I was recently asked "On what kinds of projects is an architect absolutely recommended for on residential projects? Considering that a home renovation or construction of a new house is often one of the most significant investments both financially and emotionally in one's life, an architect will add value to almost all projects. A beautifully designed house and happy homeowners are the most gratifying goals at the heart of a residential architect’s work. Architects look at an empty space and see a world of possibilities. Architects have the talent and ability to see the big picture, to glean the most potential out of a property, and to thoughtfully interpret a client’s aspirations. As trained problem-solvers, architects transform complex problems into brilliantly simple solutions. In one project, my client thought they needed a major kitchen renovation. We relocated one door and all the traffic flow problems were solved.
The challenges of a residential building are as profound as those of a large commercial project, but in a very different way. A site can be complicated in terms of zoning or terrain and designing for our hot, humid hurricane climate is not for the uninitiated. Another client hired me after they had started a project with an unlicensed jack-of-all-trades. The under-construction guest house was a dysfunctional unsafe mess. We were able to salvage the project to meet their needs and the building code.
The value of architects lie in their ability to find the delicate balance between program, construction, and cost, in essence to find just the right harmony between pragmatism and aesthetic beauty. The architect is at the helm, working towards giving clients choices and options, helping them to prioritize their wish list, and giving an experienced opinion as to where to compromise in order to maximize the financial investment.
Architects know that the way our surroundings are designed can change the way we live. Architects can connect your house to the site and take advantage of the views, breezes and the rhythms of nature. We have done numerous renovation projects where the original house was a plan book house that was plopped down with a total disregard to the uniqueness of the site. By adding windows and exterior living spaces the homeowner can enjoy their Lowcountry view.
Architects prepare a complete set of construction documents that are a graphic and written record of decisions made. The drawings include all the information that a contractor needs to build the project. This also allows the bids from contractors to be comparable.
Finally, architects are invaluable during the construction phase as the owner's advocate. They review the work and advise the client regarding design compliance. The architect also advising on the appropriateness of change orders. The architect helps the contractor understand the design intent and ensure that decisions made during construction are consistent with the decisions made during design.