Unity Blog

Unity’s Options for Project Delivery

snowy completed Varm

Comparing Whole House, Tempo and Shell Packages

Most visitors to Unity’s website are probably familiar with the three different project delivery methods that we offer: Whole House, Tempo and Shell. What may not be clear is how these options differ, and how the decision is made about which path to pursue.

Whole House

During Unity’s early years, most of the projects we did—regardless of their location—were based on the Whole House model of project delivery. If the project was distant, we would team up with a local builder on whose expertise and network of subcontractors we could draw. The local builder would be a subcontractor to Unity, and Unity would have a contract with the homeowner for building the entire house.

While this contract structure theoretically gave us control over all aspects of the project, in practice it was sometimes difficult for us to exercise that control on projects that were distant. Given the challenges of trying to general contract from afar, we began to develop another approach, which we call “Tempo.”


The Tempo model is similar to the way in which Bensonwood, Unity’s sibling company, has operated for decades. Unity has a contract with the client to provide the shell of the home assembled on site, as well as the materials, finishes and fixtures required to finish the home. The local builder also has a contract with the client, and that contract typically includes the site work, the foundation, the subcontracted trades (electrical, plumbing, etc.) and installation of the materials provided by Unity.

We usually suggest the Tempo option for projects that are too far away for us to general contract efficiently ourselves. This model optimizes the value provided by both parties—Unity and the local builder—by allowing them to do what they do best. Unity fabricates and assembles the high performance shell that is key to a healthy, comfortable, energy efficient home, and Unity provides a curated selection of high value materials designed to complement the shell. The local builder brings knowledge of local building codes and practices, a team of subcontractors, and a consistent site presence that is critical for the successful finishing of the home.


Shell package montage

Recently Unity has begun to offer a third project delivery model, in which we provide the shell of the home assembled on site, perhaps with a few select additional components such as preassembled stairs or an interior trim package. Unity’s shell packages represent an investment in those parts of the house that are most critical to performance, and which we expect to last for hundreds of years. By assembling its high performance shells in days rather than the weeks or months that would be more typical, Unity accelerates the project schedule, and minimizes the exposure of these components to the elements.  Unity’s shell package option can work well for owner-builders who plan to invest their own time and energy to finish the home, and for homeowners whose needs and desires cannot easily be accommodated by Unity’s options for finishes and fixtures.

When embarking on the design-build journey with Unity, it’s not critical that a client know with certainty which project delivery model will be employed on their project. However, the earlier in the process that decision can be made, the better we are able to tailor our services to the particular needs of the project. Unity’s sales associates are well-versed in the nuances of each process, and they look forward to helping our clients determine the model that best fits their needs.