What the Architect Does

What the Architect Does

If you’re thinking of having a residence designed for you, you may have heard that Architects do design those.  You  may be wondering about that and what an Architect can do for you. 

Therefore: What is it that the Architect does?
Brief reply:  Architects design homes & buildings.

More complete response:
Your Architect has a special 4-step method:
A.  Your Architect will initially LISTEN closely to you (as the Client) to understand your desired FUNCTIONAL NEEDS and LIFESTYLE.
B.  Your Architect will also STUDY THE LAND on which a project is to be built, to realize its opportunities and characteristics.
C.  Your Architect will then CREATE A CONCEPT for the project that is indicated by your Functional Needs, Lifestyle,  & Land.  This Concept will have architectural suggestions that are inspirational, artistic and technical.
D.  Your Architect will then DESIGN buildings, homes, spaces, materials and forces that suggest the imagery of the Project Concept and that perform in an excellent Functional manner for you and your Lifestyle, working well with your Land.












What the Architect Does

Added detail of how this process works on a project, with more, specifics:

What the Architect Does: An Architect designing your house typically does the following:


The Architect will listen to you tell him/her your wishes, including your desired FUNCTIONAL NEEDS and LIFESTYLE.  Part of what your Architect does includes noting and documenting these in the Program for your project.  This documents the ideas, concepts and functions for your proposed house and includes an analysis of your property (LAND).

Beware of wasting your time online searching for that existing “free” “perfect plan” for you.  It doesn’t exist.  And you really can’t just take someone else’s plan and make it your own.  There’s a legal term for that: copyright infringement.  Penalities include up to $150,000 fine (per infringement) and jail time.  So: don’t waste your time trying to find “your” perfect plan online.  It’s not there.

Why?  Because you are unique.  So’s your land.  Your land is different than any other site anywhere in the world. The combination of your desired Functions, Lifestyle, & Land result in conditions that haven’t been exactly solved before. Therefore: you need the help of an Architect programming your needs BEFORE starting to draw lines and design spaces.  This is just one small part of what sets an Architect’s professional process apart from other residential design: your Architect has a proven professional process that works well.  Once the Architect has documented the characteristics of your land and your lifestyle, he/she can begin to consider possible arrangements and spaces.  Not before.













What the Architect does between the Program and Schematic Design: your Architect will Create Concepts for your project that are artistic, technical & inspirational.  These come from your desired Functions, Lifestyle, and your Land’s opportunities and features.  Not many people on the Earth can do this.  It requires both strong right and left brain skills: artistic and technological.  This is a part of what sets real “Architecture” apart from just a building or just a house.  Real architecture possesses inspirational aspects, has functionality taken to a higher level, and integrates properly with ground on which it stands.

 What the Architect does in the SD phase: the Architect creates a Site Plan and Floor Plan(s) based on the Program (see above) and the architectural concept.  Some Architects may do more or less during SD, depending on how they run their business.  Some may create these as a computerized drawing, others may hand sketch design concepts.

This is part of the GENIUS level abilities that your Architect brings to the project: abilities to arrange three-dimensional materials into spaces on your land, in their mind, then document those complex arrangements on their computers, and onto paper (or computer files) for you and others to see.  Magic!  The Architect has taken the Program that described how you wanted to live and combined that with the characteristics of your land and created something unique!  A custom house for you!  Incredible!  It is very hard and takes decades to train & grow the mental skills to design something as complex as a house within their mind, then document that creation on a computer for you to see.















 What the Architect does in the DD phase: your Architect will add more information to the project by creating the exterior Building (house) Elevations.  These are views of the house as if you were standing on the ground looking at the Front, Rear, Left & Right sides of the proposed residence.  Some Architects may produce more or less during DD, depending on how they work.

This is where the design is tested.  The Architect installs dimensions of equipment, doors, windows, kitchen equipment and other items, and locates those on the drawings to test the design and make sure it works.  Not all people know how to do this.  Licensed Architects do.  It is quite technical.  And it is just one more way that their proven process sets them apart as professionals.  Not having this skill working for you can make all the difference as to whether or not the features you wanted in your design will work or not.


