how to find good architects

Old 08-10-06, 06:13 PM
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how to find good architects

Hi all

I am in the process of plannning an addition onto the back of my house. I found one architect who has done additions to quite a few houses in my neighborhood (all the houses in my neighborhood are constructed similarly). He seems easy enough to work with, but the price seems high. It could be that his price is a good deal, but I don't know without talking to another few architects. However, I am not sure where to find other architects to get some alternate estimates. I could of course just browse the yellow pages, but is there a better resource somewhere that show previous work an architect has done and/or displays feedback from previous customers?

A bit about my project: I would be adding 1000-2000 square feet onto the back of my house, probably demolishing an existing, small addition. I am mostly interested in having someone plan the shell of the addition since I want to save money and am willing to do interior work myself over time. Depending on how difficult it is, I may or may not attempt to oversee the external construction myself.

Thanks for any ideas out there.
Old 08-10-06, 06:31 PM
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This was wrote by me awhile back, maybe this will help. Please use what may apply.

Good sources are your local building associations. You could also call your local building officials for some names. Major lumber yards will also have some resources available, architects or residential building designers.

Should you hire an Architect or Designer for your project?

Few people realize how complicated it is to build... that is until they find themselves lost in the maze of design options, building codes, zoning laws, contractors, and so on. No two building projects are exactly alike, so there is no single, clear-cut path to follow.

The architect/designer is the one professional who has the education, training, experience, and vision to guide you through the entire design and construction process, from helping you define what you want to build to helping you get the most for your construction dollar.

Whether you are remodeling, adding on, or building from scratch, the architect/designer can guide the way. Working with contractors and other construction professionals, architect/designers can help you end up with a well-designed project that meets your needs and works with your budget and time frame

One important note...the fees charged for these services varies by who you hire. Their services are invaluable. The experience and knowledge they possess to assist you in attaining your goals is what you are paying for. This is usually a fraction of the projected total cost of your project. Trying to do this yourself, unless you have skills to do so, will turn into a nightmare that could have been avoided.



This first stage, called programming, is probably the most valuable time you will spend with your architect/designer. It is at this time you discuss the requirements for your building: how many rooms, what function the structure will have, who will use it and how. It is also the time when you begin to test the fit between what you want, what you need, and what you can spend.

Don't come in with solutions already decided upon. Be prepared to explore new and creative ideas. Be very frank about how you want the end result to feel and work. The architect/designer will ask you lots of questions to get a better sense of your goals and needs and to determine if your expectations match your budget. The architect/designer may suggest changes based upon knowledge, experience, and your budget. After thoroughly discussing your functional requirements, the architect/designer will prepare a statement outlining the scope of your project. During the next step, your program will be realized.


Once you have defined what is to be built, the architect/designer will then do a series of rough sketches, known as schematic designs. These sketches will show you the general arrangement of rooms and of the site. If you have difficulty understanding the sketches (many people do), ask the architect/designer to explain. Depending on the project, some architect/designers will also make models of the design to help better visualize it. These sketches are not "finished" construction documents. They are meant to show possible approaches for you to consider. The architect/designer will refine and revise the sketches until a solution is developed that you agree meets the needs of your project. At this point, the architect/designer will also give you a rough preliminary estimate of construction cost. Remember, there are still many more details to be established about your project and that this cost estimate is very general. It is hard to predict market conditions, the availability of materials, and other unforeseen situations that could drive up costs. Therefore, this figure must include a healthy contingency to cover cost changes that arise as the design matures. Don't panic if these first sketches seem different from what you first envisioned. Ask your architect/designer how these designs satisfy the requirements you discussed in the first stage. It is vital that you and your architect/designer are clear about what you want and what the architect/designer intends to design. It is much easier to make changes now when your project is on paper, than later on when foundations have been poured and walls erected. Before proceeding to the next phase, the architect/designer will ask for your approval of these sketches.


