Why You Need an Architect is about the reasons people planning a project need a real Architect.
The Award-Winning Mountain View Meadow house (recipient of ArCHdes2018 global design award).
Project results like the above don’t “just happen.” They have to be designed, requiring engineering, details, floor plans, roof plans, building sections, wall sections, specifications, site plans and on-site coordination. And homeowners can’t just wave their arms around because they think they know what they want inside their heads.
It takes a tremendous amount of experience, education, skill and drawings to deliver award-winning solutions like you see above. For instance, the wind zone there is 110 mph. That huge wall of glass has to resist that or the house (and its occupants) would be destroyed when big winds blow. Take a good look through the glass at the timber frame bracing: horizontal, vertical and diagonal. All of it acts together to resist forces of nature to keep the house intact, and its owners comfortable. And look at those couple of large cantilevered beams over the fireplace on the left side of the main living space. Those are actually a double pair of large LVLs (Laminated Veneer Lumber) girders with special order pine board trim sheathing with custom mitered, glued and finish nailed corners to give the final visual result of large solid timbers, without any intruding posts into the living area, while supporting the Loft outer area above. And check out all that glass! Not many houses have that much window area devoted to the grand view. Well, this one does, because a real, Licensed Architect designed it.
Are you starting to understand why you need an Architect? An Architect ties everything together into a beautiful whole. They are the system integrators. Without them, all there is are bits and pieces.
The text under the above photo explains some of it. But there’s much more. An Architect with experience can value-engineer solutions to help their clients save money, while delivering outstanding, handsome solutions. The house above would easily have cost $325/HSF (Heated Square Foot) under normal circumstances. The Architect personally supervised the entire project, bringing it in around $225/HSF. That’s a savings of around $220,000.
Some homeowners only see value in what they believe are “hard” costs of construction and everything their General Contractors do. And they sometimes don’t see any value in the “soft” costs of design provided by an Architect. They are dead wrong about that.
There’s a phrase: “Pay me now or pay me later.” This is a version of that: Pay your Architect now, or pay your Builder later, to provide the same information, and not as well integrated. There are pieces of information necessary to build your project. Having your Architect provide them during the Architect’s design & construction document work is the best time to have this information provided and will make your project move faster.
What the Architect produces is MUCH MORE THAN JUST A PLAN. A Floor Plan is NOT all the Architect needs to provide to build your project. He also needs to create elevations, sections, specifications, details, door schedule, finish schedule and much more (see other list near the top of this article for more) .
And what is the largest “purple elephant in the room” about needing an Architect? How about design skill? Creativity? The ability to pull together all the separate elements of your project and make it a beautiful, cohesive whole design that functions properly and conveniently? Can you do that? No? Well most builders can’t either. That’s why you hire an Architect. Not because you are forced to, by some regulatory agency, but rather, because you Want to and Need to, if you want a good design that you will enjoy living in for the rest of your life. Architects design and solve problems. Builders build. That’s why Builders are called Builders.
Try going to a Builder and waving your arms, telling him/her what you want to have built. At some point, they are going to say:
“Hey: we need to have all this great stuff you want documented in the form of drawings, that pulls it all together, then we’ll need to get a Building Permit. You can’t do that without drawings and specs, and that’s what you hire an Architect to do. You NEED an Architect.” And yes, you’re going to have to pay the Architect to provide those documents. Just as you pay your Real Estate Broker to handle the purchase or sale of your home and land. Or as you pay your Dentist, Surgeon, Attorney or Engineer.
Here’s an interesting comparison: you don’t mind paying $45,000 to over $100,000 to drive a vehicle that provides you with the level of functionality, comfort, reliability, status and beauty you want, do you? Well, even if you mind, you pay it, don’t you? Why would your wanting to live in a work of art that has all the comfort, reliability, functionality, status and beauty you desire be anything different? That’s what your Architect provides you. And that’s why you need them.
Here’s another example: can you perceive any difference standing in a low-end tenement apartment and a nicely designed spacious mansion? Yes? There’s another reason you need an Architect: to give you that higher-end feeling. You can’t get that any other way. And your Architect can help you get that feeling without it necessarily being a mansion. They can design a mid-range house that captures that feeling of spaciousness and possesses a high-level of functionality.
Okay, that’s all been on the subject of beauty, functionality, wind load and comfort. How about some nitty-gritty issues? For instance: termite flashing details and sealants and roof and window flashings? What is flashing? Usually strips of specially formed metal or flexible adhesive backed vinyl/plastic that are designed by Architects to keep out water and wind. Sealants also help keep out water and pests (like insects). Without these flashings, your home can and will let in water and air. Your home will rot and leak and become pest-ridden. Ask Terminix. They see things like this all the time. And so do I. In addition to being a Licensed Architect in multiple states, I’m also a Licensed Home Inspector. I’m here to tell you: Contractors and their workers rarely install termite flashings these days, because they either aren’t aware of this requirement in the Code and also because County and Municipal inspectors usually don’t catch this flaw. Result: termites can march up into your house and eat it to the ground. And most Contractors don’t know how to properly install window flashings (either rigid metal or flexible tapes). And when they do, they have been seen using such ridiculous materials as Duct Tape over asphaltic felt, where the adhesive fails within about 15 minutes and falls off. Not to mention that a cloth-based tape like that will rot and fail in a matter of months. Having a Licensed Architect detail and specify and observe their proper installation on-site can greatly improve this situation.
Moral of the story: hire an Architect to design and detail your next home project (renovations, additions or new), if you want a better quality design that looks and feels better, that value-engineers costs of materials and systems, that isn’t as leak-prone and that is more durable (lasts longer with fewer problems).
Wrong way to do a house project: exclude an Architect and let the Builder and his/her workers do whatever they’re used to doing. You will think you are saving money, but your design will not be as nice or as life-fulfilling, joints will tend to leak more, pests will have more inroads into the structure and other suspect situations can occur, including your house actually costing you more, because no one participated to value-engineer products and systems.