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Information on Architectural Services:

Myths about Architects 

3 reasons to hire connections architectural  

Guide to Architectural Services

Typical services 

FAQ's  

Once you better understand the Owner/Architect relationship, you'll be ready to begin your project:

You and your Architect  


Why should you hire an Architect?


Six steps to building your dream

Guide to Architectural Services

Few people realize how complicated it is to build--that is until they find themselves lost in the maze of design options, building codes, zoning laws, contractors, and so on. No two building projects are exactly alike, so there is no single, clear-cut path to follow.

The Architect is the one professional who has the education, training, experience, and vision to guide you through the entire design and construction process, from helping you define what you want to build to helping you define what you want to build to helping you get the most for your construction dollar.

The Architect sees the big picture. They don't just design four walls and a roof--they create total environments, interiors and exteriors, that satisfy functional needs and are exciting, dynamic spaces in which to work and live.

Whether you are remodeling, adding on, or building from scratch, the Architect can guide the way. Working with contractors and other construction professionals, Architects will help you end up with a well-designed project that meets your needs and works with your budget and time frame.

Architects solve problems

Most building projects start with a want or need. "I need more file space in my office." Or, "We've outgrown our house." But how does that need or want get translated into square feet and three-dimensional space?

That is what Architects do for you--solve problems in creative ways. With our broad knowledge of design and construction, we show you alternatives and options you might never think of on your own.

Need more room for your growing family? We show you how to enlarge your home so you don't have to move. Not sure how fast your business is going to grow? We design an office that meets your needs today and can be adapted for tomorrow. Have a limited budget? We look for ways to make your project cost effective.

Architects can save you money

Architectural services are a wise investment for the money, not an added cost to your project. Why?

Because a well-conceived project can be built more efficiently and economically. We plan your project with you. As your ideas evolve, changes can be made on paper--much less expensively than later on when construction is underway. Thorough drawings also make it easier for the contractor to accurately price and build your project.

Because energy efficient buildings save you money on fuel bills down the road. We design a building to maximize heating from the sun and let in natural light, thus reducing your heating, cooling, and electric bills over time.

Because we work with your budget and help you select the appropriate materials and workmanship at a fair price. We develop the drawings and specifications to help you get bids for construction that are based on your requirements.

Because we help you choose materials and finishes that are durable as well as beautiful, saving on frequent maintenance and replacement costs. We work to stay abreast of advances in roofing, brick work, floor tiling, paint finishes, etc. Their familiarity with the full range of materials enables them to suggest the appropriate materials for your project.

Because good design sells. A well-designed project has a higher resale value. A well-designed store draws customers. A well-designed work environment attracts employees and increases productivity.

Architects makes your life easier

Let's face it, building is a long process that is often messy and disruptive, particularly if you are living or working in the space under construction. The Architect looks out for your interests and tries to find ways to make that process go smoothly.

When your project requires engineering or other design services, the Architect coordinates this team of experts so you don't have to. We sort out complex building codes and zoning laws. We help you find qualified construction contractors based on your requirements. We visit the construction site to help verify that the project is being built according to plans and specifications. We review contractor payment requests to assure that you pay for what is built and completed according to specification. We prepare work change orders when necessary so that any change is recorded and contracted accordingly.

The importance of understanding the Architects' role

Your visit to our homepage is an excellent start to understanding the role of the Architect. We believe that this is crucial in your decision on the need to use Architectural services.

Once you understand this, think carefully about your building needs and goals. Do you need more space? What activities will be housed in the space? How much can you spend on the project? How will you finance it? Where will it be located? Do you plan to do some of the work yourself? Don't worry if you don't have all the answers. The Architect will help you clarify your goals.

The initial meeting with the Architects and the concept of team work

The initial meeting is crucial because it gives us both a chance to meet each other and see who we are. It is our opportunity to begin a strong design team with your project in mind. Remember, we will be working with you for a long time and will potentially be starting a relationship that can last much beyond one project. We want you to feel comfortable, just like the way you feel with the other professionals in your life, your doctor or dentist, your lawyer or accountant.

