Monitor The Design Process
As they say, there is more than one way to skin a cat. Sometimes a cat can be skinned better for less. While certain design details might be the only clear choice to achieve a desired effect, often there are multiple ways to achieve the same or similar look and afford the owner some potential savings as well. Likewise, some cost savings are not worth the concessions necessary to achieve them. An experienced construction professional often has practical experience that a designer’s day to day work flow might not expose him or her to.
A good and experienced designer will often be shown new products as they are introduced to the marketplace, and can be a good resource for the latest trends in construction. Someone with more day to day experience in the field can usually supplement this knowledge with 1st hand experience with new techniques and products, and can provide feedback as to what works as advertised, and what might not yet be ready for primetime.
Designers are very often artists. The very best ones know that function needs to accompany form, but despite that, designers are human, and they obviously want their work product to look fabulous both on paper and once constructed. That said, sometimes function might be sacrificed for form in the process. This is OK if the client understands and accepts this compromise. The reverse can also be true. Having an objective 3rd party involved who can identify and call out when these compromises are present can keep everyone on the same page before the design evolves past the point of an easy fix.
Depending on the experience and skill set of the designer selected, this may or may not be an area where additional outside input would be helpful. A contractor who has significant experience executing drawings from multiple different designers similar to the project in question, might have seen or executed details that might be worth considering in the project at hand. Ultimately, any aesthetic ideas offered would need to be of interest to the client, and would require buy in and agreement from the designer who would be tasked to make it fit with the rest of the design. Just because it is an interesting detail, doesn’t mean it is appropriate in all instances, but having the opportunity to consider various details whether incorporated or not, only strengthens the integrity of the ultimate design.
An all too common speed bump in the custom residential construction world is when the clients’ lists of needs and wants, once reduced to paper, exceed the desired target budget. An unhappy truth is this is almost ALWAYS the case. It is as natural for a client to dream of all they might want when communicating their vision to a designer, as it is for the designer to seek to deliver to the client the plan of their dreams. There is a difference, however, when the actual cost to build is more than one would like, but still doable and affordable for the client. It is a much more unpleasant circumstance when the final design is put out for bid, and the cost to construct what was ultimately drawn so far exceeds the desired budget as to either send the design process back to square one, or worse yet, scrap the project altogether. While the actual final cost will not be known until completion of construction, an experienced contractor can help keep the budget at the fore during the design process, such that the design is less likely to take on a life of its own.
Having a good design with well-conceived and executed drawings increases your odds of a successful outcome tremendously. Hiring a designer that is both capable of delivering this and who also aligns well with your tastes and budget is extremely important. Even with the right designer, however, there is substantial value to be had involving a 3rd party who is experienced in the practical aspects of constructing projects similar to yours. The role of this individual(s) isn’t to control or direct the designer, but rather to weigh in on certain aspects of the design as it evolves so as to compliment the services provided by the designer and ultimately impact the design in a positive manner financially, functionally, and aesthetically.