When You Should Hire an Architect

Pasadena Drive Residence, Austin, TX / Brentwood

Not every project requires an architect, but here are five situations when working with one of these professionals may be in your best interest. 

We discussed the costs of hiring an architect in our last post, exploring common pricing structures, explaining what’s included in architectural fees, and outlining the architectural process. After considering these costs, you may be wondering whether you can skip the architectural fees altogether. 

In some cases, you might be able to. For some projects, an architect isn’t strictly necessary—many building companies will take on the design phase, particularly for smaller projects and additions. If you have design experience under your belt, you might even consider tackling this part of the process yourself. 

But as projects expand in size and complexity, experienced architects become a more critical part of the process. Architects are most important when design matters—when thoughtful planning, aesthetic beauty, or complex structural puzzle-solving are integral pieces of the project. 

Here are some situations where you should consider consulting an architect:

1. You’ve got a big, complicated project ahead of you

Attaching a small guest room to the back of your house may not require hiring an architect. But if you have a bigger project, like adding an extra floor, an in-law suite, or building a new house from the ground up, an architect is an invaluable resource. 

Even smaller projects can end up being complicated. Adding a room to a historic house, for example, or remodeling a home with a unique design could require expert planning to keep the building strong, safe, and aesthetically consistent. 

2. You have a unique vision

On that note, if you’re building with a specific design aesthetic or philosophy in mind—for example, if you’re interested in using only sustainable building materials—you’ll probably want to consult with an architect or firm that specializes in that particular element of design. In this case, reviewing their portfolio can give you a good idea of whether their previous work matches your vision. 

3. You’ve got a problem that needs a creative solution 

Maybe you’ve got a cramped office with poor airflow, or you need a new bathroom but have no extra room to build. Building isn’t always a process of expanding—architects are also experts at maximizing and reimagining existing space in your home. If there’s a longstanding issue with your house that you just can’t seem to solve, consulting with an architect often produces a creative solution. 

4. You want someone to oversee the hiring, paperwork, and construction 

Architecture firms are typically associated with the early planning phase of construction, but many are willing to oversee the later stages as well. There’s a lot of work to do before a structure can go up—there are permits to acquire, paperwork to complete, and contractors and technicians to hire, after which someone must ensure construction sticks to the original design.  

If you’re uncomfortable or uncertain about this stage of the process, architects can act as useful intermediaries between you and your contractors. As the original designer, there’s no better party to ensure that every step of the process from conception to completion holds true to their plan—and, by extension, your initial vision. 

5. You’re sticking to a strict budget 

It may seem paradoxical, but in many cases, hiring an architect ends up saving more money than it costs. Architects can help shape a project to a budget rather than letting the project dictate the final cost. Their expertise can prevent costly mistakes during construction, which quickly burn through your time and funds.

Moreover, experienced architects can operate within a tight budget to make a project work that might otherwise seem impossible. Through a combination of industry connections, cost-cutting measures, and expertise, a good architect can navigate financial constraints as easily as structural and spatial ones. 

5 tips for keeping your architectural project on budget 

Is the fear of blowing your budget a real fear of working with an architect? It doesn’t have to be. Here are five tips for ensuring your collaboration with an architect exceeds your expectations without exceeding your budget: 

  • Do some homework. Review our article on the costs of hiring an architect in Austin to make sure you understand what your project might cost you and what’s included in architectural fees. You may also want to reach out to local family, friends, neighbors, and community members who have recently built or remodeled a home in the area to get a better sense of what to expect in terms of price, timeline, and process. 
  • Vet your architect. When interviewing potential candidates, inquire about their track records for keeping clients on budget. You may also want to ask for references so you can speak to previous clients and learn about their experience working with the firm. 
  • Be upfront with your architect. If you have both a vision and a set budget, communicate these points to your architect. Explain what it is you want done and ask them directly whether they think it’s possible to achieve it with what you’re willing to spend. 
  • Keep a contingency fund. Budget a contingency fund or a reserve of money to cover unforeseen expenses. As a rule of thumb, we recommend setting aside a contingency fund of 10 to 15 percent for new builds and 15 to 20 percent for renovations. 
  • Get cost estimates at different stages of the project. Don’t wait until you’re ready to start construction administration to get a cost estimate on your project. We suggest getting an estimate at every stage of the project, including schematic design (when you explain your idea to the architect and they draw up a preliminary design), design development (when your architect takes your feedback to develop a modified design), construction documentation (when detailed designs are taken to contractors and the city to acquire the necessary permits), and bidding and negotiation (when architects analyze the contractors’ pricing to help you make informed decisions). 

Decided to move forward with an architect?  If you are a homeowner in Austin, Texas, or the surrounding area, we invite you to get in touch with us at Webber + Studio. As one of Texas’s leading architectural design studios, we have decades of experience in designing custom residential homes and would be delighted to help bring your project to life.