Why hire an Architect?
No two building projects are the same. Most people don't realize how complicated the building process can be until they find themselves knee-deep in design decisions, municipal codes, permit processes, and hiring contractors.
An architect, whose education, training, knowledge, and expertise is there to guide you through the design and construction of your project, advocating all along the way for your dream and budget.
Architects are visionaries, and the architect's plans aren't just lines on a piece of paper but rather three-dimensional representations of spaces that form entire environments, which accommodate functional needs and become dynamic, exciting places to live, work and play.
The architect is your guide for whatever type of project you are about to embark upon new construction, a remodel, or addition and coordinates with other design professionals and contractors to assure that in the end, you have a well-designed project that comes in on time and budget.
Architects are Problem Solvers
Architects solve design problems in creative ways, translating your needs into a three-dimensional result. Because of the architect's knowledge of design and construction, a solution to your design challenge may be an alternative or option you may not have thought of on your own.
Architects can show you how to accommodate a growing family, design for aging-in-place, or layout your office for today's needs with future adaptation in mind. If you're on a limited budget, your architect will look for the most cost-effective ways to build.
Save Money by Hiring an Architect
Why should you see your architect's services as a wise investment and not just an added project cost?
Architects collaborate with you on the design of your project. Design arises out of a conversation between you and evolves through shared ideas. It is easier to make revisions on paper than it is during construction. A comprehensive set of construction documents makes it easier for the contractor to price and build your project within your budget.
Architects know the energy efficiency standards and can design your home by positioning it to let in natural light and utilizing heating from the sun to lower your electric, heating, and cooling costs over time.
Architects help to select your finish materials based on your budget. These drawings and specifications assist the trades in giving accurate bids and ensure you are getting your selections at the best price.
Architects look for material selections that save you money over time. Durability and beauty are important factors when choosing your finishes. The architect stays up to date on the advances in building finishes to present you with the most cost-effective choices that suit your design.
Architects have your financial interest in mind. Good design sells, and the value of a well-designed house increases over time. Customers are attracted to well-designed restaurants or stores. Employees are happier and more productive in a well-designed work environment.
Life is Easier with an Architect
Your architect is your greatest advocate throughout the construction process. Building your project takes time. The architect you hire will look out for your interests and seeks ways to make the process go smoothly.
Your architect coordinates the design team, interacts with design review boards and local approval committees, sorts through the myriad of zoning and building codes, and processes your plans for permits. Your architect will help you select your contractor and assist in the bidding and negotiation phase. Once under construction, your architect is there to make sure the project is built according to the construction documents and is available to respond to questions and submittals from the contracting team.
Finding the Right Architect
Every architect has a way of approaching design. Look for an architect who understands your dream and is open to working with you to create your vision.
What are your building needs and goals?
How much can you afford to spend, and how will you finance it?
Will you do any of the work yourself?
If you don't have all the answers, your architect can assist you in clarifying your goals.
Build a list of architects in your community that attract you. Look for projects you like that they have designed. Get recommendations from friends, relatives, acquaintances, realtors, bankers, or the local AIA Chapter (American Institute of Architects). Being a member of the AIA means the architect subscribes to a professional code of ethics and has access to a library of technical and professional resources.
Call the firms on your list and find out if they are interested and available to take on your project. If not, ask if they have recommendations. Narrow your search and decide who you'd like to interview.
Interviewing an Architect
The chemistry between you and your architect is essential. After all, you will be spending a lot of time together. Designing is an intimate process, and your architect will learn a lot about you. You want to feel comfortable with them.
The interview is an opportunity for you to ask questions about their process, firm, and availability to take on your project. What is the architect's design philosophy? Does the architect have versatility? Typically, an architect versed in various styles can provide the most creative design solutions for your specific needs. Versatility promotes a more tailored design that reflects your wishes and gratifies you, the client.
Making your Final Selection
Ultimately, you will select the architect you feel most comfortable with and who you think can realize your vision. Building your home is not the same as going out and buying a car, where you can see the final product and even test drive it. The architect is providing a service, not a product, and the right architect for you will be the one you feel has the necessary talent, skills, and creative expertise to give you what you want at a price you can afford.
How are Architects paid?
Fees for architectural services depend on the type of project; the architect may initially start on an hourly basis until the scope (often known as Pre-Design) has been established and then present a fixed design fee for the remaining architectural services. Some project fees are a percentage of construction costs. Discuss with your architect how project fees are set, knowing it could be a combination of the above-mentioned methods.
The best design emerges through collaboration between you and your architect. Your vision steers the creative process, and working together can be a fun and rewarding adventure. Play an active part. If at any time you are not feeling comfortable, express your concerns. The creative process goes both ways; don't let the architect control the project to the point that the building is no longer yours and vice versa, don't restrict your architect to the extent that you are not getting your money's worth for design creativity.
After finding the right architect, you'll want to set the terms and conditions of your agreement. The architectural contract will include the scope of work, services provided by the architect, consultant services supplied outside the contract, a schedule, construction budget, and the architect's fees.
The Architectural Process
Typically, there are six phases involved in the design and construction of your project. In some instances, several steps may combine into one. Adding additional phases can also occur, depending on the project's requirements.
Phase 1: Programming | What is getting built?
Together, the architect and owner will discuss the project's needs, wants, and desires and formulate this into a comprehensive program that becomes the roadmap for the design. During this phase, the architect will research and discover all the specifics about the site and compile this data into a document known as "Pre-Design."
Phase 2: Schematic Design | Loose Hand Sketches
The architect prepares loose hand sketches showing a schematic design concept of the floor plan, site, and elevations based on the pre-design data. Some architects also prepare models to help visualize the project. Once the owner has signed off on these sketches, the architect proceeds to the design development phase.
Phase 3: Design Development | Fine-tuning the Design
During design development, the architect prepares more refined drawings illustrating details of the design and drafts outline specifications listing major materials and room finishes. Upon completion of design development and before commencing with the working drawings and engaging the consultants, the architect sends out the Design Development package to a contractor(s) for preliminary budget numbers. Once the owner is satisfied that the design meets their budget, the architect proceeds to the construction documentation phase of the project.
Phase 4: Preparing the Construction Documents
The architect prepares detailed drawings and specifications once the owner has signed off on the design development package. The architect engages the engineers and collaborates with them to finalize the drawings, preparing them for permitting, construction, and final bidding. The construction documents become part of the building contract.
Phase 5: Engaging the Contractor
It is typical to approach several (maybe 3) contractors to bid on the project. The architect prepares the bid package, invitation to bid, and instructions for bidding and responds to questions about the construction documents. However, if a contractor prepared a preliminary bid after the design development phase, and this contractor is the selected builder for the project, then at this time, the contractor will finalize his pricing for construction for the owner's approval.
Phase 6: Construction Administration
The contractor is responsible for the building of your home, but the architect assures that the project's integrity is according to the plans and specifications. Your architect can make regular site visits and attend meetings to observe construction, review and approve the contractor's applications for payment, and keep the homeowner up to date on the project's progress. The means and methods of construction, procedures, techniques, and schedule are solely the contractor's responsibility.