Design-build delivery explained by those in the know

Welcome to Factor – a design-build home renovation contractor of exceptional skill and capacity. We are builders at heart, a diverse team of dedicated professionals committed to improving the quality of lives lived in the homes we touch. Factor Design Build LLC. was founded in 2016 by Kent Simpson and Josh Fiester, long-time ski buddies with independent careers in commercial and residential real estate. Today, we are a growing team of 36 design-build professionals who combine their talents to realize extraordinary residential renovations throughout metro Denver, Boulder, and Front Range, Colorado.

Large-scale residential renovation projects – popping the top, building an addition, whole-house gut-and- redesign projects – are all made to look easy on HGTV’s many variations of the design-your-dream-home TV show. The ones where the hip, cute couple, dressed for a date, shows up at a house falling off its foundation with mold in the basement. They quickly point out everything that’s wrong with it, shop for pretty tiles for the bathrooms, argue about flooring, and rebuild the entire house to parade-of-homes- quality in about six weeks without breaking a nail.

In reality, things aren’t that simple. Homeowners should understand that major residential renovations require a precise combination of design talent and construction skills to plan and execute. Home additions or gut-and-rebuild projects also require existing local relationships with the many trade partners involved in installing the intricacies of a home – mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and structural – that building codes don’t leave to chance. These elements require review and approval from municipal authorities in the design phase and inspection and approval during construction. This is where the advantages of design-build delivery work in your favor.

The difference going design-build makes in residential renovation happens before pen hits paper, or hammer hits the nail. It happens in the collaboration between the homeowners and the parties they hire to rethink their homes. Any residential renovation project that requires municipal approval must have a registered architect or engineer (depending on the scope of work) develop a complete set of drawings defining what will be done – where, how, and with what kind of materials – that are submitted to the building department to secure a building permit. Without a permit, construction can’t legally proceed. Once approved, a contractor uses the architect’s design plans to execute the project. The contractor is expected to work cohesively with the design team to iron out details that may or may not exist in the drawings. Suppose the homeowner hires the architect and contractor independently. In that case, there is often an adversarial tension between them. The designer struggles to ensure his vision is realized, and the contractor struggles to execute the work at a profit.

The solution is design-build, whereby the homeowner hires a firm like Factor Design Build to manage both sides of the equation seamlessly from start to finish. Design-build means defining the budget, design intent, and constraints collectively upfront and ensuring those elements inform the finished product the whole way through. When you hire Factor, we are responsible for everything. The budget is real and achievable, and we strive for the design quality to be just as high as the construction quality without compromise. Factor’s professional staff includes licensed architects, credentialed interior designers, a drafting team, four construction project managers, six site superintendents, and a business operations team.

As a single-stop shop, Factor helps homeowners understand the cost of their design expectations and project ambitions right from the start. If you envision an elegant, modern, glass staircase taken from the pages of an architecture and interiors magazine, we will show you options and explain the costs associated with each – money, time, impacts, and inconvenience – in real terms. In a design-build delivery, homeowners should arrive at a clear understanding of what they are asking for, what it will cost, and how long it will take at the project development phase rather than once it is all said and done. Helping the homeowner express their vision for the project is essential to establishing design intent. Factor takes advantage of our in-house design center stocked with finish options to begin the design process. Designers work with big concept images of kitchens and living rooms to get a sense of your taste. We present a series of material choices for key elements like flooring, wall coverings, etc. Together, designers and homeowners refine the selection of finish materials while the project manager keeps decision-making aligned with the established budget. If things begin to cost more than intended,
the team can make any of many possible decisions to realign the budget long before any consequences in construction come into play.

To transmit design intent to residential reality, Factor relies on a solid network of dedicated trade partners. Home building, whole-house renovations, and even kitchen and bathroom remodeling do not get done without great trade partners and mutually beneficial relationships. At Factor, we grade our trade partners on every job we do. If they are getting excellent grades, we keep them busy. We also help them navigate the challenging pricing, commodities, and supply chain issues the home building industry faces today. At Factor, we need our trade partners to be successful in our work for our work to be their top priority. Like high-quality materials, highly skilled, efficient, professional craftsmen make a huge difference in the finished experience on day one and, more importantly, many years later when the builder is long gone.

And finally, we offer a few words to the wise. Do your homework. This isn’t a time to cut corners! Residential design-build firms exist in most urban and suburban markets across the United States. Just because a builder can stamp architectural drawings and meet the electrical inspector doesn’t mean they place equal importance on construction quality and design achievability. It is essential to understand that you could hire a design-driven builder that isn’t focused on cost. Or you could hire a construction company that isn’t focused on design. The founders of Factor Design Build come from the commercial real estate world, where quality means the best design, the best construction, and the best project pro forma as a package deal or nothing.

If you are a homeowner considering a major renovation and want to explore the design-build delivery process with a residential contractor in your area, we advise you to consider at least 3 to 5 firms before deciding on the best option. You should not only review each design-builder’s portfolio and check their references but also consider the professional credentials of their team. True design-build services require a registered architect and possibly also a professional engineer to stamp the drawings that are submitted for permitting. Just as importantly, it requires a team of qualified construction professionals capable of executing the work. Rather than cost, let confidence be the deciding factor in whom you hire. The worst thing you can do is competitively bid the work. By competitively bid, we mean tell several contractors you are asking several contractors for prices and choosing the lowest simply because it is the lowest. We believe this is the biggest mistake you can make. If you change the vanity in your bathroom and things go wrong, you can replace it yourself for a few hundred bucks. If you pop the top of your house and something goes wrong, you could be stuck with a house you don’t like and can’t sell. Who is doing the work, how they are going to cover all of the required trades, the quality of the work, and the time it takes to complete the work are all far more significant factors in the overall construction experience than saving a few thousand dollars between one contractor and another.

At Factor Design Build, we combine the talents of career professionals across many interconnected design and construction disciplines. Together as a team, we produce homes that live like their owners dreamed of before coming to us.