Home > Architect Defined, Building Remodeling, Home Renovations > Design: The Most Misunderstood Word in Architecture

Design: The Most Misunderstood Word in Architecture

When you hear the word “architect,” what’s the first thing you think of? If you’re like me, I think of beautiful sweeping lines on a gorgeous skyscraper, an interestingly shaped addition or maybe an intricately designed bridge. In all honesty, the word architect used to spring to mind two things for me: make it structurally sound, and make it pretty.

The truth, however, couldn’t be more complex. In reality, an architect is involved in every aspect of the construction process; from the initial budget, to the hired consultants, construction team, and the final construction details. Let’s examine a few things architects are really responsible for.

1.) Location, structural needs, and budget. An architect will usually ask to see the location so they know what they are working with. Things like the geographic and climatic conditions, the kind of earth the foundation will be built upon, the function of the building and the lifestyle of the homeowner all need to be taken into consideration. If you want the grandest views, where do you place the primary spaces? Where is the best place to put a kitchen within your “open concept” design? Where should the driveway, parking and landscaping go? Is the project on a hill, and will it need special reinforcement?

Furthermore, is the proposed design doable within the given budget? There surely isn’t much point in designing you’re building or dream home only to find out it costs 25% more than what you’re able to pay. An architect combines all of these moving parts into one to find the most cost effective design possible. Only then do you have a “budget”; but that’s another talk show. 

2.) Drawings. The drawings done by an architect are particularly valuable in that they become contract documents.  The drawing documents are where you are able to control every aspect of your home or building project, right down to the marriage of the finishes used.  In addition, architects are responsible for creating a design that will pass all required codes and inspections. There may be specific zoning issues or building regulations that you are unaware of, and it’s the architect’s responsibility to make sure all components of the design are approved by the city.

3.) Changes and efficiency. If something should happen during the course of construction (maybe you have a family emergency that uses up 30% of your home’s budget), the architect is the only person able to make the appropriate design changes. Having an architect directly involved with your construction means that a situation like this will be able to be dealt with in the most timely and efficient way possible.

Plus, using an architect will ensure you’ll get the most efficient (green) design for your home or building. You might not think having the island at that angle in the kitchen is a very big deal, but an architect with enough experience will be able to tell you if he would do it differently. Having the advice of an architect will make sure you won’t have to live with bad decisions for years to come.

4.) Time. When it comes to constructing a home (or any building for that matter), time is money. The more time it takes to construct it, the more it is going to eat away at your budget. Choosing an experienced architect means they will have specific contractors in mind; contractors they know are reliable and efficient. In addition, this also gives them a better idea of trade costs. All of these small decisions add up to an enormous amount of saved time (and money!).

5.) Interpretation. If you aren’t familiar with the ins and outs of building construction, things can seem very confusing looking in from the outside. You may not understand what the builders are doing or why they are doing it. Instead of bothering the foreman (he’s on the clock!), talk to your architect. He or she will be able to put your mind at rest when it comes to stresses you’re having about the construction of your home or building.

So when it comes down to it, an architect is responsible for far more than just “design”. The aesthetics of the home or building, as it turns out, are simply a bonus to the other important factors of the construction process. An architect makes sure your project is functionally and structurally sound, within budget, completed in a timely manner and that everything you’re paying for is where and how you want it.  Oh yeah, and it’ll look really, really good.

  1. January 26, 2012 at 7:10 am

    Reblogged this on Madison Design & Construction.

  1. February 22, 2012 at 3:21 pm

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