Have a Better Relationship with the Design Folks

By William Goodman

I recently read an article on the “Collaborating Contractors” website about contractor and architect relationships. Here is a quote from the article:

“Disagreements between an architect and general contractor are not only detrimental to the productivity of the construction project, but can become quite costly as well. The most important aspect of any relationship is communication, as well as making sure that everyone involved is on the same page. By doing these two things, you’ll keep up the flow of the construction operations.

When the contractor and the architect each know the other’s responsibilities, they can strengthen their relationship by helping each other to work on any weaknesses or to complement each other’s strengths. Since both the architect and contractor have their own distinct roles in the building process, it is very important that they know how to work together from the start. Doing this can prevent any confusion and avoid costly changes to the construction plans later down the road.”

The above quote describes the expectation the contractors and architects would want to achieve and/or need in building their relationship, but somehow the relationship tends to take one step forward and two steps backwards. It is an all-too-common occurrence in today’s so-called collaborative design and construction environment.

The truth of the matter is that the contractor and design folks need each other and are dependent on each other’s ability to manage the process without any perceived or predetermined notion of how it should be done. So with that said, here are a few tips from experience that will make for a better relationship:

  1. Mutual Respect. It’s important to have respect for each other’s abilities, profession and achievements. One way to do this is to check your ego at the door. Another way is to spend time at the beginning of the project discussing and sharing past experiences. For example, what problems have you had on past projects, what worked, and what didn’t work in the relationship? Try to find that middle ground both can agree upon that will define how both move forward in the relationship. Both may not always agree with each other’s philology, but each should always be respectful of the other’s profession and opinions.
  1. Communication is always essential if all parties desire a successful outcome. During the preconstruction or kickoff meeting, the contractor and architect need to establish what form of communication is preferred, i.e. emails, conference call, meetings, etc. In some if not all cases, you will use all of them throughout the project. Define the frequency of communication. How often will you need to meet? Will the meetings be in person or by conference call? Who is required to attend or be notified of scheduled meetings? Most importantly, both contractor and architect need to be available on short notice to address any issues, conflicts and/or clarifications needed to keep the project running smoothly.
  1. Deliverables are another key component of the construction process. Generally submittals are the most common and frequent deliverables required by the project contract. This usually is the most difficult and time-consuming process during the project. Architects are becoming insistent on having complete submittals for any given section, submitted at one time. This will allow them to review and coordinate all related aspects of that particular specification section during a single review. I can diffidently understand their need for this. However, the struggle for the contractor is getting the submittals from the subcontractor in the proper format, accuracy and completeness. Typically they are received piecemeal and incomplete. Again, this is something that needs to be addressed during the preconstruction or kickoff meeting: what the requirements and commitment will be on the how the submission and processing of the submittals will be accomplished. Once the contractor and architect establish these ground rules, it will make for a smoother process with less delay in the return of reviewed deliverables.

How effectively and efficiently the contractor and architect are able to work together and communicate will translate into a satisfied owner/client who will want you to work for them in the future.

William Goodman, with over 30 years of commercial construction experience, is Senior Project Manager for Triune. Founded in 1997 with headquarters in Dallas, Triune is a leading, integrated design-build General Contractor in the Southwest region of the country.

The Punch List is Triune’s proprietary blog for discussing issues and providing insights specific to the commercial construction industry. Copyright 2015 TMV, LLC (Triune).  Any and all rights reserved.

Comments are closed.