Working With an Architect
With a fairly clear idea of the type of house or addition you want and where it will be built; even if where, is unclear, the time has come to select the professionals, who will make your dreams a reality. Your budget and design needs will most likely dictate whether you retain an Architect, an engineer, a designer, builder or all of them for your building team. Whether you retain an Architect or designer to work directly with a Builder on the design of your dream project, it is strongly recommended that you involve a licensed Architect each step of the way. An Architect's input from the start; with advisement from a builder as to current costs and some ways to save dollars, can prevent problems and misunderstandings down the road not only in design but the projects construction. Your Architect can advise you on design and building approaches, site analysis, local Zoning and Building Code requirements, the latest building products and materials, new energy saving techniques, and also ways to save money; all the details consumers face when they decide to have a custom home, remodel or addition built.
The following information defines the role of this highly skilled and motivated professional and offers guidance on selecting your building team that is best for you.
The primary goal of the Architect who designs your home or addition, will be to design the structure creatively, functionally, energy efficient, safely, environmentally healthy, sometimes Green and satisfy your needs and budget. This means interpreting your ideas, developing the correct relationship between house (or addition) and the site, accurately estimating probable costs to fit your budget requirements, specifying materials, meeting your needs and reviewing your wants, providing plan documents a contractor and subcontractor can follow, and meeting permit requirements in your locality.
It is wise to select your Architect early in the process. He/she can be invaluable in helping to select a site by pointing out both its potential and its constraints and how to make each of them coincide with the environment and natural beauty of the site. As you get to know each other during the land selection process, the Architect is better able to understand your housing and space needs and direct you with your needs or wants.
Selecting the Architect for your dream project will be easier if you understand the basic steps involved in the design process. They include:
You and the Architect will discuss design and programming ideas, budgets, timetables, qualified contractors, financing and fee arrangements. A scope of work will be developed and a written Proposal or contract drawn up to define the work you may require of the Architect. Once a proposal is approved, a legal and binding contract will be furnished to further define the scope and compensation for the work to be performed.
The Architect researches the site, completes as built field work and drawings, local codes and restrictions, and you and your way of life. This is the time for talking and thinking about land, using the program and design file each of you have put together, and explaining each room and your vision of it. The Architect, after his site investigation or as built field work is complete, he/she will design the building so it will be suitably oriented to the existing structure and its site; If a new home too the site, the property, the sun, the landscape, the utilities, the view, and prevailing winds.
He will translate your programmed ideas into a set of rough drawings that include a site plan when necessary (showing the house or addition and drive location), necessary floor plans, and a couple elevations as required. These sketched ideas are presented through careful study and technical design to assure its successful construction. The ideas will incorporate discussed elements of design. These basic elements are form, space, light, shadow, texture, line and color. With these basic elements, the ideas will also incorporate the principles of design, which are unity, repetition, rhythm, variety, emphasis, symmetry and balance. Between the use of the elements and principles of design, your ideas for the dream home or addition can become a reality. Also at this time a probable cost estimate is established to try to adhere and fit your budget.
The Basic structural design is determined and exterior elevations are carried through the design. Some basic or generic specifications and details are developed and discussed. The mechanics of the heating and cooling systems are discussed and developed if fees allow; rooms are laid out, and exterior materials with interior finishes (generic or specific depending on fees) are chosen. Plans are developed up to approximately 60% completion, as to an approved site plan, floor plans, foundation plan and all exterior elevations. This is the time to make your final design decisions and/or changes.
These are the Construction drawings, drawn to scale, that will be used to construct the project. They detail the project with labeled foundation plans, floor plans, exterior elevations, building and wall sections, specific notes, plan and section details and schedules as necessary to meet the agreed fee and the scope of work. Each element in accordance to the scope of work is shown as necessary, from the placement of light fixtures to the design of the roof overhang and its peak. Construction drawings are required to be Stamped by a licensed Architect and both you and the Architect should sign the final released set to avoid possible disagreements. Ask how long it will take for the Architect to draw up your dream project. You can usually expect to spend 1 to 6 months depending on the scope of work in your contract, size of project, style and type of home, to get your dream home or Addition translated into working drawings. An exception to this rule, is designing a custom home or addition. It may take up to 6 months or a year depending on how the design process flows between you and your Architect.
PLEASE NOTE: Basic Architectural Plans (considered BASIC CONSTRUCTION DRAWINGS), such as floor plans, elevations, a typical wall section, and any pictorial drawings, are adequate for describing the general design of a residential structure or its remodeled space for most municipalities. However, to ensure the building will be completed as you or the Architect specifies, a more complete and detailed description of the construction features of the design must be prepared (Full services Contract Documents). This additional work will surely increase the Architect’s fees but will undoubtedly cut construction costs and keep the bids more closely in line along with keeping the project from going in the wrong direction and requiring many change orders throughout its construction. This savings will more than likely pay for itself many times over the Architect’s fees.
Generally the full specifications accompany the full services contract documents either separately or listed on the plans, or both. They are a detailed written list, describing sizes, kinds and quality of building materials and define the methods of construction, fabrication, or installation of each type of material, and work involved in building the project. The specifications identify the quality, type, and brand name or manufacturer of components acceptable to be used in each construction phase. Specifications guarantee the purchaser that the contractor will deliver the building when it is finished exactly as specified. These documents also help ensure that the building will be constructed according to generally accepted standards and building codes that are required.
When specifications accompany Basic Construction Drawings they are Generic in format. They will only give enough information to specify a generic name for the material so one can order what ever brand, style, or color that one may desire for such item in question and follow that format throughout the plans provided. Owner is responsible for choosing the materials he/she may desire in the project.
An elaborate home or addition may require or be requested by the owner to complete a model or be enhanced by drawing a perspective drawing, or produce modeling on CAD which always involves an additional fee and time to complete. A model can help clarify intricate roof details and give the owner a reality look at what his/her dream home can become on a specific site. Perspective drawings relate a look at the building in three dimensional orientations as if you may be looking at it photographically. Either media will give the owner a better understanding of the building and help in its final design.
Once full services contract drawings and specifications are finally approved and signed, they are ready for bidding. If you are working with the Architect, you may retain him/her to handle this phase at an additional fee, or you can do it yourself. If done by owner or his resources, the responsibility will lie with him to see that the building is built in accordance with the said plans and specifications provided by his/her Architect.
The contract drawings and specifications are the basis both for competitive bids and for actual construction. You must be sure that the same specifications are used for each bid to ensure that all of the bids you receive are for identical labor and materials. Each bidder must be able to compete equally and compare apples to apples. The bids you receive will tell you whether the job can be done within your budget, or whether adjustments to your plans and/or specifications are needed. Any adjustments needed may be at an additional fee depending upon your contract with your Architect and the final arrangements made with your contractor.
If an Architect is designing your new project and your contract contains no project administration provisions, you may want to negotiate with him/her to monitor the work in progress, consulting with you and the builder throughout the construction process to ensure that plans are being executed as detailed. After all, you spent all this time and effort into the design for the project, why not be sure it gets built according to your vision. An Architect will normally charge an hourly rate for this phase, ranging from $75.00 to $125.00 an hour and up, plus expenses, depending on geographic location, contractor hired and the type of project, whether residential or commercial.