 What the Architect does in the CD phase: the Architect will create detailed Working Drawings & Specifications illustrating how the house goes together.  Materials are identified.  Dimensions are indicated.  Heights are provided.  Details are solved, resulting in improved longevity.  The amount of detail depends on how each Architect conducts their business and their agreement with you.
Without the Architect’s CDs (Construction Documents), some Builders (particularly unlicensed) might be more prone to take liberties, using materials they would rather use to maximize their profitability, rather than what is necessarily best for you & your residence.












And they might use details that are easier for them and their Subcontractors to install, rather than perhaps what might be the most durable for you.  Beware of unlicensed Builders that demand less detail: they want to control your project with the materials and methods that inflate their profitability.  Look with your Architect for those better Licensed General Contractors that appreciate and respect more detailed plans: those are Contractors with whom you and your Architect are going to have a better relationship: they want to build you a better house.  In any profession, there are good, medium and bad.  The Architect can help you locate better Licensed General Contractors.





Some Architects might include some of these services within their Basic Services.  Others have them as optional.  Others may provide Packages or Bundles of services, which is quite common.

 What the Architect does in the Bidding phase: the Architect can release your project for bidding by licensed General Contractors, assuming there are interested Builders in your area.  Your Architect can contact Contractors and solicit their participation, set forth minimum qualifications, issue documents (usually electronically), answer Contractor questions during bidding (which are usually very technical), issue addenda (clarifications & adjustments to documents), and establish the Bid Date & Time.  Your Architect also can specify the minimum required insurance coverage from the Contractors, check their licenses, and require and review Contractors’ references.  The Architect can also arrange for you to tour the constructed houses of previous clients of the bidders.  Your Architect can create a spreadsheet with the bidders’ numbers and help you compare them, to see where each Contractor is low & high.  The Architect helps you obtain “Apples to Apples” bids.  Without your Architect, Contractors typically can take liberties, using their own bid format, making it just about impossible to understand the differences in the bids (Apples to Oranges).  If you are not a construction industry person, you probably aren’t going to be able to answer the technical questions posed by several Contractors.


Your project will probably come in at a higher price than you would like to pay to build it.  That is normal.  Everyone wants a number that is lower than MSRP.  Therefore: you should plan on this happening and prepare to deal with it by having your Architect negotiate and value engineer the project with the final one or two most desirable Builders.

What the Architect does in the N/VE phase: this is where your Architect can be worth his/her weight in platinum.  The Architect will usually provide this valuable additional optional service on an hourly basis.  No: it is not included in Basic Services and your Architect does not “owe” this to you because the Builders bid what it will actually cost to build your project than what you imagined it might cost.  Your Architect can talk to the Contractor(s) you most want to build your project and discuss with them ways that they can cut the price, without destroying the best parts of your project.  If you don’t understand these things, you can end up agreeing to changes that seriously damage what made your house design special, and possibly resulting in cheaper materials, details and methods that will be less durable and result in rot, mold, and structural and energy compromises that can make your house worth less and not last as long, and not function the way you intended.  Your Architect can help you Engineer Value.


This is an important set of services evolving out of the Great Recession (2008-2010).  Banks will not lend you money to build your house if your insurance company won’t insure it for at least what it costs you to build it.  And your bank will most assuredly commission a separate appraisal.  If the Bank Appraiser’s valuation doesn’t result in being at least as much as your loan (or even more to give a “cushion” to the Bank), then you won’t get your loan.

