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Frequently asked questions about architects:

Is it more expensive to build with an architect than with a general contractor? 

Clients who work with an architect in a fiduciary capacity will receive more favourable prices from the tradesmen than they would from a general contractor. This is because the craftsman doing the work has a calculated price for a particular, precisely defined task. They may quote that price to a general contractor or to you or your architect.

However, in addition to the tradesmen's tenders, the general contractor must add the following surcharges

The costs incurred by him in obtaining and checking the tenders.

His expenses for the supervision of the contractor on site and for the settlement of accounts with his sub-contractors.

His risk of loss of the contractor's liability (e.g. due to bankruptcy within the five-year warranty period).


A premium for his profit.

In other words, the situation is the same as when an intermediary is involved. The product to be bought - always on the assumption that it is of the same value - is considerably more expensive than if it had been bought directly from the manufacturer..


To what extent do you have an influence on the choice of contractors? 

As the architect, we use the companies that you, the customer, have suggested or that we have agreed together are suitable for carrying out the works. In choosing good tradesmen, the architects' invaluable experience helps. The result is the avoidance of building defects and reworking from the outset. And you won't run the risk of unexpected costs arising from delayed completion.

Without incurring additional costs, you generally have no influence on the choice of companies with a general contractor. It is therefore quite possible that a company from a distant region, or even a low-wage country, will carry out critical trades such as electrical work. This can often lead to problems with subsequent installations, the procurement of spare parts and other types of work. Think also of your "in-house electrician", who will be at your company or at your home within a quarter of an hour of your call. He is not likely to be very sympathetic if the installation has been carried out by an unknown company as part of a building project and he then has to do the day-to-day work again.


Does the developer model (general contractor GC, total contractor TU) really save the client work?

On the face of it, you do save work if you want to move into your building "turnkey". That is, if:

o You do not question whether the price was justified for the service provided,

o You do not care if you could have got something better for the same money,

o You do not want to know if the construction products meet your requirements in terms of value,

o You do not want to make all these decisions - and, more importantly, monitor the decisions you make -

to an individual or entity that are far from independent.

Freelance architects, however, offer to take on as much work and responsibility as you wish and arrange.


Is there a performance and quality guarantee for a property developer (general contractor GC, total contractor TU)?

The success of a construction project depends on the service programme and the qualifications of the developer. This is where you need to look very closely. Service descriptions such as

o "High quality white tiles in the bathroom"

o "Veneered interior doors"

o "Plastic windows white, glass u=1.1"

Are not service specifications, but at best functional specifications or specifications of a state, not a quality.

As a contractor, a builder will seek to maximise profit and will be tempted to install products that meet these descriptions, but are as cheap as possible to purchase and will just about survive the five year warranty period.


Example "tiles"

For example, the above description of "tiles" gives no indication of the type of tile, such as stoneware, earthenware or porcelain stoneware. It also doesn't say what they're supposed to be made of.

Our tip: "Miliosa tiles, 1st choice, size 30/60cm, requirement group III, colour multi-coloured, slip resistance R10, laid in thin bed with plastic-modified mortar, grouted light grey" would be a useful specification for the tiles, which could also be used for comparative tenders.

Example "doors"

In the case of doors, for example, the question arises as to the climate class, the quality of the door leaf (honeycomb, tubular chipboard, tubular chipboard or solid chipboard), the manufacturer, the material and the quality of the handles and hinges.

As you can see, it is not possible to compare another bidder's offer to a typical builder's 'bill of quantities'. The winner of the competition, regardless of whether these packages meet your actual expectations, is the one who installs the cheapest tiles and the cheapest door.


Will a developer (general contractor GC, total contractor TU) cost less to design?

Property developers often claim in their sales pitches that the planning and architectural costs are lower or non-existent in comparison to an architect. These statements are nothing more than myths. Two things are true:

Legend 1: GU has zero design costs

Whether you use us as a freelance architect or as a developer, there are always planning costs. Everyone has to provide basic services.

These planning costs are transparent and comprehensible when you build with an architect. With a developer, however, they are often offered as a complete package or added to the construction costs. Anyone who says it doesn't cost anything is either not planning and supervising, or is understandably including this elsewhere.

Legend 2: Architectural costs are higher than general contractor planning

Another point often made is that the cost of architects is higher than the cost of the general contractor's own designers. This raises the question of what qualifications the designer has if he is supposed to be so much cheaper than the architect. In this case, are you entrusting your building project to architects or semi-skilled assistants?


Who's going to be better and cheaper to supervise when you build?

When you build with us, SIA architects, we take on the task of site supervision as part of the SIA service phase. A high percentage of our total fee is for site supervision and a third of our work. Site management accounts for one third of our work.

On the surface, these costs are not incurred by the general contractor. Internally, however, they are also incurred by the general contractor, as he also has to check the work of his subcontractors. The question for you as the client is Who is going to supervise the general contractor to ensure that he is providing the required level of construction supervision?

Architects co-ordinate the various trades and check that they are building to the state of the art, to the required quality and to the agreed design and specification. We draw up a time schedule and check that it is adhered to. We ask the contractors to rectify any defects. We help you to contractually accept the work in accordance with the SIA, take measurements on site with the contractors and check the invoices for technical and mathematical accuracy.

The site manager will need to be on site every day, often several times a day, during the main construction phase.

A general contractor's "special service": shorter construction time?

A particular advantage of "one-stop shopping" is often the supposedly shorter construction time. However, it is important to realise that the determination of and adherence to the construction time does not depend on the type of contractor used, but on the planning, the construction method, the capacity of the personnel and the equipment and their professional coordination.

Conclusion: GG Architektur can stand up to any serious comparison with turnkey providers in terms of professional competence and performance in planning and construction management.


Is the developer (general contractor / total contractor TU) and the architect a "trustee/custodian"?

The SIA architect was - and still is - obliged to act as a "trustee" for the client. He must maintain his independence in the exercise of his profession in accordance with the principles of the liberal professions. The independent architect, within his "fiduciary" position, must

o give independent advice on the development of the building,

o recommend the most economically and professionally suitable contractors for the building,

o point out the most suitable (and new) building products,

o supervise and ensure that the work is carried out correctly,

o represent your interests as a builder to the tradesmen.

Only as a trustee, i.e. free and independent, can the architect guarantee all this. A general contractor cannot seriously be described as a "custodian" or "trustee" of the client. Rather, he is a profit-seeking contractor.


Benefits of designing and building separate

You have respected the most important principle in construction by employing an architect as a freelance consultant and trustee: Clearly separated design and construction!

What is often sold as an advantage in boldly worded advertisements - the planning and execution by one and the same service provider - can quickly turn into a problem in practice. This is because a contractor who does both design and construction has his own profit margins constantly in mind. They often work with permanent contractors instead of putting services out to tender. There is no independent third party to monitor quality and price in this case. In addition, there is usually a risk premium that has nothing to do with the actual cost of the work.

An architect, by contrast, acts as this independent third party. They make sure that quality and cost transparency are maintained. They offer you all their expertise. Coordinating and supervising everyone involved in construction.

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