Just as every part of the design and construction process is interconnected, so is every challenge. Current issues in architecture involve collaboration, workflow, and scope creep, with all having related sources and solutions. Here are three typical challenges felt by Houston architects, as well as possible solutions to make the process of building a custom home in Houston smooth and within the budget.
A major component of collaboration is communication. The efficiency of the collaboration between the architect, the home builder, vendors or fabricators, and the homeowner will depend on the efficiency of their communication. Having a proven system in place for what can be a complicated task is pivotal. Both architects and builders in Houston report that a lack of collaboration early on creates issues that affect the timeline and the budget. From the very beginning, communication should be ongoing. This may sound tedious and exhausting, but what will be saved in time and money will be well worth the effort.
Something that can relieve some of the labor that comes from constant communication is hiring professionals that have worked together or have worked on similar projects. Hiring the builder first then asking for recommendations on an architect or vice versa would be a great way to accomplish this. The professional relationship is already there, and the lines of communication may already be in place. If the suggested architects don’t suit the project in some way, at least finding an architect with a similar portfolio of work as the builder is a great alternative.
Great communication is aided by both tools and willingness. Having both the contractor and architect see edits made by the other in real-time saves valuable time that would typically be wasted waiting for a file to be sent back and forth in an email. As for communication with the homeowner, Southern Green Builders has invested in custom project management software to engage and connect with them. Throughout construction, clients have real-time, online access to all planning, processes, and selections related to their home.
2. Keeping the Work Flow Moving
Another challenge felt by Houston architects is workflow delay. An example of this is an architect waiting for the project file from the contractor or client after being reviewed and edited. As there are a number of reasons the file could be delayed, the issue remains that the project can’t move forward. Or worse, the project moves forward without the updated edits, causing more delays and possible costs.
A delay could also come by way of permitting processes and wait times. Building in a Historic District in Houston, for example, is more complex than the usual permitting/construction process. Being familiar with the restrictions and guidelines before the design process begins is a priority when building in a historic area. The HAHC suggests contacting them before designing to begin applications and learning ways to streamline the process to avoid delays.
The possibility of major limits on a design due to Historic District restrictions, floodplain requirements, or any other hindrances, is a significant reason to delay the purchase of land until an architect or builder is involved.
3. Scope Creep and Change Orders
According to a report by KPMG, only 31% of construction projects came within 10% of the budget in the past three years. Much of the causes for coming in over budget are due to scope creep and change orders. Change orders occur when a client or builder determines that a design isn't working. This could be for many reasons including the introduction of new specs, replacing out-of-stock materials, or other requirements after the design and budget have been completed. Scope creep refers to uncontrolled changes in services or responsibilities, typically driven by the homeowner’s requests.
Each of these can affect both the schedule and budget. Each can also be unavoidable depending on the reason. However, being prepared for change and using proper protocols and communication will reduce the effect on the schedule and budget. Having these protocols written into the contract and other routine documents is key. This is where collaboration from the very beginning proves again to be of the utmost importance for project success.
Knowing exactly what the parameters of each specialty are is one way to avoid scope creep and is done in the detailed scope and pricing phase of design. Clarity between the builder, architect, and other professionals through using a text-based narrative is an efficient tool. This is accomplished by each professional involved in developing their own narrative to make clear that they understand their responsibilities. A master narrative is then put together and given to each plus the homeowner. Using clear language in relation to what is and is not in the project reduces change orders and scope change, keeps everyone on the same page from the start, reduces redundancies and gaps, and gives the homeowner as much knowledge about their project as possible.
Southern Green Builders aim to make the process of building a custom home in Houston smooth and predictable for everyone involved in the project. Architects and homeowners can depend on and trust in the dedication Southern Green Builders have to collaboration and efficiency.