A Commercial General Contractor’s Guide to Partnering with Architecture Firms

In Industrial, Project Management by Gordon Highlander

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

The construction industry is in a state of rapid change. Construction companies are held accountable for their work and expected to maintain the highest standards while completing projects faster.

Due to increasing market demands, it’s essential for construction managers and general contractors to build solid relationships with architects to get jobs done quickly, on budget, and on time to meet stakeholder expectations and deliver results.

In this guide, Gordon Highlander, Vice President of Business Development, Nick Campbell, and Project Manager Michael Terstriep share tips on how construction managers or general contractors can make this a reality.

Be Proactive

At Gordon Highlander, our goal with all of our relationships is to build strong connections with everyone involved in the project.

When we approach a project with that service mindset, it opens opportunities to be more proactive early in the project and solve problems before they occur. Our experience working with clients is to get involved with the design team and owner early so we can resolve potential problems and address them as soon as possible because it’s best for the whole team.

It’s more important than ever to start communicating with architects early in the process before designs are complete. Because the market is busy, architects and general contractors are overwhelmed with the workload. The earlier the general contractor can start working with the design team, getting on the same page, working with municipalities and city engineers, and assisting the architect through the process, the better.

Traditionally, general contractors take drawings from the architects and build based on the drawings. We’ve seen contractors take that approach and not get involved in the process until someone tells them what to do. We believe proactively jumping into the process earlier creates the best client results. Bringing everyone together earlier in the process is significant because that’s when they can develop the same mindset and understand the project requirements.

Assisting the relationship between the architect and general contractor as the construction manager can be a great way to speed up the process and open doors for everyone to think outside the box. Bringing in the general contractor sooner to see if they can help take on additional responsibilities can also help complete the project faster.

Slow Down to Speed Up

Unfortunately, the marketing is operating too quickly for design teams to get the time to detail drawings appropriately. There’re many instances where specific standard details are carried from project to project, and the drawings lack the details necessary for the project to be tailored. We’ve found that getting everyone out in the field together. The more often we can get everyone walking together and experiencing the project simultaneously, the more successful they’ll be. 

Getting the team on the same page gives them a clear understanding of expectations. There’s no time for the traditional delivery method of designing a project, sending the design documents, and taking the lowest bid in today’s market. Everybody wants projects to be completed faster with higher expectations.

The best way to deliver excellence is to establish a team and build relationships early on. When a team trusts each other, they see each other, and no one is out for their interests, there will be more collaboration and the same goal.

Focus on Client Experience

In today’s market, it’s not uncommon for general contractors and architects to not get along. It’s easy to point fingers and use details to justify a position. Moving past that, building relationships, and focusing on the client experience is critical.

When the design team, the architect, civil, other design consultants, and the general contractor work well together, projects always have a better outcome. On the other hand, when they don’t get along, projects get messy, trickling up to the owner’s side—resulting in a bad experience for the client. In the end, everything is about the client experience. The relationship between the general contractor and the design team leaves an impression on the owner and the client.

A construction manager on the owner’s side can help facilitate strong relationships between the general contractor and design team, get in the middle when needed, and create synergy. When there’s potential strife, address it as soon as possible. The client is more important than anyone else’s interests.

Suppose every team works together, understands the owner’s intent, is on the same page, and focuses on the client experience. In that case, they will achieve their ultimate goal of exceeding the client’s expectations.

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About Gordon Highlander

We’re a full-service General Contractor providing construction management services, including design-build and partially- and fully-engineered construction in the commercial industry throughout Texas. We’ve been hyperactive in the industrial market, and we’re excited that our clients have allowed us to lead their projects from the planning stages to the finish out.

We’ve been at the forefront of the market’s growth since 2007. Our team understands every aspect of site development in office interiors, industrial, ground-up construction, and medical, with decades of industry experience and millions of square feet to prove it. 

We now serve developers in North, Central, and South Texas, including major markets like Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, and Houston.