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Handmade Timber Frames Fort Collins - Timber Frame Joints

Are SIPs Necessary?

—Originally Published in Timber Framing, the Journal of the Timber Framers Guild

At least once a year, I have a client in my office who’d like to build a timber frame home and enclose it in strawbales. The first time this happened, we agreed and pushed forward, eager to learn about strawbale enclosures. We raised the frame in January of 2007, and the owner-builders and a strawbale subcontractor set to work enclosing it, followed by plastering. The owners survived (kind of) two weird winter rainstorms, daily wind, and an incompetent contractor, and finally got the thing plastered by late fall. They’ve since replaced the exterior plaster in its entirety twice, and they’re still dealing with plaster problems.

I now promote a dialogue with clients that examines alternative enclosure systems for every project we do. While strawbale enclosure may well be practical or even ideal in other circumstances, for our local conditions (we’re in Fort Collins, Colorado), local contractors and the budgets of our clients, we have never since concluded that the best enclosure system was strawbales.

What about structural insulated panels (SIPs), then? Most timber frame contractors encourage the use of SIPs; They must be the best, right? We were certainly happy for some time to promote them as the best choice. It was easy to dismiss the strawbale alternative because of the bad experience of our clients, and building external stud walls and then insulating them surely couldn’t be energy efficient, could it? Were SIPs the answer?

I accepted as true all the benefits claimed by SIP salesman and manufacturers, taught them to our clients and tried to sell panels to everyone we worked with. I hadn’t done a lot of research and didn’t understand alternatives. I wasn’t even thinking about return on investment at that point, and in sum I wasn’t really able to give my clients enough information. I was a SIP salesman.

The last part of 2008 changed the way Frameworks did business. We trotted along until about October 15 when a sale we thought was a done deal cancelled with a 60-second phone call. Frustrating, but we still had January through March sold; maybe we could start a little early on that project. We could not, that job officially cancelled via a message on my cell phone on Christmas Eve. I became familiar with the phrase “wave of cancellations.”

I laid off staff and tried to find anything to do to keep remaining help in groceries. I set about a project of business introspection that I had never done. Since there was no work to manage, I had time to obsess with what-if questions. A free consultation from the Small Business Development Center introduced me to the concept of gross margin. A light bulb went off about how we’d been estimating, what our estimates might look like under an accurate analysis and, of course, the perpetual what-ifs. What if we lowered our prices and did more volume? What if we sold only timber frames and made no money on panels? What if we offered more services? What if we offered fewer services?

At the root of all those questions was one real goal-to sell more work. I was trying to learn from the past so I did the most examination of the jobs that had cancelled. I naturally wondered whether if we’d somehow been able to charge less, would those jobs not have cancelled? It wasn’t as if we were getting rich or building exorbitant budgets, so how on earth could we reduce the price? The spreadsheet I was using at the time tracked percentage of overall budget next to each line item, and I had by then noticed that the number next to SIPs was consistently around 30 percent. I had all the motivation I needed (hunger) to take a close look at these panels and try to figure out if they were worth their apparent premium.

The alternative I began to consider was a studded wall of 2x6s, 24 in. o.c., filled with sprayed open-cell foam. I went through all of the last ten jobs we hadn’t sold and built estimates for replacing panels with the frame and spray system. I got consistent results. In the ten jobs I studied, using the prices of the day, it would have cost about $10 more per sq. ft. of finished house to use SIPs for walls and roofs. In more recent analyses, this number falls between $5 and $10 per sq. ft. Panel prices in our area have gone down substantially, while the price we’ve been willing to pay to framing carpenters has gone up. Commodity lumber pricing is also fickle. When I ran the original price comparisons, street price for oriented strand board (OSB) sheathing was less than $7 a sheet. This summer (2010), it got as high as $14 a sheet, and right now is at $9.57.

I’ve stopped running panel estimates because of my conclusions but I did go back to analyze a 2065-sq.-ft. house we built this summer. I know what we actually paid to enclose it, and I know current rates for panels here. To have built the roof and exterior walls with panels would have cost an additional $14,000, or $6.78 per sq. ft. That’s less than the premium I’ve cited above but more than the $5.14 per sq. ft. we’ll use below for some payback scenarios. It’s probably right to assume that I might get a different figure for every house I analyzed, but I do believe my research identifies a definite trend. When we look at payback numbers later in this article, we’ll use the bottom of the identified range of savings.

