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  • Moira McClintock

5 Things to Consider BEFORE Hiring an Architect



You have found your perfect plot of land and want to build your dream house. Or you’ve decided to put that addition on your home. You’ve spent hours and hours researching design trends on Houzz, your Pinterest inspiration board has a ton of followers and your Netflix feed is nothing but design-related DIY series. You are finally ready to take the leap of faith and hire an architect. Whether your project is large or small, take time to consider the following before you sit down with your architect:


Focus on WHY you want to build . . . not WHAT it will look like.

It is so easy to get lost in those gorgeous images of finished projects you see in magazines and on the internet. Of course you need a see-through gas fireplace in your addition with French doors that open onto a slate patio. It looks so beautiful! Before meeting with an architect, list the reasons WHY you want to build. Do you want more space for entertaining? Has your family outgrown your existing floorplan? How long do you see yourself living in this space? The more effectively you can articulate WHY you need to build, the better your architect can translate your reasons into a space that meets both your needs and wants.


Understand HOW you live now.

After you explain why you need a new space to your architect, the next thing they will need to understand is HOW you live in order to design a space that complements your needs. Try documenting your routine for a week. Observe your life as if you were a visitor. Is there a congestion spot around meal times? How often do you watch TV as a family? Are you constantly going to the basement for pantry staples because you don’t have enough storage in the kitchen? How often do you use the dining room table for dinner? Often people think they need more space when in fact the existing space may be more efficiently configured.


Gather existing documentation.

Once you and your architect have addressed the WHY and HOW issues, the next thing they are going to ask for is documentation for your property. Having documentation on hand will allow the architect to research the zoning and setback allowances very quickly. This is important because local codes dictate how close you can build to the property line. If your project requires a variance, the process can be costly and it will most likely impact the start of construction. If any original architectural drawings are available, share those with your architect as well. Depending on the complexity of the project, your architect may have to do a survey of the existing conditions and develop a set of “as-built” documents.


Develop a realistic budget.

There are three types of costs incurred in a project. Hard Costs refer to cost of construction materials and labor. Soft Costs include architectural, engineering, interior design and professional service fees. And lastly, Furniture, Fixtures and Equipment, or FF&E, which is the furniture and accessories that will complete the space. It is extremely important to set a budget range for the project that includes all three costs and includes a contingency percentage. When you meet with your architect, share your budget range, and clearly set the limit of what you want to spend with your architect at the beginning of the project. The last thing an architect wants to do is design something you can’t afford.

Prepare for candid conversations.

This project is important to you – it is your home. Direct and open communication between you and your architect is perhaps the most important aspect of a successful project. Your architect should set up regular meetings to review design progress and give you time to make decisions. Do not feel awkward telling your architect you don’t like a design detail or be shy about asking for alternate, less expensive materials. Open, honest dialogue fuels creativity and enhances the design process.

So, take that leap of faith and begin your project!

You have found your perfect plot of land and want to build your dream house. Or you’ve decided to put that addition on your home. You’ve spent hours and hours researching design trends on Houzz, your Pinterest inspiration board has a ton of followers and your Netflix feed is nothing but design-related DIY series. You are finally ready to take the leap of faith and hire an architect. Whether your project is large or small, take time to consider the following before you sit down with your architect:


Focus on WHY you want to build . . . not WHAT it will look like.

It is so easy to get lost in those gorgeous images of finished projects you see in magazines and on the internet. Of course you need a see-through gas fireplace in your addition with French doors that open onto a slate patio. It looks so beautiful! Before meeting with an architect, list the reasons WHY you want to build. Do you want more space for entertaining? Has your family outgrown your existing floorplan? How long do you see yourself living in this space? The more effectively you can articulate WHY you need to build, the better your architect can translate your reasons into a space that meets both your needs and wants.


Understand HOW you live now.

After you explain why you need a new space to your architect, the next thing they will need to understand is HOW you live in order to design a space that complements your needs. Try documenting your routine for a week. Observe your life as if you were a visitor. Is there a congestion spot around meal times? How often do you watch TV as a family? Are you constantly going to the basement for pantry staples because you don’t have enough storage in the kitchen? How often do you use the dining room table for dinner? Often people think they need more space when in fact the existing space may be more efficiently configured.


Gather existing documentation.

Once you and your architect have addressed the WHY and HOW issues, the next thing they are going to ask for is documentation for your property. Having documentation on hand will allow the architect to research the zoning and setback allowances very quickly. This is important because local codes dictate how close you can build to the property line. If your project requires a variance, the process can be costly and it will most likely impact the start of construction. If any original architectural drawings are available, share those with your architect as well. Depending on the complexity of the project, your architect may have to do a survey of the existing conditions and develop a set of “as-built” documents.


Develop a realistic budget.

There are three types of costs incurred in a project. Hard Costs refer to cost of construction materials and labor. Soft Costs include architectural, engineering, interior design and professional service fees. And lastly, Furniture, Fixtures and Equipment, or FF&E, which is the furniture and accessories that will complete the space. It is extremely important to set a budget range for the project that includes all three costs and includes a contingency percentage. When you meet with your architect, share your budget range, and clearly set the limit of what you want to spend with your architect at the beginning of the project. The last thing an architect wants to do is design something you can’t afford.

Prepare for candid conversations.

This project is important to you – it is your home. Direct and open communication between you and your architect is perhaps the most important aspect of a successful project. Your architect should set up regular meetings to review design progress and give you time to make decisions. Do not feel awkward telling your architect you don’t like a design detail or be shy about asking for alternate, less expensive materials. Open, honest dialogue fuels creativity and enhances the design process.


So, take that leap of faith and begin your project!

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