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Further Bridging the Relationship Between Construction and Architecture Through Vertical Integration

How vertical integration helped develop a mixed-use space in Nashville—and can help expedite and bolster future projects.
By Jared Bradley, AIA, NCARB
May 17, 2023
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Just as each project is unique, so are the approaches of each construction, design and development team. With the AEC industry facing numerous challenges over the past couple of years, including supply chain issues and staffing shortages, the key to meeting project goals while maintaining client expectations comes from implementing vertically integrated models into the fabric of firms. By synchronizing the processes of construction, design and development under one umbrella, firms can provide comprehensive services that minimize derailments in timeline and budget, setting them apart from competitors.

Implementing this model provides fulfillment and success by bringing architecture from The Bradley Projects, construction from Certified Construction Services and development from Bradley Development Group together in a harmonious business environment. Aligning the progression of architecture with development and construction establishes the architect as a leader in bringing a project to life from inception to completion. The methodology utilized by the Bradley Project team prioritizes projects that bring the profession of architecture to the forefront, increasing the value of the architect at each level of the process by directing everyday development activities back to the architect for leadership.

The combinations of these disciplines and the relationships developed between the architect, contractor and developer leads to a natural mentoring, education and collaboration among all parties. Ultimately, this structure puts architecture first, allowing for the creation of impactful, artful projects with quality control and efficient problem solving every step of the way. There is significant value in architects having a general contractor license, which helps to inform their work and facilitate a smoother vertical integration of projects. Studying and physically working in the field and among the tradesmen allows architects to gain a deeper understanding of the construction practice and process, consequently setting the foundation to physically implement architecture from paper to the field. This unique progression and growth help to further validate the architect and levels the field with any other developer or general contractor.

GOING VERTICAL

Vertical integration enables control over all aspects of a project and innovates architecture by pushing boundaries of building industry norms to explore the full potential and possibilities of each project. Such developments have led to such boundary-pushing concepts as expansive openings, thinner profiles, larger cantilevers and cleaner, more elegant details in larger, denser wood-framed projects. This also allows a team to work and collaborate with other architects on much larger projects to widen their footprint and facilitate a vertically integrated approach, learning from the tactics and approaches of professionals outside of their team.

For example, the Bradley team is currently in the process of completing Clay Street Commons, a mixed-use space in north Nashville that is one of the best examples of vertical integration in their portfolio. Being involved at the grassroots level allows the team to identify underutilized segments of existing neighborhoods, bringing more density within a smaller footprint. This site provides the opportunity to demonstrate the benefits of more dense, urban infill smart growth. The team met with city and political officials to discuss the civic vision in the neighborhood, evaluating if that vision supported the seller’s desired economics. From the moment they approached this project to the finishing touches, the Bradley team has been able to successfully navigate the site and political issues as well as adjust the project in critical areas to meet the pressures of sudden inflation and supply chain issues brought on by the pandemic. The success of this project is based solely on the viability of the architect-led, vertically integrated approach, a testament to the effectiveness of the structure in practice.

Through the unique, holistic offerings as the architect, contractor and developer, The Bradley Projects has been afforded opportunities that it would miss out on otherwise, limiting both experience and room for growth. With a direct, hands-on role in the projects Bradley develops, the team has been able to optimize the impact of each endeavor on the surrounding community. The Bradley Projects’ core value is treating architecture as art, directly responding to the wants and needs of each neighborhood and the communities each project serves. Vertical integration facilitates a direct relationship with the surrounding area, providing opportunities to innovate in a way that benefits both the clients and the end user.

In addition, this approach has opened endless opportunities for pro bono work and serving others by offering a wider range of expertise and advice that goes into fundraising and constructing new projects. The Bradley Projects regularly works with non-profits in a pro bono capacity, as its structure allows the pursuit of this work—either supporting these projects completely pro bono or until necessary funding becomes available—due to self-created projects and established margins. The implications of this work go beyond the clients themselves, as pro bono and community-oriented work gives architects and contractors new and inventive ways to approach the norm, continuing to emphasize their role in redefining the importance and value of the built environment while enhancing mindfulness and impact.

EVERY KIND OF PROJECT

The trajectory of vertical integration can materialize across various project types and sizes, culminating in large-scale projects, such as several mixed-use high-rise developments in top markets throughout the country, as well as other mid- and high-rise mixed-use projects, new city-planning endeavors, multiple work-force housing initiatives and several other institutional and boutique-scaled urban redevelopment projects.

Architects, contractors and developers alike should always have a common goal of developing a better way to implement architecture in the built environment at every step: Everything from process to funding to team building must have architecture as its primary focus to ensure successful, impactful projects. This thesis blends into the general contracting world, placing equal emphasis on work done at every step of the process, valuing the contributions of each team member from start to finish and resulting in the most impactful, long-lasting projects.

by Jared Bradley, AIA, NCARB
Jared Bradley, AIA, NCARB, President and Founder of The Bradley Projects, seeks to create boundary-pushing concepts that fuel the evolution of built environments in Nashville, Tennessee. 

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