You may come up with different numbers because of your location, your climate, your local suppliers and your building season. In our area, framing carpentry rates are competitive, there are a lot of local lumberyards competing to sell studs and OSB sheathing, and we apparently get pretty good rates on spray foam. For these reasons, a favorable cost-benefit ratio of SIPs just doesn’t appear to pan out here.

It’s important to consider the entire cost of an installed system. Let’s look at panels’ advertised benefits to see if they are real for me or my clients.

  1. SIPs reduce waste. Do they really? Or do they just move it to the manufacturer or fabricator’s warehouse where neither I nor my customers have to look at it? What about the chunks of panel that end up in the dumpster because of imperfect project management? Panel scraps, as far as I know, have almost no alternative use, while the pile of cutoffs from a 2×6 stud wall may have a second life as blocking, backing or, at worst, firewood.
  2. SIPs reduce labor. Again, do they really, or do they just move it to the fabricator’s shop and off my budget line? Even if they do reduce labor because the labor’s more efficient in a factory setting, does that offset the additional cost of the system as a whole?
  3. SIPs install quickly, thereby saving time and money. It’s generally accepted that the actual applying of walls to the exterior of a timber frame takes a few days less with panels. As a general contractor, I’m not sure this benefit is more than academic. First, the installation time (and consequent cost of field labor) saved is outweighed by the cost of the panels compared with the cost of the insulated stud walls. And the time saved as a portion of the whole project is insignificant. Custom residential construction simply isn’t managed tightly enough that a few days of time gained in wall installation provides a notable financial benefit (loan interest).
    To take an actual example, the 2065-sq.- ft. house I mentioned above was framed studded out in 11 days by a crew of four. That framing time included the insulating walls, interior partitions, second floor framing and stairs. I’m not convinced you could actually install the panels and do all of the interior framing in less time than that. A good study of total project schedules also recognizes that other subcontractors take longer to perform their work later in the project, potentially nullifying any overall elapsed time advantage of SIPS. If you believe that saving a few days in a construction schedule is of benefit, do the math on the cost of the construction loan (if there is one), and see just how many dollars could be saved by shortening a construction schedule.
  4. SIPs save energy and “pay for themselves” in reduced heating and cooling costs. I am not a scientist or a physicist. I am a thinking carpenter turned general contractor who expects to be able to understand science as it applies to what I do. I make no exception for “building science,” specifically in my search to understand the value of R-value. I’ve learned a lot about building energy-efficient buildings in the last couple of years, not least that it’s very difficult to find consistent information about this particular subject. Sorry, but consistent effort as a researcher reveals a snake oil environment. Everybody selling one kind of insulation or another (including SIP manufacturers who use urethane foams instead of polystyrene and vice versa), claims everybody else is wrong about initial R-values, R-value creep, air seal, greenhouse emissions, off gassing, etc. More to the point, though, is this question: “If my clients spend extra money at installation, can I demonstrate that they’ll recover that money over a reasonable time via reduced fuel bills and, if so, how long it will take?”

I would expect building scientists to be able to model the following situation: At R-Values of X for walls and roof, the calculated heat loss of your house is equal to Y BTUhr (British Thermal Units per hour.) At current (and projected) costs of fuel, the cost to generate those BTUhr is $Z. If this calculation exists, we could then change R-values on the input side, and monitor the result in dollars on the output side. (If we can land a man on the moon, we can make Excel generate these values.) I’ve found only one person running anything close to this software, one of our local radiant heating contractors. In an attempt to approach this question scientifically, he and I modeled a sample 1500-sq. foot house three times, the only variable the wall system. (At the time we ran this comparison, I was only considering changing wall systems. I was still assuming SIP roofs were the best choice. I don’t any longer.)

We analyzed three wall systems: 6-in expanded polystyrene (EPS) SIPs; stud-framed 2×6 walls filled with open-cell foam; and 6-in. stud-framed, foamed walls but this time with woven 2×4 studs to eliminate thermal bridging and again filled with open-cell foam. Thermal bridging, for the record, is not the demon that SIP manufacturers would have you believe. The effect of thermal bridging on overall R-value of a wall can be calculated in much the same fashion as for windows in a wall. After modeling the three systems, we achieved the following heat loss values, (in BTUhr): 6-in. EPS, 25,343; 2×6 wall 25,757; and 2×6 wall with staggered 2×4 studs 25,659.

