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Hiring an Architect

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Ideally I would provide full architectural design and administration services for every project. Let’s be honest, that’s the want of every architect for every project. However, for several reasons, I realize this is not always an option, nor is it always necessary. Cost is typically a primary issue on every project, and usually the first thing to be eliminated is the professional services of an architect. However, as a client you need to be aware of options that do not eliminate the services of your architect.

The primary means of reducing the design fee is to reduce the level of service provided. However, that in turn will result in more responsibility for you and it becomes crucial (even more so) to have a competent contractor. Obviously, the greater amount of detail included in the drawings, the clearer the procedure for construction. The design drawings are vital in assuring you that your house is built the way you want it. The more detail in the drawings the more control you have over the resultant house. Anything not included in the drawings is at the discretion of the contractor. You’ll have less control over the final outcome of the house because you have given the contractor fewer instructions/information to follow.

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In this installment of the ‘Hiring an Architect’ series, I address typical levels of service available from an architect. Keep in mind not all architects are willing to work on a project where their services are limited- and there are some projects I won’t either. However, it does afford potential options to a client who is not in a position to hire an architect for full services, but does realize the value of an architect in the design of their home. Outlined below are differing Levels of design service available to you:

LEVEL 1: SCHEMATIC DESIGN DRAWINGS

This level uses an architect’s special training to problem solve, but the task of producing drawings for permitting and construction is the responsibility of others and is hired by you. This level is appropriate for simple designs. This level of service is appropriate if you want a house designed for your particular needs, but want to either draw the plans yourself or to have the builder, or a drafting service perform the drawing creation.

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These drawings are by no means enough for permitting or actual construction. The drawings indicate the design intent of your home. Prior to building, you will need to hire someone to think through how the house will be constructed, and to document those decisions in a set of drawings, suitable for obtaining the permit and building the house. This approach is appropriate if you wish to have standard finishes and details. Services typically include the following phase and associated deliverables:

Schematic Design (SD)

Schematic Design Drawings provided. Room sizes will be indicated but not dimensioned. The Schematic Design Drawings will be formatted at a size of 11×17, hand drawn, and consist of the following:

– Floor Plan(s)

– Roof Plan(s)

– Exterior Elevations- at each exterior façade

 

LEVEL 2: SCHEMATIC DESIGN + SCHEMATIC DESIGN RESOLUTION PACKAGE

This level of service is appropriate for those seeking a house with standard construction and finishing details. Like Level 1, this level of service is recommended for simple designs, where everything is straight forward. This level of service is the same as previously described in Level 1. However, once a design is agreed upon, a Schematic Design Resolution Package is provided.

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The Schematic Design Resolution Package contains additional information to lessen the burden on someone else completing the drawings. Even though you will still need to hire someone else to complete a set of drawings, suitable for obtaining the permit and construction, major dimensions will have been determined to aid in the creation of drawings. Services typically include the following phases and associated deliverables:

Schematic Design (SD) + Schematic Design Resolution Package

Includes services and deliverables as indicated in Level 1 , in addition, a  Schematic Design Resolution Package is provided. The Schematic Design Resolution Package will be formatted at a size of 24×36, created via AutoCAD/BIM software, and consist of the following:

–   Floor Plan(s)

–   Roof Plan(s)

–   Exterior Elevations- at each exterior facade

–   Two (2) Building Sections

–   One (1) Wall Section

 

LEVEL 3: SCHEMATIC DESIGN + DESIGN DEVELOPMENT DRAWINGS

This level of service is the same as previously described in Level 2. However, once a design is agreed upon, a set of Design Development Drawings is created. The Schematic Design is developed so it more precisely fits your desires and needs. Preliminary materials are indicated/selected for your house.

