I was always of the opinion that all houses were designed by architects, however, this turned out not to be true. There is the stereotype that architects are only needed to draw the pretty layout of a dream house or building. Some people believe that once you have hired an architect and he or she has designed the house, he or she should immediately hand the designs over to the builder hired and their work is done. Although this is one option, an architect can also see a project through from its conception to the final move-in, if hired by the client to do so.
In Nigeria, so many people are of the notion that they can do their building designs or construction without the help of an architect as to them, using an architect is overly expensive. Some don’t even know who an architect is, what architects really do, and why they should consider hiring one.
Using an architect may seem like a luxury but if you are considering building a house from scratch or you are simply renovating, an architect could go along way in adding value to your property and saving you from the possibility of a heartache in future.
So, should you really hire an architect for your upcoming project? And what exactly should you hire them to do? To answer these questions, you need to understand the range of services architects provide and if it would make more financial sense to you.
What Do Architects Really Do?
On residential projects, an architect tasks generally fall into these main categories of work;
1. Schematic Designs
This is also called Preliminary Design or Building Program & Site Analysis. In this phase, the architect visits and analyzes the building site, gets information from you about design ideas, budget, and housing goals. After he has this, the architect comes up with key concepts and rough sketches showing the size, general layout, and appearance of the building and how it all fits into the building site. At this point, it is critical that you communicate clearly with your architect about what is important to you as a couple of options may be presented to you and so you don’t waste time and money going back and forth on design ideas.
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2. Design development
Once the preliminary designs have been accepted, the next step is design development. He would answer the questions; what building materials should be used and why? This stage entails a real building design with floor plans, a roof design, and some of the interior and exterior trims and other details that give a building style and character. It usually includes some scale drawings, a basic structural plan, basic specifications for the main components of the building and so on. With modern design software, you can even see your whole house in 3D on a computer screen.
3. Construction documents
These are the blueprints (detailed drawings) and written detailed specifications. Detailed drawings are most times required to obtain a building permit. They include; contract documentation, plans and instructions to make sure the building meets your requirements as well as the building authority’s requirements.
4. Bidding or Negotiation
Although you can certainly bring your own contractor to bid, the architect can help you solicit bids from a list of contractors who he feels are qualified for the project.
The architect would clarify items in the plans or specifications to the contractors and may negotiate with one or more of the contractors. Then, recommendations would be made on who can best meet the needs of the clients in terms of quality, cost, and the set time frame. However, the owner makes the choice.
5. Construction Administration
Here, the architect acts as your agent in terms of recommending builders and tradesmen who do quality work. He can also ensure the builders and subcontractors are following the plans and specifications to the latter.
Why Should You Use An Architect?
1. An architect can act as an agent to keep an eye on the contractor and workmanship for the duration of the project.
2. Architects offer a better design layout. They often produce more interesting and creative design work, a highly functional floor plan, good natural lighting and ventilation, and good integration for the building site.
3. Using an architect would help you avoid common design errors with inexperienced designers.
4. Detailed plans and specifications from architects provide a clear guide to contractors and clients. This helps contractors know what they are bidding on and you know what you are getting.
5. The architect can recommend qualified contractors to bid on the job.
6. The architect can handle the tough aspects of contract negotiations on your behalf, allowing you to maintain a friendly, cooperative relationship with your contractor.
7. Architects can present options you might not have considered and give your building style and also design it to work efficiently and solve problems of space and function.
8. Using an architect also means you get something that is tailored to your specific needs so that you can plan for the long term.
9. Architects are creative and good at problem solving, which comes in handy with renovations.
“Architect designed” are often used to imply luxury and high-class designs but in reality, an architect can actually help you no matter what your budget bracket is hence making you avoid costly mistakes. The cost of an architect varies and depends on who you choose and the level of service you need. In short, using an architect can maximize your budget in the long run!