SELECTING AN ARCHITECT FAQ
What an Architect does
Let's look at what you get for your money.
First let's clarify a common misconception; architects do not just draft up house plans for the contractor to build.
An architect works with you. They try to understand your needs and collaborate with you to create a design or vision of your project/ home. You don't go to an architect to get a builder/ tract home as the end result. You use an architect so that dreams can be visualized, created and built. An architect brings many creative and innovative ideas to the table. Not just following trends but creating them around you and your home. They have the ability to help you see things about a home or your way of living that you may never have considered before. Your home is your sanctuary, private retreat and castle, it's the architects job to bring it to fruition.
Narrative of Services
To do this, architects need to coordinate the services of the different engineers (structural, landscape, mechanical etc) to ensure that the design works and is buildable, A comprehensive set of design/ construction documents and supplemented with well written specifications (that clarify the quality of the construction), contractor selection assistance, maintain the design and quality of your project during construction and advocate for you are what can be expected. Oftentimes this means producing drawings and rendered elevations specifically for design review boards or spending hours presenting the design to the planning commission or board of supervisors.
These drawings will include detailed plans, elevations, sections and usually dimensioned to indicate the size, height, depth, etc. They will have callouts that point to details communicating to the contractor the different assemblies required. Water proofing, decks, roofs, wall assemblies etc are all part of the drawings. The more information provided to the contractor as part of the contract documents, the more detailed he has to be in his bid. This in turn reduces the possibility of change orders (requests to increase their fees) because of information that was left out.
Why the effort to explain this? Mainly because residential buildings are considered "exempt" buildings and most jurisdictions do not require the stamp of an architect on them. Which implies anybody can design them. If the person has the experience and the ability, then there is nothing wrong with that. Even the homeowner can choose to go out and purchase some software program and design their own home. The contractor will gladly build whatever is on the plans as long as they get paid, even if it results in something unlivable. You can self medicate, do your own taxes and defend yourself in court. However there are times when it is prudent to call in a professional, somebody who has the training and skills to do it right.
There are many good residential designers out there with fees significantly lower than those of an architect.
Probably to the tune of $1-$2 a square foot. However the services they provide you will be very much in line with those fees.
Many will not represent you at a design review board nor assist in obtaining your permit.
They will generate floor plans, elevations and sections. In some cases, very basic drawings with little information on it.
The premise being that the owner does not need or require this information. You hand the drawings over to the contractor to "figure out" how to build the house. Well, if you get rudimentary drawings with little detailed information, you cannot expect a contractor to provide a detailed bid. Resulting in change orders costing many thousands of dollars to "figure it out".
Continued on the next page.