As a point of reference, note that a standing human generates 400-450 BTUhr, and closer to 800 when dancing. The total difference from worst to first here is 414. Run the numbers and you’ll notice that there’s 1.6 percent more heat loss in the 2×6 framed wall than there is in the SIP wall. (Although I can’t prove it, I suspect 1.6 percent is within the range of error in the calculations, and that we’ve actually proven that there is no significant difference in thermal performance between a foam-insulated stud wall and a SIP.)

To put this into a financial perspective, upgrading to panels on the job we were designing at the time, a 2100-sq.-ft. house would have cost an extra $10,800. That includes labor and materials for a complete installation of wall and roof systems, although it does not include additional costs that I believe SIP manufacturers would prefer you ignore, such as for window jamb extensions, extra charges by your electrician for rough-in, the difficulty of hanging cabinets on SIP walls, and in general the fairly constant slight increases in cost when subcontractors are dealing with unfamiliar building systems.

Although the cost of increasing indoor temperature in the winter is not linear (it takes less energy to increase indoor air temperature from 50 to 60 than it does 60-70), let’s look at this question as if it were. To pay back a $10,800 investment in 10 years, we’d need to be able to reduce our heating bills by $1,080 per year or $90 a month. If the supposedly less-efficient 2×6 system in fact requires us to generate 1.6 percent more energy to maintain temperature, $90 needs to be about equal to 1.6 percent of the heating bill. For a ten-year payback on additional SIP expense, then, our heating bills would need to be $67,500 per year or $5625 a month for this 2100-sq.-ft. house!

Using local figures from my area, it would probably cost less than half of $5625 to heat an insulated 2100-sq.-ft. house for a year with propane, the most expensive fuel option here. (I live in 2800-sq.-ft. house built in 1918. The remodeled parts are well insulated with cellulose but the one-third of the house that hasn’t been touched still has old windows that air quite literally blows through. The most expensive heating bill I’ve ever had was $210 in one month; most months are less than $100.) Supposing a conservative total of $2400 a year to heat the 2100-sq.-ft. house we designed, SIPs would then save $38.40 a year and payback of the $10,800 investment would take a staggering 281 years.

If there’s a flaw in my reasoning, I’d like it pointed out by a neutral authority, and I’d also like to make it clear that I’m not suggesting SIPs have no place in the timber frame industry. I am pleading for us to have and to use better research and information when we help our clients make decisions about enclosure. If SIPs are a lot less expensive in your area than in mine, or carpenters are much more expensive or unavailable, or the closest place to find a spray foam installer is a day’s drive away, or your building season is really short, panels may be the best choice for you.

For me, there are additional factors to consider about enclosure systems. The largest one is longevity. I’m not sure when structural insulated panels were first put in service, but I do know that we don’t have a lot of experience in how they endure. I believe it’s worth noting that the entire panel system, from exterior sheathing to interior finish, is dependent on adhesives. How long are those going to last? What will happen to these buildings if the adhesives fail? Are they reparable? We may clad our studded walls in adhesive- dependent OSB, but the connection of cladding to studding is mechanical and thus reversible. If a sheet (or an entire wall) of OSB goes bad on a studded wall, it can be replaced without disturbing the interior. Not possible with SIPs: the whole sandwich has to be removed, including interior finish.

There’s a lot more history available for light wood frames. I grant that a lot of it’s not good in terms of energy consumption. Light wood frames, though, seem to last fairly well, they’re reparable in part if parts are damaged and they can actually be recycled. (Anyone recycling SIPs?) I know roofs shouldn’t leak, but I also know that almost all of them do, sooner or later. One of the principles of really long-term buildings is first to accept that they will all eventually fall into disrepair. When that happens, are they fixable? And when they are ultimately deconstructed, are their materials recyclable? As far as I can tell, SIPs fail these tests. For me, that adds two more reasons for us to not use them on our buildings.

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Should I be my own General Contractor?

Since we work with so many owner builders, we thought it might be helpful to share some expertise about the job of general contracting. In this article we’ll define some of the realities that you can expect if you’re considering being an owner/builder.

Let’s look at what a good General Contractor (GC), does and what you should be prepared to take responsibility for if you decide to be your own GC.

Build and manage a budget. This critical step should begin during the early phases of design. A spreadsheet is the best tool for tracking and monitoring your budget. A good budget includes the hard numbers generated by bids from sub-contractors and suppliers, plus some contingency for unexpected costs. It’s necessary to have a percentage of expected costs set aside to cover unexpected costs. Unexpected costs can result from: weather, change in construction schedules, change in subcontractor schedules, missing or unclear information in the design, errors, omissions, oversights, unavailable supplies, your change in tastes, breakdowns in communication between any and all parties, etc.

