In essence, “Design Build” is exactly what its name suggests: The design and build phases of a renovation – traditionally handled by two or more companies – are integrated into a singular project, managed, and implemented by one firm with expertise in both areas. The advantages are significant, including seamless communication between otherwise distinct phases, heightened efficiencies, and lower chances of glitches, surprises, and change orders.

There are 3 distinct phases of this process and when followed properly leads to a successful, well thought out and expertly executed remodel. This edition will focus on the final stage, Construction.

 What is Design Build – The Construction Phase… construction begins

Now the excitement really starts. This is what you have been waiting for. You have met with your project manager for your pre-construction walk through and they have conveyed what to expect. Let’s outline that below:

  • Prior to starting your project it’s important to have all your personal belongings removed from the work area as well as any nearby areas that may be affected by vibrations due to the work. You should remove any pictures or paintings on the walls or anything else you feel could be damaged by the work taking place. The removal of knickknacks and items on shelving near the work zones will keep them safe and make cleaning easier once the construction is complete. Many projects have existing materials that you may wish to salvage for reuse.
  • Many projects have existing materials that may be donated. There are several charities that accept donated building materials. Now is the time to consider what items may be salvaged and make a list. Talk to your PM about what you would like to donate, and they will give you ideas on the best course of action.
  • A kitchen project sometimes requires the temporary relocation of existing appliances, most commonly the refrigerator. Relocating appliances prior to construction should be included within your contract. As an option, you may want to set up a small semi-functional kitchen in a separate area. If this is something that interests you, your Project Manager can give you an estimated price.
  • There will likely be a dumpster or rubber-tired trailer for debris along with a porta potty. Now is the time to discuss the location of these units. Your family will be living with these items throughout the duration of construction. They will need easy access for cleaning and removal.
  • Point of entry, lockbox and dust protection is another big topic of discussion during your walk through. The team will need to have access to the construction site and the home will need serious dust protection throughout the duration of construction. If you have specific needs or concerns, bring these up during this meeting. If at any time you feel the dust protection measures are not adequate, please communicate those to your project manager as soon as possible.

 What is Design Build – The Construction Phase… carpenter discussing plans with client

Those are just a few of the items covered during the pre-construction walk through. As you can see communication is key to any successful remodeling project. It starts with detailed construction documents and plans. It continues with understanding each other’s needs and keeping each other informed of decisions and actions needed to keep things on track and moving towards completion. Some clients have a need to know very little. They just want to know when they can move back in. Other clients want a little more information. “How did yesterday’s inspection go?” “When do you plan on knocking down that wall?” “Why are you painting the walls before the flooring is installed?” “Is that a ham or turkey sandwich in your lunch?” In all seriousness, remodeling is a fascinating process, and many homeowners have fun learning and watching the process. To ensure a pleasant experience you will want access to timely information. Designating one person as the primary decision maker and contact person will guarantee that any necessary information will be received. This person will then be responsible for communicating any project information as accurately as possible to the other individuals involved. This greatly improves the reliability and consistency of the information provided.

Your Project Manager will be your primary point of contact. There will be many faces working on your project, and each one plays an important and specific role in bringing your project to life. Keep in mind that they may not know all the particulars regarding a certain activity or be able to answer your questions. To guarantee that any questions have been answered accurately, direct questions to your Project Manager. The Project Manager has a full understanding of the daily events that happen in your home, and you will typically hear from this person a couple times a week to keep you updated on this information. You will also hear from your Production Manager sporadically depending on any pressing information that may need to be passed along to you or asking you to important questions regarding time sensitive decisions, major schedule changes, or any material delays.

 What is Design Build – The Construction Phase… Signed documents

The construction documents and plans are critical in communicating clear expectations and project details to both the production team and you, the owner. Assumptions are bad. Often there can be changes, ideas, or discussions that take place between you and your design team during the planning stages of the project. To avoid confusion, it is important that assumptions are not made and the scope of work in the agreement is followed. If for any reason you feel something is incorrect or omitted, please notify your Project Manager immediately. This is rare to happen, but addressing this immediately will help to keep construction on track. In the event there is a conflict between the plans and specifications, the specifications always prevail. This is due to the written specifications being updated more often than the plans.

Change orders are bound to happen during construction. A change order is a tool utilized to communicate expectations to you and the rest of the team. Change orders typically happen for three reasons: 1) Clarifications, 2) Deletions/Credits, 3) Additional Work. Sometimes you may simply be clarifying a construction detail with your design team or recording the paint color choices you made. Other times it may be some additional work that is requested and was not included in the original specifications. If additional work is needed due to an unforeseen condition discovered, a change order will be issued to communicate the scope and costs. This is often referred to as the discovery phase of construction because you cannot see behind the existing finishes, it is at this time that your production team can finally see behind walls and under floors to uncover any existing conditions or deficiencies that may require additional work. Some contractors may include a “fudge factor”, but it is generally done by overcharging, which should be considered inaccurate and dishonest. If conditions do exist that require changes, it is for your benefit to have corrections made in an accurate way and without guessing. All changes orders should be approved by you, the client, prior to commencement of work. This ensures communication of the scope or the change order to you prior to any action taking place.

 What is Design Build – The Construction Phase… - project manager keep on schedule

Your project manager will maintain a project schedule that is shared with you through your client portal. Think of this schedule as more of a guide rather than an exact day-to-day schedule. Like the local meteorologist will forecast the weather, your PM will also forecast the schedule. The closer the days in the forecast the more accurate it becomes. The further out the more general it is. Things will change from time to time, and this is expected and managed. Sometimes a project encompasses many rooms in the home and working on all those rooms at the same time can be an inconvenience for everyday living. You may choose to phase out your project. Phasing a project typically adds some costs for subcontractors, dumpster rental time, portable toilet rental time, and material pick up and clean up. It will ultimately be up to you and your family to decide on how you want to live through this process.

As construction comes to an end, a substantial completion walkthrough will be scheduled. The purpose of this walkthrough is to document a final punch list which includes any remaining outstanding work items, backordered materials, replacement parts and/or touch-up work. At this point you are living in the new space and enjoying the fruits of you and your construction team’s labors. It is the finale of all three phases and very exciting. During this time the final clean up is happening, dust protection is being removed. The dumpster and porta potty will finally be gone, and your family can now enjoy the new space. Your project manager will be handing over a complete binder with all your product and warranty information and your project will move to the Warranty Phase on your client portal.

It’s important to remember once you move back in that the team you hired is there if you need them. Let them know how happy you are. Share your experience on social media and tell your friends about how positive remodeling can be. If you spend the time to work through the detailed phases of planning your project well, your results will be FIVE STAR!

 What is Design Build – The Construction Phase…

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