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Your Project Starts with an Architect

When it comes to construction projects, starting with an architect is a crucial step that shouldn't be overlooked.

Your project starts with an architect because:

  1. Before diving into design decisions, it's important to have a clear understanding of the feasibility of a project. This includes considerations such as the scope of the work, local building codes and regulations, and any potential challenges that may arise during construction.

  2. It's imperative to have a clear plan in place and obtain the necessary permits. This includes working with an architect to create detailed plans and specifications, and ensure that the plans comply with building codes and regulations.

  3. The structural design of a home, including the foundation, walls, and roof, must be determined as it will impact the layout and functionality of the home.

While creating a relationship with a contractor early in your project is encouraged, there is an all-too-common situation we hear about a lot: Homeowners hiring a contractor to start building their project before they get a permit.

These homeowners may not have been aware that they needed architectural and permitting services or their contractor did one of the following:

  1. Told homeowner that the project did not require a permit and convinced them to start construction without one.

  2. Sold the homeowner a permit, but didn’t actually obtain it from the local building department. This gives the appearance of the project being legally permitted, while in reality, no permit was obtained.

  3. Convinced the homeowner to skip the involvement of an architect and proceed with the construction without proper design and planning.

A contractor may try to bypass the requirement for a permit or an architect for a construction project for several reasons, such as wanting to save time and money, or to avoid the extra scrutiny, regulations, and timeline impacts that come with obtaining a permit. However, this is unethical and illegal, as it puts the safety and stability of the building at risk.

In most cases, a homeowner discovers their need of a permit too late in the project, often resulting in unnecessary rework at the homeowners’ expense. Commonly, homeowners are given a Notice of Violation through the building department, which incurs fees of up to $500/day.

Our hunch as to why so many homeowners are on the wrong track when they start a project? HGTV, Pinterest, and social media! These platforms—as well as an obsession with interior design—present a curated, idealized view of design and renovation projects. This is hindering the true process of designing and permitting a home by creating unrealistic expectations and leading homeowners to make decisions that may not be feasible or in their best interest.

Unlike your favorite HGTV show, your project will not happen overnight. Your project should start with a vision and plan and, while the process may seem daunting, it is truly in your best interest as a homeowner (and can actually be quite fascinating, once you lean into it!). By not starting with an architect, you will be missing valuable expertise and guidance, which can result in design and construction choices that may not be approved by building officials, leading to delays and additional costs.


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