Saturday, December 26, 2009

Why use an Architect?

 In this post, I want to explore what seems apparent for any architect but rarely articulated with any real conviction or clarity; why would one want to hire an architect for a residential project when they can have a builder’s draftsperson do the plans for a fraction of the cost? In Hawaii, there is a full range of residential architecture from the small ohana to the 20,000 sf. custom homes on the coast. Inevitably, unless the client is a veteran of the construction process, the question will arise. The architect will tell the clients that they should hire an architect to produce superior design, protect their interests and make sure the clients get what they are paying for. The builder will argue that they can do the drawings for free “in-house” and can do whatever the client wishes. This seems to be the toughest issue to for new homebuilders to get over. The spending of 7-10% of their construction budgets on design, drawings and construction administration rarely is understood until they have been through the process.
Here are some recent statements I have found;
“The Architect is the one professional who has education and experience to guide you through the entire design and construction process, from helping you define what you want to build to helping you define what you want to build to helping you get the most for your construction budget.”

“Architects can see the big picture. They don't just design walls and a roof, they create total environments, interiors and exteriors, that satisfy functional needs and can be exciting, dynamic spaces in which to 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.”
“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 on your own. “
“The architect's services are a wise investment for the money, not an added cost to your project. A well-conceived project can be built more efficiently 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.”
“A good architect will anticipate your needs - even if you are not sure how to express them.”
“Architects provide a broad range of services and can provide value at every stage of the design and construction process. By working directly with you and assessing your requirements in great depth, the architect tailors the design to suit your personality, needs, budget, and lifestyle. The architect’s extensive study of design alternatives allows you to choose the design most appropriate to your needs. An architect’s knowledge of site-planning and natural energy processes helps accommodate your project to the site characteristics and neighborhood context. By overseeing construction, your architect helps to make sure that your project is built according to design.”
So each of the above statements makes sense and is true in most cases; however they all have a sense of a sales pitch. I have yet to come across a really compelling version of these reasons. In addition, there are always bad architects and bad builders that negate any of these above arguments.
Most of the examples residential architecture in Hawaii that I have personal experience on has had an architect. Many have had major change orders as well. The word “change order” has somehow become a pejorative term associated with architect’s failure to perform. In reality, rarely are change orders the result of architect’s negligence. More than likely they are from the client’s wishes to change something under construction, which is costly. This is typically caused from a client not thoroughly understanding the design prior to construction and can be mitigated through using an architect. A good architect will effectively convey the actual design early on in the design process so that the client is not surprised when it is built. Current software makes three dimensional presentations a simple and effective way to achieve this.
So in the meantime I will continue to research this subject and provide updates. I would welcome any comments from the peanut gallery…