Selecting a design professional for new home construction and remodeling

Having photos of houses and styles that appeal to you will help your architect build the house of your dreams.

Having photos of houses and styles that appeal to you will help your architect build the house of your dreams.

A well-thought-out design by an experienced professional is the most important element to a successful construction project. Discovering later you have invested in poor design cannot be reversed once the build begins.

It’s often helpful to start by assembling a scrapbook including magazine articles and pictures of interior and exterior elements you are attracted to. Consider architectural styles, inside and out. For new construction, you may even find a stock floor plan or two which have basic room layouts and flow that will work as initial inspiration.

For a qualified design professional, you’ll want to be looking for a state licensed architect or designer certified by the ADDA (American Design Drafting Association) who will be there to represent you and your interests. Be sure to check references, experience and design skill. All design professionals are not created equal and should not be selected just because they offer the lowest price. Time is money, so be prepared to pay for the time it will take to provide a well-thought-out and complete design package.

You can find professionals in your area by searching the web with keywords like “local architects + state” or the ADDA website. American Institute of Architects (AIA) chapters in your state also have websites. AIA membership is voluntary and not a requirement for an architect’s licensure, so keep in mind that many good architects in your area will not be listed with the AIA.

Architects will charge for their services in different ways. Some will base their fees on a percentage of the construction costs, while others will charge by the hour or on a price per square foot of finished area. Depending on the size of the firm you are considering, an architect’s fees may or may not include structural engineering. As I am a small firm, my client’s contract separately with consultants (structural, civil, etc.), and I work with them to coordinate their work into the complete package.

Your architect should begin by reviewing your scrapbook and discussing your specific needs and lifestyle. A visit to your building site is also important. For a remodel, he/she will need to take field measurements of your existing structure along with plenty of photographs.

With that information in hand, your architect can begin a preliminary design. This will usually include at least a basic floor plan(s), elevation(s) and short specifications, and possibly a building section or two with a basic site plan for new construction. Properly done, this phase of design should have enough information to get “preliminary” pricing information.

It’s possible to find a builder who will offer you a “design-build” package with everything done in house. This sounds convenient as a “one-stop shop” allowing you to work with fewer consultants, and it often can be. If that combination of professionals has checked out to provide a quality product and value, by all means, consider this approach as a viable alternative. My only concern is that it sometimes can be a “fox watching the hen house” scenario. With no third party interests representing you directly, construction means, methods and quality can sometime get swept under the rug without your knowledge. Design-build pricing can also be hard to compare against what other builders could provide.

Enger Architecture is an award winning residential and light commercial design firm located in Parker, Colo. The company's focus is on new construction, remodel and historical work with many projects around Colorado and the nation.

As of Feb. 10, 2012, this service provider was highly rated on Angie’s List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie’s List.

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One of Angie's List's highly rated architects explains how to assemble the best professionals for your next home project.

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