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The Design Development drawings illustrate and describe the refinement of the design of your house. They establish the scope, relationships, forms, size, function, and aesthetic character of the house. These documents will outline the major materials and the building systems proposed. While these drawings are still not suitable for permitting and construction, they do start indicating additional information that assists in alleviating the contractor making assumptions. Services typically include the following phases and associated deliverables:

Schematic Design (SD) + Design Development (DD)

Includes services and deliverables as indicated in Level 2, in addition, Design Development Drawings will be created. The Design Development Drawings will be formatted at a size of 24×36, created via AutoCAD/BIM software, and typically consist of the following:

– Preliminary Architectural Site Plan in CAD (plot plan provided by Owner)

– Floor Plan(s)

– Roof Plan(s)

– Exterior Elevations- as needed

– Building Section(s)

– Preliminary Wall Sections and Details

– Preliminary Electrical Plans- locating outlets, telephone and cable only

– Preliminary Ceiling/Lighting Plans- locating lighting and switching only

– Preliminary Schedule Sheet(s)- including door and window schedule, interior finish schedule and interior elevations as required

– Preliminary General Specification Sheet- major materials and systems and establish their quality levels

 

LEVEL 4: FULL SCOPE OF ARCHITECTURAL SERVICES  (psst… psst…this is the one you want)

This level of service is the same as previously described in Level 3. However, once Design Development is complete, a set of Construction Documents is created. These drawings are also used for obtaining a building permit and for construction of your house. All of the information obtained throughout the previous phases of work are incorporated and coordinated to create a set of drawings and documents that set forth in detail requirements for the construction of your house. This also includes structural engineering of your house.

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This level of service offers you the greatest amount of specificity regarding your house, and consequently the greatest amount of control over the end ‘product.’ The resultant home will reflect who you are and how you live. Services typically include the following phases and associated deliverables:

Construction Document (CD)

Includes services and deliverables as indicated in Level 3 , in addition, Construction Documents consisting of Drawings and Specifications setting forth in detail the requirements for your house, including Drawings and Specifications that establish the quality levels of materials and systems required for your house, will be created. A typical Construction Document set will include:

– Cover Sheet

– General Specification Sheet(s) or Book Specifications

– Architectural Site Plan

– Foundation, Floor, and Roof Plan(s)

– Exterior Elevations

– Building Sections, Wall Sections, and Details

– Electrical Plans- locating outlets, telephone and cable only (circuitry by electrical subcontractor)

– Ceiling/Lighting Plans- locating lighting and switching only (circuitry by electrical subcontractor)

– Schedule Sheet(s)- including door and window schedule, interior finish schedule and interior elevations as required

– Selection sheets indicating what fixtures, appliances, lights, etc. that you need to select.

– Structural Framing Plans and Details as required (services provided by a structural engineer)

 

CONSTRUCTION OBSERVATION

This is the construction phase of your project. Basically, we are involved during this process to see that the builder is following the Construction Documents during construction. Ideally, at a minimum, visits to the site would occur at; Foundation and Footings, Substantial Completion of Framing, Pre-Electrical, Before Drywall, Trim work approximately 50%, and Substantial Completion. This service is only provided if Level 4 is selected. There are far too many liabilities to be involved with the construction unless we are the author of the Construction Documents.

 

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HOURLY CONSULTING

For any other services not indicated, and for any situation where our experience in residential design and construction would be of value, we are available on an hourly basis.

Ideally you would select Level 4. However, even limiting design services, there remains inherent value in employing the services of an architect. As a future client, you need to be aware of the options available such that you can realize your dream home. If you are considering/making such an investment, why not hire an architect to assist you in getting what you want? If you want your home to reflect who you are and how you live, hiring an architect is something you cannot afford not to do.

All of the previous posts in the ‘Hiring an Architect’ series can be found here:

Hiring an Architect: Part 1- The Search

Hiring an Architect: Part 2- Q&A Yourself

Hiring an Architect: Part 3- Ask the Architect

Hiring an Architect: Part 4- What? Me… hire an architect?

 

Armed with this series, a residential client should feel at ease about hiring and working with an architect. Architects will listen to your needs/wants and in the end you’ll have the home you wanted because your architect was able to assist you in bridging the gap between your budget, your vision and reality. You’ll end up with a home that fits you and your lifestyle. If you still have reservations or questions fell free to comment below or send me an email!

