What does an architect do

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What does an architect do, how much do they cost and what are the benefits of hiring one?

The role of the architect is complex and varied, and can change from client to client. Here, we take a closer look at architects: what they do, how they charge and what benefit you receive from using one. Read on for a closer look at the role of the architect in your next project.

An architect spends five years studying at university, followed by mandatory practical experience, and a registration examination before they’re ever allowed to practise their trade. Architects combine the necessary aspects of building design, along with your personal dream components, to design your ideal home.

Aside from drawings, plans and renderings of your project, an architect can help you set a viable and realistic budget, while guiding you through council planning processes, managing consultants and obtaining competitive quotes for the work required to complete your project.

Important note: In Australia, any work completed by an architect is protected by copyright law, therefore you cannot ask your architect to re-draw a design you have seen elsewhere.

In the current housing market, buyers are prepared to pay for the practical and aesthetic benefits of good design, making homes built by architects highly sought after. An architect can identify how to situate your project on the available land in order to take advantage of all possible benefits including optimising views, aspect, sunlight, shade, natural cross-flow ventilation and efficient energy usage. Not to mention the convenience of having an architect oversee the entire operation.

The services of an architect can be roughly broken down into three parts, and you can employ them to perform all or some of these parts.

Design: This is where you and your architect discuss your requirements, sketch designs to go over potential ideas along with the cost of each idea, and develop the chosen design into detailed drawings, material selection, fittings, finishes and the associated cost to produce it.

Contract documentation: This middle phase is where the technical drawings and specs are laid out, planning and building permits are obtained and tenders are invited.

Contract administration: If you have chosen to have your architect oversee the building contract, you can expect them to liaise with the builder to ensure quality of work and specifications are delivered.

The cost of an architect will largely depend on their experience, reputation and the demand for your chosen professional. Architects will also charge differently according to how you have employed them.

A percentage fee: Where an architect is employed under the agreement that they will be paid a percentage of the overall project value, this percentage can sometimes be higher for smaller projects.

Fixed fee project: In order to enact this method you must be very clear about what you want and how much you can afford. This is an excellent way of ensuring project costs don’t skyrocket during construction.

Hourly rates: This means there is no fixed budget and you only pay for work that is completed. This can be useful to the architect, ensuring they don’t spend more time on a project than it’s worth, but it requires excellent record keeping.

Important note: Any work done outside the client and architect agreement will cost you more, so be clear and concise about what you want, what you can afford and what will be delivered before signing an agreement.

What do you need to do before agreeing to an architect and a project? First, consider what kind of work an architect usually does. Ensure that they have a similar style to what you’re after, are experienced working in the environment you have chosen, and are familiar with local rules and regulations. Check your architect’s qualifications with a local board of authority to ensure you are working with a certified professional, and if possible try to view some of the architect’s past projects to get a feel for their work. Before meeting with your architect for the first time, make sure you have a clear, concise brief for exactly what you want to get out of your home, what things are must-haves and what are happy extras. Talk about timetables and be aware that there are extraneous variables that can affect your project going forward.

Most importantly, develop a constant flow of communication between you and your chosen architect. The more you talk, the clearer the project gets, and the more unlikely it is that you will come across an unwelcome surprise.

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