It’s a question we receive a lot: Do I need to hire an architect to build a new home? The answer is… not necessarily. The truth is residential architects aren’t a necessity in every home project and there may be a cheaper way to achieve your goals. Today’s blog is we’re talking everything residential architects, including:
- What they are?
- How do they differ from draftsmen and building designers?
- What do they do?
- Do you need one for your new house?
- What questions should you ask a prospective residential architect?
- Just as importantly, what are some of the red flags you should keep your eyes peeled for?
What does a residential architect do?
A residential architect is someone who specialises in helping homeowners design their homes. This can range from a house, unit, duplex, townhouse or mansion. They’ll also take care of building codes, building standards, town planning and local regulations and know which legal requirements need to be adhered to. If you have a design team, there will be the principal architect who will delegate tasks to other team members.
Who needs a residential architect?
Not everyone who’s building a house actually needs a residential architect. Residential architects are usually reserved for those looking to build a unique, complex and/or customised residential or commercial property. For commercial architecture, an architect will tend to be hired for custom-designed houses, houses that have specific structural needs and luxury properties.
What’s the difference between a draftsman, a building designer and an architect?
Though they may seem similar, there are some big differences between an architect and a draftsman. For starters, the qualifications are very different. An architect must complete both an undergraduate and master’s degree, all of which takes about seven years. They also need to register and be licensed under the Board of Architects. A draftsman completes a TAFE or similar course that teaches them CAD (Computer Aided Design), which takes about two years. As you can imagine, an architect will cost you more than a draftsman.
A higher level of qualification means an architect has more responsibility and can usually handle more complex and intricate designs than a draftsman. Architects can design buildings or renovations from scratch or alter existing plans. An architect can be involved in a project from start to finish and can provide a range of services including planning, design and project management.
A draftsman can produce drawings for construction projects, including renovations and new builds. Unlike an architect or building designer, a draftsman doesn’t create the design work themselves, instead, they’re responsible for ensuring your designs are accurately captured in building plans and blueprints.
A building designer designs buildings but isn’t qualified to conduct project management or project administration like an architect can. They’re basically the middle ground between a draftsman and an architect. They can perform all the tasks of a draftsman (in fact many building designers start off as draftsmen before getting further training), but cannot provide all the same services of an architect.
What’s the best option for my project?
It’s all about what you need to achieve. An architect can perform all the tasks of a draftsperson and building designer but come at a heftier price. For straightforward, simple jobs, good draftsmen will perform the job as well as an architect and won’t cost you anywhere near as much. Likewise, a building designer is a viable option for more straightforward designs. Architects are only worth their price when they’re working on more complex designs that exceed the experience and training of either a draftsman or a building designer.
Still not sure whether you need a draftsman or an architect? It’s understandable! Some decisions are more clear-cut than others and when you’re building a new house, the whole thing can become overwhelming. At Buildi we can help you with these decisions. Throughout your building journey, we’ll offer helpful advice and guidance so you’ll have all the information to make the final call.
Get in touch for more advice on whether a draftsman, building designer or architect is best for your project!
Reasons to hire an architect
- Want a specific, unusual and/or eye-catching design
- You have a particularly challenging building site
- Want an energy-efficient home
- Want to custom design your home
The role a residential architect would play in a new home build project
A residential architect would use their expertise and ability to design your home, and plan and prepares the construction drawings. They’ll discuss concepts with you, whether you’re looking for a creative design, or are after something specific to meet your family’s lifestyle. They can also help with project management, planning and any design alterations.
Ideally, an architect should take the following on board with every client:
- Brief (what you’re after)
- Environmental design
- Design codes and local regulations.
How much does a residential architect cost in Brisbane?
Architects tend to charge by the percentage of the total construction cost, with hourly rates usually reserved for smaller projects like a renovation, or something outside the parameters of the original assignment. For just the plans it ranges between 5-8%. For a full service expect to pay between 8-15%.
