Friday, August 30, 2013

Design Build Client Empathy

For most of my adult life I have designed and built residential projects (I would prefer not to mention the total number of years at this endeavor). We have watched our clients struggle with design decisions, with appraisals, with banks, with schedules, and with compromises. We've witnessed our client's exhilaration with a completed project, a beautifully executed detail, or a space that feels just right. We've shared the joy and helped smooth the rough spots.

I thought I completely understood these feelings. Right up until my wife and I started to design and build our own home. Right up until we tried to settle on design decisions. Right up until we were completely baffled in our effort to compare financing packages. Right up until we watched our start date move down the road. Right up until we experienced the inevitable holy cow, how much is that?  (Note: not the actual words used.) Right up until we heard that the engineer requires this assembly (and then back to the prior question). And then there is the other side. The part where we realize that we really love this house and we have not even built it yet. The part where we mentally move in to the spaces (and it is a perfect fit). The part where we realize that we simply could not go out and buy a house for us, but only buy a marginally constructed house for a market segment. A segment that is not us. A house that would not satisfy our zero energy (and costs) goal. A house that would not make us happy.

To be fair, I have to say that I should have known. I should have fully understood the required effort, the frustration, and the joy. Well, I do now. Viscerally. And do you know what? It is worth it.

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