Apart from designing buildings, practicing architecture is a bit like balancing on a tight rope. This act of funambulism balances several elements and merges them together.
Your building not only needs to be within budget and constructible (contractor), it also must fit the market (realtor), withstand wind and gravity loads (structural engineer), offer a comfortable environment (mechanical engineer), be safe (fire protection and codes), fit within the city (zoning), and protect against the elements (thermal and moisture protection). In addition, it needs to look good and offer the occupants an enjoyable experience. No other person in the construction industry can balance and merge all those components together. From construction methods to aesthetics and experience the architect has been trained to create a framework and an organizational structure to plug all the elements in and make them work together. Architects have an unbelievably diverse background in education and the field itself is one of the broadest.
The architect, because of this broad knowledge, acts on the design side like a general contractor does on the construction side. It is common for architects to sign a prime contract with the building owner and many sub-contracts with engineers and other design consultants.
So how important is having an architect on your team?
As architects we act as advisors much like a lawyer in a court room. We represent your interests on the construction site. Having an architect is as important as using a doctor for surgery or a lawyer during a court case. Even on your personal home using an architect will far out weight their fees in the value they provide. So many people are using non-professionals to design their home because of the design fees associated with hiring an architect.
Red Adair said it best, “If you think it is expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.”
Hiring a draftsman or even a builder to design your project is a huge mistake that many people make in the residential market. There are many cases were homeowners are hiring engineers to design their project. Although engineers are great designers, they are specialists that know everything about one building component. Although a home builder has built many homes and knows how to construct, even they focus too much on their specialty of constructability and budgets.
Only an architect can offer the broad knowledge and outlook of such a complex set of systems. Only an architect can offer the balance of pragmatism, aesthetics, and experience. Don’t make the mistake of hiring an amateur to design one of your largest investments.