What Do Architects Do and Why You Should Hire One

Introduction

Imagine transforming your dream home from a mere idea into a tangible reality. Imagine finally transitioning that home business from your home office into a storefront on Main Street. This magic happens when you make the decision to hire an architect for your construction and design project. Architects play a crucial role in shaping the environments we live, work, and play in. Understanding what an architect does and the benefits of hiring an architect can significantly enhance your project outcomes. Whether you’re embarking on a residential or commercial project, knowing the ins and outs of the architectural profession will help you make informed decisions. In this blog, we will explore the daily activities of architects, the specific roles of residential and commercial architects, and why hiring an architect, from the very beginning, is a wise investment. We’ll delve into their building design expertise, innovative and creative solutions, and how they ensure compliance with the ever growing and often onerous building, zoning, codes and building permitting regulations. By the end of this blog, you will appreciate the value of hiring an architect early and often and how they can turn your vision into reality by carefully guiding you through the entire design and construction process.

Understanding the Role of an Architect

What Does an Architect Do?

Architects are licensed professionals deeply trained in the art and science of designing buildings. In fact, most architects first had to complete four to seven years of professional architecture school, then apprentice under a licensed architect for another three to five years, then pass five to seven tests to obtain their professional licensure. Beyond these professional hurdles architects then “practice” architecture for the rest of their careers. It’s called “practicing” architecture because their learning never ceases and is continually evolving with each new project type, site, permitting jurisdiction, code updates, and so forth. Any good architect will admit they do not know everything and never will but are always seeking to know as much as possible for each individual client and their project.

But what does an architect do on a daily basis? Their core responsibilities include designing buildings and structures in conjunction with various engineers, planning and developing project concepts and details, and of course managing the execution of these projects. Architects possess a unique blend of creativity and technical knowledge, allowing them to solve complex problems and create innovative designs. Many are “whole brained” individuals meaning they often use both sides of their brains equally. They collaborate closely with clients to understand their needs and translate these into functional yet aesthetically pleasing designs. Hiring an architect ensures that your project benefits from their extensive building and design expertise with attention to detail which then results in a well-planned and executed build. Architects are also adept at navigating building codes and regulations, ensuring your project complies with all the necessary standards.

Do I Need an Architect and When Should I Hire an Architect?

Seeking to understand when one does or doesn’t need an architect should happen as soon as one is looking to buy a residential property or sign a commercial lease.  There are two ways in which one can seek to understand when or if an architect is necessary either by law or by need.  The first way would be to walk into the local building department, speak with the building official of the day, and explain what you are potentially looking to do with the property in question.  Try to be as open and honest about the scope of construction work you might be doing, and the building official will be happy to explain if you need an architect or not to prepare drawings for a building permit.

The second way would be to pick up the phone or email an architect, again explaining in full breadth what you are looking to do to the property and ask them if an architect is required by law to prepare the drawings. In the event an architect is required for your project by law then you’re already many steps ahead of the game. If an architect is not required by law, which is the case for most homes in America if there is no structural work being done, then you still might want to consider hiring an architect to simply leverage their design and drafting skills for your project.

Once you have identified if you need an architect then you should hire them immediately after either closing on the property or signing the lease. In some cases, you might also want to hire them on an hourly basis to consult with you on the property you are researching to better understand what you can or cannot do with the property according to zoning and building regulations as well as to better understand the overall permitting process and the ramifications of its timeline. For instance, on a lease they could consult you to negotiate a longer rent-free period than usual due to a potentially extraneous and time permitting process.

What you don’t want to do is assume that you don’t need an architect for your building project only to later find out, after months of construction, that you in fact did need an architect only to then have your project halted by the building or planning departments. This is especially crucial for any building project that is often dictated by financing deadlines or deadlines to begin paying rent in the commercial arena.  Therefore, one simple call to an architect could save you thousands of dollars and countless hours of lost sleep. That alone might be worth hiring an architect from the very beginning of your project rather than in haste at the very end.

Daily Activities of Architects

What Do Architects Do on a Daily Basis?

Understanding what architects do on a daily basis helps in appreciating their contribution to a project. Architects spend a significant portion of their day drafting, refining designs, coordinating and directing engineers, and even negotiating with the building and zoning department on your behalf. They hold regular client meetings to discuss project needs, preferences, and progress. Site visits are also an integral part of their routine, ensuring that construction aligns with the design. Architects also collaborate with engineers, contractors, and other stakeholders to coordinate various aspects of the project. Documentation is another crucial activity, where they prepare detailed blueprints and specifications. This meticulous attention to detail ensures that every aspect of the design is communicated clearly to all parties involved. By hiring an architect, you benefit from their vast experience in designing buildings, comprehensive project management skills, and dedication to bringing your vision to life.

