The Second Studio Podcast: The Best Way to Hire a Contractor, Pre-Construction and Other Methods

The Second Studio (formerly The Midnight Charette) is an explicit podcast about design, architecture, and the everyday. Hosted by Architects David Lee and Marina Bourderonnet, it features different creative professionals in unscripted conversations that allow for thoughtful takes and personal discussions.

A variety of subjects are covered with honesty and humor: some episodes are interviews, while others are tips for fellow designers, reviews of buildings and other projects, or casual explorations of everyday life and design. The Second Studio is also available on iTunes, Spotify, and YouTube.

This week David and Marina of FAME Architecture & Design discuss the different ways contractor’s are hired and the pros and cons of each: Negotiated Agreement, Competitive Bidding, Design Build, and Pre-Construction. The two cover the processes, the role of the architect throughout, controlling project costs, and more.

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Highlights & Timestamps

(00:00) Introduction

(03:19) Negotiated Agreement and the importance of detailed contractor proposals.

Transparency when it comes to construction costs and the contractor's proposal is essential. I've never worked with a good contractor, or even a decent one, who did not provide full transparency demonstrating where the client's money is going. A contractor's fee is often a percentage of the materials and labor costs (the raw cost to build the house) and their proposal should have a detailed breakdown of how much is being spent on the wood, the foundations, the concrete, the labor, etc. As a client, if you don't get that, it’s a major red flag. [If] the number is low at the beginning [then] it’s not including a bunch of things. (05:23)

A lot of what the architecture, design, and construction process is about, and how to achieve success with it, is being thorough and detailed and spending a certain amount of time and money upfront to plan for the future—to save time and money later on. (07:20)

(09:28) Competitive Bidding process and problems. Interviewing contractors.

It really makes no sense that you would work closely with an architect for a full year and spend tens of thousands, maybe even hundreds of thousands of dollars on them to design this idealistic perfect dream home, not have any idea how much it's going cost, and then send it out to contractors to find out. There's a 99.99% chance that those numbers are going come back significantly too high. (19:40)

(28:06) Design-Build.

There are significant downsides to design-build. First, the vast majority of design-build companies are contractors who have some very low-level designers in the office who are not licensed architects. Also, a lot of times there’s a lack of transparency with cost and pricing. (26:53)

(29:49) Pre-Construction. Obtaining construction cost estimates, collaborating, and using allowances.

Two of the advantages of Pre-Construction services are that you get a contractor on board from the beginning of the project to provide you estimates at key points of the design. This way we can make sure that the design is not too far off from the budget. Second, the contractor can give constructability feedback. They will provide input regarding specifications, where to get things, or the assembly of complex things. (30:37)

Check out The Second Studio Podcast's previous editions.

About this author
Cite: The Second Studio Podcast. "The Second Studio Podcast: The Best Way to Hire a Contractor, Pre-Construction and Other Methods" 31 Dec 2023. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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