Why good design is no longer the sole domain of the architect

Why good design is no longer the sole domain of the architect

With more and more main contractors putting themselves forward to carry out both the design and construction work on a project, architects are finding themselves squeezed when it comes to the projects that are exclusively available to them. Good design is no longer the sole domain of the architect and, while there will always be a call for the traditional, it is certainly no longer the only or, indeed, the preferred approach.

Recent years have seen the rise of a new breed of contractor who leads with design, giving the architects a run for their money and popularizing turnkey contracts. A product of the times, these contractors proved their worth during the years when costs were perpetually squeezed. Although the industry is moving on and there are more projects out there to keep the wolf from the door, clients are now more accepting of the design and build approach as it has proved a satisfactory and often cost-efficient anecdote to the architect-led option - and the designs are really good!

Providing lower risk procurement options and reducing project times while producing both functional and creative designs, the design and build option rightly continues to enjoy the same level of popularity that made it more of a necessity in harder times prompting thought that the change in method to how a project is structured and managed is here to stay.

The main attraction of design and build is quite simply that it provides the client with a single point of responsibility for delivering the whole project. That in itself is a huge fat positive which shouldn't be under-estimated and it's little wonder that trusted contractors earn themselves such a high percentage of repeat business in this way.

In previous years, clients may have only considered design and build for the simpler projects, deeming it inappropriate for larger or more complex jobs, requiring a heavier design input. However, as main contractors have developed a more sophisticated sell, adding to their teams to support a design offering and steadily building strong design-led portfolios, the balance is tipped in their favour, particularly when the pros are taken into account.

There is room for flexibility in the design and build route too. The contractor can be employed to carry out all of the design work or can initially provide a concept design. The contractor can then complete the design his or herself or employ the client's specified designer to outline specifications and complete the design. Similarly, they can team up with a design company from the outset if they haven't got the capacity to take on the design in-house.

A benefit of appointing the contractor to have a hand in the design from the outset means that he or she can contribute to the development of the design at each stage and consult as to the practicalities. There are less chances of mistakes being made as design and build contractors are inevitably experts in both fields - they have most likely been doing it for years now!

It's ultimately a results driven process and, with the margins for error significantly reduced by the single team approach and the broad expertise, there is far less likelihood of a decimation of the budget. As the cost of everything is considered early on in the game, there is much more attention given to both scheduling and pricing in the design phase.

For those who haven't considered the design and build option, maybe now's the time. There are some major design talents operating in this field - we should know. They work for us!

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