why hire an architect?
Even if you’re sure you know what you want, it is often a good idea to have an architect help you navigate the journey. Here are five top reasons why:
- An architect’s experience can help you see possibilities you might not have considered.
- It’s less expensive in the end to figure things out on paper; it’s cheaper to erase than to rebuild. A good set of architectural drawings clarifies expectations of what your builder will provide, minimizing chances of misunderstandings between the parties.
- An architect is a licensed professional who knows the local building and zoning codes – mistakes here can delay your project and add expense.
- An architect’s understanding of building materials and construction techniques will help ensure that your home or building is comfortable, safe, reasonable to maintain, and as economical as possible to heat and air-condition.
- An experienced architect knows reputable builders suitable for a project like yours, and can help you successfully negotiate with the builder you ultimately select. Your architect can also direct you to other designers and consultants, building supply showrooms, fabricators and a variety of resources.
how much does it cost to use an architect?
- The cost of architectural services ranges anywhere between 3-15% of the total cost of construction, depending on the architect, the type of project, and the scope of services provided. Architects charge for their services in one of three ways: flat fee, hourly billing, and hourly billing with a cap at a specified percent of total construction cost.
- In my experience, billing hourly is usually fair both to me and my clients, although I am open to other arrangements. My monthly invoices provide detailed accounting of time spent. My fees for a full service project typically range between 3% and 6% of the total cost of construction and I am happy to give you an estimate of the total design fees for your project as part of my proposal.
what is the process for working with an architect?
I offer an initial complimentary consultation to discuss your project and rough budget, and to offer what insights I may have. I then prepare a letter of proposal for design services that outlines the goals we have discussed, the steps I envision for achieving these goals, and my fees. Should you choose to work with me, here’s what you can expect:
- DOCUMENTATION (5-10%)
I start out by evaluating existing conditions. This is really important. For additions and alterations to existing buildings, I measure, draw and photograph the structure and spend time understanding the site’s opportunities and challenges. For new buildings, I study the site to understand access, solar orientation, grade, and the location of significant site features. You will have been thinking about your project long before I become involved, so I’ll ask you to join me – whether walking the site or holding the other end of my tape measure – so we can discuss your desires and concerns.
I’ll ask for copies of everything you have – plats and site plans, old blueprints, homeowner association rules, pictures of what you like, your sketches, etc.
- SCHEMATIC DESIGN (10-15%)
Next it is up to me to make sketches. I will draw plans and elevations that reflect the space and layout requirements we have been discussing. This should be an exciting phase of the project, with a lively ‘back-and-forth’ sharing of ideas, and when your dreams begin to take shape. It can proceed quickly or take a few meetings to develop, but in the end we should have dimensioned plans, elevations, and sections that you like.
- DESIGN DEVELOPMENT (15-20%)
We then get more specific. I will develop outline specifications describing the materials and systems we want to use, weighing how these choices will affect the cost of the project. At this point we balance three factors – square footage, quality of construction, and your budget – and may need to revisit the plans to satisfy your wishes. Often I ask a general contractor to provide an estimate of probable cost to help make sure we’re on track.
- CONSTRUCTION DOCUMENTS (45-50%)
Finally, we get very specific and I prepare construction documents that describe how your project is to be built, including specifications for interior and exterior materials and finishes. It is during this phase of the work that all the final decisions are made. These drawings will be sufficient in detail to secure competitive bids and building permits. Because they end up serving as the contract between you and your builder, they need to be well-organized and complete.
- CHOOSING A CONTRACTOR: BIDDING AND NEGOTIATION (5%)
Whether you have selected a contractor early in the process or wish to get bids from a number of firms, I will work with you to successfully negotiate with a general contractor and arrive at an agreement.
- CONSTRUCTION ADMINISTRATION (5-15%)
For many of my projects, the construction drawings are detailed enough to allow the builder to proceed without further input from me. I am available to answer questions from you, your builder or from building officials as they may arise, and I do so as expeditiously as possible so the project can proceed without delay.
how do I choose an architect?
- When you do decide to hire an architect, choose carefully – it’s a relationship you need to be comfortable with. Try to interview more than one firm, showing prospective candidates your site and ideas. You are looking for someone who listens, someone you feel you can speak to freely. Be sure to ask for references from both past clients and builders familiar with the architect’s work.
what is your design philosophy?
Started in September of 2001, Design Works Studio provides a full range of architectural design services, including residential, commercial and institutional projects located in and around Fredericksburg, Virginia. Our approach to design is straightforward:
- Understand and find inspiration in the site, be it natural, man-made or both.
- Understand and find inspiration in the client’s wishes – even the lovliest form must be a useful one.
- Understand and find inspiration in the structures, materials and systems to be built; call for good materials, and use them properly. Learn about everything.
I hope this is a good way to inspire you about your project. Let me know what you think – perhaps we can work together to make a beautiful building.
do you work with specific contractors?
Over the past 18 years, I have worked with excellent general contractors and craftsmen in the Fredericksburg area and can suggest builders suitable for your project. I am also open to working with builders that you may already know or that have been recommended to you. It is important that we all work well together, so I take care to get this relationship right.