Many prospective homeowners remain uncertain as to how an architect can influence and benefit a residential design project. The following are six distinct and valuable services your architect will typically provide.

Programming

The initial phase in which the architect and homeowner discuss the goals, needs, and function of the project; design expectations and available budget; and pertinent building code and zoning regulations. The architect helps the homeowners arrive at a realistic budget estimate for design and building by leading them through a discussion about the ramifications of several design approaches in light of local costs for materials and construction. In this phase, the homeowner is encouraged to have a candid discussion of their actual budget for the entire project. Following the initial discussions, an architect will produce an outline of the scope of the proposed project.

Schematic design

Your architect will provide concept sketches of design options and explain how they meet the requirements discussed in the programming stage. The overall scope of the project, proposed building materials, and a preliminary budget related to the schematic design are also discussed. Refinements are made until you approve the design.

Design development

Your architect will prepare detailed drawings and finalize the design plans, showing actual sizes and shapes for rooms. Construction specifications will be outlined, listing the major materials to be used. When you approve the design drawings, your architect will work with you to find contractors to give you cost estimates. .

Construction documents

One of the most important elements of your architect's services is construction documents. Your architect will develop detailed drawings and material specifications. The contractor will use both to estimate construction costs and to build the project.

Hiring the contractor

You have several options when it comes to hiring a contractor, including asking your architect to make recommendations or choose a contractor on their own. Your architect can assist you in selecting contractors by reviewing bids and estimates based on the construction documents.

Construction phase

In this phase, your architect observes the pace and quality of construction. As your agent, your architect looks out for your interests, keeping you informed of the project's progress and overseeing any changes or problems that may arise. Construction phase services are helpful in keeping your project on track and within budget.

About the author: Dawn Zuber, AIA, is an architect and is past chair of AIA's Custom Residential Architects Network. She is also owner of Studio Z Architecture in Plymouth, Michigan.

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