Fyi - Should I Hire An Architect/designer?

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Old 07-09-03, 07:23 AM
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Fyi - Should I Hire An Architect/designer?

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.

6 BASIC STEPS TOWARDS BUILDING A HOME/ADDING ON

1. DECIDING WHAT TO BUILD

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.

2. ROUGH SKETCHES (2D DRAWINGS - FLOOR LAYOUTS/ELEVATIONS)

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 architectS/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.

3. REDEFINING THE DESIGN

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.

4. PREPARING CONSTRUCTION DOCUMENTS (BLUEPRINTS AND SPECIFICATIONS)

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.

5. HIRING THE CONTRACTOR

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.

6. CONSTRUCTION

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!
 

Last edited by Doug Aleshire; 07-10-03 at 06:17 PM.
  #2  
Old 07-10-03, 05:37 PM
pmgca
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Professionals

Just some comments from an Architect,

Of course, the design process is not an All-Customer-Ready-to-use recipe, and the best way to start your process is share with the professional about your needs, wishes and about the role you wish for you and for the professional during the design process.
Even the design process is not a full DIY work, you MUST be part of the design team, because this will be your home, your dream's home. So allow yourself the great experience of design together with the professional

Not all the professionals charge a % of the work, some work by sq ft, some for a fee, some charge by package.

Remember: The first thing to do: ask for each family member to write a list called "My dream house is.." Discuss with them styles, rooms, spaces and hobbies.
Look at your life style today and try to see it in the next years: are you planning children? Do you love to invite friends to a barbecue party? Is your Mom going to live with you? And write all. Then, classify each idea as Very Important, More or Less Important or Less Important. With these steps you are ready to start with your Dream Home Design without mistakes.

Let us know if you have further questions
 
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Old 11-15-04, 01:44 PM
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How to find an architect

We live in Charlotte, NC which has been in the midst of a building boom for several years. Most architects and builders are "wedded" to conventional "stick" buildings. We want to build using ICF's, in floor heating, a geothermal source etc. How do we find an architect who is familiar with these materials?

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Last edited by Doug Aleshire; 11-20-04 at 04:40 PM. Reason: No adverttising or solication allowed
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Old 11-15-04, 02:09 PM
Rusty Shacklefo
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Like the post Doug. However, I have one question:

Last year when I was getting ready to replace the deck on my house I needed plans. I figured it would be pretty small project, so I also planned on getting my bathroom/master remodel planned at the same time (major to me - moving walls and plumbing and all).

I called four local architects and none would touch the job because it was too small. None of the four could suggest anyone who would do the job. For the deck I eventually copied the original plans and penciled in my changes (in consultation with the contractor and city engineer - small suburb, very helpul).

What suggestions do you have to hire an architect for small projects?
 
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Old 11-20-04, 02:10 PM
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Rusty and attilathehun1,

I would suggest that you try this link, click the state and contact them.

http://aibd.org/promembers.htm

Those affiliated with this are very good and it includes Architects and Designers like myself. It is a good source but again what they may say may be similar to what happened to you both.

Recommended sources;

Major Lumber Yards - Ask the estimators for recommendations
Local Building Associations - like Michigan - Building Industry Assoc. of SE Michigan (BIA of SE MI)
National Building Associations (NAHB, NARI)

I agree that some architects and designers will shy away from small jobs. In part this is due to "sticker shock" on what it would cost. I hate to say a price when it is a small project, deck, bath addition and have to say it will be $1000 or whatever it is. I know that it becomes an issue of mathmatics - you compare the budget cost of the job to what I would charge. Then it comes, why so much?

Answer is simple, as with your's Rusty, the deck may seem simple but since you were able to work with the contractor and the City to get a plan submitted on modifying what you had. One thing that is important to all of us in the Design and Drafting field is the Copyright Laws. Many ignore this, I don't. We can't take an existing plan and modify it without legally getting permission from the original designer. Thus, I take field measurements and I draw it from scratch. I'm not infringing on those rights and I don't need a lawsuit. Lawsuits run amuck lately anyway and I don't need trouble. You already know that it does take time to modify. However minor it may have been, the time it takes to draw these adds up.

