What’s the difference between a franchise builder, Box™ and an architect?

A frequently asked question we get is, ‘What is the difference between an architect, box company, or house company and the other design-build options’ available?

house company - difference between franchise builders, Box™ and architects
Standard Franchise Builder | Box™ Architect-Builder | Architect

Well, we put together a table to help people understand, since there are many different things to consider when undertaking such an important project.

The table below is our slightly biassed view of the world since we started Box to improve the way design and build work compared with the other options owners have. We believe we are a true house company, balancing design and construction in the way of Christopher Alexander. Anyhow, we hope it is a useful guide, and please sing out if you have questions!

Standard Franchise BuilderBox™ Architect-BuilderDesigner or Architect
How They Sell ThemselvesBuilding background; pragmatic building methodologies; focus on efficiency and cost, usually consistent quality and processDesign and build in equal balance, team working together to create loveable spaces, solve problems, and value engineer projects.Design-focused, fashionable, and sometimes experimental. Highly customised experience.
What They DoMarketed as ‘Design & Build’ but usually ‘Build & Outsource Everything else’. Single D&B contract.Design company + build company combined All major skills under one roof.Design Business works with other consultants and builders, contracted by customers separately.
Who You Work WithThe salesperson manages the customer through design until the build is signed, then the project manager takes over.The designer or architect is the main point of contact throughout the project.The designer or architect is the main point of contact throughout the project.
CostTried and trusted techniques and supply chains. Bang for buck if you stay within the design comfort zone and dedicated supply chain.Middle of road cost. In-house QS works with the build and design teams to get the right balance between cost and design.Unreliable cost knowledge Costs are managed through outsourced QS. Higher cost risk.
What Customers Look ForSize is more important than design, driving down $/sqm. House as an investment.Balance between building pragmatism and creative design. Building a house for the long term to enjoy.Bespoke design-led experience, ultimate customization Often, house as a fashion accessory or status symbol!
Supplier RelationshipsRebate agreements with specific suppliers and head office. Working with different suppliers and materials may be difficult.No master franchisor or locked-in suppliers. Recommended supplier list, but no restriction on working with others.No restrictions on specifications or supply chain, can specify whatever you like.
Your RiskLow cost risk. Ease of process. Design decisions may be sub-optimal.Medium budget risk. Risk reduced through use of contingency and value engineering. Low design risk.High budget risk. Mostly highly professional design expertise.
How Design is DoneStandard designs or custom designs are outsourced to the designer or architect.The in-house design team collaborates with QS and build team as a true house companyIn-house design team, design-focused
How Costing is DoneUsually costed by franchise owner or in-houseCosted in-house and value-engineered with in-house designers and builders.Outsourced costs to QS may not reflect reality of builder pricing
How Build is DoneProcess driven, smash it out. Penalties for design tweaks during build.Design oversight of construction. Some design tweaks during build are possible.Design oversight of construction, may be many design tweaks during build.
How the Team WorksWhat the builder / project manager says goes. Builder is the designer.Designer and builder on equal footing, used to working together as a team.What the designer says goes. Builder complains about the designer.
After the House is CompletedBuilder guarantees, aim to handover with zero snags.Builder guarantees, the customer becomes part of Box family, on-going commitment to fix snags and solve future issues.Depends on the builder. Architect won’t be back to fix issues.

Evaluating House Company Options

When you are deciding who to use for your project you should consider the following questions:

  • How important is design and design professionals in creating my ideal space?
  • Which end of the spectrum do I want to sit – is it all about budget, or all about design?
  • Is the company or person I’m using have an interest in creating a relationship for the long term, or am I being ‘sold’
  • How can I quickly and accurately get a cost for my design & build project without spending too much money?
  • How flexible will the house company be in terms of materials or design? Are they used to building on sloping sites, will you pay a premium for ‘exotic’ materials, what happens if you want something that is outside their comfort zone in terms of style or materials?
  • How much risk is my designer / architect be prepared to bear – will he put his hand in his pocket if things go wrong or is he shifting risk to the builder?
  • How robust is my builder? Could he leave me hanging mid-project or in 2 years time if he goes out of business?
  • Can I be assured that there is a good team of people behind my project and that things won’t get missed between professionals, or designer and builder?
  • How long has this company been in business?

It is important to talk to people who have been through different journeys to understand the benefits and disadvantages between all of the options.

Ultimately, please have a chat with us so we can take you through our unique process which combines design flair and building pragmatism, making the journey easy, cost effective and efficient!

By Dan Heyworth
15/08/2022

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