Design Does Not Cost More, But Lack of Design Will Cost a Fortune

I was at Lowe’s to pick up a couple of new hard hats for the office and there at the end of the check-out counter – a book of plans. Many of our potential clients decide not to hire an architect when they compare paying us to buying a $12 magazine. To them, a new home can be found in a book and you don’t need design to make your dreams come true. A simple tweak here and there and it will be perfect. This will in fact get you a new home – but not a custom home by any definition.


Yesterday as I was driving home, I noticed a sign at the end of a new residential neighborhood – “new custom homes, call us today.” Looking down the street, there are four different homes, built 6-10 times each in this neighborhood. Could it really be that all these people have exactly the same taste, needs, goals, and family demographics. If not, they are simply new homes, and not custom homes.

Last week, a builder told me that he credits me with teaching him about building science. This builder only builds green homes – so I might imply from his statement that I made him better at his core mission. This week, he decided to hire a drafter to design a new home for his clients, because I charge more than drafters. Drafters  have little concern for building science and, in many cases, little concern for functional design. Drafters are really good at delivering new homes, but not custom homes.


Good design is required to really have a custom home – a home that is designed for your specific family, way of life, and plans for the future. A home that can adapt to your ever-changing situations. A home that is functional, efficient, healthy, durable, and comfortable. Design costs can be paid for up front on paper or during construction with changes, over sized or poorly designed structural and mechanical systems, lack of efficiency on a monthly basis, and with an inability to stay in that home for a lifetime. Design does not cost more, but lack of design up front will cost a fortune.