3 Things Clients of Architects Should Never Say

3 Things Clients of Architects Should Never Say


3 Things Clients of Architects Should Never Say is about the taboos surrounding customer/ client behavior.


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Never call an Architect, hoping to hire them and say:
“I’ve pretty much got this all drawn out myself, so all I need  you to do is do the “prints”.

That is condescending, arrogant, misinformed, naive, and will probably not help you get the services you really need.  You, with your 48 hours of scribbling with a pencil on the back of an envelope (or worse, some “house design software”) think because of who you are, you’re going to transplant the 50+ years of experience of the Architect your talking to has and do a better job of design than him or her?  I don’t think so! 

That’s like calling a criminal defense Attorney from jail and telling them that you’ve researched your case in the jailhouse library and you know how to plan your defense, and you just need the Attorney to pilot 2nd chair to “make things legal.”  How do you suppose that Attorney’s going to react?  If they even stay on the phone long enough to hear the entire crazy plan of attack?

Like calling an experienced cardiac surgeon from your mobile phone, when you have collapsed, clutching your chest, having a heart attack on the sidewalk, telling him that you just Googled “Heart Surgery” on your phone, and here’s how you’d like him or her to go about performing the operation, so that you can save some on the operation.  Once again: I don’t think so.

All the same thing: you telling an experienced, trained & licensed professional how to do their jobs because you think your brief exposure to something on a TV build-it-yourself show, or Google is enough to know everything about the subject.  No it’s not.  And you’re going to get yourself into a lot of trouble if you continue going down that road. 













It’s the 99% of what you Don’t know that’s going to kill you, financially ruin you, and consume MONTHS or YEARS of your life (when you should be earning your living doing what you really normally do to create your income, so  that you can pay professionals to do these things for you properly). 



Wow.  So much is so wrong with that question, it’s hard to know where to start.
First: Architects do a LOT more than just “draw floor plans.”
They first PROGRAM your Lifestyle, analyze your Site (land) and then combine the important aspects of each to create a DESIGN that works for both of those custom factors, then DEVELOPS the DESIGN, then creates CONSTRUCTION DOCUMENTS, then BIDS out your project to licensed Contractors, then VALUE ENGINEERS the bid price, then ADMINISTERS CONSTRUCTION so that you get the house you want, down to handing you the key (several of the latter services are often optional).

And about the other drawings beyond Floor Plans:
Site Plans
Exterior Elevations
Detail blow-up floor plans
Building Sections
Wall Sections
Roof Plans
Details: Plan view
Details: Section View

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Electrical Schematics
Cabinetry Elevations (and blow-up detail plans)
and also possible:
3D renderings, isometrics

For a 2,200 HSF (Heated Square Foot) house with perhaps 3,818 GSF (Gross Square Feet) this might be 38 to 45 sheets of 24″x36″ drawings.
For a 6,000 HSF custom house with many custom features (such as an elevator, stairways, site roads, remote gate entry complex, helipad and other items) with could be 100 sheets.

In other words: the creation of a custom house project is MUCH more than just “plans.”

Second: Licensed Architects rarely “run prints” these days.  You’re not buying “prints.”  You are paying for the expertise to analyze and design your project.  Most Architects these days don’t even give you blueprints. Instead, they email you PDFs of their drawings, and you, yourself, pay local printshops to run the plots of the drawings and bind them for you and the bidding Contractors.

Third: Really?  “How much?”  Without knowing anything about the project size, location, complexity or budget?  That’s like phoning a car dealership and saying to the first salesperson that answers: “Hey, how much is a car?”  By doing so to an Architect, you have just informed them that you regard their profession as a commodity: that all Architects are the same, pasty white bread in the grocery aisle and you couldn’t care less about their experience, talent or abilities to help you get the house of your dreams.  Every Architect is different.  They all have different skills, education, experience and specialties.













Oh my gosh.  As if your 3 weeks of Googling can possibly replace the half-century of real world knowledge your Architect has about not only what you are suggesting, but about the relative costs, effectiveness and systems that you really should be considering if you’re going to be able to afford your proposed house.

Does that sound like a cheap shot?  Well, consider this:
Just had a call from a guy in the middle of the USA who wants to build a custom house in Tennessee.  He says he wants it to be all ICF (Insulated Concrete Forms) and concrete floors and hydronic piped heating in the floors and all steel structural system, on a steeply sloping site.

When the Architect asks the guy: do you have any idea what such systems are going to cost you to build?


