From the Architect's Desk
If you are a university president, corporate CEO or a developer, you are required to hire an architect. The value of an institutional or commercial architect is understood and quite simple. Do you want a building permit? Hire a licensed architect– period. Not so for the residential architect. In most jurisdictions, there’s nothing stopping a homeowner from downloading a set of ready-to-build plans off the internet and handing them to a builder.
“Why bother with an architect? What is the difference?” they might ask.
The difference lies in many things. Some nuanced, some not. Time, money, quality and, not to be too dramatic about it, happiness. A good architect who designs thoughtfully and does her homework can save you money, heartache, and disappointment.
Scratch the surface of any good design and you’ll find a tremendous amount of experience, thought, planning, advocacy and diplomacy, which is why an architect’s expertise is well worth the upfront investment. Architects are uniquely trained to listen, observe and think creatively. There’s nothing worse than watching a client discover a need too late in the game for it to be properly met or to have it derail the construction timeline. As your architect, it’s my job to think ahead and question assumptions.
On the very practical side, an architect will be versed in zoning, codes, site planning, and the needs of design review boards (just to name a few issues). What do you do when you take your internet plans to the community association and they tear them to shreds? Call an architect and, most likely, start over.
I like to say, “You can only get conceptual prices from conceptual drawings.” The architect provides complete documentation for the entire project, which leaves fewer things to the imagination–and in the bid. Thus, the permit, bid and construction process is more efficient and less costly. Less surprises in design and construction means a more timely construction period and a better bottom line. And a home with architectural integrity will return its investment come resale time.
An architect is a collaborative partner. I work as part of your professional team to make a cohesive, thoughtful project. For example, I’ll collaborate with the surveyor and structural engineer, as well as the landscape architect. I know which walls should be thicker and believe that spaces like the patio should be outdoor rooms that are an extension of the home, not extras that look tacked onto the house. I’ll design a lighting plan appropriate to the home’s aesthetic and practical needs. A professional team approach respects the needs of the owner, the neighborhood, the materials and the context. The result is a unique quality not typically available in developer homes.
We architects believe that not only do we design a better home, we make life better for those in it. The plans and front elevations downloaded off the internet may look lovely, but do they reflect the nuances of your lifestyle? Are the stairs wide enough to create the grand foyer you’ve always desired? Or cozy enough to live with every day? Is the mudroom large enough with adequate storage for your growing family and their endless supply of lacrosse gear? Are the windows sized and placed for light and privacy in an urban or suburban setting or, if you have a large rolling farm, do they frame the vista? Is the exterior proportionate and graceful? Is there a touch of whimsy “hidden” in a corner here or there? I understand that you, the owner, may not realize these special touches for years, but it’s important to your architect that they exist.
Knowledge, expertise and project leadership are an important part of the professional architect’s service. Add to this the enrichment of everyday life you will receive from living in a well-designed home or addition and it is not hard to find the value in hiring an architect.