On average, even though I have a CAD system, I can put in 60 - 120 hours on a project, sometimes more depending on complexity and amenities. If I charge $65 per hour and an Architect charges $100 per hour, the hourly fee adds up. This is why I charge a "Flat Fee". It's more fair to the client, no surprises - contract says what I will do and it is done. Hourly fees add up and when a client agrees to an hourly feel, they assume it will be less than a flat fee. In many cases, it may add to more. This is due to client thinking that by requesting change after change that it is no biggie. I have to say it is enormous and changes take time, computer or not. What does effect the cost is that if the change is one of a structural issue, allot of recalculating and redrawing is necessary to meet Code.

One thing I want to point out, when you consider that a project costs let's say $200,000 and you want somebody to do all the construction drawings, are you going to pay $1000 for the drawings or $5,000, $10,000? If you choose the smaller, then be prepared to spend more on your home. True, those out there can draw it but to what detail - who will be doing "assuming" if it isn't on the drawings? Contractor! If it isn't there in detail, he adds additional costs to cover what he thinks he will run into. This can easily cost you more than $5,000, $10,000. I have seen $21,000 in increases because someone didn't design nor add enough details to a drawing. Granted it passed for obtaining a building permit but the lack of information for the construction of it cost the homeowner. In the end, who get's the better deal? Did you really get a bargain? Thinking that you can acquire low cost drawings just to save money is asking for trouble. This is a big investment and going low here is a mistake.

I don't claim to be the highest price but I am very good at what I do. The other may be that even small projects like this take time, it may be an issue of that as well but it would be nice if they could at least say that up front.

Regarding building using ICF's, in floor heating, a geothermal source etc. A good Architect or Designer will have the knowledge and the experience with using certain products, applications. Some in fact, specialize in these areas only, like doctors or lawyers. I guess if they have an interest or just like money, they make the choice and stick with it. I have only done 2 - ICF's systems as the cost and finding those skilled to construct them is not easy nor cheap. In-floor heating is no problem, I have done those in electric and hydronic. That has been around for years but ICF's from a residential standpoint is growing but not that fast. Geothermal is another area where I have no experience. I understand the concept but my reason, from my persepective only, I need an engineer to stamp the drawings and one that is very knowledgable of it. Again the cost for this kind of help is expensive. The cost of soil testing, site survey, all play a role in final costs. Most buyers cannot afford the time nor the expense to prepare for all of this let alone deal with the actual home construction cost.

So I believe in quality drawings, staying within a budget and client satisfaction. You either know the products and applications and how to help the client save money or you don't. I don't want to be like others who are lazy, give a poor set of drawings and don't care about anybody. i love what I do and daily get educated on new products, new methods and stay on top of Building Codes.

As I tell others and this is my philosphy,

"What I produce here will effect what is built out there."

Hope this helps!
 
  #6  
Old 11-20-04, 02:36 PM
Rusty Shacklefo
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Originally Posted by Doug Aleshire
Rusty and attilathehun1,

I would suggest that you try this link, click the state and contact them.

http://aibd.org/promembers.htm

Those affiliated with this are very good and it includes Architects and Designers like myself. It is a good source but again what they may say may be similar to what happened to you both.

Recommended sources;

Major Lumber Yards - Ask the estimators for recommendations
Local Building Associations - like Michigan - Building Industry Assoc. of SE Michigan (BIA of SE MI)
National Building Associations (NAHB, NARI)

I agree that some architects and designers will shy away from small jobs. In part this is due to "sticker shock" on what it would cost. I hate to say a price when it is a small project, deck, bath addition and have to say it will be $1000 or whatever it is. I know that it becomes an issue of mathmatics - you compare the budget cost of the job to what I would charge. Then it comes, why so much?
thanks for the link. I found one in the town where I live that I didn't contact. I know that all the guys I talked to said "you won't like the cost" but they wouldn't discuss it. Quite frankly, $1,000 sounds cheap to me. I was think 2 or 3 times that for a small job. My wife and I both work in fields where we bill by the hour and I realize how much time costs.
 
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Old 11-20-04, 03:21 PM
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Rusty,

Sorry for responding to your posting late but you're very welcome. Let us know how you're coming along.
 
 

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