How to Rock a Site Visit and Win Your General Contractor’s Respect

Young architects visit a job site
Young architects visit a job site

Admittedly, some stereotypes are accurate. Such is the case for architects and general contractors (GCs), so it’s fair to point out where there tends to be some — ok, more than just a few — differences between them.

 

Just remember, in reality we’re more alike than different — both working towards a successful project, working together so the client will be happy in the end.

Here’s a few tips for a young architect to gain some respect from GCs and subs (see: sub contractors) when making site visits:

Early Bird

Architecture firms tend to be flexible on office hours–rolling in at 9:00am isn’t unusual. But contractors usually start their days closer to 6:00am.

Get Contacts

Your trendy glasses probably garner respect in the office and at cocktail parties, but contractors laugh and call you a dork behind your back. Pop in the contacts when on site to avoid the jokes, plus it makes wearing eye protection easier.

Memorize Your Drawings

Knowing exactly what you have detailed, what you haven’t, and where to find it saves time (and arguing.) Getting out a specific sheet for a specific detail not only impresses them but also enlightens them that you’ve spent a lot of time thinking through how this building goes together.

Get a Tattoo

Contractors tend to be a little more rugged than architects. Show them you have a rough side too. I recommend a rendering of the project on your forearm, when they see it poking through your rolled up sleeve they’ll totally respect your passion and commitment to the job. I’d suggest a temporary tattoo applied on your way to the job site. Otherwise this is slightly ridiculous.

Make a Decision

You put a lot of thought into this project, so be confident and give direction. Some questions need additional exploration back in the office, but not all of them. If you continually say, “let me get back to you” it leads to frustration. Instead, sketch the solution on the drywall.

“Design Intent”

Don’t use this term on site. Contractors hear, “I didn’t detail this”. If you just have to say it, use “the design intent is... But we need your experience to help us make this buildable.”

Parking

Ask if you can park your MINI Coop or other small, eco-friendly car in the back of their pickup truck. They’ll think you’re funny and take pride in their big F250 or equivalent!

And just remember, in reality we’re more alike than different—both working towards a successful project, working together so the client will be happy in the end.

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