What Don’t Architects Do on a Daily Basis?

According to the Webster Dictionary, an architect is defined as “a person who is qualified to design buildings and to plan and supervise their construction.” This definition is broad but mostly correct, however, it is also lacking a deeper dive into what architects don’t do on a daily basis. Architects are often confused for engineers and architects rarely engineer anything. For example, we architects will show plumbing, electrical, mechanical, and structural fixtures and members in our drawings, but we do not engineer them. Instead, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and structural engineers are the professionals who engineer those items.

Architects must know a little about each of those design disciplines, but they do not know enough to be able to legally perform them. They often also hire the other design disciplines on the client’s behalf and direct their work according to the overall vision for the building or space. Similarly, architects do not actually build their buildings, at least for the most part, but instead design them alongside the other design professionals and then the general contractor builds them. Architects do, however, oversee the construction work and often serve as a check on the general contractor during the construction of the building.

Specializations in Architecture

What Does a Residential Architect Do?

Residential architects specialize in designing apartments, condos, homes and living spaces. What does a residential architect do? They focus on creating healthy, functional, comfortable, and aesthetically pleasing environments tailored to individual client needs. These architects excel in customizing designs to meet specific preferences, ensuring that each home is unique. They also navigate local building codes and regulations, ensuring compliance and avoiding legal issues. Residential architects work closely with clients to understand their lifestyle and requirements, translating these into thoughtful design solutions. From initial concept to final execution, they oversee nearly every detail, making sure the end result aligns with the client’s vision. Hiring a residential architect ensures a personalized and expertly crafted living space that reflects your style and meets your needs.

What Does a Commercial Architect Do?

Commercial architects specialize in designing offices, place of business, workspaces and commercial buildings. But what does a commercial architect do? They focus on creating functional and efficient commercial spaces, such as offices, retail stores, and industrial buildings. These architects design with scalability and flexibility in mind, ensuring that spaces can adapt to changing business needs. Compliance with commercial building codes, accessibility standards, and safety regulations is paramount in their work. Commercial architects also integrate sustainable and energy-efficient solutions into their designs, promoting environmental responsibility. They collaborate with business owners and stakeholders to understand their requirements and deliver spaces that enhance productivity and appeal. Hiring a commercial architect ensures that your business environment is not only functional but also innovative and sustainable.

The Benefits of Hiring an Architect

Benefits of Hiring an Architect

The benefits of hiring an architect are manifold. Architects bring a wealth of expertise and knowledge to your project, ensuring high-quality results. They provide innovative solutions that you might not have considered, adding value and uniqueness to your design. Architects manage the entire project, from conception to completion, coordinating all aspects to ensure smooth execution. Their planning can save you money by avoiding costly code mistakes and ensuring efficient use of resources. Architects also design with future needs in mind, incorporating sustainable practices that enhance long-term value. By hiring an architect, you gain access to their extensive network of professionals, ensuring that your project benefits from the best available expertise. Overall, the benefits of hiring an architect go beyond aesthetics, encompassing functionality, efficiency, sustainability, and time savings with the building and zoning permitting process.

How to Hire an Architect

Steps to Hiring an Architect

Hiring an architect involves several steps to ensure you find the right fit for your project. First, define your project clearly. Knowing what you want to achieve helps in finding an architect who aligns with your vision. Research and recommendations are crucial. Look for architects with great online reviews and recommendations from trusted sources. Once you have a shortlist, schedule interviews and consultations. This helps in assessing their approach and seeing if they are a good fit for your project. Discuss your needs, budget, and timeline during these meetings. Finally, ensure you have a detailed contract outlining the scope of work, timeline, and costs. This clarity prevents misunderstandings and sets the stage for a successful collaboration. By following these steps, you can hire an architect who will turn your vision into reality.

Conclusion

In summary, understanding what architects do and the benefits of hiring an architect can transform your project from a simple idea to a successful reality. Architects play a pivotal role in designing and managing projects, ensuring they meet all code, aesthetic, functional, and sustainable requirements. Whether you’re considering a residential or commercial project, hiring an architect brings a level of expertise and innovation that significantly enhances the outcome. From personalized home designs to scalable commercial spaces, architects provide solutions that are both practical and future-proof. If you’re planning a new project, consider hiring an architect to guide you through the process, ensuring a result that exceeds your expectations. The value they bring through their expertise, creativity, and project management skills is unparalleled, making them an essential part of any successful build.

If you’re looking to design a successful building of your own, then get in touch with us today!