Select, hire, and manage subcontractors. A good GC usually works with a consistent group of sub-contractors and will bring to the table an already established relationship with that group of subs.

If you decide to be your own GC, you will not have the advantage of established relationships with subcontractors. After taking the time to sort through and select subcontractors, you may be less than impressed by one of your choices. It’s not the end of the world. If you’ve budgeted time and money realistically, you’ll be prepared to deal with a few surprises. Good GCs are constantly working with some new subcontractors, and don’t have a perfect group at any point.

We recommend a selection process for subcontractors where lowest price is not the primary qualifier, and is balanced with other considerations that are also important. Good subs communicate well and expect to document their relationship with you. They know how to write and bid a specific scope of work, and are willing to define what it is they expect from you and what you can expect from them throughout the process. Communication and documentation are everyone’s ally in this contracting process, and good sub-contractors know that and are willing and able to provide clear communication and documentation. You will be attempting to have a relationship with a group of people you probably won’t know, and all the potential pitfalls of relationships are here and can happen. The list includes: Poor communication , unspoken expectations, stress over financial matters, etc.

Manage the paperwork with subs and the bank, organize monthly payments from wherever the money’s coming from to wherever it’s going to. In the early stages, this will mean producing, sending out, reviewing, and signing contracts and purchase orders with subs and suppliers. Some will offer their contracts to you, some will request that you produce the paperwork. Either system can work, just don’t get involved without some written agreement in place. Even the simplest of written agreements will be a tenfold improvement over a verbal or implied agreement. After work begins, payments will need to be made according the the schedule agreed to in your contract. We use contract loosely here to refer to any form of written agreement between you and your suppliers or subcontractors. We recommend setting up agreements so that payments are monthly. This makes the job of accounts payable easier to do and easier to keep track of. You can always make exceptions if you’re willing to, and probably will at least once a month. Minimizing mid monthly payments is the goal. If you’re financing your project through a bank, they will already understand and probably insist on once a month billings. Many banks will require site inspections before authorizing payments.

Your job as GC will be managing a web of people and expertise. If you have good organizational and communication skills or experience managing teams of people in other fields, you’ll probably do fine, and occasionally better than people who do this for a living. If you have trouble speaking your mind, are unfamiliar with spreadsheets, tend to avoid confrontation, or in general are not very organized, this process may not be for you. Again, this is about managing relationships. A lot of them.

The most challenging part of being an owner/builder may be dealing with correcting things that have gone wrong. Things “going wrong” can usually be pointed to one of the causes listed below.

  1. The scope of work was incomplete or inaccurate.
  2. The scope of work was complete and accurate, but it was misunderstood.
  3. The scope of work was complete and accurate, but the subcontractor is trying to cheat by substituting different work or different materials. (I think this is actually very rare. Especially if you’ve used a decent screening process.)
  4. The scope of work was complete and accurate, but you are trying to cheat by asking for more work or more materials. (This is also very, very rare.)

If you’ve established a good, open relationship with your subcontractors, the path to correcting any of the above situations need not be difficult or painful.  It will require creating some clear communication that was missing previously, and agreeing to a solution. Good initial communication that includes clear proposals and scopes of work will fix most problems before they have a chance to happen, but when they do you will have to practice being diplomatic but firm.  Accept responsibility for gaps in the spec or contract language that are yours, and work with people to correct things that are not what you want, regardless of the origin of the error. When in doubt, be willing to have conversations that you might under other circumstances consider rude. The chance of hurting someone’s feelings are rare, and frankly, irrelevant.

If there are things that you would like to change from the original scope of work, don’t be afraid to ask. This is your house, your vision, your investment, and you should finish the project satisfied with what you’ve created.

If you decide to take the plunge and act as your own GC, remember that all of us at Frameworks are here to help. We’re used to providing both moral and technical support, and really do look forward to helping you realize your project vision however we can.

Happy Building and Good Luck!

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Against Entropy

—Originally Published in Timber Framing, the Journal of the Timber Framers Guild

Struggling to find a reason to build that satisfied my desire for social contribution, I nearly quit the building industry. There was a whole list of reasons, among them boredom and frustration with the residential construction industry for its lack of intellectual and social demands on builders, a felt disconnection from clients (I’ve always acted as a subcontractor) and difficulties finding local resources for our most basic raw material, timber––not to mention the difficulty of finding a good balance between making a living and making a life.