What the Architect does in the LI/ICC phase: so how can your Architect help in coordinating your Bank and Insurance Company?  By being able to recite to both the Bank’s Appraiser and the Insurance company WHY your home is going to cost what it will, and even more importantly, be Worth more (more valuable) than perhaps they might have determined.  How can your Architect do this?  By listing the various upgrade materials, treatments, features and design arrangements in your proposed house that make it worth more than average.  Only your Architect is conversant in this terminology, because they designed it.  It’s like a foreign language that Lenders, Architects, and Insurers speak.  If you don’t know these terms and aren’t very familiar with how certain materials and features in your proposed project make your house worth more, then you aren’t going to be able to convince your Lender to loan you the money and your Insurer to insure it.  And if you can’t insure it, then your Bank won’t give you a loan to build it.  This is a critical Project Management service that your Architect can provide on an hourly basis.

And while we’re at it: you need to be the party securing the Builder’s Risk insurance policy.  Your Bank should require this, if they are paying attention.  Because:: you need to be the one receiving the insurance company payment if your home suffers damage during construction (and after), so that you can then pay a Builder to fix it.  You don’t want to allow a Builder to receive payment for what you have already paid them to build.  That’s just not good and healthy business.  He/she doesn’t own the house; you do.  So you are the one taking the risk, not the Builder.  Not many Owners understand this until their Architect and/or Banker/Insurance company explains it to them.  One more reason to have your Architect involved in this process.  In today’s riskier lending climate, Banks don’t lend money to build homes as casually as they did in the past.  You have to prove everything to them or you don’t get the money.  The Architect can help convince them of the value of your proposed project like no one else can.


Should you have the Architect perform these services?  You need to ask yourself the following questions.  If you answer “no” to any of them, then, yes, you do need your Architect to provide Construction Administration (CA) services for you.

Are you a construction industry pro? 
Do you have about a year to stop working at your job? 
Do you have lots of time to review extremely technical Contractor submittals like shop drawings and material supplier technical data? 
Are you constantly doing new projects, so that your Builder will have incentive to want to cooperate with you because they know that in a few weeks you’re going to have more possible work for them? 

No?  Then you might want to have your Architect do these services.
What the Architect does for you in the CA phase: your Architect can periodically visit the construction site to observe the work in progress, take digital photos, make notes and compare the ongoing results with the approved CDs (Construction Documents and approved Shop Drawings and Submittals) and call attention to deviations, to help you get what you are paying for.  Your Architect is your design & construction pro, watching out for your best interests.  Do you know what to look out for?  No?  Then hire your Architect to continue their services during construction.  Your house will be better for it and you will be happier.  Architects also review Shop Drawings & a host of other technical Contractor Submittals, coordinate with other consultants, such as Geotechnical (soils) Engineers, Structural Engineers, Surveyors (for foundation layout with laser equipment), Review and process GC (General Contractor) Pay Requests, handle daily GC communications and phone calls, help coordinate construction issues & crises, act as mediator of various construction discussions, select colors, finishes, textures, exact makes and models of materials, equipment and appliances, assist with interior selections and much more.


You are not finished, after the home is built.  Sometimes equipment and materials fail.  Having your Architect available to help you (typically hourly) can result in your saving thousands of dollars.  The Architect designed the project and wrote the specifications.  He/she can review the warranties and find out what is covered & help obtain the Contractor’s assistance in securing warranty coverage.  You might think that, maybe 4-1/2 years after your house is built, that all of your warranties expired.  Not always the case.  For example: HVAC (Heating Ventilating & Air-Conditioning) equipment, like compressors and condensers often have a 60-month warranty.  If they fail before this time, your Architect can help you obtain brand new equipment, replaced for free, or less than if you paid again for replacement parts that were still under warranty.


What about when your Warranties do finally run expire?  Do you want to risk replacing and maintaining your house with something and in a way that can damage the durability of your house?  Have your Architect assist you.  He/she knows how to help you maintain the house in the most cost-effective and durable manner, consistent with the design concept and other materials, colors, specifications and techniques used in your project.


When and if it comes time to expand or renovate the house the Architect designed, who better than them to design future improvements?  Perhaps they already planned a future master plan, and your house is already planned to expand in a particular direction?  The Architect will be the most knowledgeable person to help you.



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