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Why hire an architect?

Though there are several good reasons for hiring an architect, perhaps the most important is that an architect can not only give a client just what they need but also more than they could imagine.  He can indulge whims and still ensure a sound and enduring structure.  He can provide valuable technical advice, and he can even save the client some money.

Doesn’t hiring an architect mean spending extra money?

Not necessarily.  Very often to find the right stock house plans, one has to settle for more house than one really needs or the house is simply inefficiently designed (overly large bathrooms and kitchens also serve to jack up the final cost unnecessarily).  By providing a much tighter and more efficient design than would be available from stock plans, the architect can more than cover his fee through a lower overall construction cost.  Similarly when a client needs to add on, an architect can see how to reconfigure and reuse existing space and minimize the amount of new construction, again lowering the overall cost.

Once construction starts, is the architect still needed?

The architect has handed over the plans to the contractor, but questions always arise.  During the most critical phases – the foundation and framing – the builder is still learning the plans, whereas the architect knows them intimately.  Catching mistakes early can prevent huge headaches and cost overruns later.  Further no set of drawings covers everything.  Many subcontractors (electricians, HVAC, alarm installers, etc.) often make decisions based on what is best for their trades alone; the architect can factor in all the other considerations when making these decisions.  Sometimes even owners and contractors agree to make changes without fully understanding their ramifications to the overall design.

Do I do blueprints?

Technically I do produce a set of prints (though they haven’t been blue for decades) as the culmination of the design process, but I don’t draft up construction drawings based solely on a design from a plans book.  On the other hand a potential client often will have a found a plan that is “not quite right.”  I would use that plan as a starting point, and with closer consultation with them, develop a completely new design that is just right.

Do I do “green” houses?

I typically incorporate extensive daylighting and passive ventilation schemes into my designs.  Besides lowering energy usage, they simply make the house more comfortable and enjoyable.  

I am very much interested in exploring new and alternative materials and techniques of construction, and making houses as energy efficient as possible.

How do I charge for my services?

Many house plan drafting services charge by the square foot.  Since unnecessary square footage increases the overall cost of the project, this method actually penalizes the designer to work harder for the client to keep costs down.  Similarly, basing a fee on a percentage of final cost could encourage a designer to pad a project, usually not in the client’s best interest.  A better method would be a fixed fee based either on an estimate of time involved or on a percentage of a specific budget goal.  The simplest method, and the one I use most frequently, is to charge an hourly fee throughout the project.  Fees can typically range from 3 to 8 percent of construction cost.