But a recent timber framing job (pictured on the facing page) that followed on the heels of a commercial truss job for our local billionaire, satisfied, at least in part, some of those desires. Though far from groundbreaking or unique in the timber framing field, it represented both a milestone and a stepping stone for me personally and as the operator of my company.

Timberframe Northern Colorado - Starting a new timber frame projectBuilt in northern Colorado where the foothills meet the plains at an altitude of about 4800 ft., the frame used 17,120 bd. ft. of white fir and Douglas fir and covers 2428 sq. ft. (including porches), measured inside the straw bales that will enclose it. Roof snow load, which varies widely in Colorado, is only 30 lbs. Fortunately, we had very enthusiastic clients who loved the fact that the timber was local. We solved a big portion of the handling damage by planing the entire frame, even though we had sold it originally as roughsawn. It seemed the right thing to do, considering the level of expectation I had for the finished product and what I felt the clients had a right to expect. They also accepted some less than perfect surfaces and corners that another kind of client might have rejected.

We found a mill not too far away harvesting trees big enough to make real timbers—white fir, Engelmann spruce and some Douglas fir. The trees we used were harvested in a beetle-kill area in an attempt by the US Forest Service to manage the bug problem before it destroyed the entire forest. Those factors, plus surprisingly low costs, were the positives. On the downside, our timber arrived in less than ideal condition, poorly packaged, dirty and with significant handling damage. The mill’s mechanized tumblers had left a pair of black grease streaks every 6 ft. on most of the timbers. Almost none of the timbers arrived without broken corners from the tumblers or forklifts. Muddy footprints and piles of dirt were part of the package. A few sticks flatly failed grade (even though they all had a grade stamp), and more than a few others were definitely at the bottom of the grade. We asked for and got free replacement of about ten sticks. We used a few we really didn’t want to.

I’m proud of the project socially for a few reasons. The clients are local by any standard (nine miles from my house to theirs) and, in the process of building their house, all the participants seem to have managed to increase the size of their human communities. As one measure, at the raising there were five paid staff and 13 working volunteers, plus a few observers and photographers. A few of the volunteers came because of an invitation I sent out to about 150 people; the rest were friends or family of the client, or people who had somehow heard about the event and showed up, happier to work than to stand by. Contribution to a local cause, even if it appears to benefit only a few people specifically, I consider to have a huge impact on true community. Thus my obsession with local interactions above any other concern about our environment or the status of the world. We’re as likely to care for people we’ve helped as we are to care for people who’ve helped us.

My largest goal as a builder is to influence the relationship people have with their built environments. I’m convinced that people who contribute real work in whatever way they can to the houses they live in will have dramatically different experiences with their houses from those of folks who merely stand by and watch the whole process. I’ve never worked in the Colorado ski towns and have no plans to chase the trophy work there. I’m not saying I wouldn’t build a trophy house if the job landed on my desk with a pile of money, mind you. It just seems way more satisfying and interesting to be involved with people who intend to live in their house 12 months a year (imagine that).

I understand that none of us is in business particularly to make new friends. But it’s satisfying for me when our status with the future owners of a house looks a lot more like trusted advocate than necessary contract holder. These clients included as part of their contracted payment (honestly) oatmeal cookies, fresh eggs, dog-sitting and consultation about our marketing strategy.

I can’t actually yet prove to myself that what I do solves my appetite for social contribution, but I have some evidence. The several local carpenters who’ve worked on this job plus more than a few passersby seem to have a new understanding of the possibility of craft. I hesitate to use the word inspirational, but it may fit. Even the metal stud and drywall carpenter who has been remodeling the space we rent was fascinated enough by what he saw in our shop to come to the raising and help out for a couple of hours. I like, in general, when men and women doing the daily grind of building are able to elevate their imaginations and their perspectives. Pride in workmanship may be one way to describe it, although that term insufficiently explains what I’m interested in. Good work and right livelihood are connected here, beyond my ability to describe but not beyond my ability to appreciate.

As for intellectual demands on residential builders, some stuff began to satisfy. Working from a basic, undetailed set of drawings by a straw-bale designer from Massachusetts, I designed the frame with the help of two engineers and one veteran joiner. This required halting the already started concrete foundation work until we had really finished the design. Interior pads and the turneddown haunch for the monolithic slab (the thickened portion at the perimeter that generally replaces the footing and frost wall) were all eventually respecified, and all the buried runs of hot water pipes, rebar and electrical conduit were mapped out to avoid our Timberlinx anchors and the epoxied threaded rod below them.