This step, called design development, is when the architect/designer prepares more detailed drawings to illustrate other aspects of the proposed design. The floor plans show all the rooms in the correct size and shape. Outline specifications are prepared listing the major materials and room finishes.
When looking at these drawings, try to imagine yourself actually using the spaces. Ask yourself: Do the traffic patterns flow well? Does each space serve the intended purpose? Do I have a good sense of what it will look like? Do I like how it looks? Do I agree with the selection of wall and ceiling finishes, door types, windows, etc.?
Based on these drawings, the architect/designer will prepare a more detained estimate, though final costs will actually depend on market conditions. Review every element with your architect/designer to make sure you are getting the most out of your construction dollar.


At this point, the architect/designer prepares construction documents (Final Blueprints), the detailed drawings and specifications which the contractor will use to establish actual construction cost and to build the project. These blueprints will be submitted to the City for your Building Permit Application. These drawings and specifications become part of the contract. When construction documents are finished, you are ready to submit bids for hiring the General Contractor or builder.


There are a number of ways to select a contractor. Your architect/designer can make recommendations, or if you already have someone you want to work with, you might send the construction documents to him or her and negotiate fees and costs. Or you may wish to choose among several contractors you've asked to submit bids on the job. The architect/designer will help you prepare the bidding documents, which consist of drawings and specifications as well as invitations to bid and instruction to bidders. The bidding documents are then sent to several contractors, who within a given period of time, reply with bids which include the cost for building your project. The lowest bidder is often selected to do the work but I stress shouldn't be the main factor in hiring a contractor.
While the architect/designer can recommend contractors and assist in the selection process, the final choice is up to you. Some people prefer to act as their own general contractor or to do part or all of the construction themselves. These methods can save you money initially but can also add problems and costs later on. Discuss the pros and cons of these methods with your architect/designer to help you decide what will work best.


This final step is often the most anxiety-producing part of the who process. Up until now, your project has been confined to intense discussion, planning, and two-dimensional renderings. When construction begins, your project moves from an abstraction to a physical reality.
The architect/designer's involvement normally does not stop with the preparation of construction documents. Architect/designers also can provide construction administration services. These services may include assisting you in hiring the contractor, making site visits, reviewing and approving the contractor's applications for payment, and keeping you informed of the project's progress.
While the architect/designer observes construction, the contractor is solely responsible for construction methods, techniques, schedules, and procedures. The contractor supervises and directs the construction work on the project.
The path to a completed building project is paved with lots of challenges and uncertainty. There are literally hundreds of decisions to be made, decisions which have a strong impact on how the project looks and functions over time.
The architect/designer can ease the way by helping you avoid wrong turns, but also can direct you to solutions you never considered. The result is a unique building project created to meet your needs, express your individuality, and provide enjoyment for everyone who uses it.

Good Luck in your venture!
Old 08-10-06, 06:45 PM
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Just a follow up, most plans should be done on a sq.ft. base and any project design on an hourly fee basis is and can be very costly. Alternative fees are done by charging a % of total project cost. These cost can vary depending on who you hire.

The big problem with a majority of architects is that they do not actually know how to build a house. There are too many designing buildings that can not be build on a resonable budget and many prefer commercial. In fact, 95% of residential homes do not need an architect unless they require the services of an architect due to major structural or state limitations that residential building designers must adhere to. This pertains to nothing over 3 stories, no commerical and nothing over so many square feet as is regulated in Michigan as an example.

While some architects perform residential design, most don't. Residential Designers on the other hand, specialize in home design. Many times they have worked up the ladder from the trades and may have a better understanding, a first hand understanding, of home construction. Some residential designers may be less costly than an architect. I don't think price alone should be the determining factor in choosing a designer/architect. I believe experience, knowledge, skill and a desire to do home design will add more to a satisfied homeowner.

A good architect/designer will interact with their client, determine their needs and desires, work with a budget, adapt the home to its environment and the result will be a satisfied home owner.

This isn’t about Architects vs. Designers. This is about people qualified by the works of their hands for the service of their fellow man.

Make some calls, interview those that can fulfill your needs, I stress this can be an architect or a residential building designer.

Hope this helps!

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