ATX Design Build has always produced design drawings with every proposal. In my long career, however, I haven’t always produced drawings for every proposal I tendered. I started the practice some years ago when I found it difficult to farm out the design to architect firms. The designers were hard to get with my customers and they were expensive. As always in business, costs are passed along to the customer. I made the commitment that a design drawing would be included with every proposal. If I were to depend upon designers or architects to provide this service for me I would add several hundred dollars to each project making me less than competitive.
The design drawings are important in creating an understanding between the client and the builder. (see: Builders: Trust is Precious)I had to figure out how to reduce the cost that was going to be a part of every project.
Over the years I attempted to learn Auto-CAD on several occasions. The software has been around since the 80’s. It was written in the days when one had to know programming if one stepped outside of the Windows operating environment. Drag and drop is not a part of the Auto-CAD world. The classes were expensive and users were not willing to share that which they came by at such a cost of time, labor and money.
I took a project in the Houston area. Once complete, I toyed with staying there and hanging my shingle for good. By chance, I ran into the owner of one of the big three remodelers in Houston. After an interesting conversation, he offered me a very lucrative opportunity as a project manager with his firm. The money was too good to pass up. I took his offer. Some time in my first month or so with his firm, the owner came to my desk and told me with a matter of fact calm delivery, “You need to learn Auto-CAD as a condition of employment.”
My jaw dropped. The complex program had perplexed me over the years and I was stunned that I had to tackle one of the most daunting tasks I had ever encountered in my career. I bought books, watched You Tube videos, and still I was no closer to learning the software. In frustration, I went to the owner, who was an accomplished designer with the software, and asked if he might give me a lesson. He smiled and said “sure” with a disarming ease.
He sat with me for about an hour and a half. I took notes as he manipulated the mouse and keyboard,creating a design before my eyes. For the next two weeks I worked from 7am till as late as 9pm every day.
I did my job at the same time, but I was committed to learn Auto-CAD. At the end of 2 weeks I had a good hold on the software. After a couple of months, I was able to produce full blue prints for HOA’s and the city for permitting.
I remember the owner, at one point, tell an architect visiting our office, “Craig knows Auto-CAD better than I do and he learned it in two weeks.” Right! Anyway, that is how I started drawing every project I bid. A drawing is more than just a visual representation of the proposed work. The drawing is more important than the wording in the contract when an error or oversight is perceived by either party.
The design drawing is exhibit A in any legal proceeding. A contract can have the word count of War and Peace but will not fully describe the work the client expects and is paying for. The drawing is the final “word” on the project. The design drawing eliminates confusion and conveys the builder’s vision for the project. The drawing is the cornerstone of the communication chain that will develop between client and builder. If you enter into a project without a design drawing on file, you will never know what you will get in the end until it is built. Your project is too important and too costly to leave it to chance and hopeful interpretation.