More important, why take a builder’s advice on the need for an architect?
Any architect will tell you, what annoys them most about builders is how clueless they are about architecture. However true that might be, builders know more about what is wrong with projects that were built without an architect than an architect does. There, I said it!
I have been a builder of truly custom homes for more than 30 years. My admiration for the professionals I’ve been fortunate enough to work for grows with each project. Put simply, the difference between building a project with or without an architect is like the difference between spending and investing money.
You can spend all you want and get exactly what you deserve, or you can invest your money in a home you could never have imagined that will grow in value from the moment you put a roof on it. Equally as important, your home will be admired and appreciated by others—especially future buyers. That isn’t to say that everyone will love your home’s particular style, but your audience of admirers will be far greater than if you tried to design it on your own.
The emotional cost of building your own home and being dissatisfied, coupled with the real cost of trying to fix it can be significant. The most likely result of building without an architect is that you will build a home few people will value as much as you. Thus, you spend a lot and get little more in return, if you’re lucky. I’m sad to report that I have even torn down newer homes or removed recent additions that weren’t designed professionally.
Many people think an important reason to hire an architect is to look after your interests and keep an eye on the builder. It’s sad but true that this is often the case. It shouldn’t be this way, but there are more unsophisticated and poorly educated builders out there than there are builders as committed and well trained as your architect. That’s another post, but suffice it to say, an architect is not a defense against a bad builder, let alone a guarantee that a bad builder won’t ruin your project.
No one should hire a builder unless they trust them and have verification of that belief. If you do, no architect can help you and your dream. Whether it’s your first or fifth home, it will be an unfortunate experience.
The best truth is that the Architect and Builder (and Owner) bring wholly different perspectives to every decision. Certainly there is overlap, and often that can be where disagreements occur, but well-intentioned ones. It’s exciting when there is mutual respect for the expertise of each party. Leveraging the experience of your builder to your architect’s advantage and your benefit is always successful. Both the architect and builder have different roles, responsibilities and spheres of influence to control. It’s a mistake to want one of these two professionals to be your protector when they both should be. Digression!
An architect’s first responsibility to you is to listen, to learn about you—your life, family, needs and expectations. They need to then learn about your land and the community you plan to build in. A well trained architect brings a sensitivity to the surrounding area that shapes your needs into a solution you might not have imagined. The word “solution” used here is not wrong, but it belies the truth about the process of architects. Your architect will have many solutions, many ways to accomplish what you are hoping for, and they work tirelessly to adapt and match their ideas to your goals. It is rarely if ever correct to suggest that there is only one solution to a project.
I am frequently amazed to see the ideas architect’s come up with to address a client’s need before and even during construction. The listening and interpretive skills of an architect is their strength and magic. However, in this immeasurable skill lies the need for you to connect with your architect. I have rarely seen an architect-client relationship work without a connection. Whether it’s an intellectual one or emotional at the other extreme, this connection supports the trust required to let your architect do his best work. Depending on your own sense of taste and design, you will need to surrender some preconceptions. This allows your architect to bring everything together into a cohesive and valuable design worthy of your money and the land your home will occupy.
Lastly, if you think you can’t afford an architect, take it from a builder—you can spend a significant amount of money changing, adapting or fixing a poorly designed home. You could even spend as much as you could have spent on an architect to get it right after the fact. Even if you have a fixed budget and the architect consumes part of that, you will realize quickly that the value of the building you will get with the money left will be more livable, more beautiful and more valuable than a bigger box with nothing but volume going for it.
An architect’s fee is not a cost, it is the advice and counsel that guides you to investing your money to build wealth, not consume it. The money you spend building a beautifully designed home AND a well-built one, is merely a parking place for your money. While it’s parked, you will be making more.
You might ask why I think about this when my company doesn’t build projects without an architect. We are often called in to clean up a mess. Failed projects are a fact of life and the reasons are myriad. Over the years we have been hired to do the fixing and the replacements and each time we have encouraged our client to hire an architect to get the fix “right”. We have seen the failures of poor design, not by poor designers, but by unfortunate people who embarked on a project without one at all.
To build a custom home, hire an architect, invest your money and live well.