What is Design Build? Trending now in construction, the one-stop-shop for building your custom home.

Anyone who has been through the process of building a custom home from the ground up knows how complicated it can be, especially when it comes to ensuring you are hiring the right people to get the job done. Finding an architect and general contractor who work well together and complete the job on time and within budget is crucial.

Enter, Design Build, a new approach to construction that was created to mitigate these challenges before they begin by bringing design and build services together under one roof.  “Design Build was something that wasn’t very well known in Steamboat when we started it, and now it’s a big thing,” says Hans Berend, CEO, Gerber Berend Design Build. “It was created to make it less complicated and to bring the whole team together at the beginning of the project. That way, clients don’t have to manage so many relationships. The theory is that these guys know how to work together – there are fewer problems, the communication is better, and there aren’t so many different entities to manage.”

Jeff Gerber, Principal of Design, explains that the industry term “adversarial triangle” arose from the traditional model and how frequently problems arise between separate entities. “The owner is caught in the middle if there is a problem. They’re stuck with trying to figure out who is responsible, trying to manage the negotiation, and how to fix it. With Design Build, there is no question when something happens that we’re here to back up our work; we have a higher bar to clear as far as expectations. That’s reassuring for our clients, to have one company that stands behind everything.”

Another challenge with hiring stand-alone entities, Berend points out, is that they don’t necessarily share a common goal. “They might have entirely different objectives, for instance, the Architect may wish to design an incredible structure, but it may not be in the budget or within the schedule that the Builder is committed to. This leads to finger-pointing and a difficult situation. There’s no alignment when you have two separate companies. We have the opportunity to fine-tune and align our goals without putting the client in the middle,” Berend says.

Building a house from design to completion can be extremely lengthy, complicated, and costly, especially if changes are made too far along in the process. “We spent a lot of time creating our own optimum GB Design Build process,” says Gerber. “What you get with our team is communication between the design team and the build team with checks and balances throughout the process.”

A key component is to build in several rounds of pricing estimates. “It was essential for us to decide how far to go into design before you start providing pricing. A lot of up-front coordination was the best way for us to be able to deliver value,” Berend says. Ultimately, they settled on four different pricing rounds, including one prior to the commencement of any design work to ensure that projects stay on budget. “That’s one of the significant things that’s missing in the traditional architect/builder configuration. It’s difficult to get a builder, who has not been selected or hired, engaged in the process and willing to drop everything for the necessary amount of time to provide thorough enough pricing that gives the client good information.”

Gerber points out the collaboration that results from having both the design and construction teams in-house can ultimately save the client a lot of money. “While we’re designing the details for a house, we’ll bring our framers in and ask for input,” Gerber says. “In the traditional process, it’s not unusual for the carpenters to see the designs and plans for the very first time on the first day of construction. The further you go into design development, the harder it is to backtrack, and the more expensive it becomes to make changes to get back within the budget.”

Another advantage of the Design Build approach is the familiarity in-house crews have with working together.  “Our crews in the field are very used to working with plans produced by our architects. We don’t have to do as much detailing as we would if there was a new builder every time. Our build team is accustomed to building based on a lot of the details that our architectural team is used to using; this saves the client money,” Berend says.

Then there’s the ease of logistics and communication. “If there’s a question in the field, they can reach the architect immediately by phone, or they can run into the office and meet in person. Often, the architect and builder aren’t in the same state. Sometimes a request for information can take three weeks.”

Berend and Gerber say clients can expect the entire process to take 18 months to two years: four to six months for the design and 12-18 months for construction. They suggest that clients who plan to build from scratch select a Design Build company in advance and consult them during the purchase of the lot. An experienced Design/Build team can help to understand not only how the potential lot fits their goals and program, but also how this fit relates to the ultimate cost of construction.

Believe it or not, Design Build doesn’t cost any more and is frequently less than choosing the traditional route. “The fees are very similar, but you end up getting some real value because of how efficient the teams are with their time. And on the build side, we charge the same competitive pricing that anyone else does,” Berend says. “We’re held accountable on both fronts, so it’s like a double-warranty. Actually, we are so confident in our Design Build model that we have doubled the standard warranty on all of our projects.”