4 Major Challenges of Running a Design-Build Company in Boston
If you’re a design-build contractor in Boston (especially a luxury one), everything you’re about to read will likely have you nodding in agreement. If you’re thinking of getting into the design-build business in Boston, consider this a brief tutorial on the business climate here.
Permit First, Project Later
The most important component to any Boston design-build project is permitting. Permits are highly necessary to avoid any during- or post-project issues that could slow down a project or potentially require significant changes and costs. Every project is different–make sure to check permitting requirements on the permitting section of the Boston city website, and clear your project with all applicable bodies, which typically include one or more of these key entities:
- Neighborhood Civics Association
- Back Bay Architect Commission
- Condo boards
- Neighborhood oversight committees
- Zoning boards
Embracing the Business–and Business Challenges–of Boston
Sleeping Dog Properties, Inc. has been based in Boston since its founding in 1993, and we love working in the city & surrounding suburbs. But it hasn’t been without some challenges that are inherent to a city-based business. Here’s some of the larger obstacles we’ve faced, and how we handled them.
Boston is notorious for its parking challenges. It’s always a concern when we go out to a home or building for a project, and it typically takes some prior planning to know the best way to find parking, keep the peace in the neighborhood, and avoid fines or penalties. We handle parking challenges in a couple different ways.
- We use a 15-passenger van to courier workers to and from the job site. This way, we don’t have to worry about parking and we can get our crews to the job on time and stress-free.
- We buy parking spots near the job sites in Boston. If you own a spot, you eliminate the need to drive around searching for one, and save valuable time in the process.
- We negotiate with nearby lots. Often, we can secure parking in adjacent areas for the duration of a project with some prior scoping and planning.
Design-build work is quite involved, and it’s important to be mindful of pedestrians and neighbors while working. We’re often bringing large materials into a building, and passersby aren’t always paying attention or aware of how to avoid being in the wrong place at the wrong time (thanks, Apple). Consider closing off an area on the sidewalk to ensure pedestrians won’t wander into your path.
Neighbors can also take issue with certain inconveniences like blocked roadways or loud noise during design-build work. We typically advise our clients to alert neighbors to the presence and duration of the work before it begins to mitigate any surprises.
While Boston is notorious for parking challenges, it is also known for its historic buildings and homes, which can mean less space for moving large materials in or out. For one project, we had to use a crane to pull a refrigerator out of a home because of the limited interior space. It’s important to know what your project entails, and secure any necessary police detail, equipment, or road blockades in preparation for the work.
Finding and Securing the Resources to Get the Job Done
Boston is a big place, but specialized resources you may need for your design-build job – such as a chimney sweep or HVAC technician – are in high demand. Before you find yourself in a pinch to find the professional you need for a specific part of the project, here are a few key steps to take.
- Plan with vendors. If you can ensure your vendors time at your project will be optimized, the job is more likely to be successful–and you’ll build a good rapport to work with them again. Since vendors are busy, it helps to plan with them how the time on your project will be spent, and what they can expect, so they can be as successful as possible. This is why the Sleeping Dog Properties, Inc. hires punctual, organized, and detail-oriented project managers.
- Coordinate vendor availability with clients. When vendors have specific availability for a project, be sure to coordinate that timeline with the overall project to ensure everything can be completed in the agreed-upon timeline. Be especially mindful of holidays or vacations for projects on large family homes.
Knowing When–and How–to Consolidate Design and Build
Being a design-build contractor is a unique offering and provides a significant benefit to clients in that you can handle projects from beginning to end. However, combining these offerings produces its own risk because of that very reason–you must get each part of the project right from start to finish. Here’s how we handle it at Sleeping Dog Properties, Inc.:
- Checks and Balances. We have layers of individuals who ensure each part of every project passes muster. For example, our design director reviews everything for consistency as it relates to design expectations. On the construction end of the project, our project managers review the designs to ensure the vision in executable from a technical perspective. They also oversee the entire project to make sure all expectations are met.
- Peer Reviews. We encourage an open dialogue among our crew so professionals in different roles can provide their perspective on various aspects of a project. By being open-minded and amenable to new ideas, we’re able to continuously improve.
Boston is a great city to work in, and the design-build business is incredibly rewarding. Like any career, it requires communication, coordination, and planning to overcome some of the challenges inherent in working in the city – but doing so results in the ability to deliver on client expectations and continue steady company growth.