I was asked again today to explain why a potential client should pay an Architect higher fees and use an Architect over a home "Designer or "Builder". I like to use the analogy of things that we buy every day to describe my services compared to a “Designer” or “Builder” produced home design. It's like buying a coat from Walmart vs. a brand retailer like Nordstrom. Or it's like contemplating purchasing a Ford vs. an Infiniti or Lexus. Both scenarios can provide you what you are looking for and meet a need. One will always be cheaper than the other. The more expensive product will always outlast, outperform, and be an overall more thoughtful, complete and better quality product. You will most likely also get a level of customer service and support from them that you would not get for the cheaper products. That is ultimately the difference we all are contemplating here. My perspective is that if you would choose quality and longevity and unique creativity for a coat or a car, why would you not do it that much more for a home that will most likely be your greatest asset and the most important part of the expression of who you are. The same argument applies to the selection of General Contractors. You get what you pay for!
I always encourage Clients to do the following things when beginning the home design and construction process.
An Architect has years of formal and ancillary training, testing and knowledge of buildings, codes, space, design and composition. They have spent grueling hours getting trained in the crafting of space, the meaning of space, the manipulation of light, the language of expression and the development and use of details. They understand how materials are expressed through design. Most “designers” on the other hand start by drawing plans or building things. Those aren’t bad starts but that means that the only depth they bring to the designs they produce comes from what they can imagine, have seen done by others, or have already done themselves. Formal training is not everything, but it brings a level of depth that is really hard to achieve elsewhere. This is not to say that they can’t do a good job or come up with beautiful ideas, but the implications for a higher level of design sensibility will not be the same. Some builders have an Architect on staff or they have one that they use on a regular basis. Great! That works.
Architecture and design is incredibly subjective so arguing one path to selection over the other has its challenges. There are also those individuals who have bucked the system and are naturals without an "Architect" designation. I applaud them for their accomplishments and wish them the best. I know some myself. However, that is not typical. Just make sure that you are comparing apples to apples. An Architectural fee can run anywhere between 2% and 15% of construction costs depending on who you are engaging and what part of the country you are in. Builders and Designers will cost less or even be free. Just be aware that they usually roll the design fees into your construction cost. So you are still paying for design to a certain degree. Plan sets can be obtained through books for hundred or just a couple thousand dollars. We just can't compete with that approach because of the level of service that we bring to every project and the quality that we intend to leave you with.
Just remember these things as you choose the path to your new home. Strive for quality where it matters!!! You may need to invest more on the front end, but the old analogy still applies; you get what you pay for!