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home : features : features August 27, 2015

2/7/2014 8:03:00 AM
Ask the contractor: Hire an architect or designer who understands your vision
Sandy Griffis
Yavapai County Contractors Association

Q: We have the lot, we have the house idea in our mind, and now the question is: Architect? Designer? We have totally confused ourselves and seem to be overthinking the answer.-Tom and Cathy, Prescott

A: There are few things that are more exciting that building a new home, and the builder, architect and/or designer certainly have an impact on its form and function.

The relationship with an architect or designer and builder is very personal. Your personality, your vision, your lifestyle will all play an important part in the design of your home, so it is critically important that the professional you select be right for you, fit your budget and understands your dreams.

In a nutshell, the difference between an architect and designer is the education, training and professional licensing. Tom Reilly, local general contractor and licensed architect, owner of Renovations - Your Complete Remodel Resource, said, "While design is often thought of as something most anybody could do, there is a level of experience that comes from formal professional training which is not duplicated through years of drafting."

There are differences between an architect and designer, and people working in these professions are very capable in designing homes. An architect is a licensed professional qualified to practice architecture. In most cases an architect has a degree from an accredited college and they have mastered in some cases thousands of hours working under licensed architects as an intern prior to obtaining their degree, in addition to completing very arduous and difficult exams. A designer is someone who does not have an architecture license. Not to say that a designer does not have the skills, but they do not have the overall education and certifications that is required to become an architect.

Architects have a professional code of ethics mandated by the state, which is an overreaching authority looking over their work. In most cases, architects carry liability insurance.

Our area has some wonderful designers - quality individuals who are hardworking and great at their job. And we have many top-drawer architects who have been recognized nationally for their project work and sustainability values.

Architects are well-versed in the overall project, such as environmental concerns, social impacts, historical preservation and, in many cases, structural work for the building. Architects are also educated to work hand-in-glove with the builder to obtain the best design for your dollar.

There is a common misconception that architects are way too expensive compared to designers and that is not typically the case.

A great design will add value to your project and, whether you elect to use a designer or an architect, it is important that that your general contractor review the plans, because they will need to understand the design intent.

To sum up, an architect is a licensed professional, in many cases holding advanced degrees and rigorous testing in order to meet the licensing obligations of becoming an architect. An architect is legally responsible for their design work, e.g., to ensure the home does not collapse.

There are local homeowners associations that require new homes and/or remodels have plans that are drawn and submitted by licensed architects.

A designer can certainly capture your vision and design a set of working documents. They are not required to be licensed and many designers do have construction experience.

YCCA represents both architects and designers, so we cannot tell you which one to hire. Regardless of the scope of work for your project, talk to each entity and see their past and current work, talk to their clients, ask them how they would approach your project and what their fees are. Talk to other builders they have worked for. Find out how long will it take to develop a set of working plans. What about change orders - how are those handled? Also, it is important to discuss your budget. This is a major investment for you, so hiring the applicable architect or designer will certainly have an impact on the outcome of the project.

Yavapai County Contractors Association (YCCA) is a professional association representing licensed, bonded and insured contractors, suppliers, distributors and business entities. Call YCCA for information on hiring a contractor at 778-0040. Submit questions to ycca@cableone.net or through www.ycca.org.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Article comment by: Luke H

Real Estate Agents have to have 24 Continual Education Hours. A lot of them don't even know every part of what a purchase contract says.

Hire educated and experienced in the field that your looking for.

I know of agents in town that say well I have sold this many # of homes this last year. There is a difference between selling or buying a foreclosures, short-sales, and standard seller.

I work in real estate obviously and there are houses I look at old and new. That are just poorly designed.

People know what they want and that's a beautiful home. Get out and look for what you want in your home don't let someone tell you.

Posted: Monday, February 10, 2014
Article comment by: Bryan Mulligan

First of all, great article!

I would like to add another point about architects that many good writers fail to touch on. The rigorous process of education, interning and passing 9 exams to acquire a license only gives way to a life long process of maintaining that license. Once licensed, an architect is required 12hrs/yr of continuing education and another 18 if he or she is a member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). Designers are not regulated therefore do not have the same strenuous requirements as architects to ensure public safety. It is very important to understand that there are many facets involved in the design and construction of any building occupied by people, the most important being life safety. City, state and federal laws don't take this lightly, making it illegal for an architect to stamp drawings that were not produced under his or her direct supervision. That said, most states do not require an architect for residential projects under a certain size and below a minimum structural complexity. The typical is anything below 35,000cf, approximately 2,000 sf 2 story home and includeds an unfinished basement, garage and attic.
T.B. Mulligan, AIA

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