...so why hire an architect? What do they do anyway? I often get the comments that ..."I can't afford an architect. They are for people that have real money to spend..."In fact the opposite is generally applicable. True, there are the great public architects that charge a hefty fee and create amazingly spectacular architecture, such as Frank Gehry or Zaha Hadid. Most licensed architects however, are here to provide something very different: Value!
Previously I (Sebastian Eilert, AIA) wrote about the necessity to create plans for permitting purposes. Architecture goes beyond just complying with applicable building code. Legislature has changed the landscape of architecture, engineering and construction to weigh more heavily in favor of contractors. Lobbying power certainly contributed to it, but so did public demand for economical construction. The Architect and Engineering team has thus been moved to a check and balance position to make sure that code is complied with and that there is some sort of design intent. The latter however, is an important point to consider when thinking about value. The cheapest way to built, while complying with applicable codes, is seldom the most value...for the owner/client. This is where architects make the difference.
In recent conversation, architects were referred to as modern day cartoonists, who simply create beautiful images that inspire. These images are somewhat removed from what can and actually is constructed. While it is true that as a profession we use images to convey the design intend, there is a lot more to it, than simply creating beautiful pictures. The images and renderings are based on experience, knowledge and a deep understand of construction techniques, sizing, system coordination (such as lighting, HAVC, etc.), and finally color, finishes and a sense of place. No quality builder will take a simple image to attempt to create a building; and no quality architect will stop at a simple rendering to describe the project for construction.
So what then is the purpose of the architect? For me, that answer is simple. We provide value. We make sure that you have the best possible design, and get the most out of your budget. Good contractors understand the need for quality design and will send you to ...
By listening the client and noting the specific needs as well as available funds, the best possible design can follow and save in construction by reducing guess work, errors and omissions and simply providing a detailed roadmap for the builder.
We have been trained to think in three dimensions and create amazing spaces that will best work for the applicable client. Part of the education is also supervised experience, which contributes to a solid understanding of local and regional construction practices and pricing. Combined with technology, such as AutoCAD, Revit and other BIM modeling software, we have all the tools to deliver the ultimate service for any client: Value.
Consider the savings and the benefit in quality design, next time you are starting a project. The contractor/builder will be an important part of the project, but should never be the starting point...