Five Tips for Improving Communication between Architects and General Contractors
Communication between general contractors and architects is vital, from the cost estimation phase, throughout the construction phase, and right up to the grand opening. However, maintaining good communication throughout the design and construction processes can be easier said than done. Due to different priorities, perspectives and expectations, architecture and construction teams may not always see eye to eye.
The difference in perspective between architects and contractors can make it difficult for contractors to get the information they need from architects in order to build a project efficiently and effectively. Likewise, it can also be difficult for architects to get the information they need from contractors in order to align the design phase with the building phase from the beginning.
By understanding the design and construction phases from the contractor’s perspective and working to build stronger relationships with contractors through effective communication, architects can better understand how to make a building project move forward more smoothly and effectively.
The Contractor’s Perspective on the Design and Construction Phases
The contractor’s primary responsibilities are to coordinate and execute the construction of a building. While the aim is to bring the architect’s design vision to life, this objective can be compromised due to cost, design feasibility or difficulties in implementation. When it comes to design, the contractor is concerned about whether or not the cost of materials fits within the budget, as well as how practical the design is when it comes to building a structurally sound and lasting building.
By designing with contractors in mind, architects can help bridge the gap between architecture and construction, preventing the need for major design revisions later on. Considering contractors during the design process does not mean that architects have to compromise their vision. On the contrary, taking the contractor’s perspective into consideration helps ensure that the vision can be brought to life more fully.
Unlocking effective communication techniques between architects and contractors is essential in order for these two important project stakeholders to understand one another and build stronger relationships.
Contractor Architect Communication Techniques for Best Results
While architects and general contractors share a common goal of completing a successful project, they are approaching it from two distinct disciplines, each with its own priorities and perspectives. Refer to these five tips to improve communication between architects and contractors:
Take a team-oriented approach to conversation.
Contractor architect communication can often be challenging, but with the right approach, tensions can be resolved. Both architects and contractors should approach conversation with an open mind and positive attitude. Contractors and architects are not opponents, but rather they are two members of the client’s team with the common goal of completing the building project.
Make a phone call or meet in person, then follow up with email or written communication.
Communicating back and forth through email can be time consuming, not to mention there is a lot of room for miscommunication. By starting a conversation with a face-to-face meeting or simply knowing when to pick up the telephone, architects and contractors can make communication more efficient and effective, and they can also avoid unnecessary misunderstandings. A follow-up email that details what was discussed, documents what decisions were made, and provides the next steps ensures that team members understand and agree with the direction the project is taking.
Track project changes in a simple, yet efficient manner.
There are often a number of changes that occur during the course of a project. For example, there are RFI’s and submittals as well as ASI’s, CO’s and addendums. At the beginning of the project, the architect and the contractor should have a conversation to understand and agree upon how changes will be tracked. An efficient and centralized tracking system will result in better quality control and field communication and will also eliminate the potential for missed items.
Meet weekly prior to scheduled OAC meetings to reduce unnecessary RFIs.
Weekly meetings between the architect and contractor—prior to the standard Owner-Architect-Contractor (OAC) meetings—provides an opportunity for design and construction professionals to become familiar with the progress of a project, noting questionable issues or conditions that warrant discussion in the meeting. These meetings ensure that the architect and the contractor are on the same page prior to reporting to the owner. They also help reduce the number of unnecessary RFI’s, which are time consuming and can cause delays in the project.
Use the schedule as a communication tool.
Schedules are an important and effective communication tool as they make the timeline clear for both the design and construction teams. Both parties should take part in the schedule review so that all team members are in sync when it comes to the timeline for the project. This will ensure that the design team is not caught off guard when something is late or needs to be expedited.
Though effective communication can be challenging when it comes to the different perspectives of construction and architecture professionals, it is critical for a successful build. By understanding and considering the contractor’s perspective, architects can work to create designs that help the contractor bring their vision to life. And through effective communication, architects and contractors can build that understanding, working toward a shared perspective and a successfully finished project.
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Looking for more insider tips on how to best work with general contractors? Check out our FREE downloadable guide, FIELD NOTES: AN ARCHITECT’S GUIDE TO CONTRACTORS. Inside you’ll find everything you need regarding insider topics, budgetary tips, communication protocols and much more.