Architects and the Benefits of Collaborating with Contractors

Architects who want to establish and maintain credibility in the construction industry can greatly benefit from successful partnerships and collaboration with general contractors.

Insurance companies support these partnerships as well; many offer incentives such as lower deductibles and reduced bonding costs if there is a collaborative relationship that includes a “joint constructability review before work begins.”

Many architects may be concerned that collaboration with contractors will “compromise their independence and expose themselves to added risk.” In reality, it is this collaboration that often leads to innovation, efficiency and cost savings. By working more closely with contractors earlier on a project and throughout the project cycle, architects stand to gain more and lose less.

Benefits of Collaboration

A lot can go wrong on a construction site, but a close, trusting relationship between the architect and contractor can help minimize site uncertainties and reduce overall project risks.

General contractors and manufacturers bring to the table an in-depth knowledge of construction technology, from which architects can greatly benefit from beginning in the early planning and schematics stages. A contractor’s previous experience working in a particular region or city can help identify subtleties of project site conditions that could impact construction, restrictions and nuances of working with local permit and building offices. The contractor can also identify conditions that mitigate long-term risk and may impact the integrity of the building be constructed. Additionally, contractors provide the architect with up-to-date cost information and the most current cost efficient products.

Perhaps the biggest benefit of collaboration is the ability to get all ideas and opinions on the table before the digging begins. These partnerships provide synergy and a team atmosphere rather than creating an relationship that is met with opposition.

Choosing Partners

Collaboration is only as successful as the team of partners you choose. KWA carefully selects its partners by looking at these three criteria: capabilities, past performance and past experience. As an an architecture firm, look for partners that best fit not only with the client and the job type, but also with your own company culture.

Do this before the project begins to avoid finding yourself in a position where making changes becomes too difficult. A collaborative relationship consists of clear communications between all parties, negotiation and willingness to compromise.

The architect-contractor relationship does not follow a single model. There are many successful partnership structures, ranging from legal joint ventures and design-assisting contractors to informal marketing and advisory affiliations. The key is to bring together experienced designers, architects and contractors who have the knowledge of how to make a vision come to life in the most effective and efficient manner.

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