Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Designer vs. Builder

"In this corner coming in at a lean 180 pounds and sporting a 3-button mouse is... The Designer!  His house plans have sold nationwide but he has a beef so he has called his opponent into the ring."

"And in this corner weighing in at 205 and wielding a framing nailer is... The Builder!  He has built houses nationwide and accepts the challenge by the designer."

"Let's get ready to rumble!"

Opponents?  Maybe and maybe not.  Let's look in a little closer...

Designer: "I very specifically drew out the dimensions for this tipout and you ignored it completely."

Builder: "Are you crazy?  Have you ever tried to build something like that?  It was too much work."

D: "How will you set this house apart and make it look good?"

B: "I thought that was your job."

D: "I did my job and you ignored it."

B: "Too much time for the payout.  Maybe I'll paint the house light brown with dark brown trim."

Designer then tries to whip Builder with the mouse.  Builder fires a few nails into the mouse and renders it ineffective.  Both contestants leave the ring.

A draw?  No, a lack of communication.  In our experience we have found that designers and builders rarely (want to) discuss plans beyond the price tag.  Those that have discussed plans are usually wanting to strip the house down to a bare square.  The designer does the work because he is getting paid, but often against his values because he is being asked to design the wow factor out of the house.

Or perhaps it is a technical issue.  The designer specifies to start joist layout at a particular point in order to avoid plumbing issues.  The builder spaces evenly from the corner because it's easy and then gets mad at the designer for putting the toilet right there.  "But I specified the second joist to be 10" away from the corner, not 16".  "That messes up the plywood, besides it's not typical practice."

What to do?  How about encourage open discussion?  Every plan we sell, we ask the builder if we can discuss some of the points of it and why we did certain things.  Sometimes a few bits and pieces are dependent on a single item.  If that single item gets changed, the rest of the dynamic crumbles.  So we want to alert the builder to such issues.  No, not all plans are designed the same.  It doesn't matter how many years you've been building.

What would really be ideal is for the builder to invite the designer out the job site.  This accomplishes two things.  First, the builder better understands what the designer had in mind.  Second, the designer gets exposure to the job site and sees and learns how certain elements are put together and how particular builders tend to approach problems.  The designer might also be able to suggest an immediate solution if something nosedives.  Understandably, the designer should be in the office to conduct business.  But if builders can be mobile, why not designers?  With a laptop, car charger, and a cell phone, the designer could conduct business from on the road.  Camp out at a jobsite for a few days, take orders and process them via wireless, offer solutions with realtime speed.  Then off to another jobsite, bouncing around the lower east side for a few weeks before taking some time to support builders on the middle west side.  Hit the northern burbs, then the next county, and get a good circuit going.  You might even be the next preacher of the Gospel of harmony!

At Istockhouseplans we are happy to offer this service for free.  And we know about a lot more than just design.  We can help with onsite solutions for energy efficiency and building durability.  And as a program ally of Energy Trust of Oregon we can assist with getting your details right to get the biggest incentive possible.

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