Factor Design Build is a single-stop shop that helps homeowners understand the cost of their design expectations and project ambitions right from the start.
BY SEAN O’KEEFE
JOSH FIESTER IS A BUILDER AT HEART. He got his start in the construction industry at the age of 14 when he started pushing a broom and doing odds and ends for a Boulder, Colorado residential builder. He stayed with it through college, picking up summer jobs in the building trades until he landed a coveted opportunity with a real estate company developing commercial offices in Colorado and Northern Cal¬fornia. Once he found himself on the development side of the equation, Fiester was hooked. Today, he is the Co-Founder and CEO of Factor Design Build LLC, a do-it-all residential renovation firm operating along Colorado’s Front Range, and he loves the challenge.
“Factor is focused on design-build delivery for single-family residential renovations,” says Fiester from Factor’s Denver offices. Factor’s projects range from ground-up new construction and whole house renovations to additions built up or out. “Residential design-build presents a constant stream of problems to solve. We have to be good at everything from entitlements and architecture to construction coordination and close-out.”
Fiester co-founded Factor with his long-time ski buddy, Kent Simpson, in 2016. Simpson had a strong background in residential construction, previously overseeing operations for large, production home builders for nearly 15 years. Concentrating their combined construction knowledge and business acumen into a turn-key solution for homeowners, six years later, Simpson and Fiester have grown Factor to a firm of 36 professionals managing nearly 30 residential reconstruction projects at a time.
“Our objective is to provide a place where clients, employees, trade partners, and everyone we interact with is working together to improve the quality of life lived in the homes we touch,” says Fiester of Factor’s mission. “Our core values are to be persistent, genuine, balanced, humble and fun. We believe those qualities are what make Factor successful.”
As Fiester explains it, the difference going design-build makes in a residential renovation happens before a pen hits paper or a hammer hits a nail. Put simply, rather than hiring both an architect and a contractor and expecting them to collaborate, in a design-build delivery, contractor and designer remain distinct but do so under the same contract.
“Design-build means defining the budget, design intent, and constraints collectively upfront and then ensuring those elements inform the result the whole way through,” shares Fiester. “We are responsible for everything. The budget is real and achievable. We strive for the design quality to be just as high as the construction quality, without compromise.”
Factor’s current staff composition includes three licensed architects, three interior designers, and two drafters on the design side. On the build side, four project managers and six site superintendents manage the day-to-day process of construction across a portfolio of ongoing projects.
“I believe the key to running the work is to be onsite all the time,” says Fiester of Factor’s obligation to excellence in everything they do. “Our project superintendents work with trade partners as a dedicated resource, setting our expectations for quality and helping them do their best work in any way needed.”
As a single-stop shop, Factor helps homeowners understand the cost of their design expectations and project ambitions right from the start. Homeowners may envision an elegant, modern, glass staircase they saw in a magazine without considering the cost of extravagance. Value engineering, or the process of aligning design to budget, happens in real-time. In a design-build delivery, homeowners should have a clear picture of what they are asking for, what it will cost, and how long it will take at the project development phase rather than once it’s all said and done. To transmit design intent to residential reality, Factor relies on a strong network of dedicated trade partners — resources, which Fiester suggests, are sometimes underappreciated in the industry.
“Our business does not work without great trade partners and fully symbiotic relationships,” he continues. “We grade every trade on every job we do. If they are getting great grades, we will keep them very busy. We also help them navigate the challenging pricing, commodities and supply chain issues we are all facing today. I need my trade partners to be successful on my work for my work to be their top priority.”
Asked about any advice he would offer homeowners considering major residential renovation work regarding potential pitfalls of the design-build process, Fiester reveals a wide range of firms offering design-build services exists. Homeowners should seek a firm that prioritizes quality in both construction and design.
“It’s important to understand that you could hire a design-driven builder that isn’t focused on cost, or a construction company that isn’t focused on design,” he says. “My partner and I come from the commercial real estate world where quality means the best design, the best construction, and the best project proforma as a package deal, or nothing.”
He advises owners to consider several different firms in the selection process. Homeowners should not only review each design-builder’s portfolio and check references but also consider the professional credentials of their team. True design-build services require a registered architect capable of signing drawings presented for permitting to city reviewers and a team of qualified construction professionals to execute the work. Numerous certifications exist on both sides of the industry, and today’s professionals should have them.
“The worst thing a homeowner can do is competitively bid their work. That’s a race to the bottom,” says Fiester bluntly of the biggest mistake a client can make in the home renovation process. “Who is doing the work, how they cover all of the required trades, the quality of the work, safety, and the timeline are far more significant factors in the overall construction experience than saving a few thousand dollars between one guy and the next.”
So far, in just over six years in business, Factor Design Build has completed roughly 100 homes from Denver to Boulder. Fiester takes pride in his team’s ability to help owners work through a myriad of choices in design styles to understand what matters most and why.
“Helping the owner articulate their vision for the project is critical to establishing design intent,” says Fiester. Factor takes advantage of an in-house design center stocked with finish options to begin the design process. Designers work with big concept images of kitchens and living rooms to get a sense of the client’s taste and then present them with material choices. Together, they slowly refine the aesthetics of finish materials, and the project manager keeps decision-making aligned with the end-game budget.
“Factor Design Build combines the talents of career professionals across many interconnected disciplines to produce cohesive, achievable, client-centric solutions,” finishes Fiester.