5 Tips When Choosing an Architect

Glowing EntryThere are many things to consider when selecting an architect for your custom home project whether it be for a new home or renovation.  Here are 5 thoughts to consider when interviewing the

1.  Look at the architect’s portfolio and determine if you like the type of work they produce.  Good architects will capture their client’s style in the homes they design, so you may see many different styles.  You should look at the overall designs as well as the details to see how well things have been thought through.  Are the designs unique or are they similar to many other things you have seen.  We like to provide each client with a specific and unique design that they can call their own.

2.  Have them show you a set of drawings that they have produced.  Look at the level of detail provided.  A lot of architects will provide only enough information to get a building permit.  This leaves many aspects of the home undeveloped.  It will be impossible to get an accurate quote for construction without a fully detailed set of drawings.  Also, the design will suffer when significant details are left up in the air to be figured out in the field.  The truly exceptional spaces come from all aspects of the design being fully developed and specified.  The builder should have all the information to build the home from start to finish.  We believe it is our job to design EVERY aspect of the home.  Having a complete set of drawings and specifications allows the contractor to build the home faster and this saves money.  It can be deceiving that architect’s fees vary so widely.  This is typically because of a different level of design and drawings that you will receive.  Be an informed consumer – know what you are getting up front.

3.  Talk to a general contractor who has built one of their homes.  This is critical because the design is useless if doesn’t make sense during construction.  Inaccurate or unclear drawings lead to cost overruns and difficulties during construction.   We arrange our drawings in a way that makes sense during construction   Communication is KEY is conveying a design to the different trades who will make it a reality.

4.  Are they licensed?  Most states do not require a licensed architect to design a home.  Licensed architects have been trained in an accredited architectural program and are required to complete extensive continuing education.  Also, it is important to understand if the firm carries errors and omissions insurance.  If there is an error on the drawings, it can be very costly to correct during construction.  Most architects don’t have the financial wherewithal to compensate the owners for the mistake.  Professional Liability Insurance covers mistakes made by the architect and can compensate the owner should an error be discovered.  We carry $1 Million of insurance and while we have never needed to use it, it is there to protect our clients.

5.  Will you be working directly with the firm owner or be handed off to a junior designer.  Sometimes the owner of the firm will have little involvement in the design of your home.  They will pass you off to someone in the firm who may have very little experience and training.  You are hiring the firm for the principal architect but are getting something quite different.  At Kemp Hall Studio, I oversee every project from start to finish.  I am the one designing the homes and while we have a team of qualified architects, I see every project through start to finish.

Ultimately, a home will only ever be as good as the design.  When building a home or renovating, you are investing large amounts of money and you need to be assured that when all is said and done, you have  truly exceptional spaces that will inspire your life.

Steve Kemp, Principal, Kemp Hall Studio

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