“I Can't Afford An Architect”
“I can’t afford an architect.” “If we can barely afford to build a new house, how can we afford the design fees associated with one?” “Why would I pay thousands of dollars for the design of a house when I can just print the plans for free online?”
AT AKA, we hear these arguments time and time again. If these thoughts have ever crossed your mind, we would like to take a moment and convince you otherwise. Hopefully we can convince you that you can’t afford to NOT hire an architect.
Do we all know what architects do? They design buildings is the start of that answer. However, while that is invariably true, we think it is important to explore HOW an architect designs buildings. They do a lot more than just draw buildings, and by designing intelligently and conscientiously, there are a number of ways in which hiring an architect for your project can actually save you money.
An architect will be the best advocate for your budget. When a good architect knows that the project budget is tight, or if the budget has been previously determined by other factors, they can utilize their knowledge in the industry to design a project that maximizes the value for that specific budget. Everything from designing a floor plate that is more efficient and cost-effective to build, to determining the best orientation on the site to help offset cut and fill costs of site work. Architects can be the best advocate for the project budget if they understand how to design efficiently and cost-effectively. There are endless ways in which an architect can design a project to save money during the design phase. However, this all but disappears after the project is designed and under construction, so it’s very important to get an architect involved at the very beginning of a project.
An architect will anticipate problems in the construction process. This really highlights the majority of what an architect does. It is the function of the architectural drawings to translate to the contractor how to build that specific design. Every single drawing is drawn to show how the building goes together. Nothing is extemporaneous. A good architect will spend countless hours on every project coordinating between different consultants, trying to figure out EXACTLY how two individual pieces of a project can go together efficiently and cost-effectively. At AKA, we’ve spent hours just trying to figure out the best way for heavy timber wood columns to marry up to heavy timber wood beams on a single slope roof, making sure the connection is just right for the project budget and the overall integrity of the structure. Good design takes a lot of thought and expertise. And good construction takes clear, concise, and complete architectural drawings. A clear and complete set of architectural drawings can help the contractor construct the building with less issues and questions asked, and therefore less time wasted in the field. If time is money, then any time a contractor stops in the field to ask clarifying questions back to an architect because of incomplete or unclear documents, is actually money lost. It’s much less expensive to figure out potential issues during design, rather than out in the field during construction.
An architect can help lower the life-cycle cost of your building. An architect’s responsibilities do not end within the design and construction process. A good architect will take responsibility of the building’s long-term costs, and help educate on how the building can be better planned and designed to decrease those costs. Energy costs could be lowered by just moving a window, or designing a more environmentally sensitive heating system. Even the maintenance costs of the building can be decreased due to quality design and product specification/installation. This should be a major concern for all building owners considering the initial building costs (Design and Construction) only account for 2% of a 30-year life-cycle cost of a building (Sourced from Sustainable Building Technical Manual, 1994).
A building without an architect can result in an over-budget, inefficient, and costly construction project. And the downsides don’t end there. Paying for a good architect up front can help you gain peace of mind throughout the design and construction processes, and ultimately throughout your building’s life.