Hiring an Architect to Design a Project
Services, Costs and Finding the Best Architect
Most people think of architect as someone they hire to draw plans for a new home or building or a renovation project. That’s true: Architects can help turn your building project vision into a reality, in addition to tasks such as overseeing the project and making sure it is compliant with local building and zoning laws.
However, architects do a lot more than sit at a table and sketch. The field of architecture is very broad, and there are many specialties within the field. Some of the other services provided by architects include:
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- Site evaluations
- Feasibility studies
- Project planning and management
- Project bidding and negotiation
- Drafting construction documents needed for building permits
- LEED consulting
- Schematic (preliminary) design, including site analyses
- Zoning and building code studies
Some architects spend a lot of time in the field, while others spend most of their time behind a desk. Some architects design, while others help manage the process of implementing that design. No matter the specialty, however, all architects are problem solvers who can make your life easier during a construction project.
Working With an Architect to Design Your Building
If you’re planning to hire an architect to design your home, building or renovation, the process typically starts with an initial consultation. Your architect will ask lots of detailed questions about the scope and purpose of your project. Then the architect will draw up a set of preliminary drawings (the first of many drawings).
Keep in mind that an architect’s job goes beyond making sure the building looks beautiful. The architect is also charged with making sure the building is structurally sound and compliant with all local laws and regulation.
In addition to design and safety, your architect can coordinate and oversee the construction process if you’d like. This reduces your hassle and helps ensure that the building is constructed to the exact design and safety specifications.
Education and Licensing
Every state has requirements for the licensing of architects, and the rules differ from state to state. Generally, architects need a degree from a National Architectural Accrediting Board-certified program (usually a professional degree) and experience as an intern. Then they must pass a state-issued exam for licensure. Check with your state for specific details.
Cost of Hiring an Architect
Most architects charge either an hourly rate or a fixed fee based on a percentage of construction costs. Generally, expect to pay the architect about 5 to 15 percent of the total project costs for new construction and 15 to 20 percent of the project costs for renovations and additions.
For a $320,000 new construction project, the architect might charge $16,000 to $48,000. For a $100,000 renovation, expect to pay about $15,000 to $20,000.
Choosing an Architect
- Ask friends, family and other trusted associates to recommend architects or architectural firms they’ve used. Were they satisfied with the final results? Was the project completed on time and under budget?
- From there, narrow the field to architects whose style you admire. Peruse each company's website or ask for photos of previous work. If you love traditional architecture, don’t go with an architect famous for modern design.
- Seek quotes from several of the architects you like to compare prices, but never choose on price alone. Always weigh the price with the architect’s reputation and experience.
- Meet with any architect you’re seriously considering in person to talk about the scope of the project and your vision. Pay attention to chemistry; it’s very important when working with an architect.
- When you decide on a company, get a detailed breakdowns of all fees. Will you be paying by the hour or based on a percentage of the project cost? Will you be billed extra if the project runs into snags and goes beyond schedule?
- Make sure any architect you hire is licensed. A quick call to your local building department should be enough to confirm that.