It’s the right question to ask. Architects are licensed professionals. Like doctors and lawyers, they have completed university programs and lengthy internships, and they have passed a series of rigorous exams. Their training covers many areas, ranging from landscape design to structural engineering.
This diversity means that architects can see possibilities and find solutions to your individual needs. While a builder or a home designer may make some adaptations at your request, a good architect will anticipate your needs.
Whether you’re looking to build a house, an addition, or do a renovation, working with an architect can be a worthwhile investment. An architect can help turn your ideas into reality. We can customize the design of your project, keeping all your specific goals, needs, and aesthetics in mind. We can walk you through the approval and permitting process. We can also oversee the project’s construction process to ensure the project is getting built to the appropriate standards and level of quality.
Does a new addition to your family have you thinking of a new addition to your house? Has your home business outgrown your kitchen table? Or maybe you need to open your home to an elderly relative who can’t navigate the stairs of your centre-hall colonial. The fact is, our lives change—but our houses don’t, at least not on their own. If you want to stay in your home as your life progresses, you’ll probably consider remodelling. MJS Construction Group has the best range of dual occupancy builder services to help you create your dream house.
Whether you’re adding a bath, enlarging a kitchen or doubling the size of your house with an addition, remodelling usually involves money, lots of planning, and often more than a little stress. It can also raise many questions beyond design and other choices, such as what tile to use on the new bathroom floor. One of these questions usually is: Should I hire an architect?
In this DIY world, an architect is often seen as a luxury—and can be a costly one at that. You can certainly complete a masterful remodel—even a large one—without an architect’s help. You typically can, that is, if you or your builder have a talent for design, if you have a clear idea what you want, and if you (or your builder, or someone you know) can produce plans that satisfy your local building authorities. In all these situations, you could get by without an architect. But then there is another question you might ask, ‘Do I want to?’
What Architects Do?
For some projects, architects wear many hats. They may create the design, do the drafting, select the materials, and supervise the entire work process. Ideally, your architect will visit your building site and observe the direction of the sun, note the prevailing breezes, sketch the existing vegetation, and anticipate the best views. For renovation projects, an architect not only knows what will structurally work but will also appreciate symmetry and proportion.
For other projects, the architect’s role may be limited to drafting the blueprints. If you can find stock blueprints similar to your own dream house, you may be able to hire an architect to make alterations. Changing an existing plan is always less expensive than designing a home from scratch.
Before drafting a design, a good architect will spend time talking with you and other members of your family. Like any other professional, the architect will get to know how you and your family live by asking a lot of questions:
- Who will live in the house? What are their ages? Who might you be caring for in the near future? Do you want spaces to promote group or family activities, like watching television?
- How important is an informal and formal dining room?
- Do you like to give parties? How accessible should the kitchen be to groups?
- Do you regard the bedroom as a sanctuary where you spend many daytime hours? Or, is the bedroom simply a place to sleep?
- Do you need a private area for your computer? Or, would you prefer a centrally located media centre where children can be supervised?
- What bothers you about the house you’re living in right now? And what do you love about your current home?
- Is your automobile part of the family?
Even if you are working within a tight budget, it does not make good economic sense to cut corners on design. Talented professionals will help you avoid costly mistakes—and can assure that the home you build is ideally suited for the way you live.
The Cost of an Architect
Unlike paying doctors’ bills, architecture insurance does not exist. The services of a professional architect may add 8 per cent to 15 per cent to the final cost of building a new home. For smaller jobs, like specific remodelling projects, an hourly rate can be negotiated. The architect will keep track of the “billable hours” and charge a professional rate that is usually based on the local economy — generally between $60 and $160 an hour. Remember that what an architect personally earns may not be what an architectural firm charges per.
Levels of Architectural Design Service
What sets architects apart from other people who design homes is that they are licensed by the states in which they practice. To obtain a license, an architect generally must earn a degree from an approved architectural program, complete an internship, and pass an exam. All of this ensures architects possess a high level of expertise about design, materials, and building systems.
Like architects, architectural designers (sometimes just called designers) have studied and practised architectural design—some for many years—but are not licensed. They may work on their own or in association with a licensed architect.
Many builders also offer home design services, and some offer the services of a dedicated, on-staff designer. Design-build firms offer both architectural design and construction services under one roof; architects lead some, and some have architects on staff.
A draftsperson puts your plans on paper. They can produce the drawings you will need to build, but usually only after the design is established. Like designers, drafters often work alongside licensed architects or builders.
