The most common method (or at least the most central example) of construction project delivery is what’s known as “Design Bid Build”. Under this method, the customer hires two separate entities - the design team (usually led by an architect) who designs the building, and the contractor, who does the actual building. Once the design process is done, the architect serves in a supervisory role in the project, ensuring that what gets built matches their intent and the intent of the owner .
This is a high quality blog you have. As someone coming from an economics background and having zero construction/engineering exposure this is great. I'd be interested to read your take on Japanese construction. I follow some Youtubers who are building there now and it seems Katerra adjacent.
Design Build is on a spectrum, you don't have total control, but you can still specify things that are important to you (i.e. x number of rooms, y sf, z floors, a floor tiles, b wallpaper, c appliances, you can even provide a floor plan).
Great article Brian. Would love to see one on contract types: which one is the worst and why is it GMP?
CMAR (Construction Manager at Risk) is another option similar to Design-Build. I think it is usually used on large civil project. The CM is employed by the Owner to coordinate everything, another example of higher performance requirements lead to higher value in coordination between Architect/Contractor vs. the architect simply inspecting the contractors work.
There's a service model that I think you're missing here which could be referred to as the "Build" approach, where the design service is practically anonymous, i.e. stock plans, or non-existent because the owner/client communicates intent directly to builders. This delivery method dominates nearly all single family new construction and remodeling projects. In fact, it's the basis for much of the built environment on the planet.
Architects are only critical for large, complicated projects---or for unique aesthetic experiences that gratify the ego or discriminating tastes of a client with the financial capacity to afford such services. My fellow architects frequently bemoan the proliferation of "designers" who undercut the rent-seeking potential of our stamp, but our formal status as a "profession" is less than 200 years old.
As a member of one of the 'modular' communities (architect), this is the crispest, most succinct and sobering assessments of the constraints placed on architectural design services as a business model and speaks to all the forces arrayed against design innovation of any kind.
Even if one were to accept the Steve Jobs mantra of "build what the customer wants before they know it," design innovation is an R&D investment (risk) that cannot be amortized over millions of iPhones or Teslas.
Short of waiting for a Medici or Guggenheim or Softbank to subsidize this adventure; or accepting intermediate-term scarcity, self-funding, and praying your ideas have Frank Gehry-like merit; there are perhaps no good alternatives beyond the design-build integration mentioned here.
Another well researched and well written piece, Brian, Bravo!
As you note, the architect is often the agent for the owner, but not always.
Many times the architect hands off the plans and leaves the Owner to procure bids and choose their own builder. This is less than optimal, of course, but does serve the more frugal and DIY element of the population.
Ironically, this is especially true in the remodeling industry where architectural involvement is needed throughout the project due to all the unforeseen issues we encounter.
Thanks for another well-written piece!