Architect vs. Builder


Architects and Home Builders seem to have a bit of a dysfunctional relationship.  Looking through my lens as an Architect it seems that many builders look at us as a necessary evil; and something to be avoided.  Most builders today still utilize their own in house staff or an outside house plan drafting service in lieu or working with an Architect.  The result is a lack of creativity and variety.  The evidence?  Take a drive through the suburbs and you will see thousands of homes that look remarkably similar, yet constructed by many different builders.  This cannot possibly be a good situation for the builders, because it forces them to compete mostly by price alone.  Not a good way to make a profit.

It seems clear that if the builders want to stand out and get more demand for their products; then one great way to do that is to offer great creative, unique and functional designs that stand out from the competition.  In other words they should create a design niche.  And the best way to do this might be to work with a competent Residential Architect / Designer.

So why does the builder avoid the Architect?  At Ron Brenner Architects I have bumped into many builders over the years and I can pretty much tell you why.
  • Time – Builders don’t make money until they start construction of the home.  Sometimes they don’t make money until construction is completed.  It drives them crazy having to wait for the design process to be completed.
  • Money – Going through the traditional architectural design process costs money.  Builders are constantly trying to manage escalating construction costs – and Architects represent another cost control issue.
  • Attitude – Many Architects look down on the builder; and it shows.  Our field likes to put down the housing industry, yet offers little in the way of assistance.  So why would a builder want to work with us if he thinks we don’t respect him?
There is clearly a huge market share that Architects are not currently tapping into because of the above.  I believe we can gain market share by doing the following:
  1. Try to gain a better understanding the builders’ point of view.  We also need to give them a better idea of who we are and the value that we bring to projects.  We need to get out and start talking with them and learning from each other.  With understanding comes mutual respect.
  2. Modify our process and deliverables for builders to save time and money.  I am not arguing that we should give our services away.  Our services are extremely valuable.  I am only suggesting a modification of our services and deliverables to bring more value to the builder.
At Ron Brenner Architects we a bit of experience with item 2.  I’ll try to expand a bit on that in a future posting.