In the custom home industry, there are basically two delivery methods: design/build and traditional bid and build. Among design/build firms there are two delivery methods as well. There is in-house design and outsourced design. With in-house design, the architect or residential designer is on staff. With outsourced design, the architect or residential designer works for him or herself, or for a separate firm. In Austin, most builders outsource the design. Shan Jenkins, of Jenkins Custom Homes, has done it both ways, and he strongly advocates the in-house design approach for a variety of reasons. Some of his reasons, like the cost savings and time savings, are very practical. Others, like the way the client has more control over the creative process, are less obvious to the casual observer. Either way you cut it, however, it makes building a new home a better experience for everyone.
The practical reasons for having a residential designer in-house are the time savings and cost savings it allows the client. In the case of Jenkins, because the designers work in the same office as the supervisors and cost estimator (not to mention the rest of the staff), they have almost instant access to the resources they need to provide cost feedback to the client on design details. For instance, “I like that wrought iron detail but not at that cost. Is there a way to achieve the same look with less expense?” This means that work proceeds at a much faster pace, especially throughout the design phase. Also, having an in-house designer is one of the reasons Jenkins can guarantee that the cost is within 5% of the initial budget.
However, a less obvious reason Shan Jenkins believes in this approach is that having the design team in-house means that the client has more control over the creative process. When a builder outsources their design work, the client must explain his or her wishes to the builder, who then submits the change to the designer. Quite often, what the client had envisioned and what the designer returns are two very different things. So the client must again attempt to explain what he or she wanted, and the builder must again submit it to the designer.
After a few weeks of that type of back and forth, many clients will simply settle for what they have been given, just so they can move forward with the process of building their new home. With Jenkins, the client is continually interfacing with the designer, which means the design evolves in real time, with the client present to give his or her input, the designer sketching each detail as the client speaks. Want to add a half bath by the door to the pool? No problem. The designer can sketch it in right there during the meeting on trace paper and, if it isn’t the way you envisioned it, you can correct it right there on the spot.
Shortly thereafter, the team will provide you with cost data on that additional bath. Before any changes are made to the plan, you can decide if it’s worth the extra money. It’s a win-win for both the client and the builder. The synergy that is created from having everyone working together as a team to accomplish the desires of the client means a superior home and a superior home building experience.