The GC Experience

You can have a great design, awesome clients, an unlimited budget, details worthy of graphic standards, wonderful renderings, and specifications that read like a Tolstoy novel… and yet the completed project can be horrific. No matter how great of an architect you may think you are, you are nothing without an experienced general contractor (GC). An experienced GC is your best advocate and crucial to the success of a project. On the flip-side, an inexperienced GC can ruin the best of all projects. Do you have an experienced or inexperienced GC? Hopefully, you’ve determined this prior to construction, if not, here are a few examples as to what type GC you have:

Scenario A: There is a problem with a detail as drawn; it just doesn’t work quite as intended.

experienced GC: “Look at detail 23/A3.5, it doesn’t really work as drawn. I’m going to fax over three possible solutions, when you’ve had a chance to review them give me a call. In the meantime we’ll work on the gilded bust of you in the foyer”

inexperienced GC: “What sheet is that detail on? Oh okay, I see it now, detail 23/A3.5, it don’t work. You need to come out here and look at it and then get me a correct detail. I’m sending the crew to another job for a few days, call me when you know what you want me to do…oh yeah, it’s probably going to change the schedule and cost more.”

Scenario B: The laundry room doesn’t graphically indicate the appliances.

experienced GC: “The laundry room doesn’t show a washer and dryer, you do intend for us to provide them, correct? Yeah, I thought so… okay will do. Oh, by the way, that bust of you in the foyer, are you sure the head is big enough? Just kidding, I thought you’d find that amusing.”

inexperienced GC: “What do you mean you want a washer and dryer in the laundry room? We bid the drawings as-is, there is no indication of a washer and dryer. Print something off your CAD machines and get it to me. Once I know what you want I will submit a change order. I’m sending the crew to another job for a few days, call me when you know what you want me to do.”

Scenario C: Ductwork soffits.

experienced GC: (Phones prior to commencing work) “We’re getting close to running ductwork. Can you meet next week with us to review the duct layout? I read the notes on the specification sheet and want to avoid any re-framing. The bust of yours is almost finished. I’m not sure gold is shiny enough though for your personality, what do you think?”

inexperienced GC: (Phones after the mechanical contractor has completed the work) “What do you mean look at the specification sheet… those are just boiler plate notes, we don’t read that! So just because it says in the specification sheet that I should submit all duct layouts to the architect for approval prior to the commencement of framing and that no extras will be given for any modification required to the framing due to ductwork, you expect me to pay to have this re-framed? I just don’t see the problem of having a soffit run across the ceiling of the new family room… it’s not like we centered the soffit or anything.”

Of course these are some extreme examples, typically GC’s fall somewhere between. You need to determine which GC’s are good for you and your work and keep them on the team, without an experienced GC you’ll only get something built, chances are it won’t be a successful project.



Design On,

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* This post is part of the ArchiTalks series in which a group of ‘blog-ing’ architects select a topic and the group all post on the same day and promote each other’s blogs and read varying takes on the topic. This month’s topic is ‘Experience.’ To read how other architects interpreted the topic please click the links below:


Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
experience comes from experiences

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Gaining Experience As A Young Architect

Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
knowledge is not experience

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
That’s Experience — A Wise Investment

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
You need it to get it

Jeffrey Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Channeling Experience: Storytelling in the Spaces We Design

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)

Leah Alissa Bayer – Stoytelling LAB (@leahalissa)
Four Years In: All Experiences Are Not Created Equal (Nor Should They Be)

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