We strongly recommend a team approach to the design and construction process and the contractor is obviously a key member of your team. The right contractor can save you time, stress and risk as well as money.
We typically ask clients to complete a questionnaire then recommend two or three contractors who fit their profile. When clients already have a potential contractor, we contact other architects who have worked with him or her.
In our experience, selecting a contractor in the early stages of design offers several advantages over competitive bidding later on:
1) early feedback on cost and constructability reduces the likelihood of costly redesign if numbers come back higher than expected
2) early selection allows all parties to schedule work efficiently. The best contractors are seldom available on short notice. Competitive bidding may mean choosing among those who are in less demand…for a reason
3) a collaborative approach tends to reduce the stress and the potential for disputes. Concerns can be raised sooner and lines of communication are likely to be more open once construction starts if relationships are built from the beginning of design.