by Brandon Gentrup
"We've always done it this way." The harbinger of complacency and mediocrity. For decades it's been "best practices" to hire your architect long before your contractor ever gets involved and while we've seen some of our clients buck this paradigm, we know many more struggle to break free from the way it's been done for years. 
So we've looked back at some of our most successful projects where we were hired early on - at the SD stage or even before - and compiled the Top 10 Reasons to Have Your Contractor on Your Design Team.
  1. Setting up the relationships for success. Getting all the major players involved at the same time puts your project on the right footing. No one has time to design in a vacuum. Everyone gains an understanding of each other's needs from the start and sets the project up for comradery, not friction.
  2. Draw it once. Dozens of revisions to your design kill schedule, kill budget and introduce error into your project. With your contractor on board early, you get the benefit of decades of practical construction input from the start.
  3. Site selection. What dirt you buy matters. Blasting, over-excavating and drilling caissons can be huge line items in your budget and add time to your schedule. With the right site selection, you can avoid a lot of expense. Your contractor can give you accurate pricing on what getting your site ready to build is likely to cost.
  4. Get your subcontractors locked in earlier. This market is hugely competitive. If you want good subcontractor or really, even just subcontractors that show up, the best way to ensure this is to get them locked in early. Particularly for the big trades - structure, HVAC & electrical - that drive the schedule, this is crucial for project success. 
  5. Design assist. Additionally, it's frequently to your advantage to bring these key subcontractors in early to leverage their knowledge on various systems and make sure no detail is missed in the drawings.
  6. Pricing feedback. Is your budget realistic? Are you sure? What is it based on? We've seen projects go from a sure thing to a no-go all because the owner didn't have realistic budget information. Pricing project budgets are what we do every day. A contractor’s early involvement can help you really know if your project budget is accurate. Additionally, look for a contractor who can provide real-time pricing. A contractor who works in real-time with you and the design team to price ideas on the spot can save you weeks of back-and-forth via email.
  7. Schedule feedback. And how about your schedule? Someone put a number to that too, but was it really about your project? Maybe it was for a similar square footage but completely different site conditions. What you don't know can hurt you. 
  8. Target value design. An experienced contractor can work with you and the rest of your design team to get creative on great options to make the most of your programing within a targeted budget. 
  9. Constructability. When you get a contractor involved early, they are able to give you the real scoop on how something is built. They can tell you the ins and outs of how products perform and work together in the field, giving you a better quality building.
  10. Prioritized contingencies. We've rarely met a client who has more budget than program. A collaborative contractor can work with you to prioritize your funds and make a "wish list." As contingency is released as the project progresses, these wishlist items can be activated to give you as much building as your budget can handle.


Brandon Gentrup is Pinkard's newly appointed head of Project Development. In his 20 years of industry experience, including eight years working on the design side, Brandon has proved himself to be a sought-after creative collaborator who has helped dozens of clients with this invaluable early-stage feedback. With his new role in Project Development, Brandon works with clients in the earliest stages of project development. His straight answers on everything from land purchase and entitlements to structural systems and building skins gives our clients the informed insights to achieve exceptional results.