Few people realize how complicated it is to build- that is until they find themselves lost in the maze of design options, building codes, zoning laws, contractors, and so on. No two building projects are exactly the same, so there is no single, clear-cut path to follow.
Architects see the big picture. They don't just design four walls and a roof, they create total environments, interiors and exteriors, that satisfy functional needs and are exciting, dynamic spaces in which to work and live.
Whether you are remodeling, adding on, or building from scratch, the architect can guide the way. Working with contractors and other construction professionals, architects can help you end up with a well-designed project that meets your needs and works with your budget and time frame.
Most building projects start with a want or need. "I need more file space in my office. "Or, "We've outgrown our house." But how does that need or want get translated into square feet and three-dimensional space?
That is what architects are trained to do, solve problems in creative ways. With their broad knowledge of design and construction, architects can show you alternatives and options you might never think of your own.
Need more room for your growing family? An architect can show you how to enlarge your home so you don't have to move. Not sure how fast your business is going to grow? An architect can design an office that meets your needs today and can be adapted for tomorrow. Have a limited budget? The architect looks for ways to make your project cost effective.
The architect's services are a wise investment for the money, not an added cost toyour project. Why?
Because a well-conceived project can be built more effiThe architect's services are a wise investment for the money, not an added cost to your project. Why? Because a well-conceived project can be ciently and economically. Architects plan your project with you. As your ideas evolve, changes can be made on paper much less expensively than later on when construction is underway. Thorough drawings also make it easier for the contractor to accurately price and build your project.
Because energy-efficient buildings can save you money on fuel bills down the road. An architect can design a building to maximize heating from the sun and let in natural light, thus reducing your heating, cooling and electric bills over time.
Because the architect can work with your budget and help you select the appropriate materials and workmanship at a fair price. Architects develop the drawings and specifications to help you get bids for construction that are based on your requirements.
Because an architect can help you choose materials and finishes that are durable as well as beautiful, saving on frequent maintenance and replacement costs. Architects work to stay abreast of advances in roofing, brick work flooring tiling, paint finishes, etc. Their familiarity with the full range of materials enables them to suggest the appropriate materials for your project.
Because good design sells. A well-designed house has a higher resale value. A well-designed store draws customers. A well-designed work environment attracts employees and increases productivity.
Let's face it, building is a long process that is often messy and disruptive, particularly if you are living or working in the space under construction. The architect you hire looks out for your interests and tries to find ways to make that process go smoothly.
If your project requires engineering or other design services, the architect can coordinate this team of experts so you don't have to.
Design and construction projects involve several steps. Typically, projects go through the following six phases. However, on some projects, several of these steps may combined or there may be additional ones.
STEP 1: PROGRAMMING/DECIDING WHAT TO BUILD
The homeowner and architect discuss the requirements for the project (how many rooms, the function of the spaces, etc.), testing the fit between the owner's needs, wants and budget.
STEP 2: SCHEMATIC DESIGN/ROUGH SKETCHES
The architect prepare a series of rough sketches, known as schematic design, which show the general arrangement of rooms and of the site. The homeowner approves these sketches before proceeding to the next phase.
STEP 3: DESIGN DEVELOPMENT/REFINING THE DESIGN
The architect prepares more detailed drawings to illustrate other aspects of the proposed design. floor plans show all the rooms in the correct size and shape. Outline specifications are prepared, listing the major materials and room finishes.
STEP 4: PREPARATION OF CONSTRUCTION DOCUMENTS
Once the homeowner has approved the design, the architect prepares detailed drawings and specifications, which the contractor will use to establish actual construction cost and build the project. These drawings and specifications become part of the building contract.
STEP 5: HIRING THE CONTRACTOR
The homeowner selects and hires the contractor. The architect may be willing to make some recommendations. In many cases, homeowners choose from among several contractors they've asked to submit bids on the job.
STEP 6: CONSTRUCTION ADMINISTRATION
While the contractor will physically build the home or addition, the architect can assist the homeowner in making sure that the project is build according to the plans and specifications. The contractor is solely responsible for construction methods, techniques, schedules and procedures.
This information originally written for The American Institute of Architects by David Haviland, Hon. AIA, professor of architecture at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is updated periodically to reflect current industry practices.