By Lin Stranberg
Steve Jobs was famous for his commitment to design, putting painstaking thought and effort into every detail of every Apple product he released. Jobs was passionate about the value of good design. “Design is not just what it looks and feels like. Design is how it works,” he said.
Interestingly, his interest in design began with his love of his childhood home, one of thousands of modernist tract houses inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright and built by developers like Joseph Eichler in the 1950s for working-class families in California.
All these years later, good design still tops the wish list when people decide to build or renovate a home. Design goes beyond the blueprints to plan the way a home is built or renovated and how the project will work. The aptly-named design-build process, a design-oriented delivery process that rose to prominence with its success in large-scale construction projects in the past ten years, is now the most sought-after method in the North American construction industry. Nearly half the construction projects in the U.S. use the design-build approach, and it’s recognized as the best for savvy residential clients as well.
With traditional project delivery, the owner must manage contracts with both the designer and the contractor, which can often lead to confusion, miscommunications and an adversarial relationship when things go wrong. In the design-build process, the owner manages only one contract with a single point of responsibility. The contractor and designer work together at the same firm, providing unified project recommendations to fit the owner’s schedule and budget. Any changes are addressed by the entire team, leading to collaborative problem-solving and innovation instead of excuses and blaming. It is this culture of collaboration and the single point of responsibility that make all the difference.
On the local front, Vancouver’s Kerr Construction and Design is a standout in the residential design-build field. Founder Doug Kerr is confident the company’s design-build approach is key to their home building and renovating success, and that good design is fundamental to the process. By bringing the design process in-house, Kerr Construction can complete a design process before any construction even starts, enabling his team to manage quality, stay on schedule, and keep the costs on budget. “It’s tricky balancing the creativity that will pack a “wow” with the practicality of engineering, and then mixing in the communication skills needed to help a customer identify the must-haves that will truly enhance their lives, and then package it all up in a way that the city will approve the permits. It takes a team with a lot of diverse skills and a lot of communication among the different departments,” Doug Kerr says.
“Having everyone in-house where we can control the whole process speeds it up, reduces communication issues, and sets up the project well from the beginning so we stay on time and on budget. Plus, our clients love having one point of accountability.” Kerr Construction and Design’s mission statement is “To build and renovate homes that enhance people’s lives.” Clearly, that has to start with the design process. To keep projects on time, on budget, with the quality and features you want, the best way to go is a good design-build firm. www.kerrconstruction.ca