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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Do I need an architect? What do I get from a consultation?

Considering building a new home or remodeling your kitchen? Want to  know if you can add that second story but not sure where to start? Not sure if your project is big enough to involve an architect? Give me a call and I can give you some free advice. I would first start out by saying that all projects can benefit from having an architect involved. Even if it is just for a short consultation to ask questions and get advice. I do this all the time for DIY's (Do it Yourselfers) and often times I help redirect the conversation to include things they haven't thought of or even considered. This can lead to significant savings and prevent costly mistakes. Below are some FAQ's that get from people during a consultation.

Question: What do you charge?

Architect's charge for their services in many different way's. Hourly, percentage of construction cost, fixed fee, etc are ways in which architects can structure their fees. Most often the simplest way is to just bill hourly. I often estimate a range of cost for the various phases of the project so clients have a general idea about how much the end price will be. This works the best because design is a "process" and that process is different for each project. Considering the large investment you are making in your house, this is a pretty small percentage of the whole investment. I'll add that studies show that homes that are designed by an architect sell quicker and for a higher cost per square foot.

Question: Do you work on smaller projects such as kitchens and bathrooms or just new homes and large remodels?

Yes, I work on kitchen and bathroom remodels when I get the opportunity. Like I said above, every project can benefit from having an architect involved even for a limited time. How? An architect can help with space planning, phasing of larger projects, preliminary pricing, sourcing of materials at discount prices, interior design, and suggest contractors or subcontractors if you plan to manage the construction yourselves. 

Many of these services can done on a limited basis for projects like bathrooms and kitchens for a reasonable hourly rate. I often encounter clients who decided to remodel the kitchen initially but after talking about the entire house and their goals we determined that it was best to consider another part of the house before the kitchen. 

Question: I know what I want, so I can just skip the architect part and just hire a contractor, right?

It's great that you know what you want, but can you do it based on Building and Land Use codes? Also, builders usually want drawings so they can accurately bid a project. Owners usually want to know what things cost before proceeding, right?  Loosely drawn plans usually result in wide ranges of cost and the owner finds this out the hard way once they are already down the road in construction. This results in huge cost overuns. A good architect can help mitigate this from happening by creating complete drawings that give the builder proper specifications and details. 

Question: Building designer, kitchen designer, interior designer, registered architect. Which one do I hire and why would I use one over the other?

There are a variety of people in the construction business offering design related services, but many have limited or no significant formal training and therfore they cannot use the word architect.  There are lots of "talented people" out there, but it is against state law to use the word "architect" "architecture" or "architectural" unless you are a registered architect that meets the following criteria:

Attained a degree from an NCARB accredited university (5-6 years of schooling)
Worked as an intern under a licensed architect for a minimum of 3 years and completed IDP
Passed a series of rigorous comprehensive examinations totally 40+ hours and register for license with state.
Complete yearly requirements for continuing education

Therefore, when hiring a registered architect you will get someone who is a competant trained professional that can look at your project holistically and can bring to the table experience of the entire process of design and building.

Question: What can I expect to get from a free consulation?

Think of this as an opportunity to get professional opinions about your project, suggestions on builders, some code clarifications, helpful questionaires to guide you through your design decisions, ballpark pricing, etc. Ofen times I'm just educating clients on the design process. Most people have never undertaken a building project before and it can be intimidating. I like to make the design process fun and inclusive.  

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