With fewer leads from outside architects and having to cut design staff due to less work, remodelers are adjusting by streamlining both their design processes and design-related sales.
When Hammerschmidt Construction first made the transition to design/build in 2006, the Los Altos, Calif., company had an employee dedicated to managing the design process. Three years ago, however, the company didn’t have enough work to justify the full-time position and eliminated it. “We used that opportunity to redo the process,” says president Lynn Hammerschmidt.
Now, CEO John Hammerschmidt handles the initial design idea with a sketch and conveys this to a draftsperson subcontractor. The Hammerschmidts wanted someone familiar with Chief Architect software, so Lynn posted a notice on a Chief Architect user forum for a local person who could visit jobsites as needed. “If we have changes,” Lynn says, “we have the ability to communicate [them] electronically.”
Lori Krengel, owner of Kitchens by Krengel, in St. Paul, Minn., is also using technology to streamline design. “Last year we dropped a lot of our systems,” she says. “They seemed like overkill for the amount of work. We had too many redundancies built in. [Now we’re] leaner and meaner. We learned some technology that helped efficiency.”
The company replaced white boards and paper with AutoCAD and management software. “It’s redundant to draw a floor plan four times and make changes to it,” Krengel says. She had been opposed to design software because she worried the drawings would lack the personal, creative touch of hand drawings, which she thought set her company apart. But she found that design software has evolved during the last five years and that with training, the right printout capabilities, and adjusting the drawing line weights, the program would work.
Bob DuBree, owner of Creative Contracting, in North Wales, Pa., had designers on staff for 15 of 20 years in business. Now he does almost all the design work, with the help of a CAD expert and a local designer, both paid hourly.
For more complicated projects, DuBree works with two Minnesota designers, using GoToMeeting Web conferencing software to communicate and to update Chief Architect drawings. DuBree describes the job’s scope and provides digital photos of the existing house. “It’s easier if I can do a floor plan of what’s there and add my thoughts on the plan changes,” he says. “We’re online together, and I watch him design. He gets it close, then we go off-line and exchange e-mail.” The meeting takes 30 to 60 minutes. If the project goes ahead, these designers also handle the construction drawings. The process saves DuBree time and is cost effective.
—Nina Patel, senior editor, REMODELING.