Custom Home Builders – How to Chose the Right One

This article will help you make the right decisions when selecting the builder for your project.

How to select the right Builder for your project.

You have your plan, a property, your budget, and your architect, and now you are going to select the right team to build your dream house. You are just one step away from completing your team and getting your project built.

This article will help you make the right decisions when selecting the builder for your project.

Project Delivery Method

The delivery method will determine the best method for selecting your builder.

There are many different project delivery methods. Typically residential projects follow a Design-Build or Design-Bid-Build process. Both have advantages and disadvantages. Understanding the pros and cons helps you choose an approach that works best for you and your family.

Design-Build is when the owner contacts a GC (General Contractor) or Builder before hiring the design team. The GC will then establish the right team to deliver every stage of your project. This method’s main advantage is peace of mind, as you maintain one single line of communication.

The main disadvantage is that you do not have competitive pricing and cannot compare apples to apples. Another disadvantage to this method is that the architect does not have a contract directly with you, and this will limit his or her ability to review the builder’s work on your behalf.

A Design-Bid-Build delivery method is when the owner hires the design team, develops the drawings, and obtains pricing from multiple GCs and Builders through a competitive bid. The owner’s main advantage is the exposure to various quotes and proposals that guarantee the lowest price. The owner might not necessarily select the lowest bid, but it will give them a broader pool to choose from.

This method allows the architect to act as your representative during construction, helping you select, manage, and review the work of the builder, ensuring it conforms with the design documentation and performs to the highest standards.

The main disadvantage is that the price of the construction contract is highly dependent on the quality of the architects’ drawings. Anything that is not captured in the documents will be treated as an extra cost by the builder. The builder will also need more time to get familiar with the project and might have to rely on the architect to interpret the construction documents.


Integrated Design Process : The happy medium?


Recently, with the increased and widespread utilization of BIM (advanced 3D building modeling), a new method has proven to be extremely successful.

The idea behind IDP (Integrated Design Process) is that all stakeholders are brought into the design process at the initial stages and participate in the design of the building. This method is used in many larger commercial and healthcare buildings and is easily transferred to the residential market.

The main advantage of IDP is the streamlined nature of the process, with you, your architect, and the builder sharing information through a 3D digital model of your new home, that allows you to follow the development of your design, the architect to develop his documentation, and the builder to provide accurate and constant construction cost verifications.

Boldera has been using IDP as a standard and we recognize the enormous advantages of collaboration during the design process. This process will allow you to select the builder at any stage of the design and will reduce the timelines of design, and construction.


How do I find the right builder?


Similar to the importance of hiring the right architect, selecting the builder will make or break the success of the project. Remember — the general contractor is the one managing your budget, timelines, phasing, and most importantly, the craftsmanship of the workers that are building your home.

There are a few methods of finding a contractor. You might be overwhelmed when searching the internet, but your architect will be able to give you a list of prequalified builders to interview and select from.

Another good method is asking for referrals. If you know family or friends that have built a similar project, those are great testimonials of the reliability and quality of their builders.

If you’re looking into building a modern custom home, you should highly rely on the suggestions of your architect, as most builders might not have the expertise or skilled trades to execute your vision. This might result in a disappointing and unpleasant process.

Questions to ask your Builder

If you are in a position where you have pre-selected a shortlist of Builders and you are interviewing those companies before awarding the project, below are 5 important questions that you might consider asking:


How many projects like mine have you built?


Your project is extremely important for you and it represents a very considerable financial commitment. You want to work with a builder that has successfully completed similar projects and understands the complexities of building a custom home.


Do you have references that I can contact?


Having completed many projects may not be enough for you to decide to hire a Builder. Although the quality of the work is critical, you also want to ensure that the process was smooth, professional, and fun. Construction tends to be a stressful endeavor and it will help if you can get some feedback from their past clients, to ensure you are making the right decision.


Who will be working at my home? Do you use sub-contractors?


Make sure you fully understand the work process and methods that will be used to build your home. Most builders rely highly on sub-contractors and you want to know what are the methods of selection for those companies and that they are capable of executing the work properly. You should also confirm proof of insurance and that the selection method was not based on the lowest price.


Have you worked with architects before?


Having a builder that knows how to interpret architectural drawings and details is a critical component of your selection. There is a significant difference between the drawings prepared by a building designer and an architect. The designer drawings will contain the basic information to build a home, leaving most of the technical details to be resolved on-site by the builder. If the builder is not familiar with how architects prepare construction drawings and is not accustomed to the level of technical detail, it might lead to delays and poor execution.


Will you use a CCDC contract?


The CCDC (Canadian Construction Documents Committee) develops construction contracts that are developed through a consultative process with representatives from all sectors in the construction industry. These include:

  • Association of Consulting Engineering Companies of Canada
  • Canadian Construction Association
  • Royal Architectural Institute of Canada
  • Construction Specifications Canada

These contracts ensure that everyone’s rights are properly addressed and offer the most adequate platform for your agreements with your home builder. Avoid stand-off agreements as they might have terms and conditions that might not be in your best interest.

I hope this article has helped you with your planning. If you have questions, book a free 30-minutes Discovery Session with Boldera Architecture. This will unlock the full potential of your project and help you develop a quick action plan. My goal is to help you develop successful projects.

About the Author
Eric Rodrigues, OAA
Eric Rodrigues, OAA

Eric is the Founder and Design Director of Boldera located in Toronto, Canada. Boldera is an award-winning architecture firm that specializes in adaptive reuse, heritage conservation, and sustainable residential. Eric’s work has been widely recognized and published, having obtained multiple national and international awards.

His design approach is deeply focused on responding to the needs of local communities while respecting the existing natural and built environments. Eric is a major sustainability advocate, and he strives when working side-by-side with clients, consultants, and community leaders to build better cities and enhance the lives of their inhabitants. He strongly believes that great architecture can positively impact communities and inspire people.

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