Design-Build, Development and Project Management

Business Opportunity
We provide a service to clients who want homes that have design integrity while ensuring they are built well and live comfortably. Where the average builder might have the technical sophistication to build a quality home, and might understand the traditional tropes of home design, the Art of Building brings artistic and architectural sophistication to a project.  Where architects might create beautiful and inspiring designs, the Art of Building equally weights design with buildabilty, cost and livability.  The Art of Building also plays the role of developer by managing the site planning, approval, permitting and land development aspects of a project. Development decisions and strategies implemented early on not only reduce future headaches, they can be a source of cost savings and dramatically enhance the final project outcome. The Art of Building provides a single point of contact that ensures a seamless, integrated process from design through execution. 

Multidisciplinary Process
The home building process is highly fragmented. At the front end, it includes site planning and architectural design, but also permitting, infrastructure development and–most importantly for most clients–budgeting. The execution phase involves the efficient coordination of many trades: carpenters, masons, electricians, plumbers, roofers, et al. There are many expert builders who are skilled at managing this process. But the Art of Building focuses on these things while keeping in mind the larger aspirations of the project, such as aesthetics, sustainability or just the simple goal of creating a comfortable, livable home.

Site Planning
Perhaps the most important and least appreciated part of the development process is situating the building to capture the best views, to make the most of sunlight, to preserve old growth trees and to allow for a dramatic approach. Furthermore, a builder needs consider all the technical aspects of building programming such as where is parking?  where is the well and septic?  how is trash stored and managed on the site?  where do snowplows push snow? how does the site drain?   This is a multi-faceted, multi-disciplinary process that is often treated as an afterthought, resulting in added time and cost and often lost opportunities to do something right. To address these issues most effectively, technical and aesthetic considerations need to be weighed as holistic approaches are developed and implemented. It is always easier to just cut down the tree that is in the way or to pivot the house by 30 degrees, but rarely is that the right answer.

Whether an architect is designing the project or not, home design is a complex interplay of aspirational and practical considerations. Regardless of the scale of a home, budget is always a consideration. The reality of the design process is that it is a huge cost-benefit analysis–what we want (or think we do) versus what we want to spend.  To navigate these considerations, informed and balanced discussions with a client need to take place. A keen appreciation of cost needs to inform design discussions. An overarching aesthetic sensibility needs to infuse the countless technical considerations about structures, systems and surfaces. Many times, dealing with technical challenge results in a creative solution that is one of the most unique design features of a home.

Zoning, Planning and Permitting
Among the most tedious and frustrating aspects of a building project are local, county, state and federal regulations and the paperwork and protocols that go along with them. There are many requirements in the building code that are stifling to the design process.  Stair design, for example, once the sculptural focal point of home design, is now subject to so many constraints that stairs now have to be designed working backwards from code requirements.  Anything in a design that deviates from the norm must adhere to a code that was probably not intended for the situation at hand.  Dealing with code in artfully-built buildings is often a combination of finding safe, legalistic work-arounds and a good amount of strident advocacy with building authorities. 

Value Proposition
The Art of Building is a holistic design-build firm based in Rhinebeck, NY. 

• By placing equal importance on the aspirations and the technical demands of a project, the firm offers solutions for people who want a home of overall architectural integrity.

• By fully appreciating that a home is both a practical and an artistic endeavor, a better, more livable home will be created.  

• By being realistic and practical, the best possible product is created within budgetary constraints.  

• By being thoughtful and artistic, something that is reflection of the owner’s unique individuality will be realized.

Creating something that is unique and special is never the easiest route. The Art of Building specializes in navigating our clients though the road less travelled. 

Business Considerations
The Art of Building caters to a sophisticated client. 

Our fees are meant to be standard—neither higher nor lower than the industry standard for a high-end design-build firm.

• Line-item budgets are established in advance with a client through a line-by-line cost-benefit analysis.  Client buy-in is essential to avoid surprises down the road and to right-size the project to the clients needs and desires. A realistic assessment of potential cost overruns is discussed openly.

• A project account is set up and funded by the owner and trades are paid directly out of this account. Goods and services are paid without a mark-up, and builder discounts are passed along directly to our clients. We provide complete and on-going transparency of all financial aspects of the project.

• Our fees are assessed simply as a percentage of dollars spent. Cost overruns are calculated according to the same percentage. This is basically the way general contractors assess their fees, but in a much less transparent way. 

• Our fees have both a direct and deferred component, with 25% of our fees held in escrow until project completion (when those fees are released by the client). This hold-back of earned fees serves as an enforcement mechanism to ensure the project is delivered to the client’s satisfaction.

• Architecture fees are not included as part of the project budget so there is no additional cost associated with using an architect when the project calls for it.

Commitment to Community
The Art of Building invests 1% of all profits to local not-for profit organizations, especially those that foster cultural richness and environmental sustainability in Rhinebeck and the Hudson Valley.