You might consider any one of the above individuals to help you in designing your remodel. What many people—particularly homeowners planning “just a few tweaks”—don’t realize, however, is how difficult it can be to adapt an existing home to meet new expectations. Architects are trained to see the possibilities in every structure and are experts at translating those possibilities into detailed plans that your builder can execute with precision.
Cost-Saving Options for Your New Home
The stunning homes you see in glossy magazines are almost always custom-designed by licensed architects. They are the unique creations of men and women with the skill and the know-how to explore new and unexpected possibilities. But, what if your dreams are more modest? Must you hire an architect?
Maybe not. If your taste runs toward traditional, you may opt for one of these cost-saving alternatives.
Purchase a Stock Building Plan
Stock building plans are drawn by architects and home designers and are mass-marketed through magazines, catalogues, and websites.
Advantages: You can easily find stock plans for houses in a wide variety of sizes, styles, and budgets. If you can find a stock plan that works for you and your family, you can save the cost of hiring your architect.
Disadvantages: The architect who designed your stock building plan has never met you and does not know your tastes and needs. Moreover, stock building plans cannot take into account the nature of your building lot or the climate in your region. Many people who purchase stock building plans eventually decide to hire an architect to make modifications. Finding the right Melbourne home builders is an important decision. Check out our range of the best home design constructions at MJS Construction Group.
Use a Production Home Builder
Production home builders often construct new homes in suburban housing developments. Production home builders have contracted with architects and designers to create plans suitable for the region and harmonious with other houses in the development. When you work with a production home builder, you must select one of the builders (or developers) offered plans. You then “customize” the plan by choosing exterior siding, light fixtures, types of windows, and other architectural features from a menu of options.
Advantages: Builders can work more quickly and more economically when they follow familiar, traditional plans with a finite line of construction materials. Since the plans are locally created, they will probably be suitable for the climate and the terrain.
Disadvantages: Your home will be assembled from a limited array of standard features. Although you may request some customization, your house will not be a custom home. It is likely to look very similar to many other houses in your development. Your builder may refuse or charge highly for any changes that are not on the established list of options. For example, planned communities like Celebration, Florida, have limited house styles, house plans, house colours, and landscaping. This only matters if the offerings do not include your dream home.
Hire a Certified Professional Building Designer
Another cost-saving alternative is to hire a Certified Professional Building Designer (also known as a Home Designer) to design your new home. Home designers do not have the same level of education or the same licensing requirements as architects, and their fees are usually lower. Nevertheless, professional home designers maintain professional certificates which demonstrate that they have completed coursework and achieved experience in the field.
Advantages: Home designers specialize in private homes — not office buildings, shopping centres, or gas stations. For this reason, a home designer may have more experience designing houses than some licensed architects. A good home designer can create a customized home tailor-made for your family.
Disadvantages: Like builders and real estate developers, home designers tend to produce traditional plans. In general, home designers do not have the training to create especially complex or unusual designs. If you have special needs, or if you desire a truly unique home, then you’ll need to hire an architect.
Financing Your Project
Then there’s the question of how you will pay for your project. If you don’t have a chunk of cash, you may need to borrow money from a relative or a bank. The source of your funding may put stipulations on how you carry out your project, such as we won’t give you any money unless you have plans endorsed by an architect. Then, yes, you need to hire an architect. Other people have tried “crowdsourcing” to raise funds. Alas, looking at the hopes of people who plead their cases on sites like gofundme.com shows that this is not a viable alternative—unless you’re a Peace Corps volunteer in a developing country.
When You May Want an Architect
Here’s how to tell if you want an architect—or at least, an experienced architectural designer.
You have a problem with your house and have no idea how to solve it.
Maybe your laundry room in the upstairs hallway creates a traffic jam every time you open the door. Or it would be best if you had another bathroom, but every square inch of your house is accounted for. In cases like these, a good architect can help you sort through the possibilities and come up with creative improvements that fit you, your budget, and your lifestyle.
You feel squeezed, but don’t want an addition.
Before adding to your house, a good architect will ensure you are making the most of all existing space. Even the smallest houses often have underutilized areas that can be reconfigured and brought back into daily use. Sometimes what seems like a square-footage shortage is a circulation problem that can be solved with a few alterations.
You’re uncomfortable making building choices on your own.
A major remodel is an intensive, costly process that requires you to make a lot of decisions on things you may have little knowledge about. A good architect serves as an intermediary and adviser who can help guide your project toward the best results.
Your local building authorities require one.
In most communities, for most remodels, an architect isn’t required. But in others—specifically some urban areas—you may need an architect or engineer to sign off on your plans. Check with your local building department to be sure.