To help visualise this better, say your build was going to cost you $500,000. On this project, an architect could cost you anywhere between $25,000 to $75,000. The price will vary depending on various factors including the size, complexity and type of project.
Do you need a residential architect and builder?
Wondering if you need an architect for your future project? Have a chat with the team at Buildi for all the advice you’ll need on your building journey. No two projects are quite the same, but we can help you every step of the way from performing due diligence, to finding the perfect builder for your new home. From there, we’ll attend meetings between you and your builder to ensure everything runs smoothly.
Our top tips for hiring a residential architect in Brisbane
- Like builders, architects will have their specialities. Some architects only perform commercial design, while others specialise in a specific style or type of house. Professional designers might focus on contemporary designs, heritage, modern, traditional homes etc.
- Be open with what you’re after. For this to work, it needs to be a two-way relationship.
- Consider whether you need an architect or whether a draftsman or building designer will be able to get the job done.
- Speaking of being open, be clear on your budget. A good architect will deliver a design that doesn’t exceed your specified budget. It’s important to be upfront with this as you don’t want to fall in love with a design and find out you just don’t have the money for it.
- Odds are, you’ll need to adjust your brief or your budget. Compromises usually need to make as being underestimated how much something will cost, or an unexpected challenge arises (the site isn’t suitable for a particular design).
- Not all architects have the same taste. Make sure you find one you connect with aesthetically and who understands what you’re after
Questions to ask a residential architecture firm
What does your process look like?
Most architects will follow the structure or have an approach to how they tackle a remodelling or construction job. Asking them about this will provide you with an idea of how things will progress if you choose to proceed.
What is your design philosophy?
Ideally, you and your architect will be on the same page when it comes to how to approach your project. The other way to look at it is you certainly don’t want an architect with whom you clash. An example of this would be if you’re looking for an environmentally sustainable design, you’ll want an architect who shares this philosophy.
What is your fee/payment structure like?
Before you hire anyone, it’s important you understand both what you’ll be paying, in what increments and when.
Have you worked on similar projects?
Just as different builders have their specialties, not every architect will be the perfect fit for your project. Ask if they’ve worked on similar projects to your proposal to ensure they’re comfortable with taking on the job.
How long will the design process take?
If your architect is experienced, they should be able to give an estimate of how long a project should take once they have the details.
Do you foresee any problems or challenges with this project?
Building or renovating a house is a big project and it is almost inevitable that you’ll come across some challenges along the way. Your architect should be upfront about these potential challenges. Examples include your current budget cannot accommodate all you’ve asked for or the design will need to be altered to suit the site.
Could you provide some references?
Customer references help provide a better overall picture of what it is like to work with your potential architect.
Red flags to be aware of before hiring a residential architecture firm
No History of Previous Success
Every company can get bad reviews, some a lot less fair than others. However, a string of bad reviews over many platforms, showing patterns… that’s never a great sign. If you can’t find any reviews, this can also be suspicious. It could mean the firm has made it a clause in their contract that clients can’t post reviews. In some cases, we’ve heard of companies relaunching under a different name to save face.
Reluctant to show certification or license can’t be verified
We’d like to say everyone is honest and on the level, but unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Any trustworthy, quality architect should be happy to show you their qualifications. If it helps them get work, why wouldn’t they? Any firm that declines to show you its qualifications might be trying to hide something.
Ridiculously Low Price
On the surface, a cheap bid from a company seems like it could only good thing. Unfortunately, it’s often a sign their work won’t be of high quality or that their company is on the verge of going under and they’re desperate. Either way, it’s worth keeping the old saying in mind: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
They’re poor communicators
Your architect doesn’t need to be the most charming and witty person in the world, but they do need to be responsive to your queries. This is also a give-and-take relationship your architect needs to be able to take your ideas on board as well as articulate their own thoughts clearly.
Some jobs require the experience and skill set of an architect, but not all of them. When it comes to deciding what’s the best option for your project, consider what you’re going to get for your money. Is there any point in paying architect prices for something a draftsman will do just as well? To discuss further what the best option is for you, get in touch with Buildi today!