There is a common misconception that architects are a luxury
in the home-building industry. The truth is that an architect
combines budget, function, and aesthetics into a design
everyone can feel good about. Whether building a new home
or renovating an older one, architects play an important
role in combining your desires, your needs and your budget
into a home that fits your lifestyle.
does an architect do?
Architects are trained problem solvers. Just a few of their
tasks are to help define needs, present options that may
have not been considered, plan for the future, design around
a budget, and help obtain contractors and permits. One of
the most important services an architect can provide is
monitoring construction. Typically a small part of the architectural
fee, this service can be the most valuable. Having a qualified
professional reviewing the contractor’s work, ensuring
that the design is followed through, and
identifying construction problems early in the process can
save time and money down the road.
How do I select an architect?
Each architect has an individual style, approach to design,
and method of working. Start with getting recommendations
from those you know have worked with an architect. The AIA
directory is also a resource for finding architects who
specialize in custom homes. Make a short list and call each
firm, asking the firm’s qualifications and experience.
Most importantly, interview each firm. Meet the people
you would be working with to learn their design philosophy
and methods of working. Personal chemistry will have a great
deal to do with process. Talk about your budget and the
range of fees the architect anticipates for your project.
Feel free to ask any question, including how interested
the firm is, and what they will charge. Ask for a reference
list of past projects and follow-up. Past clients will give
you an excellent idea of how well the architect listened
and responded to their needs. Remember, an architect provides
a service, not a product. Your final selection should be
based on the architect’s technical expertise, creative
skills and ability to communicate with you.
What is an architect’s fee?
Every project’s fee is set differently, based on the
type of project and scope of service desired from the architect.
Common methods of compensation include: hourly rates, a
stipulated sum, or a percentage of construction costs (which
range from 5-20%). The basis for the fee, the amount and
the payment schedule are issues to be worked through and
are commonly set in writing with use of a legal AIA agreement.
What is the process?
First, if a site has not already been selected, your architect
can help you choose and plan the location for your home.
Examining possible sites with an architect, discovering
the unique character and potential hazards of your site,
before you buy, will better match your dreams with reality.
The design process begins with programming.
is the first place your desires, needs, and budget are tested.
Quantitative concerns such as the number, type and size
of rooms are discussed along with more qualitativeitems
such as the relationship of the home to the site, the home’s
fit to your lifestyle, thelook of the home and experience
of the rooms within.
architect seeks to combine these issues and presents them
in the form of schematic sketches to the owner. Some architects
will also do 3-dimensional renderings or make models to
help the client visualize the design. Through a series of
meetings, the architect will revise and refine these sketches
until a solution is agreed upon.
Next, more detailed information about room sizes, and decisions
over major materials and room finishes are incorporated
through the process known as design development. Many architects
also provide interior design services, such as defining
color schemes, wall and window treatments and even selecting
and placing furniture. Allowing your architect to advise
in these finishing touches ensures continuity with the
design of the home.
The third phase includes the preparation of the construction
documents. These are the final detailed drawings and specifications,
which the contractor will use to bid and construct the project.
These documents will become part of your Architect-Owner
contract and the Owner-Contractor contract.
When the project documents are finished, you are ready to
hire a contractor. This is known as the bidding and negotiating
phase. You may already have someone you want to work with,
or you may ask several contractors to submit bids on the
job. An architect can recommend contractors and assist in
the selection process, but the final choice will be up to
you. Your selection should consider the contractor’s
technical expertise, price, past work and ability to communicate
The final phase of the process is construction. Although
the design and documentation are completed, the architect
also provides construction administration. These services
include making regular site visits, reviewing and approving
the contractor’s application for payment and keeping
you informed of the project’s progress. Weekly meetings
are held with the contractor, architect and owner to discuss
progress, decisions to be made, or problems to be solved.
an architect who is familiar with the entire project’s
history will ensure that any decisions made in the field
during construction will keep your interests in the forefront
and maintain the original decisions
and intents determined in the design phase of the project.
a new house, home renovation, or addition, hiring an architect
is a wise investment.