Figure on at least an hour for the meeting. It might take place at our office -- helpful because you can see where the work will be done. Or it could be held at your home or office -- helpful because we can learn more about your project and needs -- whichever feels right. We may show you slides or photographs of past work and describe how our firm's experience and expertise will help you.

During the meeting don't be afraid to ask questions. How busy is the firm? Does it have the capacity to take on your work? Who will handle the job? What is our firm's design philosophy? How will we intend to approach your project? We will discuss your budget to determine the range of fees that we might anticipate for your project. If it is feasible we might take you to one completed projects.

If, during the course of the discussion, there is something you don't understand, ask us for clarification. Remember that we are there to make things easy for you to understand, that we are there to represent you and that we rely on teamwork as much as you do.

Team work

The best building projects are created when the client and Architect work together as a team. Take an active role. Don't delegate decision-making to a spouse or business partner unless you are prepared to live with his or her decisions.

Designing a building is an exciting, creative challenge. The process can be fun, satisfying, and positive. It can also be hard work. If at any time in the design process you are uncomfortable, discuss your concerns with us. We don't want to control the project to the point that the building is no longer yours. On the other hand, you may want to go away for a year and come back to a completed project. But you also want to be careful not to restrict us so much that you are not getting your money's worth in terms of design creativity.

Our common ultimate goal

Ultimately, the goal of the initial meeting is to build trust and obtain a feel for your project. Unlike buying a car or a new appliance, you can't see the final product yet and test it out. The Architect provides professional services, not a product. We are the ones who will provide the judgment, technical expertise, and creative skills, at a reasonable cost, to help your realize a project that fits your practical needs as well as your dreams.

A word on Architectural fee structures

Architectural fee structures can be confusing to first-time clients. There is no set fee for a particular type of project. Fees are established in a number of ways, depending on the sort of project, and the amount and nature of the services best suited to your unique needs.

Some projects are best done at hourly rates; others for a stipulated sum per unit, based on what is to be built (for example, the number of square feet, apartments, rooms, etc.). Sometimes Architects charge a fixed fee; other times we charge a percentage of construction costs. It is appropriate to discuss how we should expect to establish the fee on your project. We may suggest a combination of the above methods. The basis for the fee, the amount, and payment schedule are issues for us to work out together.

Therefore, its very important and helpful to know as much as we can about the requirements of a particular project. Expenses are usually not included since they can vary widely from copying and printing, travel expenses or consultant costs. These expenses are added to regular invoices with a modest multiplier to cover lost interest and overhead costs on these types of expenditures.

Getting agreements in writing

Once the fee is determined a services proposal will be prepared and sent to you so that you will fully understand the services you will receive. This will be your chance to review the proposal and make changes as they are required.

When the decision is made to move ahead with the job, the terms of the agreement on the scope of work, services, schedule, construction budget, and compensation. This written agreement can take many forms. Architects have a variety of standard contract forms which are used industrywide for all types of projects. The agreement is signed by both parties, and the job usually begins with a modest retainer to carry the start-up operation costs.

Six basic steps toward building your dream

Design and construction projects involve several steps. Typically, projects go through the following six phases. However, on some projects, several of these steps may be combined; on others there may be additional steps.

Step 1: Deciding what to build

This first stage, called programming, is probably the most valuable time you will spend with the Architect. It is at this time that we will discuss the requirements for your building: how many rooms, what function the structure will have, who will use it and how. It is also the time when we will begin to test the fit between what you want, what you need, and what you can spend.

It is risky to come in with solutions already decided upon. This is the best and only time when an open mind on ideas is to be encouraged. Be prepared to explore new and creative ideas. Be very frank about how you want the end result to feel and work. Create a shopping list of dreams. These dreams will serve as the basis for formulating solutions.

We will ask you lots of questions to get a better sense of your goals and needs and to determine if your expectations match your budget. We may suggest changes based upon knowledge, experience, and your budget. After thoroughly discussing your functional requirements, after adding or eliminating feasible ideas, we will prepare a statement outlining the scope of your project. During the next step, your program will be realized.