 

Design On,

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* Originally posted January 21 2015, edited/revised per date above- Even limiting the services of an architect will bring value to your home, it won’t come with large fries or a super size drink, but it will be added value.

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What? Me… hire an architect?” By far, the most common question I’ve heard over the years from potential residential clients. In my experience what they’re actually asking is;

“Can I really afford an architect, aren’t they expensive?”

“Can’t I just by a builder house or buy plans from a book and still end up with what I want?”

“Isn’t an architect just going to design what they want and ignore me?”

These questions weigh heavily on clients, in reality; they couldn’t be further from the truth. However, hiring the services of an architect is not for everyone. Not everyone is building a custom home or taking on a significant renovation/addition. If you are considering/making such an investment, why not hire an architect to assist you in getting what you want? If you want your home to reflect who you are and how you live, hiring an architect is something you cannot afford not to do.

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People often don’t think about the cost of a realtor or contractor. Engaging their services costs thousands of dollars. However, you realize the value that they bring to your home and I doubt you would attempt to buy/sell or build your own home without them. Architects should be viewed in the same light. We aren’t as expensive as you might think, our fees are as flexible as the type of project you have in mind. Your home is in all likelihood the most expensive investment you’ve made/will make. Wouldn’t you want to enhance your return by hiring an architect to help guide you through the design and construction process?

Hiring an architect is not something reserved for the wealthy. The majority of my work is working with ‘every-day people’ with moderate budgets- much like me. No matter the scale of the project, be it a garage addition, an in-law suite, or a new million dollar custom home, architects offer services for a variety of budgets and project types. An architect’s value is problem solving, addressing clients’ needs/ wishes/ budget/ schedule, and complying with local building and zoning codes- all while designing an aesthetically pleasing efficient home. I help clients design/discover a home that works for them and fits their individuality and preferences. The value of our services is occasionally related directly to cost savings. However, typically our value is in questioning, planning, clarification, detailing, and ‘solidifying’ numerous moving ‘parts’ into an efficient cohesive design- which ultimately results in cost savings to the client. This in turn enhances our affordability.

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You could buy a builder house or build a house from a ‘plan book’ or on-line source. Going that route will allow you to build someone’s house, it won’t be your house, but it will be a house. These houses and plans are typically designed for what the ‘masses’ want or what a market analysis determines they want. Either way, it’s not going to be a home tailored to how you live. You’ll be able to choose paint colors, flooring options, fireplace surround, etc. For the most part you’ll be locked-in to a floor plan that appeals to mass buyers. If that’s all you want in a home, than this may appeal to you. However, the best option is a home designed specifically for you. This home will be vastly different than one designed for someone else. I like to equate it as a builder/’plan book’ home fits you like a mitten while an architect designed home fits like a glove.

blog_29_02When it comes to designing your house, an architect will have strong preferences and recommendations. However, ultimately it will be up to you to make decisions. An architect will not force a design on you which you don’t want; if they do try, than you didn’t follow this series about ‘Hiring an Architect.’ We will make recommendations; present differing options, and offer our professional opinion- which is why you hire us. However, ultimately you make the decisions- we work for you. Working with an architect will allow you to make well informed decisions. Architects will listen to your needs/wants and in the end you’ll have the home you wanted because your architect was able to assist you in bridging the gap between your vision and reality. You’ll end up with a home that fits you and your lifestyle.

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Armed with this series, a potential residential client should feel a bit more at ease about hiring and working with an architect. If you still have reservations or questions fell free to comment below or send me an email.

The previous posts in the ‘Hiring an Architect’ series can be found here:

Hiring an Architect: Part 1- The Search

Hiring an Architect: Part 2- Q&A Yourself

Hiring an Architect: Part 3- Ask the Architect

So the next time you find yourself asking “What? Me… hire an architect?” Be sure to answer with a resounding YES!

 

Design On,

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* Originally posted September 17, 2013, edited/revised per date above.

