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.
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.