PART ONE (EP30) - The advantages and disadvantages of the conventional business model relationship between designers and contractors
PART TWO (THIS EPISODE) - Alternative models for delivering a project and sharing in the profits by choosing and negotiating with the right kinds of contractors.
Patrick has been building his architectural practice for six years after a similar period working on building sites and later as a draftsman. Next year he turns 40. He now has two young children and is asking himself the difficult questions about where to head next. Where will he be in the next 10 years as a business owner and what will that look like? What can he put in place now to ensure a comfortable and profitable future?
In this interview we explore the benefits and drawbacks of the “design only”, and “design and construct” frameworks of being a design business owner. Ultimately, can designers and contractors find a way to reciprocate/remunerate each other through the way projects are delivered and the way project costs are structured?
Perhaps the grass is always greener but there is something appealing from both sides of the fence in the conversation about the advantages of offering design services vs, offering design services and in house construction capabilities as well.
While contractors take on a larger proportion of the risk associated with a project, and therefore claim to be entitled to a greater share of the proceeds, designers create construction value, build trust and are often responsible for “making the sale” in the first place. So why does it so often seem that our contracting cousins often seem to be profiting so much more than us on each project? How is the daily charge out rate for a labourer double or even triple that of a designer? We are no more or less important than each other in delivering a project.
Obviously, the completed built forms of a project being the tangible end product, are where most of the value lies in the eyes of the client. The fees we’re able to charge are so often less reflective of the experience, refined skills and time spent on fulfilling that role, as they are in balance with the construction cost of what we design and what clients might be willing to pay for our “intangible” product.
We designers are merely the “guides” that show them the way. Or are we? After several years of being a “guide” many of us might be left wondering whether we’ve drawn the short straw. Is there another way to approach this? Can we structure the framework between ourselves, the contractor and the client in order to enjoy a greater share of the rewards? How might this change the way we are involved? Eg. Supplying certain materials, charging a contractor a support fee for the time required to attend to queries, attend site etc.
In Part One of this interview, we shed some light on the advantages and disadvantages of the existing conventional business models.
In Part Two, we explore ideas about the opportunities for designers to increase their profit share of any given project, without stepping over ethical lines, manipulating the market or adversely affecting working relationships.