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How to Have a Successful Relationship with a Residential Architect


Establish a Construction Budget and Hire an Architect with Your Style in Mind

© 2010 by Kelly Smith all rights reserved

Typical blueprint of a residential floor plan; photo courtesy Boereck

Many home remodeling projects don’t require building permits to be pulled but others do. That usually means you’ll need an architect to draw up blueprints to submit for permits.

Architects are detail-oriented professionals. They have to stay in the know about changes in local building codes. Many are like attorneys in that they like to charge by the hour.

As you can imagine, a homeowner that likes to make a lot of changes can make for construction cost overruns. Here are some tips to keep things under control.

Focus on Your Remodeling Budget

This area where initial mistakes can be made. Construction materials range from cheap to expensive. If you’re considering green building methods prices will be high initially but will pay off in the long run. Labor costs can also be high, especially if you must use union labor.

You shouldn’t skimp on either expense, so you need to nail down your priorities. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked to bid on salvaging a remodel after the “cheap” illegal aliens bungled the job!

Locate the Right Architect for Your Job

Architects do more than draw up blueprints. The really good ones are also conceptual artists in their own right. Remember Frank Lloyd Wright? But they all have individual styles. Be sure the architect you choose is on the same wavelength you and your family is.

Does he embrace green building concepts if you do? Does he work creatively if you do? Is your neighborhood homeowner association going to rain on your parade?

Learn All You Can About Home Remodeling

Remodeling reality shows on TV are rampant today. Watch them. Understand what is involved in a project like yours. How many specialty trades do you need? Electricians? Finish carpenters for laminate floors or masons for natural stone? Recycled glass countertops or a brightly-lit breakfast nook?

As a caveat to the advice to watching these shows, don’t be fooled by how fast the construction or remodeling goes. That part is not reality, just like the speediness of cooking shows. In real life, there are rain-outs, deliveries are late, and the building inspectors show up at the wrong time.

Establish a Clear Channel of Communication

Like you, your architect is not a gypsy mind reader. Before any conference with him, develop a lucid concept of the work you would like to happen. Be open to alter plans in order to comply with local building codes.

Also, he may point out some reality checks to you. The best thing to do is to be settled on your basic concept. When you waste time with too much point-counterpoint, you waste money. The architect and contractor must be compatible.

In the best of all possible worlds, your architect and your general contractor will already have an established business relationship. You can ask the architect for the names of contractors he likes working with. The fact of the matter is that all three of you need a good working relationship.

Be Clear on the Your Scope and the Architect’s Scope of Work

Some projects call for a comprehensive treatment; others, not so much. Remember that billable hours should drive your logic. Some aspects of the project will demand more focus than other ones will.

For example, if you are building a deck and putting in the garden of your dreams, the architect probably doesn’t need to do any work on the pond you are planning to install yourself.

Work the Remodeling Plan out Logically

Do not spend important time on individual details. What I mean is this; get your architect’s recommendations in a digestible block that you can chew up, ponder, and propose a meaningful response if needed. Your life will less stressful and so will his.

Finally, remember that your digital camera is your friend. The digital camera has really streamlined construction processes. You should shoot digital pictures as work progresses and email them with any concerns to your architectural firm.

It’s much more efficient than having him pay a visit the job site every day. This will make life smoother for all concerned. The rhythm of the progress isn’t affected quite as often, everything is documented in excruciating detail (no Photoshop allowed here), and our fundamental law is enforced: billable hours are reduced.


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© 2007-2009 Kelly Smith All rights reserved.