1. Residential

Do I need to hire an architect to bring my dream home to life?

I read a survey recently that looked at reasons why people do or don’t hire architects when they build a new home. The results were fascinating. It’s estimated that architects design somewhere between 2% and 10% of new homes. That means that 90% to 98% of those building new homes miss out on an immensely valuable service.

Top reasons to hire an architect

For those who do use architects, there are myriad benefits. Those surveyed reported their top four reasons for hiring as:

#1 Architects are highly educated, qualified, certified and experienced.

# 2 Architects have skills and knowledge that can save your money during construction, and make your home more efficient.

# 3 Architects can design a home for your unique needs and lifestyle, improving quality of life.

# 4 Architects offer a comprehensive service that can help make the process easier.

This resonated particularly with me, as I had been working with a client to design her dream home by remodeling her existing property. During the process, she has benefited from all four of these areas.

Using an architect to design your dream home

The client – Maria – had bought a small house that she wanted to turn into a large home that would be perfect for family gatherings. With family in the construction business, this was going to be a really personal project from start to finish.

My role was to design a house to meet Maria’s needs and assist with the permitting process. I was also in a position to bridge the language barrier for Maria, as she didn’t speak good English. As such, I communicated with her in Spanish throughout the life of the project, liaising in English with the other parties involved as required.

The plan was that, with the design approved and the permit in place, Maria and her family would then build the house – or most of it (she planned to hire contractors to undertake certain tasks).

It was an interesting design to work on. Maria wanted to nearly double the size of her home. The sloped land and the fact that the property wasn’t in the best condition meant that there were some structural challenges to be addressed.

The initial design work also took a little longer than expected as Maria would often come back with revisions. It was certainly a very fluid process and I realized early on that this wasn’t a project that was about making money – it was about supporting someone to achieve their vision of their dream home.

After some toing and froing, we obtained the permit and I left Maria to it.

How architects can help to overcome construction problems

Some two or three months later, I heard from Maria again. The person she had paid to make the foundation had done a poor job and then gone to ground. Maria was out of pocket and didn’t know what to do.

I visited the site to see what we could do to help. It was quickly clear that the concrete slab was at a lower level than it was supposed to be. This meant we needed to raise the new floor to match the height of the existing one. However, money was tight. Maria needed a structural engineer who was willing to work for a reduced fee.

Luckily, we were able to find precisely the right individual, who also bought into the idea that this project was about more than money. We all worked together to help come up with a solution for Maria’s dream home.

Exterior
Floor Plan (Before)
Floor Plan (After)
Interior

Interior

During the course of all this, the original permit expired so we had to reapply. The final design included:

– Raising the ceiling height by several feet

– Taking out various walls

– Relocating the kitchen

– Adding a living room, a master bedroom, a couple of bathrooms and a pantry

– Replacing the roof

From a structural perspective, we needed to keep the exterior walls, which were originally built in the 1950s, as they were, so we planned for taller framing walls in order to achieve the higher ceiling for the new rooms. The final structure encompassed two different rooflines, with a distinction between the original structure and the addition, but with the same interior and exterior finishes.

By using professional expertise, Maria was able to achieve the perfect design for her dream house. She’s building it this year, with her family keeping on top of the construction process at all times.

The entire experience was affirmation of why I first wanted to become an architect – to help people achieve the structures that would make a positive difference to their lives. Working with Maria wasn’t about money – it was a personal journey to help her have the family home she had always wanted. This is why hiring an architect can be such an advantage to those building new homes! This project also reminded me why I feel so happy to work with the team at B+A Architecture. Their spirit really reflects my own when it comes to the end goal being the smile on the client’s face. Having the backing of a company that is happy to use all the resources at its disposal to help a client to achieve their goal, even when the financial benefit is minimal, feels like a real privilege.

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