As a home builder in the Northwest, we value our relationships with architects and designers. This article focuses on our architect success stories – getting the best results for architects, designers, and, ultimately, of course, the homeowner.
Two of our project managers, Michael Hibbitts and Jason Zerba discuss their experiences below.
How is a working relationship with an architect/designer different from a homeowner?
Jason: Architects and designers place their vision into our hands to execute, and they tend to have much stronger insights and notions than most homeowners on how they want it done, down to the many details. They rely on us to not just fulfill their design intent but to indirectly support their reputation and livelihood.
For an architect new to working with Hamish Murray Construction, how do you start to build trust?
Michael: When a new architect or designer requests a cost estimate from their plans, we like to be very detailed so we can provide the most accurate costs for everyone. We’ll sit down for a couple of hours and review their plans and come up with a Request for Information list. To me, our focus on the details gives them an idea of what they can expect from us once we start the construction phase.
We also find it very important to remain detail-oriented. Identifying all the details results in setting up the right cost expectations, but also it helps us maintain a high quality build, execute the design the way the architect wants, and it helps keep the project on time and on budget.
What does it take to win an architect’s trust during the project?
Jason: First, we need an architect or designer to stay involved in any project; it’s critical for its success. However, it may not be feasible for an architect or designer to be involved in every small decision.
Construction moves fast, so my job is to get to know each architect and designer and know when to involve them versus making an independent judgment call. Each one will focus on different things. For example, an architect who is very keen to see things line up such as:
· The layout of the tiles centered with the shower valves
· The receptacles in relation to the wood trim
· The cabinets extending to the wall’s edge leaving no gaps
These are the sort of details that won’t necessarily be on the drawings. So I learn to listen early on to how they think and what they value.
We recently had a house that had landscape custom pavers laid out in the drawings, which on paper looked perfect. But when we started laying out the pavers on the real ground, things were just off by a few inches. We took care of it with new accommodations and I made sure to communicate to the architect afterwards. He was thankful for how we handled it and was onboard with the call that we made.
Also, with that same house, we had an issue with the siding. The siding was designed to go all the way to the ground. However, on one backside, this home had beautiful existing landscaping with rocks, which meant that the siding needed to be handled differently. In this case, we proposed a solution to the architect ahead of time before we completed the siding.
Once the project is underway how do you ensure success for all?
Michael: Once the project is underway, we really work towards instilling a full team and collaborative approach. Teamwork is needed because it’s rare to have all the details laid out on the drawings – there is always some place where we need to interpret the intent or resolve missing or incorrect information. In all these situations, we prefer to work it out, going to the architect or designer first – not the homeowner first.
Sometimes there is missing information on the drawings, which means that it may be missed in our pricing. In these situations, we try to be as fair as possible; again, working it out with the architect first, and then, when needed, going next to the homeowner.
Our intent is always to make it easier on the homeowner as well, taking away potential stress, and coming to the homeowner as a unified team with the architect or designer.
Your communications platform, Buildertrend® – how is this used?
Jason: On bigger projects, we offer weekly meetings with the architect and homeowners so everyone can be “on the same page”. They don’t always choose to meet weekly but we’d rather offer more communications to everyone versus possibly less.
In Buildertrend, homeowners and architects can see what is happening on the job each day, that is if they choose to look. All of us project managers are at the project site every day and we will upload photos and descriptions of the work in progress so it’s clear what’s changed.
When do you think trust is especially developed with architects and designers?
Michael: I think all architects and designers understand that at some point on a project, things get heated up. It could be, for example, that a homeowner did not anticipate how some detail would look until it has been done. Or, despite everyone’s best efforts, an architect may be adamant that some things be done differently. After these intense situations, I’ve heard an architect say to me how diplomatic or even-keeled we are, and how willing we are to problem solve. We like to always maintain that “the customer is always right” and we’ll take every opportunity to course correct, even when it will cost us money.
Jason: Architects and designers also want a give and take working relationship. When we do some course corrections, I’ve noticed that later in the project, the architect may be more willing to work with us if there is another item that pops up.
Over a project, I’ve also noticed that trust becomes deeper, and we work better and better as a team.
Tell us about what’s important to you.
With an office located in SW Portland, we solely work with independent architects and designers, and we are all about building long-term lasting relationships. Teamwork and collaboration are key values for us; we find that the best work happens when we leverage all our best collective skills. While our work is often found in greater Portland, Oregon, we also do work on the North Oregon coast and areas a few hours’ drive away.
We seek to build each project on schedule and on budget, and always with top-notch quality results. Our portfolio can be found here.
We would appreciate the opportunity to meet with you. Contact us or call us at (503) 460-7203 with questions you have, or ask us about our philosophy, experience, or any other question that is on your mind.