Build o Suit

As designers and builders, we are graced with the ability to dream and construct. We use our intellect, knowledge, and education to create amazing projects with a high level of detail. But who do we trust to implement those details? Who is qualified? Who cares enough to do it right?

The answer is vague and ambiguous. The fact is, there are so few good trades people left. How are we as designers and builders going to handle this? Do we simplify our designs? Do we use materials with a lower degree of installation difficulty? Do we create a network of artisans that are specific to our industry?

So many build firms hold their subs so close to their chest because they don’t want to lose them. Even in markets such as Nashville, builders are pretty tight lipped about who their aces are.

This is not just a problem plaguing the swimming pool industry, it is prevalent in all aspects of construction and building. This is hard work. It takes time. It takes passion; and it takes a dedication to craft. There is no glory. There are not celebrity brick layers. There are no celebrity tile setters, well maybe only J.Reed…. But this is the reality. There are so few that want to work hard day in day out to do thankless jobs.

How do we push the limits and progress as builders & designers? Is the answer to simplify things so that your vision can be executed within your market? Do you do complete jobs that are cost plus, educating the client that you may need to hire artisans from markets hundreds of miles away? This is what I have done with multiple aspects of my process. Here are a few suggestions on how to navigate a market with fleeting talent and limited resources.

Design within Ability

Having the ability to implement high end detail seems easy until you do your first gravity flow system, Lautner edge, or even just high end tile work. What may seem pretty standard in some markets such as Florida or Arizona, seem quite daunting in areas such as Tennessee, Nebraska, or Kansas. This comes down to the tradespeople that are actually doing the work. I have seen here locally, in Nashville, fantastic designs with really intricate water in transit, only to be done incorrectly due to the lack of knowledge on specific details. This is not necessarily the tradesperson’s fault as they have not been shown exactly what to do. This, in my opinion, comes down to the designer. Designing outside of the realm of what is possible in their given market.

Using Forgiving Materials

I have used tactics such as using more forgiving materials such as granite, marble, and porcelain. Using these materials is quite common in various industries, but I use them as they can be a bit easier to work with, reducing installation costs and warranty issues. I would love to be able to bring Steve Martin in on every single tile job to install some super trick Oceanside Glass Tile, but the level of difficulty to get it right for him is quite difficult here with our limited resources. This comes back to the trades the precede the finish work.

Spend time with the Trades

From forming challenges to the lack of education to our shotcrete installer, we are constantly striving for perfection, yet falling somewhere in the acceptable range. The tradespeople care, but don’t know the impact of what they do, whether positive or negative. They simply do not understand how the detail works or how the finish product will even look. They do not realize how crucial their work is to the process. Some of these things seem so minor to the tradesperson at the time, as they will never even see the negative impacts of their carelessness down the road.

They are never back on the job. We never bring them back to say “your perfect forming job led to the perfect concrete, which made this edge perfect.”

What Now?

We all have our challenges. They are likely not as regional as I would like to think. It really comes down to finding the right people for the right job and then having the client willing to pay for it. They are looking at us to assemble the team to execute the job. We will always have a difficult time selling against builders doing sub-par work on a budget but we’ll leave that for another article.

We truly need to focus on setting standards. Make your industry better. Spend time with the trades and give them knowledge that will make them better, regardless if they work for the competition. We need to elevate the knowledge base in our markets. By doing this we will not only build better, we will encourage the advancement of our field within our market.