manic monday: architect vs contractor

The resurrection of the Manic Monday blog post! I haven’t done one of these in too long, but hopefully this post is just what I need to get back on the band wagon. And to kickstart that endeavor I’m talking about a subject that all architects, engineers and clients can relate to – the tense and tenuous relationship between Architect and Contractor.

As an architect there are usually only two ways a project makes it into the office:

1) The client finds you either through word of mouth, advertising, the internet, etc. and calls you up to set a meeting to talk about their project.

2) You get a call from a contractor who already has the client signed on for construction and the contractor needs you to “put together a set of drawings for permit”.

I think you can immediately guess which situation most architects would prefer. That’s right, option number 1. Why? It’s simple. In option 1 the client recognizes the need for an architect’s services and expertise on the project from the very beginning and is aware of the time, talent and effort required to research, design, detail and oversee a project from start to finish. In option 2 the client may not even be aware that the contractor has hired you, the architect, to help design and permit the project. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and I’ll tell you why.

Because having and maintaining good relationships in architecture and construction is the only way to stay in business. And that has to extend to your past, current and future clients as well as to contractors. But when it comes to contractors that relationship has to be built on a common respect and appreciation for what each party brings to the table and sadly, in my experience, many contractors view architects as an incredibly unnecessary evil. And this attitude has been reflected several times recently which has prompted this post.

When a contractor calls me and says “I just need a set of drawings for permit”….I just want to jump out the window. That same lack of understanding that clients have for what it is we do extends quite often to the contractors we work with as well. After all, they are the ones that know how to BUILD things. We (architects) just do the drawings. But contracts and architects are both important and necessary pieces to any project. Without one the other isn’t much good. So, it’s important that we (architects) work to build relationships with contractors and show the value of our services and how they are not just a compliment to building but necessary for the success of any project large or small.

If we can do this and do it successfully then those two scenarios I mentioned earlier will both be ideal to the growth and success of our business. Even if a client doesn’t think they need an architect, if we’ve done our job correctly, the contractor that owner seeks out will advocate for us by saying “hey you really need an architect to help you and I know a great one that I’ve worked well with in the past.” That is the single best advertising you can’t buy – when another professional recommends you as an addition to a project.

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2 thoughts on “manic monday: architect vs contractor

  1. I’ve experienced both. I found that if one addresses the 2nd option, then contractors can be the best source of work – and be our best advocate. Avoid those who have the mentality that we are superfluous. I bet they’re not really doing well either.

    • Thanks for the comments, Lee!
      One of the things I’m relying heavily on as I continue to get my own practice up and running is maintaining relationships with those few quality contractors in the area I know I can trust and building relationships with new ones that have that same respect for craft and the different roles we all play.

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