Working with an Architect:
While some residential and most commercial projects require the services of an Architect, most smaller residential projects do not, but working with an Architect can prove to be a great value, which can more than offset the upfront cost for the services.
A licensed Architect brings a required background including an Architecture Degree (5+ years of intensive architecture study), 3-5 years of practice under a licensed Architect, and a rigorous battery of tests. At a minimum, you directly benefit from this experience and qualified knowledge when hiring an Architect.
The value an Architect can provide to the project depends on the project and selected Architect, but generally includes the following:
Design Definition: an Architect will provide comprehensive drawings precisely documenting the design so you can understand what to expect at completion of construction.
Project Cost: Architectural fees represent an upfront cost that may initially seem unnecessary, but by clearly defining the scope there will be less need for expensive change orders during the construction process. This lowers overall costs, limits unexpected cost increases during construction, and helps to keep the project on schedule. An experienced Architect can also help you manage the scope of your project to fit your budget from the beginning.
Planning and Building Codes: An experienced architect has a thorough knowledge of the building and zoning codes, and other regulations that inform your project and can take these into account from the beginning to avoid delays in permitting and redesigns later in the design process or after construction has started.
Quality of Project: The experience, qualifications, and the practiced design process work to ensure you end up with the best possible design solution for your project.
Efficiency: the design and technical experience brought by the Architect can further offset costs for their service through optimization of overall size, design, and building systems.
The design process begins, most importantly, with listening to you, in order to understand what your hopes, needs, and constraints are for your project. The goal is to find the best balance between these and other factors in order to create a project that you love within the realities of budgets, codes, and other practical constraints. Listening remains the most important part of the process as the design effort progresses.
After an initial discussion and typically an on-site meeting, I will provide a detailed proposal for your project. Each project is different, but generally the design process can be broken down to the following phases:
During this phase I will work with you to identify a definition for your project and start to create some basic ideas of how the project will take shape. Usually this takes the form of a program, which is a description of what needs to be included in the project (such as "2-bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and a cook's kitchen"... etc). This is also the time to be considering what is possible within your budget. Generally during this first phase, as-built drawings will be created as required to document existing conditions.
Depending on project complexity, this phase may be combined with the previous. Either way, Schematic design is the stage where a detailed plan is created that takes into account real-world constraints, but retains enough flexibility to efficiently evolve into the design solution needed to move forward. This phase can also be a good time to involve a contractor for early cost feedback. 3D modeling is generally created near the end of this phase as required/desired.
With the basic design figured out, the next step is to explore the details of construction and finishes and apply them to the project. Usually a structural engineer will need to become involved during this phase. Design Development is the "fleshing out" of the design, and the time to begin to figure out specific materials, details, and complicated parts of constructions such as stairs. At the culmination of Design development, there should be a well defined project scope with a clear direction for finishes and other aesthetic choices.
Construction / Permit Documents:
With an approved design documented, the final step is the creation of the construction drawings (which are generally the same as permit drawings). This phase is about defining the precise construction details for the interior and exterior. Specific materials, technical information, code language, and complete dimensioning will be incorporated into the drawings. All engineering work will also be coordinated with the drawings, along with any other consultants' work. At or near completion, these drawings can be shared with one or more contractors, and will have sufficient detail to begin the bidding process.