You may be asking yourself what does an architect do for me. Have you been working with that builder’s draftsman now for about 8 months and still haven’t got the house plans you wanted? Why? Because, although you can describe your lifestyle and what you want, you do not have the training and experience to put it together and neither does that draftsman. All he can do is what you tell him to do.
An architect, however, has been trained for a minimum of 6 years at an accredited major University, if they have a Master of Arts in Architecture, like Rand Soellner AIA (who actually has about 8 years of college and graduate school training). Architects also typically have about another decade of apprenticeship under the scrutiny of senior licensed architects watching their every move. Architects also are professionals licensed in various states throughout the USA. Draftsmen usually have no licenses of any sort and are not required to know anything in particular. Architects have to take CEUs (Continuing Education Requirements) every year, typically at least 12 hours for most state jurisdictions and 18 credit hours for the AIA (American Institute of Architects), which means that architects are up to date on what is going on in the world of design, energy conservation, building codes, and just plain good design.
Now that we know that a real architect is licensed, has a degree equaling the University training of a medical doctor, has passed through a grueling apprenticeship, AND is required to update their knowledge continuously; can someone please tell me what an architect does for their client?
Sure. Here are just a few of the key things this highly skilled design professional does for you, for a residential design project of your house:
What an Architect Does (Partial List):
1. LISTENS: An architect listens to you and notes what you want for your project. This is how he learns about your lifestyle needs, wishes, and desires for this very important step in your life– your dream house.
2. STUDIES THE PROPERTY: With an eye for architectural enhancement he analyzes the best views, the slopes of your topography, the geology, how water flows around your ground, how your vehicles might best access your land, what views to avoid, how utilities would enter your grounds, possible methods of view clearing (limbing-up (pruning), topping, or outright removal of certain vegetated areas), reasonable possible locations for the various aspects of your project, and many other considerations.
Locations he takes into consideration include your main house, the garage (if you want one), backup space from the garage, other vehicular maneuvering space (it takes a lot), your home entry point(s), guest entry location, the view to and from your home from the access street, the views from your home to the best natural features, cost implications of your foundations relative to the site slopes (this has a huge impact on your construction costs), best locations for outdoor living areas, and best apparent locations for well and septic (if not tied to other sources).
3. CREATE A BETTER DESIGN: This comes in response the the previous two items listed. If you have been simply plunging in with a draftsmen and skipping necessary steps, of course the results will be less than satisfactory. A real professional makes sure that what he/she creates has the substance of your wishes and your site’s parameters as the warp and woof of the very fabric of his design. Of course, being a trained and highly experienced person, an architect also has decades of experience to guide his creation for you. He has walked this path before and understands the implications of the infinite variety of choices and, quite often, their cost implications. The plans arrived at through the filter of this trained pro will be much more fulfilling than other approaches.
4. COST IMPLICATIONS: While only your own choices and your builder determine the actual cost of your project, your design professional does realize the implications of your decisions and what might be more expensive than something else. So, you should listen to him when he mentions that your choice of wanting an all-stone house, for instance, could likely result in a budget-blowing result. Stone is labor and material intensive and costs much more than exterior materials like wood siding and many other options. His counsel can help you stay on track.
5. BIDDING: If you wish, Architects will gladly provide you with assistance in finding qualified, licensed general contractors to bid your project. Keeping builders’ proposal formats in one understandable “apples to apples” format, is worth its weight in gold. Without the Architect providing a level playing field for all the bidders, it is a free-for-all, with each builder offering up his pricing in whatever format and whatever options he chooses to present you. It can be a bewildering experience for you. How can you possibly compare Contractor A’s price to Contractor B’s price, when neither one has priced the job the same? That is one of the reasons you want your Architect helping you. He will provide the necessary forms that require all builders to present their quotes in the exact same format and exact same line items.
6. CONSTRUCTION ADMINISTRATION: Your design professional is typically pleased to provide you with construction administration services, in which he will periodically observe the progress of your builder and prepare a progress report with a copy to you and your builder, alerting all parties to what appears to be going correctly and what appears to be out of sync with the approved construction documents. Your architect can also manage your contractor’s pay requests, having them be first reviewed and approved by him, before you are required to pay them. This will provide you with one more safeguard for a properly run project. Builders are more careful when they know the architect will be reviewing their work and approving their pay requests before they receive payment. Architects can also review and approve contractor’s submittals during construction, verifying that what they are intending to use is in compliance with approved drawings and specifications.
There are a host of other things your architect can do for you. Above have been broad brushstrokes just to acquaint you with some of the factors in this very important decision. The suggestion presented here is: hire an architect to design your house– the benefits are many.