Part 3 of our ‘Hiring an Architect’ series provides questions you as a client should ask the architect you’re interviewing for your project. The previous posts discussed how to go about finding and Hiring an Architect: Part 1- The Search and questions you as a client should ask yourself prior to meeting with an architect, Hiring an Architect: Part 2- Q&A Yourself. If you’ve been reading along you may be thinking, “Wow, even more things to consider?” Yes, yes there are. However, this is why you’re hiring an architect. Your architect is there to guide you through the process and make, and help you make, the myriad of decisions that factor into creating a house you want, one that fits you and your needs.

blog_29_02After discussing your questions/ answers from Part 2 with the architect, it’s now your turn to ask questions of the architect. To get you started, below are some questions to ask. While not meant as all-encompassing, they do serve well to get your discussions started. Feel free to add your own as you see fit:

1. What are the primary issues or challenges in our project?

2. How will the architect decide what we need?

3. Do you have experience with projects similar to ours?

4. What is the architects’ design beliefs/philosophy?

5. Can the architect take on our project with their current workload?

6. How will the architect explain the process as the project proceeds- virtual models, physical models, sketches, drawings, etc.

7. Who will be our point of contact at the architect’s office? Will they also be designing our project? If not, who will be designing our project? Will there be at least one architect involved throughout the entirety of our project- you want the answer to be ‘Yes’

8. How is the design process organized? The typical design/construction process is as follows:

a. Programmingdeciding what to build

b. Schematic Designinitial sketches and ideas

c. Design Development refining the design

d. Construction Documentsfinalizing the working documents

e. Construction Administrationconstruction phase of your project

9. How will you establish the fees for our project?

a. Percentage of construction cost

b. Hourly fee

c. Fixed fee

d. Hybrid of hourly and fixed fee

10. What do the architect’s fees cover? What would constitute additional fees and how would those be justified?

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11. What is the architects experience with construction cost estimating?

12. Will a preliminary budget be provided by a contractor?

13. If the initial design is over budget, what will the architect do to rectify?

14. Do you have a consultant to provide the structural engineering? Is that included in your fees?

15. If we wish the services of an interior designer, do you employ an interior designer or can you recommend and coordinate with one?

16. Will the architect assist with contractor selection?

17. Do you recommend bidding the project or negotiating a fee?

18. What is the anticipated design/documentation schedule?

19. What is the expected construction schedule?

20. What is your involvement during construction? You want the architect involved, for additional information read Construction Administration.

21. At what points in the process will we meet and discuss/ provide feedback?

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With these questions answered, you should start to get a better sense of whether or not the architect is a good fit for you and your project. It is important to note that the construction process is inherently complicated. There will almost always be questions, unforeseen circumstances, etc. The ability of you and your architect to work through these events as a collaborative team will have a significant effect not only on the final product, but also on your level of stress throughout. You need to trust your architect. You need to be comfortable in talking with them. You do need to like your architect. You need to have confidence in their integrity and skill set as an architect.

What questions have you asked as a client? As an architect, what has been asked of you?

Go find yourself an architect, it will be worth it!

 

Design On,

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* Originally posted August 22, 2013, edited/revised per date above… You can always just contact me, I’ve all the answers 😉

Part 1 of the ‘Hiring an Architect’ series discussed how to go about finding and hiring an architect, you can catch up here Hiring an Architect: Part 1- The Search. Part 2 of the series provides questions, you as a residential client, should ask yourself prior to talking with an architect. I’m a firm believer in educated clients who are vested in their projects. I want my clients to ask questions and be an integral part of the design and construction process. I don’t want a client who tells me “I have an unlimited budget, just design me something that you think is good…oh, and I don’t want to be involved with the process.” I know, I know, this goes against the stereotypical belief of what an architect wants. Wait, what? Let me re-phrase, I’ll be more than happy to work on such a project, but I prefer an involved client who has ideas/beliefs about their project.

