Top Architect’s Criteria for Choosing a Residential Builder for Clients

As an architect or designer, over time you work with many types of contractors and then narrow down to your favorites. Even when you have your preferred builders, we often hear in the industry that things can go “wrong”. We believe you can expect more.

For example, we know that you can become disheartened when your original vision and design has become diminished by the end of the project. The changes may have been based on “pragmatic decisions” or decisions made independently by a builder during the project. Regardless, it can be very disappointing for you, as the architect or designer. We’d rather you have a different experience!

Perhaps your vision stays intact, but if your client’s satisfaction with the builder has not been wonderful it can indirectly impact how you are viewed.

We know that every team member on a project wants the best results. Construction projects are complex, so how can you identify the best builder that will adhere to your design, build well, and ensure your client’s satisfaction?

Architect: Paul McKean Architecture LLC Photographer: KuDa PhotographyMore photos available here.

Here is our suggested top criteria for choosing a residential builder that will deliver for you, the architect.

Criteria one: A quality builder will keep to the schedule and budget.

There are a lot of builders who can build with expert craftsmanship. When the project is completed on time and on budget your client will be very happy, which reflects well on you too.

But many people think that keeping to a schedule and to a budget just can’t be done. We disagree. Keeping to a schedule and on budget takes:

  • An experienced eye for detail, such as identifying all materials and ordering ahead of time.
  • Skillful communications, especially upfront with a client so that the client is in agreement and knows exactly what to expect and when they need to make decisions. It also includes keeping you informed so that you can make timely decisions.
  • Experienced and well-trained project managers.
  • Working with reliable trade partners such as plumbers, roofers, electricians, etc.

Here are two blogs we wrote for homeowners delivering to budget and time.

Recommendation on building on time and on budget: Ask the builder about how often they are able to deliver on budget and on time. Ask for references. Track record here is everything.

Criteria two: A quality builder will value your design and will be eager to build to your vision, while maximizing client satisfaction.

This criteria is a bit more difficult to ascertain. After all, it can be perplexing if a builder is sincere and listens well to you, but once the project begins, disappointments happen. For example, if you identified a trim that works with your design, and the builder finds there will be a big shipment delay and directly talks to the homeowner about an alternative, is that the right decision? Understandably, the homeowner holds the power to make the final decision! But, that alternative may not meet your design integrity.

At Hamish Murray Construction, we know that architects get much satisfaction when clients are happy and the project is completed with full architectural integrity.

We know that circumventing the architect on certain decisions can be much to bear. However, there are so many of the construction decisions you can manage. You don’t want to excessively charge the homeowner for your services. So, we know you need to rely on a builder that understands when to involve you or not. Your builder should have the experience, wisdom and know how to make sound judgment calls.

Recommendation on valuing your design: Ask the builder to identify past situations where the architect has been called upon for decisions prior to involving the homeowner. Look for how the builder defers to your design expertise and understands the complementary strengths they bring to the partnership.

Criteria three: A quality builder thinks in terms of lasting relationships; for the builder, the architect, the homeowner, and anyone involved in the project.

Valuing and building relationships doesn’t just involve the homeowner and the architect. It can include neighbors, trade partners, homeowner family members, inspectors and employees.

At Hamish Murray Construction, “building lasting relationships” is the central part of our mission statement and our core values.

Often, we are the first introduction to the neighbors on behalf of a new homeowner! When we’re about to start a new project, we’ll go around and introduce ourselves to the immediate neighbors. We want to reassure each neighbor that we understand our construction may affect them as well , and we want to do our very best to minimize the impact on them. We will tell them how long the project will last, what to expect, and give them our contact number, making ourselves approachable and available.

On a recent job, our trucks wore the gravel in front of a neighbor’s house, so we put down new gravel at the end of the job. The neighbor had been super patient about us needing to park in that spot, and we were very appreciative. Another example of how we accommodate; if an existing fence needs to be taken down temporarily, we will work with the neighbor to make sure they are happy with a temporary and final solution.

Sometimes, building relationships means that we make ourselves available as a resource to our partners. For example, arbor protection in the Metro Portland has continuously changing regulations, and we have wide experience with these rules. We can be a good resource for architects on these arbor protection regulations.

Sometimes, it’s just about anticipating how to help our partners. For example, we may come across indiscretions on construction drawings. After all, it’s not easy to lay out every single element perfectly for every drawing across the layers. A good builder will work these indiscretions out with the architect directly while proactively making recommendations on how to resolve certain issues. That’s what we like to do.

Recommendation on building relationships: Ask the builder to talk about how they build relationships before, during, or at the end of a project. Ask for stories.

For a quality builder, it’s not just about building well. It’s also about being there to support every person who is directly or indirectly part of the project: the owner and family, trade partner, architect, employee and neighbor.

Hamish Murray Construction team in 2021

Tell us about what’s important to you.

At Hamish Murray Construction Inc., we seek to build each project exactly how the architect and homeowner envision; on schedule and on budget. We solely work with independent architects and designers, and we build long-term lasting relationships. We recognize your creative genius and your important role in the success of each project that we undertake.  

Contact us

We’d love to meet 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.