Well-detailed construction documents versus no details or otherwise skimpy sets of drawings. What’s the difference? Why should anyone care? That’s the subject of this article.
Well-detailed construction documents provide a great deal of information about how to properly build your project, in particular your custom house project. Otherwise, the builder will guess and will likely select options that are the cheapest for him or her, because they figure that you don’t care, otherwise, you would have had an Architect design and detail your project. And when a builder does things in the cheapest manner, that is not always a good result for you.
For instance, let’s examine just 5 things that having an Architect managing and designing your house project that can result in you having a better house without all the problems associated with the less attractive options:
Use of thinner, lower R value insulation: that results in higher heating and cooling bills for you. An Architect
normally details and specifies insulation levels at or exceeding existing IECC (International Energy Conservation Code). That one factor could result in your house saving more than $1.25 million during the house’s nearly 100-year lifespan, when taking into account escalating utility costs. This is only part of the value of an Architect and having them design and detail your house. Wouldn’t you like to have an extra million+ remain in your bank account rather than heating and cooling the great outdoors?
A knowledgeable residential Architect also knows how to use the best solution in the most value-conscious manner. For instance, Rand Soellner, ArCH, NCARB, LHI, M.A. Arch, Senior Staff Architect with the HOME ARCHITECTS ®, indicates use of expensive expanding foam insulation in small, limited areas, such as along cracks and crevices, then uses the least expensive insulation (fiberglass) for the bulk of your house’s insulation. It is all about surgical use of the best, most value-conscious products for the client’s money. And in the end, the clients save BIG money, over the life of the house.
2. DURABLE MATERIALS
An Architect helps clients by specifying, indicating and detailing materials that last a long time. Without the detailed architectural documents, you might end up with materials that start rotting the second they are installed. for instance, most Architect understand the difference between pressure treated wood treated for Above Ground and pressure treated wood for Below Ground contact. They are 2 different preservative treatments. Without the Architect’s documents and guidance, some Contractors may use normal pressure treated wood below the ground. That’s not what this material is created to resist and will rot. This is most often done on front and rear porch posts. In other words, without the Architect, you may end up with all of your front and rear posts rotting from the bottom up. That’s not a good thing, structurally, and may fall down one day. And there’s a lot more: about more durable exterior siding, proper stone and other masonry details, how to let your walls vent and breath, how to keep water out of your walls and roof, better windows, doors and much more.
3. RESALE / PAYBACK / CURB APPEAL
And what will your Architect-designed house look like compared to a non-Architect created house? Architects have
years of University courses about design and decades of real world experience that results in them creating beautiful architectural features that appeal to people with money who want to buy your house. Lacking that curb appeal, your house may sit on the real estate market for years without a nibble.
Rand Soellner’s wife, Merry, is one of the main real estate brokers in an area of western North Carolina. He sees and hears what happens when an architect-designed house sells fast and non-Architect created houses haunt the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) for longer than 477 days (the current length of time for non-Architect designed houses to sit on the market before selling). Also, most people used to think that ANY house they owned would certainly pay them back for their cash invested, plus a healthy profit. This is most definitely NOT the case any more, since the horrible real estate Bust of 2008-9. People are losing, rather than earning money that they have put into their houses. The smartest thing to do would be to make sure that the house is well-organized functionally and aesthetically, which is what an Architect brings to the project, in order for potential buyers to be interested enough to tour the house for sale and then, hopefully buy it. These days, you need every edge you can get. Sort of like if you wanted to sell a recorded song, in order to make money. If you were a record producer, would you hire untalented people off the street to record a song? Or would you hire the most capable singers, songwriters and professional musicians possible so that you could compete and sell your CDs? Same thing with respect to your house. Don’t let amateurs design it. Hire a licensed Architect. Don’t scrimp on the talent it takes to design it correctly. Your future self will thank you, when your house sells faster and for more cash than unprofessionally created houses.
4. LEAKS, PROBLEMS.
Without proper architectural specifications, details and drawings, tradesmen may take shortcuts. If there is nothing there to compel them to do it a certain way (the correct way), they may think: “Why spend more labor and materials doing this in a way that takes a little more effort? Let’s just get it done quickly.” This happens every day. And such work often results in roof and wall leaks, rotting, mold, and structural problems. For instance: Architects may specify and detail a thicker, better roofing underlayment that all but eliminates the possibility of leaking. This may add perhaps $2,000 to the cost of an average 3,000 HSF (Heated Square Foot) residence. Now then, wouldn’t you, as the homeowner be willing to spend another $2,000 to make sure that your roof never leaked? That’s a pretty inexpensive “insurance policy”, isn’t it? For something so important? Well, guess what? Rarely, if ever, will any builder offer to include this type of roofing underlayment if it costs him anything more that the cheapest underlayment. Why? Because he may not be aware of the better underlayment, and/or he may be more concerned about his profit margin and because you weren’t aware of the better membrane and because you did not ask for it, he certainly isn’t going to provide it. Once again: having an Architect design, detail and specify the better, more appropriate materials wisely, results in a MUCH better result for you, for the long term.
5. STRUCTURAL ISSUES
Most Architects of houses who have practiced for 30+ years (like the HOME ARCHITECTS ®), know how to properly detail and specify foundation footings and roof member connections in a manner that can resist environmental forces better than non-Architect designs.
For instance, in mountainous regions, where this firm practices quite often, many people enjoy having their houses built on the sides of mountains, to have spectacular views. Sure. However, when they do not hire an Architect to design the house, disaster can strike. Most experienced mountain house Architects, like Rand Soellner, know that the bedrock under the surface of the ground often parallels the slope of the ground above it. In other words, the bedrock on a mountain often has steep slopes occurring underground. And Soellner also knows that when you are within a critical distance from the ground to the bedrock, you had better take your footings down to the bedrock and secure the footings to the bedrock, with a simple but critical process called “pining the footings”. Often when less experienced people design houses in such locales, horrible things can happen. “I have seen non-Architect designed houses sliding down the mountains around here,” said Soellner. “Obviously, the builder or “designer” didn’t have the knowledge they needed to understand the geology and the consequences of such ignorance.”
Keep your house where it was originally built: engage an Architect to design your house. An Architect would specify and/or illustrate and detail such conditions or insist that the Structural Engineer do so.
These have been only 5 examples. There are many more reasons why having an Architect detail your construction documents can result in a better, safer, healthier, happier, stronger house for you and your family. Do consider such things when you get ready to plan your next house project.
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