This weekend, while watching hour after hour of the NCAA basketball tournament, I saw a commercial for Renaissance Homes, the Lake Oswego based residential builder. If I’m not mistaken, Renaissance builds mostly single-family homes in suburban subdivisions. That’s not really my area of interest, to put it diplomatically. But the Renaissance commercial piqued my interest in companies like this as one-stop shops offering design, construction and a kind of mass customization.
In the realm of larger buildings that individual architecture firms and general contractors partner on, I wonder if there’s anything we can learn from these smaller shops that put design and construction under one roof.
A lot of developers seem to do this in an unofficial way, frequently working with the same architecture firm and contractor time after time, kind of like their outsourced in-house team. Larger-scale projects are much more sophisticated and increasingly require a wide variety of experts and subcontractors. For big players on the design or builder side like Hoffman Construction, ZGF Partnership, it probably wouldn’t make sense. They’re already sizable outfits as-is, and they’re working with talented people all over the region and, in ZGF’s case especially, the world.
But I wonder if there’s a scale of project--bigger than single family homes but smaller than huge multistory buildings--that would benefit from offering design and construction in-house, and maybe begin to develop some more industrial-style, prefab expertise of comparable designers of, say, boats and ships. While you’re at it, why not also add marketing and branding efforts to your design process like Ziba Design is doing more and more?
Le Corbusier famously called architecture “machines for living”. Might there be a portion of the building market targeted by a new kind of entity combining these traditionally separate elements?