Here are answers to some commonly asked questions, particularly for residential clients. If you have other questions, just send a note. Also, keep in mind that an initial meeting is free–we are happy to talk further in person.
Why should I hire an architect?
[/For most buildings larger than a house you are obligated to hire an architect. And many custom houses are done by architects as well, as the complexity of the design and construction often requires considerable experience. If you have a lot that is very unique (size/topography/views) or if you want or need a highly customized house or you are renovating an existing building for a new use, you will almost certainly need an architect who can work with you to customize the design. For houses, it is possible to purchase ‘stock plans’. Use caution though, as the design will not be able to take advantage of your particular property, adapt to the direction of views and sun, accommodate specific zoning requirements, and the plans may require additional work to make them building permit ready. Most architects will also have a network of contractors, consultants, and suppliers that they can draw on. They will also likely have a working relationship with municipal authorities, which can help to smooth the permit process.]
[“How long will it take?”] The design process for a new house can take 2-6 months, depending on the client, the size and complexity of the house, the requirements of the municipality and other factors. The permitting process can take as little as 2 weeks and up to a year, depending on whether a development permit is required as well as a building permit, and whether there are any other particularities such as zoning variances required. The construction time can take as little as a few months for a small renovation, and a year or more for a custom house.
[“How much will it cost?”]
Again, it depends. The construction cost of a house varies depending on the location, size, complexity, structure, materials, finishes, as well as the labour market. There is also a link between quality, quantity and cost. We usually try to keep a lid on the quantity, while emphasizing the quality. New houses start from perhaps $300 per square foot for a fairly simple design and can go to $1000 per square foot and higher for complex houses on challenging sites.
[“How much are architectural fees?”]
Architectural fees vary depending on the amount of work required and the corresponding time spent. For houses, the fee is usually determined as a percentage of the estimated building costs. This can range from 6% for ‘partial service’ (basic set of building permit drawings), to 15% and higher for full service from start to finish. It depends on the complexity of the project, and the level of detail that is expected from the client. Some clients prefer to hire architects at hourly or per diem rates, particularly for the very early stages of the work. These rates are available upon request.
Architectural fees are normally a tiny percentage of the overall lifecycle cost of a building, and yet, every decision an architect makes will affect the comfort/liveability of the building, as well as the operating costs.
[“How does the design process work?”]
The process can be broken down into stages:
Preliminary design–site analysis, analysis of the clients programme, zoning review, etc. This normally includes a site plan, rough floor plans, building section and exterior elevations. At this stage, we normally explore a number of different options.
Design development–further refinement of the design, through plans, sections, computer and actual models.
Contract documents: the design is ‘firmed up’ and detailed drawings and specifications are produced. These documents are submitted for permits, are used for pricing, and are used by the contractor for construction.
Contract administration: the architect coordinates with the contractor and owner, as well as with relevant authorities (building inspectors), carries out field reviews, issues change orders, etc. This stage is where the rubber meets the road, and the architect will make sure that the design that the owner and architect worked out is actually built according to plan.