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Step 2: Rough sketches

Once we have defined what is to be built, we will then do a series of rough sketches, known as the schematic designs. These sketches will show you the general arrangement of rooms and of the site. If you have difficulty understanding the sketches (many people do), ask us to explain. Depending on the project, we will also sometimes make models of the design to help better visualize it. These sketches and models are not "finished" construction documents. They are meant to show possible approaches for you to consider.

We will refine and revise the sketches until a solution is developed into one that you you agree with and that meets the needs of your project. At this point, we will be able give you a rough preliminary estimate of construction cost with no guarantees. Remember, there are still many more details to be established about your project and that this cost estimate is very general. It is hard to predict market conditions, the availability of materials, and other unforeseen situations that could drive up costs. Therefore, this figure must include a healthy contingency to cover cost changes that arise as the design matures.

Don't panic if these first sketches seem different from what you first envisioned. Ask us how these designs satisfy the requirements you discussed in the first stage. It is vital that we are clear about what you want and what we intend to design. It is much easier to make changes now when the project is on paper, than later on when foundations have been poured and walls erected. Before proceeding to the next phase, we will always require your approval of these sketches.

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Step 3: Refining the design

This step, called design development, is when we prepare more detailed drawings to illustrate other aspects of the proposed design. The floor plans and drawings show all the rooms in the correct size and shape. Outline specifications are prepared listing the major materials and room finishes.

When looking at these drawings, try to imagine yourself actually using the spaces. Ask yourself: Do the traffic patterns flow well? Does each space serve the intended purpose? Do I have a good sense of what it will look like? Do I like how it looks? Do I agree with the selection of wall and ceiling finishes, door types, windows, etc.?

Based on these drawings, we will prepare a more detained estimate, though final costs will actually depend on market conditions. Review every element with us to make sure you are getting the most out of your construction dollar.

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Step 4: Preparing construction documents

At this point, we prepare the construction documents, the detailed drawings and specifications which the contractor will use to establish actual construction costs and to build the project. These drawings and specifications become part of the contract. When construction documents are finished, you are ready to hire the general contractor or builder.

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Step 5: Selecting the contractor

There are a number of ways to select a contractor. We can make recommendations, or if you already have someone you want to work with, you might send the construction documents to him or her and negotiate fees and costs. Or you may wish to choose among several contractors you've asked to submit bids on the job. If that is the case, we will prepare the bidding documents, which consist of drawings and specifications as well as invitations to bid and instruction to bidders. The bidding documents are then sent to several contractors, who within a given period of time, reply with bids which include the cost for building your project. The lowest bidder is often selected to do the work, but is not the only factor. Often, quality is a prime concern

While we recommend contractors and assist in the selection process, the final choice is up to you. Some people prefer to act as their own general contractor or to do part or all of the construction themselves. These methods can save you money initially but can also add problems and costs later on. Discuss the pros and cons of these methods with us to help you decide what will work best.

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Step 6: Construction and project management

Construction and project management, called contract administration, is the final step and is often the most anxiety-producing part of the entire process. Up until now, your project has been confined to intense discussion, planning, and two-dimensional renderings. When construction begins, your project moves from an abstraction to a physical reality.

Our involvement normally does not stop with the preparation of construction documents. We also provide construction administration services. These services may include assisting you in hiring the contractor, making site visits, reviewing and approving the contractor's applications for payment, work change orders that may and likely will occur and keeping you informed of the project's progress by supplying you with progress reports.

Although we observe and inspect construction, the contractor is solely responsible for construction methods, techniques, schedules, and procedures. The contractor supervises and directs the construction work on the project.

The path to a completed building project is paved with lots of challenges and uncertainty. There are literally hundreds of decisions to be made, decisions which have a strong impact on how the project looks and functions over time.

Architects can ease the way by helping you avoid wrong turns, but can also direct you to solutions you never considered. The result is a unique building project created to meet your needs, express your individuality, and provide enjoyment for everyone who uses it.

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The links on this page are derived from the AIA homepage and are tailored to apply to the interests of connections architectural. These interests are to educate the general public of the tasks architects perform and are consistent with the purposes of the AIA. Our intent is to provide this document as a reference, information and educational tool, and is intended to be used for these purposes as well as retaining potential clients.


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