Would you like to know?

I guess.

Ok: how about $400/square foot?


What do you mean, “ok?”


Have you done the math, sir?

No.  What?

Sir: for the 3,000 HSF house you described, that’s probably going to cost $1.2 Million to build.  Does that fit within what you wanted to spend for the construction of your house?

????Huh?  No!  That’s more than double what I had in mind?  How did it get so expensive? What did you do?

What did I do?  I didn’t do anything.  I’m just informing you what all those exotic systems you said you wanted are going to add up to when you have a Contractor start pricing any design made of them.


Yes sir.  Now then: would you like to hear about the types of building systems more within your budget capability?

I suppose.

At this point, the Architect informs the guy want he can afford and the guy doesn’t react with much enthusiasm, because his big dreams of exotic (and expensive) systems don’t fit within his budget.  The Architect discusses that just because those expensive systems aren’t used doesn’t mean it can’t be a great design.


BOTTOM LINE: you, with your Googling and watching of Do It Yourself Construction TV episodes are never going to acquire the knowledge your Architect has about all of those tricky, pricey systems, as well as more reasonable methods of building.  If the systems you think are so cool and unusual are some sort of best kept secret to better housing that’s also cheaper, do you really think that every Builder and his brother and sister wouldn’t be using that system right now, in every town across America?  Of course they would.  But those Builders know the same things your Architect does: those exotic systems are NOT less expensive. They are MORE expensive. And could it be that the enthusiastic people on TV are perhaps being partially or totally reimbursed by the system manufacturer to use their products and scream about how wonderful they are, without informing you how expensive they typically are for everyone else.  Perhaps: misdirection and lack of critical information (like the real world cost). Once again: do you really think that you are the first person to have ever heard about ICF, Hay Bales, Timber Frame, Prefab Modular, Container, Hydronic slab heating, Log, Steel Stud and every other exotic construction system out there?  I don’t think so.  And by demanding them, you are forcing your Architect to educate you (sometimes painfully) about their realities so you don’t get hammered by Builders who will sock it to you when you start pricing a design made of them.  Please listen to your Architect and heed their counsel.  They are trying to help you.




How about you instead call an Architect whose website interests you. 
Tell them you like what you’ve seen on their website.
Inform them about your project land, your construction budget, then ask them how they might suggest proceeding.

Any Architect is going to love you.


By the way: regarding construction budgets: Nice homes in the custom category are going to typically cost between $200 to $350/HSF these days in most parts of the USA. 
Home Architects just designed a family house for their Senior Staff Architect, and he is building that for $166/HSF.  But he did many things to reduce the cost per square foot, that not everyone would want to do.  So if you want to pay less to build your dream house, be ready to have your Architect design it with some simplicity and sparseness of materials that would be associated with lower costs.


Save yourself some time and disappointment: Stop trying to do the Architect’s job.  Do NOT try to draw a plan.  It will be clumsy, inept, not to scale (which means it won’t work), and wasteful of space and area.  And it won’t work on your land.  And you won’t even understand why.  Designing a custom house is one of the most detailed, complex tasks an Architect can undertake.  Let your Architect do his job.
And don’t “research” by surfing Google, falling in love with exotic building systems, thinking you are breaking new information barriers “discovering” better, cheaper ways of building things.  Ain’t gonna happen.  Once again: let your Architect do his or her job.  They are much better at it than you.  They already know everything you think you discovered and much, much more.


And before you buy your land, pay your Architect to evaluate it.  Did you know that a very steep site can easily ADD $150,000 to your construction cost for the foundations?  It’s true!


Do you respect what your Lawyer does for you?
Your doctor?
Your Carpenter?
Your Electrician?
Your Plumber?
Your Surveyor?

Would you really stick your fingers into what they do for you and attempt to partially do their job?  How do you think your Plumber would react to you trying something like that?

Then also respect your Architect. 
Don’t “play” Architect.  Let them do their job. 

In the end, you’ll get your dream house and it’ll go a lot smoother.


Some people might think this was an Emily Post lesson regarding how to treat your Architect.  While that might be understandable, that is NOT what it is about.  It is about you obtaining the best possible professional services for the design of your dream house.  When  you think you are “helping” to accomplish that, you may be doing just the opposite.  If in doubt, please reread this article.  And all the best with your project!







tags: Cashiers, Aspen, Telluride, Lake Toxaway, Highlands, Glenville, Sapphire, Sevierville, timber frame, post and beam






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