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There are several things as a client you can/will do when it comes to working with an architect. The first thing you can do is ask yourself some questions in preparation for meeting with an architect. However, at this point, don’t get caught up in specifics, keep it fairly loose and general. After you’ve answered these questions, you will be better prepared to meet with an architect. To get you started, below are 20 questions and 1 bonus essay! Feel free to add your own as you see fit:

1. What is it about your current home that you like? What do you dislike?

2. What is most important to you in the home?

3. How long do you plan to be in the home?

4. Do you, or any frequent guests, have special accessibility needs?

5. How do you ‘live’ in your home- entertain a lot, work from home, hobby specific requirements (i.e. dark room, music, media room, etc.)

6. Who will reside in the house? Include ages.

7. Do you use your yard- If yes, how? If no, why not?

8. Why do you want to change your home/build a new home- are you expecting children, are children grown and leaving the home, do you need/want more or less space, have your needs changed, etc.

9. Will you use the new/renovated home differently than your current?

10. Are there features you wish to include in the new home?

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11. What do you envision the renovation/addition/new home to look like, both inside and out- clip images from magazines and such that you find appealing and organize them in a binder.

12. How much time can you, or do you, want to be involved during the design and construction process?

13. Do you plan on doing any of the work yourselves?

14. How much can you afford to spend on the project? Be sure to consider both the Construction Budget vs. Project Budget

15. If your budget, quality of construction, and size of project are incompatible, will you:

a. Retain the budget and compromise on less important features and qualities.

b. Adjust the size and quality where they will have negligible impact and increase the budget slightly if required to avoid further compromise.

c. Build what we want regardless of what it costs.

d. Employ less expensive materials while retaining desired size of house.

e. Employ high quality materials but reduce the size of the house.

16. Are there strict time constraints to the schedule?

17. Are there any covenants, restrictions, or outside design review committee required for your property?

18. Have you worked with an architect before?

19. What is it that you think an architect does and how can they benefit your project?

20. What qualities are you looking for in an architect?

*BONUS* Imagine that your house is complete and a newspaper wants to feature your house in an upcoming article about architectural design. Typically the first paragraph gives an overall sense of the house; its general aesthetic, setting in the landscape, materials, key features, etc. Write that first paragraph.

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This is not meant as an all-encompassing list, but rather questions to start thinking about and serve as a catalyst for in-depth discussions with your architect. I sometimes provide clients with a questionnaire to fill out. While it may seem like a lot of work, most clients like it because they start thinking and dreaming of things that haven’t previously crossed their minds. It also serves to enhance the fact that they are an integral part of the process.

You’ll notice specifics are kept to a minimum in the questioning. At this point, the goal is to inform the architect how you live, not the kind of house you want. If your answers and discussions with the architect are detailed and informative, you’ll end up with the house you want. The more detailed information you can provide, the easier it will be for you and your architect to address your needs and reach a solution that fits you and your lifestyle.

Part 3 of the series will discuss questions to ask your architect, stay tuned!

 

Design On,

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* Originally posted August 22, 2013, edited/revised per date above… You can always just contact me, I’ve all the answers 😉

So you want to hire an architect, who doesn’t? But how should a residential client go about finding and hiring an architect? Well, you’ve come to the right place. Part one of a multi-part series discusses how a residential client can find and hire an architect. While the process for most commercial projects is similar, this series is aimed at the residential client who is most likely hiring an architect for the first time. Once you’ve selected your architect, you can have in-depth discussions pertaining to your project specifics and their process.

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I’m assuming that as a client you’ve already determined the value that an architect can bring to your project- if not, be sure to read Architect’s Value? 60 to Contemplate. The good news is that you understand the importance of an architect and now you’re ready to find one suitable for your project. Where to start? There are many resources to assist you in finding an architect. The most readily available is to talk with friends and neighbors who have completed projects similar to yours. Online research is another great tool, your local chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) is a good resource for locating architects. You can go to the national AIA website and search for your local chapter. It is worth noting that membership in the AIA is voluntary. Just being an AIA member does not guarantee that they are the best, or better than another, architect for your project. It’s also worth noting that one does not need to be an AIA member to be an architect. Additionally, numerous sites exist, such as Houzz, that allow you to view local architect’s work and obtain contact information. In addition, Houzz is a great site for you to start- if you haven’t already- collecting images that appeal to you and what you wish for in your own project. You can also search for ‘architects <insert your city here>’ on a search engine of your choice. Visit the architect’s web sites and view their portfolio of work. Using these three methods should yield enough information to compile a list of potential architects.

