Monday, July 20, 2009

A Tip of the Hard Hat to the Contractor

I was reading an article in one of those slick, thick home and design magazines this morning. It starts out: "The request that (the designer) got from his client was clear: a bathtub situated so he could see the ocean." There's a brief description of how the bathtub was situated and the building was extended to protect privacy while affording a sweeping view of the Pacific Ocean. There are stunning photos of the tub and its interior setting. There is no mention of the general contractor who built the design.

Why is that, you may wonder? I wonder the same thing, yet this is pervasive and goes back a long way. I read an article back in 1937 that touted the architect and made no mention of the builder.

If you read the Home & Garden section of your daily newspaper, you will notice the same phenomenon. The exceptions are when a builder wins an award that is recognized in a news article, or if the builder is also the architect or designer.

There is a reality that many people not in the building industry aren't aware of. The builder doesn't simply build the exact drawing that the architect or designer supplies, following each instruction at precisely the measurement drawn. The builder comes through many times over in the course of construction where the design is not sufficient, which begs the question: Why isn't the design sufficient?

There are various and complex responses to the above question, but we'll start with the simplest one. Many architects (though not all) haven't done much construction work. Translation from pencil on paper, or computer lines on screen, to three-dimensional real space and materials, presents many challenges. Even the best of architects can easily miss a few factors, particularly when the project is a remodel and the new work must be integrated into existing old structures.

Other problems with the design involve inaccurate measurements and oversights. For example, we had to make allowance for a design that completely ignored the fact that a chimney flue was running through the middle of the room. We've also had to re-design a hallway entrance that would have had everybody bumping their heads smack into the wall.

The next time you read an article in the S.F. Chron or Today's Homes Magazine, notice if the builder's name comes up. You can be sure that they contributed to design and design-solutions in the process of the actual construction work. Let's tip our hats to them and inform the editors that we would like to know who built such beautiful rooms.