Hiring an architect is a daunting, sometimes entirelyconfusing endeavor. Depending on the type of project you’re looking toundertake, you might not be sure if you even need an architect in the firstplace.
The good news? You’re not alone! Most people have a hardtime telling their Frank Lloyd Wrights from their Frank Gehrys, let aloneunderstand the dearth of services any given architecture firm might offer. Therange of those services is vast, so this article is aimed at people who arelooking to get to work on something big, but might not know exactly where tostart. Here is a short list of some architectural services that you’ll want toenlist a professional designer for.
The first place to start is research. You might have a plotof land you inherited from a long lost rich uncle, but have no idea what youmight do with it. If you’re thinking of developing it, an architect can helpyou research the lot and let you know what’s possible. This includes anin-depth code review, municipal jurisdictional process, and maybe even a veryearly budget as to what it all might cost.
For developers, an architect will be able to draw up a quicksite analysis letting you know how many units are possible, and what return oninvestment you might get for building a certain unit type (depending on shiftsin the real estate market, of course). Architects know what is possible, soit’s best to consult them before dreaming too big.
An architect understands how people occupy space. Whetherit’s how people live, or how people work, an architect can efficiently andeffective design functional spaces and how they interconnect with each other.Typically, an initial meeting with the client establishes an agreed uponbuilding program, otherwise known as a ‘wish list.’ The architect incorporatesthis wishlist into their conceptual design before getting into some of the morefiner detail of building design and planning.
Once the design has been developed to a certain point, thearchitect then must coordinate the drawings with a variety of engineers andconsultants. The most common (and essential) is the structural engineer. Beyondthat, consultants might include civil engineers, energy modelers, building codespecialists, lighting designers, geotechnical engineers, surveyors, and thirdparty renderers. The list goes on. An architect must manage them all aseverything points back to the question of whether or not it reinforces theintent of the design.
When it’s time to get your design permitted through theproper jurisdictions, an architect will produce a complete set of constructiondocuments, often referred to as blue prints. They will work with thejurisdiction to iron out any unusual site conditions or code interpretations,and then acquire the necessary permits to begin construction. Depending on thesize and scale of the project, this phase can take anywhere from a couple ofweeks to a couple of years.
Once permits are in hand, the architect will continue towork with the client in selecting a general contractor and beginningconstruction. If requested by the client, the architect will help manageconstruction by providing the builder with important details, specifications,and changes that might come up during the construction process. This gives thearchitect the opportunity to defend the design until the last coat of paint isdry.
No matter the size or shape of your next project, anarchitect can help get things off the ground. Sometimes it just helps tounderstand the process and possibilities, and that’s the architectural servicedesign professionals are best at.