Architectural Resources


Old 07-11-04, 08:26 PM
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Architectural Resources


I'm a great fan of this site, so many great ideas and helpful hints that have assited me in a complete rebuild of a bathroom, basement and the construction of a shed. Now onto my big project....

We live in a small (1,000 sq.ft on the main floor) ranch style home - 3 BR (small), 1 BR, Kitchen & L/R. Just my wife and I live in it, there won't be children (except for guests). Luckily the house sits on land (in suburbia) where we can add. We'd like to add more space to expand the kitchen, add a den, perhaps do a master bath & redo the master B/R. With the exception of a few items, I'll probably be doing the bulk of the work.

While I'm still out at least a year from starting the project, I'm starting to think about it and I want to get architectual assistance. So my question is - are there on-line resources for such assistance? Or is it best to look local? And what to look for? Ideally, the price won't be too steep but before I start I want to get input into design, based on my current configuration.

Thanks for any input!
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Old 07-12-04, 02:10 AM
Bill Arnquist
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There are some architects that work via the internet. You may want to give that a try.

Old 07-20-04, 05:53 PM
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Hi Bob - Here's a solution - contact your local AIA (American Institute of Architects) chapter for local recommendations. The AIA ( also has a "find an architect" section where you can search by region/area.

It sounds to me like you are trying to save a buck on this. An experienced residential architect won't cost you much & they'll help you get 1) a nicer place and 2) can help you with other things such as a) designing so that the project is legal and no larger than you need (space costs money!!) b) select materials to help keep your costs down c) get approval from the city / township to build d) help you select a contractor (if you need to, sounds like you want to do it yourself) and etc.

An architect can charge you in one of three ways:

1) flat fee (you agree on a price)
2) price per square foot
3) percentage of construction cost

for you, you'd probably want to do the flat fee way. I bet, if you're adding on 1000 s.f. (for example) it'd run you about $2000 - $10,000 depending on the architect, where you live, quality of construction and level of service the architect will provide. Since you're doing it yourself, it'd be a limited set of services (essentially design services and doing the actual blueprint drawings) so it'd probably be towards the mid or lower end of those prices.

let me know if you have any more questions.
Old 07-21-04, 08:00 AM
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Hey Trance - thanks for the reply! I'll start digging through my local resources - hopefully I can find someone w/ experience w/ my type of house (small ranch). While price is always a consideration, it's not so at this point, I don't mind paying for good advice/plans. I want to do much of the work myself as I enjoy building.

Thanks for the advice!
Old 07-21-04, 08:44 AM
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Yes, I think local is better than remote. Good residential architecture is a personal thing, created by the interaction of the client's home, needs and personality with the architect's skill, experience and personality. I think it's
hard to do long distance. You should feel free to interview the architect(s) before you make a decision - see their portfolio of designs they've done before to see if they do something that you like.

Old 07-21-04, 06:42 PM
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bob md,

I have to agree with Trance, hiring someone local is better than over the internet, especially if it is through an unknown source. I do it nationwide so I already know what is involved. You have to hire someone who listens, can take all the words and transpose them into sketches to start from and go from there. Doing it long distance for me isn't a problem but I have many years of experience which gives me advantages over others.

Choosing a Building Designer has more to do with compatibilty and communication than just obtaining the most economical plans possible.
Whereas Architects may charge the prospective homeowner in the range of 5%-15% of the project cost, Residential Designers, mind you, good ones can 2% to 5% for "Construction Drawing Set" . The rule is the lower the projected cost the higher the fee. It's a fact that 98% of Residential projects do not need an Architect unless we are talking enormous square footage or major structural issues. It is very important that you have flexibility in making decisions on what you like, need and want. This is crucial. Most architectual firms are very rigid and charge the higher prices for various reasons.

The highest plan fees are charged by registered Architects who have studied the design of everything from small residences to massive high rise structures. They are licensed to certify many aspects of construction not commonly used for private homes. On the other extreme, there are designers/draftsmen who will draw a plan, as if you want anything changed and then just draw finals. All for a lower price and without detail that can be bid on with competence. Despite the fact that design ability can somewhat be taught, the best work is the result of a combination of talent and experience. A designer should be chosen because of the successful results of his work. The end result is a project design that meets the client's budget, needs, and dreams.

So if making improvements is your decision, start off with this...

Determine a budget for the project, you and a architect/designer will need to know what you have to work with. If the amount is too low for what you want to do, reconsiderations should be done. If this means be it. If it means not getting what you want...don't do it. If the budget is reasonable...procede with...

1. Collect ideas up front, make sketches and provide notes.
2. Don't skimp on design. Don't think within the "box".
3. If you are going to be the contractor...know your limitations.
4. Use a clear and complete contracts with those that you hire.
5. Work out job logistics up front. Nothing worse than finding your project has major conflicts with scheduling/material drops,storage and general family chaos.
6. Establish regular communication channels with those you work with.

Plans are very important. How one gets them done and who does them is another issue.

I have seen very good architects/designers come across with the so called intelligent design concept, space planning, team concepts, as examples that all sound good except they forget who lives do! Need, want and wish list should be made up. It's a good way to prioritize what you are about to do. The home is an adult decision, not one that should be planned around the current age of the children. Kids grow up and move out...adults just grow older and still have to live there! Don't let fancy or enticing words dictate who assists in the design and planning of your project. If you don't trust or feel good about who you interview to do the designs, don't hire them. If you don't find them to be "willing and able" to work with you...don't hire them. If they "tell" you things verus asking or suggesting...don't hire them. You're the boss...PERIOD.

1. What does the architect/designer see as important issues or considerations in your project? What are the challenges of the project? Do they have the commen sense and experience to work around these? Are they thinking in YOUR best interest or theirs?
2. How will the architect/designer/designer approach your project? Do they have hands-on construction experience?
3. How will the architect/designer gather information about your needs, goals, etc.? Are they going to listen to you?
4. How will the architect/designer establish priorities and make decisions? Are they a team player or team ruler? Will they keep the budget in mind at all times?
5. Who from the architect/designer firm will you be dealing with directly? Is that the same person who will be designing the project?
6. How interested is the architect/designer in this project?
7. How busy is the architect/designer?
8. What sets this architect/designer apart form the rest?
9. How does the architect/designer establish fees?
10. What would the architect/designer expect the fee to be for this project?
11. What are the steps in the design process?
12. How does the architect/designer organize the process?
13. What does the architect/designer expect you to provide?
14. What is the architect/designer's design philosophy? Should it be important or should it be discarded to meet your needs?
15. What is the architect/designer's experience/track record with cost estimating?
16. What will the architect/designer show you along the way to explain the project? Will you see models, 3D's, drawings, or sketches?
17. If the scope of the project changes later in the project, will there be additional fees? How will these fees be justified?
18. What services does the architect/designer provide during construction? What are these fees?
19. How disruptive will construction be? How long does the architect/designer expect it to take to complete your project?
20. Do they have a list of past clients that are close to what you are about to do? Something to at least compare to?

These questions are a good start to help guide you initially in the process. I'm sure others will comment that have life experiences. They may agree or disagree... in part or whole but then again this is my opinion be the judge.

So in trying to find someone local - check your local MAJOR LUMBER YARD, not a big box store, contact your local NARI or Building Industry Association of Maryland. Look for GOOD designers that are local who have a proven record. Make some calls, check them out. It should save you allot of money and best of all with positive results!

Hope this helps!
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