Architects and Contractors: Maintaining Effective Communication Across Professional Roles on the Job Site

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Even the most clear-cut construction projects are complex, involving plenty of moving parts and personnel to see projects from design to completion. Two key players in every construction project—the architect and the general contractor—need to work together to keep every development on track in terms of timelines and budget. But, it’s not uncommon for disputes to arise due to design or how a project is managed. 

Architects and general contractors are working for a common goal—turning design concepts into built reality. Here’s why architects and contractors need each other and how they can successfully communicate to ensure a smooth construction process from start to finish.

Two Approaches, One Unified Result

Although architects and general contractors may not always see eye to eye, these two professionals need each other to successfully complete building projects of all sizes and scopes. When architects and contractors appreciate how each benefits from the other’s work, it can lead to better communication, better project management, and a smoother construction process.

The architect’s primary role is to conceive and oversee the design vision that meets clients’ needs. At the same time, it’s the contractor’s job to bring the entire plan to life. Contractors coordinate all materials, labor, equipment, and services required to build a functional structure according to design. Aside from general project management, contractors ensure feasibility when it comes to design. They understand what is and isn’t possible and can identify when changing specific features is the best option, ensuring that design compromises are in the best interest of everyone involved in the project—especially the client.

Contractors need architects, too. Most contractors aren’t familiar with the design knowledge that architects have. As a result, they need to rely on an architect to envision the broad range of possibilities for a space and solve complex design problems with ease. In cases where a contractor feels design changes must be made, an architect can explain the client’s reasoning behind specific features so that the contractor can follow through with the project as designed. 

Clear Communication Saves the Day

Good communication is the key to every successful construction project. Unfortunately, as both architects and contractors know, disputes can arise even during what seems to be a clear-cut project. Poor communication can result in misunderstandings, but it can also cause project delays that cost money. 

Some strategies to keep communication flowing smoothly from architect to contractor and back again include:

  • Establishing a chain of command. The key to establishing a clear line of communication among all involved parties in a project is to identify points of contact for major team members. Architects should communicate directly with consultants and general contractors, while general contractors should communicate with suppliers and subcontractors. 
  • Practicing active listening. Architects and contractors need to practice active listening whenever they engage in oral communication. When meeting, ask questions and request feedback when it’s your turn to speak. Make good use of project meetings to clearly communicate expectations and ensure every team member understands their roles and responsibilities.
  • Using both visual and written communication. Even the clearest message can benefit from a picture. Whenever you’re discussing an object or area of a construction site, include a picture with your written communication so that whomever you’re talking to, whether an architect, contractor, client or anyone else involved in a project, has a visual to refer to—the most effective communication is much more than just words. 

Building Better, Together

In short, architects and general contractors need each other to bring construction projects to life. Architects can’t see their visions realized without the expertise of a professional contractor. Likewise, general contractors need architects to design functional and aesthetically pleasing plans before they can roll up their sleeves and physically bring the design to life.

Architects and contractors can collaborate successfully and bring projects to life by appreciating each other’s roles and individual expertise and maintaining effective communication throughout the duration of any project. It’s a win-win for both parties and—most importantly—for clients.