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How to Select a Design-Build Firm When Remodeling

Do You Need an Architect?

Homeowners who are remodeling need to consider not only the design, but also the quality construction of the project. Because of this, it’s smart to have a collaborative design-build team that gives attention to the myriad of details in each home remodel. An appropriately staffed, mid-size company of architects and builders will provide the personal attention to design required as well as the service homeowners want and deserve. A true design-build firm should more appropriately be called an architect-builder firm.

Design-Build vs. General Contractor

A general contractor who might call his/her company “design-build” but “subs out” design services is not the same as a design-build or architect-builder firm that is staffed with architects, builders, and carpenters.

A remodeling company that comprises a general contractor only concentrates on construction and hires a subcontractor or draftsperson to design the architectural plans. The draftsperson prepares construction drawings based on an unfinished design sketch. Getting the contract expedited as quickly as possible is often a priority in a situation like this.

A design-build firm employs full-time architects who handle conceptual design options, construction drawings, and product/finish selections to finalize drawings and commence with permitting for construction. A thoughtfully prepared set of plans, based on a budget, is turned over to the team’s lead carpenters to begin construction for a beautiful home remodel. That is what defines a design-build firm.

Homeowners Benefit from the Architect’s Role

To ensure the design of a project is well executed, as well as the health, safety, and code compliance of the project, there should be an architect involved from start to finish. Architects are committed to the design process and code requirements because of their training and certification.

Architects and builders working collaboratively in a single firm have this integral benefit for homeowners who seek value-added design for their home remodel. Design comes first, before a firm begins building. For instance, here at Wentworth, Inc., the professional design-build process allows our architects to use their skills to help homeowners achieve their remodeling goals from initial planning through project completion.

An Insider Tip: True Design-Build Advantage

Contractors who love building are an essential part of the remodeling process—but construction should not be the starting point of a home remodeling project. Design comes first.

In the remodeling industry, the firms concerned about construction first are referred to as “build-design” instead of “design-build.” Often, general contractors use the phrase “design-build” as a marketing tool, but where is the design? Design cannot be an afterthought; it should be the first step in the design process. Poor design and management within the remodeling field is called “remuddle,” defined by Merriam-Webster as “to unsuccessfully remodel or make multiple blunders during a renovation.” To avoid this, be sure to research the firm and ensure they are a true design-build company.

Company Size Impacts Design & Construction Service

Assessing a preferred design-build firm is important. A medium-sized firm, staffed with 15 – 20 people, is often best positioned to provide homeowners with attention to design, detail, craftsmanship, and service. The number of staff employed and the scope and number of projects undertaken by the firm may influence the quality of a home remodeling project. Sometimes smaller firms with higher attention to detail and more personable service can get the job done better than a larger company that is more well-known.

At Wentworth, Inc., a project is assigned to an architect and a lead carpenter, and each is an employee of the firm. Both the design studio and construction department have the oversight and benefit of our senior architect and production construction manager.

Do Your Research

Design should come first in any home remodeling project. To ensure proper design and construction, a homeowner should review a firm’s staff to ensure architects, builders, and carpenters are part of the team from the onset. This will give homeowners peace of mind that the project will be executed in a professional manner and be finished the way they want.

About Bruce

Wentworth, Inc. was founded by Bruce Wentworth, AIA, a noted remodeling architect who has worked in the Washington, DC metropolitan area for over twenty years. He has built hundreds of his own designs, ranging from modest bungalows to large-scale luxury residences.

“ Hi, Bruce,
I look forward to your articles in Chevy Chase Village Life -- I love bungalows so I immediately read the article in the latest issue that arrived yesterday (as your team was here planning for the photo shoot). I also liked the Sponsor Spotlight this month -- featuring your company. Is it possible to get a reprint or link to your article on porches that appeared recently? I would love to add one to our NC beach home, but so far no one has been able to figure out how to get access from the inside to the outside! I know my sister would love to see the article too. Thanks for ALL of your amazing work. I hope you will feel free (and confident) to use us as references. The only hard part will be communicating what an outstanding job -- beyond our high expectations -- your team did for us. We are demanding, but your team is more demanding in the excellence that they deliver. ”

Linda, Chevy Chase, MD
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