A couple of years ago, when I was newly married, I had planned to surprise my wife with a gift. My choice was a dress stylishly made of local fabric (adire). I went ahead to buy the fabric and took it to a fashion designer. She asked me the type of design I want and insisted on measuring my wife before she could make a perfect design, but I was not ready to bring my wife, since the gift will no long be a surprise to her. Instead, I volunteered to describe my wife’s height, size and other details. I was glad when I was invited to collect the dress, but, when it was time for my wife to wear the new dress, behold, the dress was not only too tight, it was shorter for her height. We had to return the dress to the designer.
It is the same scenario when you start your building without consulting an architect; but the consequence is more severe. He needs all the details in order to give you a good design and adequately plan your building according to available space. Many have hard their buildings rejected at the town planning office due to improper planning and lack of essential things like cross ventilation. Some who started their building projects with drawings prepared by themselves or “experienced” artisan have had to amend such building having discovered that what they have is a far cry from what they desire. You can avoid the cost of demolition and rebuilding if you entrust your building drawings to an architect before you move to site.
Fundamentally, architects are trained to prepare, review and interpret construction drawings. They determine the floor arrangements and visualise how the building would look like when completed and bring this out in form of elevations or views from different sides. So, you always hear them saying “this is the front elevation, back elevation, right side elevation and left side elevation.”
These days of computer-aided designs (for example, Autocad or Revit), an architect can show more details of your drawing such as 3D or aerial views of your proposed building. In addition to this, architects also analyse various materials and their prices comprehensively packaged as Bills of Quantities for your building. Besides, they consider other technical specifications required for various site operations.
Before a new building is constructed or an old building is modernised, it is an architect’s job to transform your dream house into a design. He is trained in the planning and drawing of this design, as well as overseeing its construction and ensures that the design is functional and economical, thus he needs to have a detailed knowledge of your requirements. He listens quietly to the type of house you want, which could be a bungalow, storey house, terrace house, semi-detached, block of flats or a country home. He also takes note of the numbers of living-room, bedroom, bathroom, toilet, kitchen, porch, dining, library, laundry and other apartments you want in the building.
To help in his planning, he will have to know the size of your land. Not many people understands that a plot of land, which is averagely about 648 square metres, will be too small for a bungalow with five bedrooms en suite, kitchen, pantry, dining, two verandas, two living-rooms, two-car garage, study and a swimming pool. But your architect will advise you to get a bigger plot of land or “cut your coat according to your size.”
He will also like to have an idea of your budget for the proposed building in order to determine the size and the type of materials to specify for your building. A lot of buildings have been abandoned midway because their owners did not consider their pocket before starting to build. Some also have opted for very expensive building materials only to discover that it has eaten too deep into the funds earmarked for their project.
To ascertain that you are satisfied with his work, the architect will always liaise with you in order to translate their designs and receive feedback. He will first come up with a draft drawing, discuss it with you and carry out any necessary adjustments before the final drawings. In doing this, he considers mandatory details like air spaces around the building, cross ventilations in every apartment and set-back from the road.
It is ideal to allow your architect to take the drawings to the nearest town planning office to your site for approval before you start to build. If your building is a storey-building (commonly called upstairs), he will need an engineer to prepare structural drawings to support his drawings. However, this is not required if it is a bungalow, but attracts additional charges.
Once a detailed design has been produced and approved at the town planning office, you may want your architect to recommend a building contractor to carry out the building works. You may also want to engage him to supervise the construction. Nowadays, some architects have a construction team that works alongside with them but you may opt to use a separate contractor. You may also select artisans like bricklayers, carpenter, plumbers, electricians, tillers, painters and other artisans that would work on the building yourself, but let your architect supervise them.
Presently, there is no standard fee that each architect receives; each cost is dependent on the size, type and complexity of the project, as well as the client. Many architects will have established rates; nevertheless you can negotiate until both of you can come to a mutually agreed fee.