As much as I would like to say that engineers design the foundations for a house, it is really the person doing the architectural drawings. The drawings are the intellectual foundation of the building design. Get that wrong and you could end up building either a dog of a building or sending yourself broke!
There are three fundamentally different choices in how to go about getting your architectural design done. The first and most obvious is to engage an architect. The second is to engage a building designer and the third is to do them yourselves.
In, the separate article ‘Architectural Drawings – Can I do my own?‘, I argued strongly that doing the drawings yourself is just downright stupid! And I will not cover it in this blog further. Here, I am simply going to discuss the choice of an architect or building designer.
At their best, an architect is a cross between an artist, a therapist and a builder! University trained, their role is to design a building that is beautiful, functional and works for you and your budget.
At their worst, an architect is a disassociated right brain creative who takes no regard for your ideas, budget or the practicalities of construction.
To achieve a wonderfully creative structure that fits you like a glove and can be built for your budget can take a great architect and a lot of hard work to boot.
But it can be hard to find that architect and they come at a price!
On the other hand, if what you want to build is pretty standard or you have a clear and strong idea of what you want to build then there is little point in paying for the bells and whistles that an architect can deliver. You need a building designer!
Any decent building designer should be able to take the concept that you provide, give some pragmatic design input, check compliance with all the various council and the building code requirements and commit that to paper in a form that is suitable for submission to the planning authority.
The design process is not a linear task. There should be some to and fro between you and your designer. Ideally, even at this early stage, for the best balance of outcome and cost, there should be an interaction between you, your designer and the structural engineer. Otherwise, you can end up with a wonderful building that is not as buildable as it could otherwise be.
I imagine that some architects and also some building designers reading this might be a bit miffed about my characterisation and a delineation of their roles.
There is of course some overlap between the two professions both in terms of the roles they can perform and the outcomes they can deliver. Indeed, at the more regular end of the construction spectrum, architects have been under increasing cost competition in recent years. This is both because of a swelling of their own ranks out of the universities and also the encroachment of building designers on their turf.
In the end, you need to make your own choice based on the outcome you want and the players you can find. It’s just the same as finding a partner!
And now that you have your architectural design finalised, that’s where I come in!