A La Carte Architecture

 Design for a single family addition - Mother-in-Law Suite and second floor master porch.

Design for a single family addition - Mother-in-Law Suite and second floor master porch.

Our world is becoming increasingly retail oriented. Now 20+ years on from the explosion of the internet, e-commerce has fundamentally changed the way we shop, do research and even communicate. We now live in an age of almost instantaneous information - true or not - and communication across the globe and the way we interact with each other and the way we seek out information has been forever changed. It has also changed the way potential clients interact with architects and seek out services. In years passed a person would contact an architect to build a house or add on and the expectation would be that the architect would be involved in that project until construction was complete. We now call this "Full Architectural Services", which we'll discuss in a minute. It used to be that there were no other options. Architects did not selectively annotate their services allowing the client to pick and choose to get what they perceive as maximum benefit for the least dollar amount.

 Typical Interior Kitchen elevation.

Typical Interior Kitchen elevation.

But now, in an age of increasing connectivity, competition, and Google-ability, the services of most architects can now be purchased a la carte as if ordering from the menu at Big Orange. This does not produce real value for the client nor is it in the best interest of the architect to provide services in this way. You see, as the fee and level of service that the architect provides decreases, the amount of time the client will spend making decisions during construction increases as does the total project cost and the potential for mistakes that must be corrected. Lets put this in terms of dollars and sense to make it simple. We'll start with the lowest service offering and it's relative cost to the project and then move up.

 Excerpt of construction drawings for a modern entry screen wall and covered walk for a single family residence.

Excerpt of construction drawings for a modern entry screen wall and covered walk for a single family residence.

Schematic Design Drawings

  • Least amount of detail;
  • Architect's role limited to initial design and conceptual materials;
  • Architect not responsible for errors or omissions during construction;
  • Fee generally less than 1% of the project budget or hourly;
  • Homeowner responsible for all decisions beyond initial design: includes selection of all materials, finishes, fixtures, appliances, selection of contractor, negotiation of contract, review of payment applications, and approval of all contractor substitutions;
  • Time required by homeowner expected to be 20-30 hours per week for duration of construction (6-12 months).

Design Development Drawings

  • Fair amount of detail;
  • Architect's role still limited to initial design and basic refinement of interior spaces;
  • Architect not responsible for errors or omissions during construction;
  • Fee generally less than 3% of the project budget or hourly;
  • Homeowner responsible for all decisions beyond initial design: includes selection of all materials, finishes, fixtures, appliances, selection of contractor, negotiation of contract, review of payment applications, and approval of all contractor substitutions;
  • Time required by homeowner expected to be 20-30 hours per week for duration of construction (6-12 months).

Construction Documents

  • Complete set of documents: well designed and detailed with Specifications;
  • Architect's role limited to creation of construction documents;
  • Architect only responsible for errors and omissions on the construction documents, no responsibility for modifications in field;
  • Fee generally less than 6% of the project budget;
  • Homeowner responsible for selection of Contractor, negotiation of contract, review of payment applications, and approval of all contractor substitutions;
  • Time required by homeowner expected to be 20-30 hours per week for duration of construction (6-12 months).

Full Architectural Services

  • Complete set of documents: well designed and detailed with Specifications;
  • Architect responsible for interview and selection of contractor, negotiation of contract, review of payment applications, approval of all contractor substitutions, and observing and documenting entire process of construction;
  • Fee ranges between 6% and 12% of the project budget;
  • Homeowner responsible for payment of contractor's application for payment once approved by Architect;
  • Time required by homeowner expected to be 2-3 hours per month for duration of construction (6-12 months). 

So what is the ultimate benefit for you to hire your architect to provide full architectural services? The answer is just a different question - how much is your time worth? Construction is a messy process. There are a host of decisions that have to be made on a daily basis. The best way to reduce that required time is to have a complete set of construction documents. And the best way to nearly eliminate that required time is to hire a professional to manage those decisions for you. You may look at the upfront savings and think you're getting a great deal for your home. But experience has taught many homeowners that this is not the case. The upfront cost of your architect will more than pay for itself at the close of construction. 

Jeremiah RussellComment