It is a common complaint among architects that, unlike other manufacturing systems, the way we build has remained essentially the same for hundreds of years. This presents a huge number of challenges, not only to architects but also to their clients and to contractors, with disputes over unexpected costs and time overruns - resulting in a system where contractors, clients and architects often see each other as adversaries rather than as members of a team.
The world of commercial architecture has at least gone some way to a solution: many large projects financed by developers or by the government are covered by construction bonds, which tie all parties down to a contract, and provide insurance against unexpected expenses and overruns. But what about the architects who work for small private clients? Now, thanks to a company called Bolster, designers on smaller projects can have the insurance used to streamline major projects - as well as a client matching service which can help architects and contractors find work.
Find out more about Bolster, and what it can offer architects, after the break
The central element of Bolster's offering is their partnership with Capitol Insurance Companies, a surety company which enables them to extend insurance to much smaller projects. This is supported by their standard contract, in which clients, architects and contractors agree to the cost and duration of the work. If for any reason there are unexpected costs incurred, the surety company foots the bill.
If this happens, the insurance company is legally entitled to seek compensation for the lost funds from the party that caused the cost increases. Though it may not sound like it at first, this is actually good news for responsible architects; the possible threat of legal action resulting from unrealistically low cost estimates levels the playing field when the client is choosing their architect.
In addition to insurance, Bolster provides a matching service, connecting its customers and their architects to the contractors that are best suited to their project. This presents obvious advantages for contractors, as it means that 'Bolstered' contractors have access to a steady stream of new clients; it also means that they are less likely to be asked to do a project which they are not interested in doing.
But for architects and their clients, it also means that Bolstered contractors have "put their money where there mouth is," passing the strict vetting process required by Bolster and their surety company, and committing themselves to deliver upon their promises.
To demonstrate their commitment to improving the lives of architects, Bolster has teamed up with the AIA, who will act as a 'discovery partner' for the company's innovative product by promoting it to their 81,000 members. "By offering Bolster to their clients, AIA architects will be better able to focus on delivering design value, with increased confidence that their work will be implemented as intended and their projects completed to quality and budget," say the AIA.
Bolster was created to address the challenges of a complex and frankly outdated industry. To do so, it focuses on providing clients with peace of mind - but in the process, it has created tangible benefits for architects, too.
Currently, Bolster is testing its Beta stage in New York only, but it welcomes applications from contractors across the US in preparation for its full launch. To find out more about Bolster and to become a Bolstered contractor, click here.