Whether or not you actually need an architect on your project depends on a number of factors. Are you building a new home? Are you downsizing or adding on to your current residence? Are you looking to make changes to commercial real estate?
If you answered "yes" to any of those questions, then you are about to make a huge investment of time, money, and emotion. Before you waste a minute, throw away a dollar, or shed a single tear, consider the benefits of hiring a registered architect to help guide you through the process.
Those of you planning work on commercial property should work with an architect. You need to make sure all changes -- especially changes to what the building is used for or any increase in occupancy -- meet all International Building Code and local code requirements. Not all municipality code requirements are the same. So even if you made similar changes to a building only five miles away, if it was in a different municipality, there's a good chance the requirements are a little (or a lot) different. Don't guess. You risk losing time, money, and sleep if you make the wrong decision. Work with a local architect who is familiar with the codes. Yes, you will have to pay for the architect's services, but it will save you time and aggravation up front. And it will cost you more, eventually, if you have to work with the architect to fix what could've been avoided in the first place.
One of the biggest financial decisions of your life is building your dream home. For this, you probably want to work with an architect. In addition to designing your house specifically for you, an architect will be able to save you time, money, and possibly your sanity. All private residences must meet the International Residential Code requirements, all local residential codes, and the Energy Conservation Code. Every structural detail, every pipe, every electrical and data outlet must be called out on the construction drawings that are submitted for your building permit. Decide you want a last-minute change? Having your architect there to amend the drawings and re-submit for code review will be less stressful than trying to explain it yourself or expecting your contractor to work with your local code office. The construction drawings submitted for code review must be the drawings your contractor builds from. If an inspector notices any deviations from the approved construction drawings during an on-site inspection, you could face construction delays and additional paperwork.
Renovations are a wildcard. When you make changes to an existing structure, there is always the chance that unforeseen situations will arise. Even the best plans and documents can't account for every scenario, especially in aged structures. While this makes a strong case for using an architect on renovation projects, the size and scope of the renovation may be a determining factor. The outcome of large-scale changes would certainly benefit from having an architect involved from the very beginning. Smaller projects, however, may not need an architect at all, or the architect may be used in a limited capacity. Renovation projects come with their own unique set of challenges. Make sure you're willing to shoulder the stress before you decide to not shoulder the cost of an architect.
No matter what type of project you are preparing to undertake, the cost of using an architect may look overwhelming. However, take the time to consider how much your time and your peace of mind are worth to you. Chances are, working with an architect will be a rewarding experience. It’s better to wonder, "Did I really need my architect?” than it is to lament, “Why didn’t I hire an architect?”
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