Do you save money by hiring an architect?

IMG_6575Hiring an architect should save you time, money, minimize bumps, streamline the building process, and provide an accurate picture of what to expect well before the first shovel of dirt is turned over.

I heard it again last week from a friend that decided to cut costs by not hiring an architect: “I wish I had hired you, I would have saved a ton of money and frustration.” It is a painful conversation for both me and the person that made the choice not to hire me that I have had many times. I struggle to get work, get told many times over that potential clients found a cheaper alternative, then I see the results and the mistakes made by those not understanding design.


The problem is that I cannot prove hiring a design professions (not a drafter, not a builder that does design) will save you money, but I have heard from many that have tried that it does not work. Have you had the same experience? Have you avoided design costs by going another direction and ended up with exactly what you wanted? Comment below and share your experiences – size, shape, complexity, situation, renovation, commercial, residential. It will help me better convey to my potential clients why they should hire me and help other blog readers make this decision.



Why I architect….

I believe that design is one of the most critical elements of thinking we have to build a brighter future. We can create spaces for living, working, and playing that enhances our lives and our community. We know how to design homes that are easily 30% – 50% more efficient than the majority that are built today. We know how to design office space that encourages business growth, collaboration, and productivity. We understand how to create retail spaces that makes shopping a more pleasurable experience and maximizes profits for the owner. We just need a chance to design first before construction begins. 


Why do I architect? Because I want my clients to have comfortable beautiful spaces to live, play, and work.

Why You Should Hire an Architect

Hire an architect

Franklin Street renovation

I spend most of my time thinking about the design of homes and commercial structures. It is hard for me to understand why anyone would ever want to go through the process without an architect by their side. I often hear people say they can simply go to a builder to get a home designed and built in order to save money. There are also plenty of options for purchasing plans from a magazine or online. So why would you ever pay for an architect? 

I would challenge you to look at the process from another point of view. Why would you ever pay someone to design a home that is not a trained licensed design professional that knows how to translate your goals into a home that meets your specific needs, is efficient, healthy, and energy-efficient? Why would you ever invest in a building that was not exactly what you need? Why would you put the person building a home and billing you for the work in charge of writing the scope for the project? So what value does an architect bring to a project that makes them a necessary element that you cannot afford to eliminate?

An architect, as defined by Wikipedia, is a person that is highly trained in planning, design and oversight of the construction of buildings, and is licensed to practice architecture. While the architect’s role has evolved over the years from master builder to only doing design, the importance of an architect’s involvement has not diminished. The key reason that an architect is so valuable to a project is their ability to hear your ideas and to transform them into a feasible and concrete reality. While anyone can purchase a design program, only an architect is trained to think design, solve functional problems, understand building systems, and offer aesthetically balanced solutions.

Hire an architect

Attic insulation

So to put it into perspective, if you are renovating your home, what is the best investment? Should you replace your windows, HVAC system, or just add insulation? If you want the best value for your renovation how do you decide? What are the implications on indoor air quality if you make your HVAC system more efficient without adding insulation? Where does the make up air originate? Will the windows fit aesthetically? How will you hide the outdoor HVAC units?

If you are renovating your kitchen, do you replace your cooktop with a gas range? If so, do you need a hood vent? If you add the hood vent, do you have enough make up air in the home to avoid creating a backdraft from the fireplace? What if you select cabinets that have volatile organic compounds in the binding agents? Will your kitchen renovation make you sick? Does the kitchen flow for the way you work in the kitchen, does it work with the rest of the house, does it blend from the exterior?

Architects understand these complex issues and are not only focused on aesthetic solutions. Engaging an architect is like taking a business partner for your project, one who is knowledgeable, knows the risk areas around the project and knows how to minimize those risks, and has the necessary people skills to work with your contractors. A good architect will treat your project like it is his or her own and will offer creative solutions and ideas. They will be able to identify, in detail, the advantages and disadvantages for any issue that may arise in the process. In other words, an architect will save you money, time, and frustration while delivering an aesthetically beautiful and functional design. Whether you are renovating or building new, an architect is a great way to maximize your investment in the project.

Build a Team that Understands Value

As an architect I am trained to appreciate beauty, to technically analyze efficiency, find problems, identify potential, evaluate the pros and cons of options, and offer a client the solution that best fits the budget, program, and aesthetic goals. This is the basis for design. We, as architects, spend countless hours searching for options, learning about solutions, investigating products, and trying to understand the available technologies. We have long detailed conversations with experts on subjects like air sealing, egress, health and safety, wind loads, indoor air quality, the flush capacity of toilets, proper proportions of kitchens, stairs, and windows, and snow loads. We are completely and totally an odd bunch.

Design Matters

So why should you use an architect (not a drafter) to design your home or business? Because we will help you through the process to find the best possible solutions for your stated goals. We know the process, can help you avoid pitfalls along the way, and add value to your project. Because we are trained to design, understand project integration, and know the complications involved in designing high-performance solutions. You should hire an architect because we know how the contract administration phase should be performed, we advocate for you in the construction process, and we help you develop a project that meets your goals. You should hire an architect because you will get design no matter who draws your project – you can either get the design from someone who lives and breathes design, or someone who can draw a plan. You should hire an architect because we add value to your project and because good planning saves you time, money, and energy.

architectural stick figures

So which architect should you use? You should select an architect that has a proven track record with the types of issues that are important to you. You should look at the past projects designed by the firm, the certifications they hold, and the organizations they hold an active role in. You need to trust your architect, be able to discuss openly and freely your goals and desires for the projects, and you need an architect that will be fun to work through this process that can be stressful at times. The best way to get to know an architect is to read their blog posts to find out what they are interested in and where their passion lies. Check out their Facebook page to see what they talk about. Read their Twitter feed to see who they endorse, retweet, and tweet. Look at the organizations they join and what they do for that organization to support the efforts they believe in. Talk to others in the community about their experiences with that architect.

Hiring an architect is the most important part of planning a good project. It is the first step towards success. It is the best way to save money during the construction process. Hiring an architect is critical to the success of your project.

Citizen Architect – Design Matters

I believe that as an architect I have an ethical duty to design solutions that are energy efficient, durable, and healthy. It is my job to understand the materials that are available in the market today, know how to use the materials effectively, and to know the impacts on indoor air quality, durability, and the environment. The added value that an architect brings to a project is based a practical understanding of material science, building science, and spatial relationships. The process of design is like translating musical notes into a symphony of parts to create a masterpiece. The results will not always be an icon of building mastery, sometimes it will simply be a well crafted space that brings function and form together into a harmonious marriage.

charlottesville architect