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Now what- you’ve talked to friends and neighbors, viewed numerous websites, looked at online portfolios, and found architects whose work you like- is it over? Nope, you’ve got some more research to do. Selecting the right architect is very important. You’ll be dealing with the architect for several months if not longer. Trust is paramount between you and your architect. You need to have confidence, and yes a bit of faith, in your architect. Your research should have resulted in a list of architects you feel are appropriate for your project. I recommend interviewing the top three from your list. Ask lots of questions. Not sure what to ask? No worries, in subsequent posts I’ll give you some suggested questions to get the discussions started. Obtain a list of references from the potential architects and call them. I know, I know, nobody lists a bad reference. However, you should still call them… by call, I mean no email or letter, actually speak with the person. Ask them anything you feel necessary. For the final question, ask the following “If you were to do it over again, what would you change about the process?” The response should reveal whether or not the architect in question will be a good fit for you.

Having a discussion about architectural fees with the potential architects will serve as another gauge as to how well you can communicate with, and what the working relationship will be like. There are four basic ways architectural fees can be calculated- percentage of construction cost, hourly fee, fixed fee, or a hybrid of hourly and fixed fee. I won’t go into the specifics of each, perhaps a future post on the pros/cons of each. Your architect will describe their method(s) for determining fees and how/when you will be billed. As the client, you need to be honest with the architect about your budget for the project. In addition, you need to be aware of the difference between a Project Budget and a Construction Budget and be sure you’re both talking about the same budget. These discussions will be useful in determining if you and the architect will have a good working relationship and can have open honest communication.blog_31_03

Trust. I can’t state this enough, you need to TRUST your architect. You need to be comfortable in talking with them. You should be able to envision having meals with this person and inviting them to a party- architects love parties! You don’t have to be best friends with your architect; you do need to like them though. You need to have confidence in their integrity and skill set as an architect.

Armed with all your research, you can now select an architect for your project. If you read between the lines, it should be obvious that architectural fees shouldn’t be the deciding factor in your selection. You want an architect who has completed projects similar to yours, one who shares similar beliefs as you with regards to the project, and above all, one whom you trust. Have your architect forward a contract for your review. Ask the architect to clarify anything you don’t understand. Make sure all the fees, and what those fees cover, are clear. Be sure to understand what is not covered in the proposed fees and what may be constituted as an additional fee. While architectural services contracts for residential projects are typically straightforward, you always have the option of having a lawyer review your contract. When you’re satisfied with the contract, have come to an agreement on fees and schedule, sign the contract and return it to your architect… the fun’s about to begin!

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Now that you’ve hired an architect for your project- what’s next in the process? Keep in mind, each architect will approach your project differently. This is how I work, and in general, most architects will adhere to a similar process. The typical design/construction process:

1. Programmingdeciding what to build

2. Schematic Designinitial sketches and ideas

2a. Costs Briefconstruction budget vs. project budget

2b. Prelim Costsconstruction costs estimate

3. Design Development refining the design

4. Construction Documentsfinalizing the working documents

5. Permitting and Biddingapprovals and costs

6. Construction Administrationconstruction phase of your project

Part 2 of the ‘Hiring an Architect’ series will be posted soon. This post will provide you with suggested questions to get discussions started between you and the architect.

blog_31_05Wow! This is starting to sound like a long process… it can be, however, it is also extremely rewarding. Your architect is there to represent you, your project, and your best interests, all while making the process fun! Along the way your architect will have educated you and made it an enjoyable experience. In addition, they may not admit it, but your architect will have learned from you and your project as well. In the end you’ll have the home you wanted because your architect was able to assist you in bridging the gap between your vision and reality. You’ll end up with a home that fits you and your lifestyle.

So go find yourself an architect, it will be worth it!

 

Design On,

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* Originally posted August 19, 2013, edited/revised per date above… You can always just contact me if you don’t want to search for an architect 😉