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FEATURES

Building Bonds

Mira Dayal

Don't let the tale of your dream house become a horror story.

As one of the two key components of the building industry, consumers always seem to end up thinking of construction as the evil twin of architecture. It constantly gets a bad rep, labeled with some rather unappealing adjectives and phrases: costly, disappointing, protracted, warranting a nervous breakdown (or two).

Bringing a new structure to life or giving new life to an existing structure, be it a single room or an entire building, is a process. If the process were a movie, it would play out like this:

Act 1: The client excitedly talks about the dream of building a summer retreat in the Hamptons. He (or she) envisions it to be life’s crowning achievement.

Next, the client’s friends advise hiring an architect, often making recommendations. The client takes time to visit many frms, taking tours of the fnished projects. He gradually becomes acquainted with each architect’s aesthetic preferences and technical expertise. Ultimately, he bases his selection not just on the architect’s professional merits, but on his or her personality and communication style.

Design meetings follow. The client and the architect engage in animated exchanges about the size of the house, number and layout of its rooms, choice of building materials and fnishes. Seeing his dreams become drawings and specifcations invigorates the client. He cannot wait to have the house built. Although the plans are not in fnal form, the client insists that the project be put out to bid.

The client does not feel the need to establish personal contact with any of the fve contractors asked to submit bids, viewing them as mere tools to perform the task of building the house. Rather, the client is focused solely on the cost and the contractor’s ability to deliver a quality product in a timely manner. This mechanical efort typically leads to awarding the project to the contractor who presents the lowest bid, which may in fact be infated. 

Act 2: Enter the contractor. The actor cast in the role is not appealing; his countenance and demeanor do not inspire trust. The client hands him a voluminous contract, with the expectation of its prompt execution. The audience, understandably, breathes a sigh of relief. No one would want the client to be exposed to any of the contractor’s usual machinations, the arsenal of which includes suspicious cost increases, shoddy quality and constant delays.

Construction commences in earnest, while the client and the architect remain in close touch as they continue to debate the various unresolved issues. Both add new items to the scope of work, and they modify existing ones. The house will now feature a rooftop swimming pool and, what was to be an unfnished basement, has evolved into a fnished level with a projection room, a wine cellar and a maid’s quarters.

The plot thickens. The client fnds it disappointing that the house will not be ready for the current summer season and questions the cost increases. The contractor criticizes the architect’s drawings, labeling them sketchy and unsuitable. 

 

Act 3: Last scene. The three protagonists end up in court. Further details will remain undisclosed, as this is a cautionary tale, not a horror story.

What can go wrong usually does in construction. It is prudent to have the architect, client and contractor working towards a common goal. The weather will not cooperate, the delivery truck will be late, the building inspector will be obtuse and countless mistakes will occur. As long as the lines of communication remain open, there can always be a happy ending. 

Be Your Own Script Doctor

Before undertaking a construction project, opt for a good script:

1. Use the same criteria when selecting both
the architect and the contractor. Invest time in interviewing as many as you feel you have to in order to fnd two who are compatible with each other. This effort will result in a team of like-minded professionals instead of a group of adversaries.

2. Involve the architect and the contractor from the onset, when developing the project. Giving oneself access to valuable input from both the design and the practical perspective will vastly improve the project’s costs, quality and schedule.

3. Resist the temptation to make changes once construction is in full swing. 

Monika Zasada is a construction and real estate development expert. She is currently working on island development projects in the Pacifc Ocean and Europe. You can visit her website at: de-mazing.com or contact her at: monika@de-mazing.com.

Tel: +1 631-872-6365.