You’re remodelling a unique or historic home, changing styles, or building on a complicated site.
Maybe you want to raise the roof on your 18th-century saltbox. Or change your 1970s builder colonial into a shingle style. Or maybe you want to add a second story to a home perched on the edge of a cliff. When and where design is critical, hire an architect.
You’re on a budget.
This may seem counterintuitive, since hiring an architect means one more professional you’ll need to pay. But a good architect can save you money. One way is through value engineering—that is, devising a way to get you a feature you want at a lower cost. An architect might suggest substituting a similar but more economical building material to get the same effect. They can also steer you away from making mistakes, whether in material or design, that you may regret later and ends up costing you more money.
How to Find the Right Architect
Once you’ve decided on hiring an architect, you need to find the right one. You want an architect who is not only skilled in designing the remodel or addition you want, you also want an architect with whom you communicate well, and whose cost model works for you.
Ensure the cost of the architect is factored into your overall home remodel budget. Many people use and consider fixed-rate personal loans to cover all or a portion of project costs, including the architect. Lenders like Discover, for example, offer personal loans that don’t require collateral, which means you don’t have to put your house on the line to secure the loan. Plus, funds can be sent as soon as the next business day once you are approved and accept the terms of the loan, which is critical when unexpected project costs come up, or you go over budget. With Discover Personal Loans, you can apply for just the amount of money you need up to $35,000. At MJS Construction Group, we have the best home builders selection to make your house a dream come true.
What to Ask the Architect
Come to the interview prepared with questions to help you understand fully what you can expect from this partnership. These might include:
- What is your design philosophy? You should already have a sense of this from your research, but here’s the chance to talk about the vision this architect will bring to your project. Is their focus on sustainability? Preservation? Low cost? Whatever is important to you should be important to your architect.
- What is your process? Most architects follow an established path for each project, although that process varies a bit from firm to firm and project to project (more on that later). Typical phases include initial consultation, preliminary (or schematic) design, design development, document preparation, bidding and negotiation, and construction administration.
- What projects have you done that are similar to mine? You want to make sure the architect is comfortable with the size and complexity of the project you’re proposing.
- Who will I be working with? If it’s a large firm, you will want to clarify who will be designing your project, and who your contact person will be.
- Do you foresee any problems with this project? If you’re dealing with a difficult site, a limited budget or other complications, be upfront. How the architect reacts to these challenges will tell you whether they’re suited to the project.
- How much time will the design process take, and construction itself? Be sure the architect has the time to devote to the project and can bring it to completion in a timely manner. Remember the architect can account for his or her time, but not delays caused by your indecision or a contractor’s scheduling conflicts.
- Can the architect provide references, particularly for projects similar to yours? It may even be possible to view similar work they’ve done on other houses. If so, take advantage of that opportunity. When you call references, ask specific questions. How did this architect save you money? How did he or she handle conflicts? Was the project completed on time?
- How will plans be presented? Will you be able to view your project on a computer screen in 3D, or do they rely on paper? Neither is an indication of a “better” architect, but if you’re more comfortable with one than the other, bring this up.
- What will you be responsible for, and what will I be responsible for? Designing a major remodel is a partnership. Make sure both of you understand what is expected of the other.
- What is your fee, and how is it structured? Don’t leave the interview without a firm understanding of what the architect’s fees are, what they are based on, and how and when you will be billed. For example, will you pay for all services at the end of the project? Or pay for half at a predetermined midway point?
There is, of course, one big drawback to working with an independent architect: cost. Working with a home builder, exclusively, during your planning stages will likely save you money on drafting, a floor plan, and any necessary revisions.
Architects and home designers can bring a lot of value to your custom home build. Still, they might be entirely focused on the “concept” or “design” and completely unaware of how their design and material choices are going to impact your bottom line ultimately.
That’s not the case when you choose to work with a builder on your custom home design.
A homebuilder acting as both designer and contractor is perfectly situated to keep an eye on cost. They have extensive knowledge of which types of designs and materials will push you past your budget, and should be more than able to guide you towards a custom design that fits your house plan, personality, and your budget.
Determine whether you legally need an architect’s stamp on drawings to obtain a building permit. Each state and local jurisdiction individually regulate the requirements needed to obtain a building permit. There are generally a handful of conditions that when met will exempt a project from requiring stamped drawings from an architect. For instance, houses no more than two stories usually do not require an architect. It’s not always this black and white though, so its best to speak with your local building department to be sure. They will tell you whether you need an architect or not. If you’ve determined that you need one, then be sure to find an architect that is a good fit for you and your project.