Through the project I’ve fulfilled some of the role of a good general contractor. Which I could have done officially, I suppose, but I found I enjoyed the position of advocate for the homeowners without the day-to-day responsibility of a general contractor. The homeowners, who acted in this case as their own general contractor, called when they needed something or were worried; otherwise it was their baby. Their questions covered materials availability, relationships with other subcontractors, contracts, payment structures, how to handle estimating error in a job—and what to do when you feel unqualified to do your job.

Two itinerants worked on this frame. That they were on the road seemed less relevant than it used to. I used to feel of itinerants (and I have been one) that being on the road was really their story, as I think most people believe. But the story is just about good people, not how they got here or how long they’re staying. Five good people cut the frame in the shop, and I’m as proud of the camaraderie that prevailed there as any physical product we produced. As far as I can tell, we all shared lunch and cared for one another as brothers. Best crew I’ve ever had.

Some of my expectations remain vague even to me but I’m willing to enjoy what already feels successful. Elevated tradespeople, community involvement, client involvement, good shop culture—I’ll take it. The problem of making a living (including a profit) and making a life is partially solved. During this job it took me 12 hours a day to get done what I had to do, more than I like to schedule for myself. But if part of the excess represents the work and energy needed to get a real business off the ground, I’m willing to do that. I also continue whenever I can to hire people more skilled and more educated than I am. A new marketing company, a new bookkeeper and Curtis Milton here for a week to do compound joinery are a few examples.

—Adrian Jones

Adrian Jones (adrian@frameworkstimber.com) founded Frameworks Inc. in 1996, put it to rest for a couple of years to go on the road as an itinerant, then started up again as Frameworks in Wellington, Colorado, not far from the Wyoming border, in 2005.

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Sustainable

Building a house with exceptional design and materials and the best information we have will surely produce houses that the next generation will fight to keep.

Buildings that are built well enough that future generations will care about keeping them are one of the greatest examples of real-time recycling and actual sustainability. Every building, in its life, will fall into disrepair – the best built ones, the worst ones. From castles in Normandy to cabins in New England, every building ever built faces a struggle against water, wind, and its occupants. No building that has ever lasted for long periods of time has done so without repair, maintenance, and even rebuilding. All across America, in old neighborhoods that we were once so essential to the very character of towns, remodeling and refurbishing projects are going on. You can imagine the neighborhoods, with their elm-lined front lawns and houses built before Main Street America became subdivisions and stock plans. These houses are being repaired and saved for another generation of use for one big reason: Preserving the house and the neighborhood seems worth it. Their architecture is attractive, and the original materials are often better than the ones in common use today. For our tastes, the bedrooms are maybe too small, there aren’t enough bathrooms and the kitchens are too confined – but almost everyone seems to agree that they’re worth saving. So you knock out a couple of walls, replace the kitchen cabinets, accept a couple of compromises, and give an old house a new life. Most of these old homes, at least in the west, probably aren’t timber frames. Neither are they built to todays standards of quality. I live in one that’s 91 years old, and the original fir siding wasn’t back primed or even installed with galvanized nails. But building a house with exceptional design and materials and the best information we have will surely produce houses that the next generation will fight to keep.

How do you build a house to last for centuries?

Why do I advocate timber framed homes?

What is Design-build?

What is Design-build? How is it different from other building processes? A design-build company offers both design of your home and construction of your home, instead of having to locate two different sources for those services.

Design-build reconnects the disciplines of design and building into one company, rather than separating them to different people and different companies, and treating them as different expertises. While specialization has advantages, we believe in this case there’s a distinct advantage in connecting the expertises, and considering them as one expertise. How is it better?

1. It’s a simpler process for the buyer. Rather than having multiple contracts, multiple contacts, and a potentially new set of collaborations to manage to get your house built, you can purchase all the needed expertise in one location.

2. It’s innately better in terms of accountability and responsibility. Even with the best of us humans at work, having a different designer than you do builder will always generate questions about where the designer’s responsibility ends and your contractor’s responsibility begins. Design-build eliminates the transfer of responsibility so issues with constructability, schedule, and budget can all be resolved during the design process, eliminating the need for costly re-design or time consuming repairs during the building process.

3. Better vendor coordination. Because your design firm and general contractor are one and the same, the designer is able to tap into the contractor’s pool of vendors and tradespeople throughout the design process. This allows for more accurate design, and more thorough and thoughtful construction detailing.

To note, Frameworks is a Design-build company.

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