When it comes to a financial project — or any project, really — how do you go about building your dream team? After all, there are countless small tasks that need to be executed before the project can be called a success. So, who’s on the team, and what does that team structure look like?
We’ve worked on thousands of projects within the financial, recreational, and commercial markets. Looking at just financial projects, our number of projects is over 2,500. And over time, we’ve figured out which team structure seems to work.
Hiring an Architect and a Contractor
No doubt about it, your upcoming financial project will rely on an architect and a contractor, but who hires who? Historically, the project owner will first hire us (HTG Architects) to plan and develop a conceptual design. Then we will help our client interview and select the most qualified general contractor — a general contractor who has experience with financial institutions — to be part of the design team and be the general contractor for the entire project.
At the onset, it’s common to interview three or four general contractors who seem to meet the requirements of the project. Ideally we’re looking for someone with relevant experience with financial institutions and someone who’s local. At the end of the interview process, we’ll help our client determine who is the most qualified general contractor. And yes, price is a factor, but it should not be the primary reason for selecting a general contractor.
In our experience, hiring the contractor and the architect separately is the best way to maintain balance. In this model, things are shaped like a triangle. The client hires their architect and their general contractor, and as separate entities, the two parties work together throughout the project’s design and the construction process too.
With this model, the contractor and the architect tend to keep each other accountable. You see, both parties are focused on keeping the client happy. So, during the project’s design phase, the architect will rely on the general contractor to advise how design changes can or will impact the construction costs and process. The architect's role is to ensure the level of quality established during the design phase is maintained during construction.
During the construction process, the general contractor will focus on getting what they need from the architect so they can keep timelines on track.
We’ve found that keeping the contractor and architect separate is one of the best ways to ensure the project budget is adhered to without compromising quality. Plus, it reduces on-the-job conflicts.
Choosing a Local Contractor
Did you know choosing a local contractor can help your project be more successful? Another project model is one where the architect and contractor are hired as a single unit. This approach, sometimes referred to as design-build, doesn’t provide a good form of checks and balances because the general contractor is the one employing the architect. In that scenario, who's looking out for the client's best interests?
Local contractors bring many benefits to your financial project. First, they will have pre-existing knowledge about your city’s regulations. They likely already have connections with inspectors, evaluators and subcontractors that all work within your community. As an added benefit, they may already be a customer of your bank!
When you have a “big city” general contractor coming into your small town, they’re not going to have existing relationships with your local officials and subcontractors, and they’re not going to know which subcontractors in your community have the best reputation for different types of work.
By choosing a local contractor and bringing them in during the design phase, your project is still going to reap the primary benefit that comes along with design-build firms: The general contractor will be part of the design meetings, weighing in on how various decisions will affect the project’s budget and construction timeline.
For instance, a client might ask, “hey, if we want to do a concrete parking lot instead of an asphalt one, how much extra will that cost?” With a local contractor at the table, we can walk through those questions during the design phase and give the client all the information they need to make the best decision for them.
At the end of the day, there is a distinct advantage to having the general contractor and the architect participating during a project’s design phase. But there is also a distinct advantage when you keep the contractor and architect separate. This process has proven to more likely keep financial projects on schedule and on budget.