OK so this is an interesting topic and most architects will view this as a negative.  However the purpose of this blog is not to have a go at Architects, it’s quite the opposite.  It is to identify the common building mistakes that architects make when designing home and floor plans.

Architects are NOT builders.  Just like builders are NOT architects.  Builders build homesArchitects design homes.  However when having an architect design a home, it’s important to understand the consequences on the construction side of building the home.

Here are some questions that will help your thinking process:

  • Should you get an Architect to design your home first then engage a builder?
  • Or is it better to engage a builder to design your home as well as build it for you?
  • What are the things you should avoid with architects and their designs?
  • What are the consequences of building an architecturally designed home?

Project Home

If it’s project style home, then engaging an architect may not the best approach.  Any money you spend with an architect will be in addition to the price you pay your builder.

So if you pay your Architect $10,000 to design your $400,000 home, then your total build cost is $410,000.  Whereas it might be very possible to have the house designed and built for the $400,000 only as a lot of builders do provide this service as part of their overall costs.

A project style home is “generally” easier than a more customised / complex design so a project builder is more than capable to provide you with a design that satisfies your needs and wants.

An example of a simple project home design (this is not my design and it is for illustrative purposes only):

You can tell from the above design that it’s a relatively simple design.  It’s essentially “boxy” and have a less complex roof structure, walls are fairly straight and nothing majorly complicated about the build.

These type of designs are easy to build and hence more cost effective to build vs. the more customised home designs.

Custom Home

If you are looking at building a more customised home, then you have two options:

  1. engage a builder that has an architect doing the design work.
  2. start with an architect and then engage a builder to build it for you.

It would always work better for you to engage the right builder who has the right team to deliver on your design needs and wants.  An architect is not a builder, so engaging an architect solely (without any builder involvement) can be a very expensive exercise.

This includes the money you pay the architect AND the additional build costs that the architect does not usually see or know about.  If you are designing a masterpiece, engaging a builder without the architect involvement may prove unwise.  You must determine what type of design you are looking at building and who is the best team to have on your design bus.

This obviously applies whether you are spending $500k or $5Mil.

Generally an architect will design something more creative without taking into account the buildability or the cost of the build.  So they may design something that is not practical or too expensive to build where you can achieve the same or a similar outcome in a more effective way.

I am not suggesting engaging the architect first is the wrong way to go about it.  All I am saying is that engaging an architect without having a builder to consult on how the home will be built may not give you the best results.

It may also be worthwhile reading the pros and cons of building a Standard Design vs. a Custom Design home.

5 Costly Truth about Architects

Truth 1:  The Builder should know

There are lots of architects that know what they are doing when it comes to design and it’s buildability.  But some architects are all about design and assume that the builder should just figure out what should happen when they start building your home.

They could not be further from the truth – if you want the builder to build it the exact way you want it, then specify to the builder exactly what you want.

A builder is essentially a project manager – he / she receives a design and then organizes a whole lot of people to bring that design to life.  So if your architect is designing a home, make sure that they don’t make any assumptions and leave decisions to the builder to make on site.

It’s like designing a car and then assuming that the car manufacturer knows where the airbags should go – this does not work.  It should be part of the design works and specifications.

Truth 2:  Common sense is not so common

I have seen so many designs from my clients who have engaged architects where a lot of the buildability issues have not been taken into account.  I had an architect design a balcony for one my previous clients, and the architect forgot to include any structural support on the floor plans.  So the facade that the client wanted, or the effect they really wanted, was completely destroyed by having a column in the middle of their facade just so we can support the balcony.

Having said that, if your builder is actually any good then they would pick on these issues early on the piece – well if you are lucky.  But most builders will not think to question this sort of thing and assume that you have specifically requested these elements to be designed exactly they way they were drawn.

So they go about building it and you the one that ends up paying for it.

Truth 3:  Expensive Designs

I have had clients who paid their architects over $40,000+ for their design and approval works which is very expensive for the type of design they have received.  Not to mention that architectural designs generally add considerable amounts of money to your build costs.

Sometimes this is not necessary and you, as the client, will end up paying the price.  How much it will cost to build your home will greatly depend on your design and relevant complexities…

Truth 4:  Never on Budget

This is something I see time and time again – designs done by architects come through and they are often not on budget.  An architect is not a builder, so he / she cannot know how much it would cost to build your home design.

So what happens when your home build costs you twice the cost to build?  It’s super frustrating for you and your family; so you then consider a number of options but every option from then on will  feel like a compromise.

So make sure you do your research and have your design priced very early in the process to avoid any disappointments.  It would work well, if you do choose to work with an architect directly, to also engage a builder to provide you with some pricing along the way.

That way you can catch costly items etc… very early in the process.  Whatever you do, do NOT wait until you have your plans approved (through CDC or DA) to get a price.

Truth 5:  They don’t listen to their clients

This is more common that you would imagine.  Because building is such a complicated process; a lot of people place their trust in the professional architect.

So when they need something that would fit their lifestyle and the architect does not think it’s a good idea (I am assuming it is a good idea), then they will do what they want anyway & not design it.

Having said that, architects sometimes do know more than the client but it’s about having a discussion as part of the design process and understanding the reasons why something may or may not work…

I suggest that you find a partner that listens, understands and proactively communicates with you.  They are able to explain why something can / cannot work and how a different solution, if required, might be better.  Speak to some of their clients, have a look at reviews online and make sure they are the right fit for you.

A Note

Architects serve a purpose much like builders do.  If I was looking at building a $5 million dollar house (picking a random and relatively big number), then engaging an architect might be more appropriate specially when budget is not an issue.  Even then, I would still engage a builder to advise me on the build – afterall, they are the ones who will build it and not the architect.

But for the majority of people who are looking at spending up to $1,000,000 (there is no hard and fast rule about the amount, I am only making an assumption here.  You can build a very complicated house for $400,000 if you want); it would be more advantageous to engage a builder that is working with an architect or a design team (not an architect that’s working with a builder).  

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