The following is true for the design and construction of any home or building, but particularly important when your vision includes high-performance: The elements of high-performance include energy efficiency, indoor air quality, comfort, durability, and — resilience to extreme heat/cold, wildfires/smoke, and power outages.
Historically, the process of building a custom home on a particular parcel has been a bit like a relay race. The potential homeowner would have an idea of their needs, wants, and ideas for the home. They would select an architect, and through multiple conversations, the architect would assist them in refining their needs, priorities, and preferences — based on the realities of their time and budget. This collaborative process between the architect and homeowner would result in an overall vision for the completed home as well as specific plans and construction documentation.
The next step was for the homeowner and/or architect to engage multiple builders to provide competitive bids, based on the documentation. The different builders would develop their respective bids, present them to the homeowner and architect, and the homeowners would select and contract with the preferred builder.
This architect first, selection and hand-off to builder for construction process still exists (the architect usually stays involved at some level), but the integrated process described below is gaining traction — for excellent reasons.
Selecting and engaging the architect and builder in the same timeframe has many benefits. (Whichever the homeowner chooses first will usually provide help in selection of the other.) The benefits include:
Consultation and decisions with the integrated team incorporates expertise and experience from both and leads to a more comprehensive and better understood vision for the desired outcomes.
The architect will benefit from the builder’s knowledge of construction details and costs, the builder will have a much better grasp of the underlying reasons for design choices, and all parties will benefit from mutual understanding, clear communication, and fewer surprises.
This collaboration from the beginning will inform choices throughout and lead to a finished project that is more completely aligned with the needs, priorities, and preferences of the homeowner.
An integrated team approach is particularly important for a home that is intended to be high-performance (efficient, comfortable, healthy, durable, and resilient), environmentally responsible, and compliant with future building codes as they evolve toward net zero energy and zero carbon.
This EpiPHany has focused on the design and construction process of a custom home but an integrated team from the beginning is even more critical for high-performance multifamily and/or commercial buildings.
Author: Jay Gentry