.Building or renovating a home can be a complicated and costly process. Hiring an architect or designer can be an effective way of making sure the job goes smoothly and efficiently.  However there are some things to consider when working with architects or designers.

I have heard many people say their designer or architect gave them a single design that didn’t reflect anything they had asked for and they still had to pay the fee for something they couldn’t use.

When getting drawings done ask for two or three options to choose from. One of the options should be what you originally asked for. This helps you to explore some ideas you may not have thought of. Often the final design is a hybrid of the three options.

Also, ask for a three-dimensional drawing or model, as plans and elevations are difficult to understand. Don’t be afraid to say you don’t like it. Ask lots of questions. Take time to think about it and discuss the design before making any decisions.


Benefits of drawings

There are a million decisions to make and document but decisions take time and research and are often the cause of delays. Someone to help streamline the decision making process and properly document them will benefit the entire design and construction team.

You’ll also get better results from tenders. For example: if you ask for a door one contractor will price a cheap door and one will price an expensive door. This will make it difficult to compare the tender prices. When you specify the brand, material, and finish of the door along with the doorknobs and hinges the bidding process is fair as every one is pricing the same thing.

The greatest benefit of drawings is that it is cheaper and faster to make changes on paper. Changes on a drawing simply require an eraser; during construction it often involves undoing work that has already been completed and starting over. Contractors make their profit by building quickly and efficiently. They can better do this if they have all the information up front.

Service Levels

If you like to do some of the work yourself or have gone through the process before then you may just need someone to provide the basic drawings for a building permit.  However, there are 3 levels of service an architect or designer can provide:

Basic level covers design and building permit drawings. All municipalities require building permits for any work involving structural changes or additions. These drawings have information about the building shell, the structural work, building code and zoning compliance. They include floor plans, elevations, sections and site plan. They do not include: interior design, lighting, paint colours, moldings & trim, floor finishes, railing design, furniture placement, cabinet design, window coverings, door or door hardware design.

With medium level service, the architect or designer assists you in the showroom with selecting the interior and exterior finishes, colors and product selection. They also co-ordinate legal elevation survey on owners’ behalf; co-ordinate design with geotechnical and structural engineers; review tender quotes from contractors; review construction progress; answer questions and advise on changes to the work

With high-level service, every option is explored. Architects provide unique and/or exotic solutions; a detailed virtual CADD model; balsa wood or card models; color and material sample boards and tender documents. They also organise the bidding process, review construction progress, document changes to the work and review contractor invoices.

The cost for this work can range between five and 25 per cent of the total construction budget. That may appear a little high at first but the end costs of poorly managed projects will seem like small change in comparison.