This is a question that I get asked quite often. Should I retain my architect/designer first, or select and get my builder on board first? As a builder, I think I can offer some thoughts on this subject.
The correct answer to the question, in my opinion, is that it can be done either way. It really comes down to getting good advice that is impartial, and trustworthy. Either way, it is critical to have both the architect and builder on board throughout the entire design stage. While the architectural design is underway, the builder can provide valuable construction advice that can assist in saving cost, as well as ensuring that best practices are being used. Materials and building practices are continually evolving, and ensuring that your team is taking all of this into consideration is important.
Next are a few thoughts that I have, and my personal preferences.
If you find that selection of your architect is a more intuitive approach for you, there are definite benefits The architect will help you define your design preferences, and with these in mind, you will be better suited to select a builder that it right for the job. Any builder can build any type of home, but some are better suited to, or prefer specific styles. For example, I know builders that shy away from renovations and additions, and much prefer new builds. Others might prefer less complicated homes, or smaller projects. Location is also a significant factor, it is to your advantage to select a builder and trades that are local.
The architect can also assist you with the selection of your builder, which will broaden the field and give you more choice in the end. The builder-architect relationship is so critical to the success of the project. This could be another topic of discussion on its' own. So, in the end, selecting a builder that you are happy with, and the architect feels comfortable working with, sets the stage for successful project.
If, for some reason you are 100% set on your builder, have your builder suggest a few architects or designers that they feel comfortable working with. It can work well this way too, but you want to ensure in the end that you are driving the ship, and all team players are working together in unison. In very simple terms, think of yourself as the general manager of your favourite team. You need to select your leaders, players, and staff, and then define roles and expectations. Putting the right individuals in the right place, at the right time is key to a successful project. Having a team that works together for the common goal, will set you on the correct path.
Keys to enjoying your home building experience:
Picking the right team;
Communication, lots of it;
Patience & understanding;
Be constructive & professional;
Be pro-active with your decisions;
Place your trust in the team 100%.