Should You Hire An Architect?

If you're getting ready to build your dream home or other construction project, in some situations, you might have some reasons to reject hiring an architect when building your custom home. These reasons include money, or the fact that you may have design skills yourself that you wish to exercise. You can use technology or utilize alternative consultants if you want to save on architecture fees. These resources require additional responsibility on your part and may still have additional costs depending upon the design requirements of your local government.

Main Choices When Not Hiring An Architect

Your first choice could be to pick a home from books or online, that is finding some already published floor plans. You can purchase thousands of plans from magazines and online resources. The magazine shelves at bookstores are stocked with more than ten new magazines every month; these plan books have houses to fit every size and budget.

This means that you can buy the preliminary floor plan and elevations for a few hundred dollars. You can also purchase complete building plans including the structural drawings from these sources for a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. Even if you don’t buy the full set of plans, the magazines and online sites make for good conversation starters with your family and architect.

This option may seem like a less expensive approach than hiring an architect when building a house, but it depends heavily on your situation. Many of these architectural plans don’t include the foundation or full structural drawings required for permitting. The building plans need to meet all the design and building code regulations for your area as well as ensure they are in compliance with local zoning and neighborhood covenants, and if they don’t, you’ll have to hire an architect or engineer to make any changes necessary for permitting. Buying plans from an architectural design book can, however, be a great option if you’re building on a flat lot with liberal design guidelines. 

The next option would be to design your own plans using architectural software programs. A number of software programs exist for individuals wishing to design their own home on a computer without the help of an architect.   Many of these software tools make it easy with templates for rooms and architecture choices. Some are highly specialized.  For example there are shipping container house plans and CAD software for those thinking of using alternative construction methods for an affordable home.  Shipping container homes are just one of many affordable construction methods for alternative home designs.  For less than a few hundred dollars, these programs can be excellent tools for discovering the basics of home design. If you find yourself with the time and skill to design the whole project, you can save significant money.

In this case you’re now responsible for all the structural elements of the house construction. Make sure to find a structural engineer you can work with before heading down this path.

Home Designer vs. Architect

The third option would be to hire a home designer instead of hiring an architect. You can choose from a growing number of talented home designers who aren’t licensed architects. They offer you the possibility of significant cost savings in the design phase of building your new home. They have an interior design education rather than the architectural training or certification, so they bill at a lower rate than architects.

These designers may draft the house design for you from scratch or help you determine materials. No standard for the services they provide exists, so you need to ask them what part of the process they will provide. Treat them as you would if you were hiring an architect. Investigate their credentials and experience. Discuss with them the differences in the services they will provide from architects and other home designers and find out where the gaps exist. The best way to find these home designers is in local newspapers and home design magazines.

However, a home designer may not be aware of building code complications in a more extensive project, creating more cost to fix the architectural plans even with the engineer’s assistance, so hiring an architect may be recommended depending upon the scope of your project.