1. HOW DOES 3D MODELING BENEFIT MY PROJECT?
Three-dimensional (3D) modeling is used to create computer-generated structures, which can be edited in real time and viewed from both inside and outside the buildings. The norm for many architects is to present clients with two-dimensional (2D) drawings on paper, which outline floor plans and elevations. With 3D modeling, you can view our firm's designs with highly realistic renderings of your new interior spaces. The feeling of a new design is often lost with old fashioned floor plans, but 3D modeling allows you to experience a mockup of the finished project firsthand.
At Keith A. Kirsch, Architect, LLC, we review the 3D design models with our clients, giving them a chance to actively tweak the design to suit their personal needs. When looking for an architect, ensure that you can sit with him or her in front of a computer and edit your design in person.
Additionally, advances in 3D modeling software now allow for "360 degree" views using fully immersive, virtual reality (VR) software. VR allows you to physically move within the new space, as though you were really standing inside your new design.
2. SHOULD I HIRE AN ARCHITECT? ... OR WOULD I SAVE MONEY BY HIRING A CONTRACTOR DIRECTLY?
A common misconception is that hiring an architect is costly, and homeowners believe that working directly with a contractor or personally drawing new floor plans will lower costs. However, those scenarios don't always work out to the property owner’s benefit.
- Hire an architect
- Work one-on-one to develop a design for your project
- Bid finished drawings to multiple contractors to find the most competitive price
- Hire a contractor to complete the project
- Potentially hire the architect to observe the construction
- Hire a contractor who offers an acceptable design
- Contractor hires an architect (whose fee was included in the initial contract cost), and the architect draws and seals the contractor's design
- The property owner may not have direct design interaction with the architect
- The property owner does not have an opportunity to bid out the project once construction drawings are complete
- Homeowner personally drafts drawings for renovation or addition
- Drawings are submitted to the town building official
- If the drawings are approved, homeowner can personally begin construction
- If the building official requires an architectural seal on the drawings, the homeowner will have to hire an architect (see Question 3 below for further information)
A contractor will generally include the cost of an architect in his construction fee because most projects are fairly complex and require architectural expertise. Though Scenario 2 is acceptable, the property owner loses the opportunity to work directly with the architect on his/her design. Contractors lack the architectural background in which architects have been trained to maximize functionality, aesthetics, and space. Your architect will work with you to transform your building's interior through dynamic and compelling design.
In addition to design training, a licensed architect also has a background in engineering, proper construction techniques, bidding, contracts, and building codes. When you hire an architect, you are enlisting the support of a licensed professional who ensures that your construction project follows all building codes, in order to keep you and your family safe. Your architect can also refer you to quality contractors in the area to whom you can bid your project. Then once construction has begun, your architect can clarify any questions the contractor may have to ensure your project is built as safely and efficiently as possible.
3. CAN I DO THE DRAWINGS MYSELF?
Short answer: yes. You can create your own drawings, but only for your primary residence—no rental or commercial properties. The building code states that when you sign off on your own drawings, you consent that you will do the work yourself, that you possess the knowledge to do so, and that you take all liability for the construction.
That being said, the building code also states that if a building official has any concerns about your abilities or knowledge regarding the necessary structural, electrical, framing, or other aspects of the project, he is allowed to request a professional seal on the drawings. In today’s world of litigation, building officials are unlikely to take the risk that you, as a homeowner, will follow all applicable construction codes. If you sell your home, and the next occupants decide to sue over shoddy handiwork, the building official is open to a lawsuit for not requesting drawings sealed by a licensed architect.
Additionally, if the building official requests a seal on your drawings, it is against the architectural code of ethics for an architect to seal the drawings you drew, if he or she did not oversee the creation of said drawings. Therefore, though it is possible to draw your own plans, it may be more effective to enlist the help of an architect from the get-go.
4. HOW MUCH IS MY PROJECT GOING TO COST?
Fact: no contractor or architect can give an accurate estimate of cost, until the construction drawings are completed.
Many homeowners believe that a project can be estimated based on square footage. Unfortunately, there are many other factors that make square footage an inaccurate method for determining cost. For example: if your project is an interior renovation, it will likely be significantly cheaper than an addition that includes new foundations and roofing. If your renovation includes a kitchen or bathroom it will naturally be more expensive than a new family room or new bedrooms, due to fixtures, cabinets, and finishes. The cost also varies based on the number of windows in your addition. Since some individual windows can cost as much as $600-$1,500 after installation, a renovation with only two new windows may cost less than the same renovation with many windows.
Square footage estimates do not account for the quality and extent of finish materials included in your new space. When your schematic design is complete, fixtures, flooring, and other materials can be guesstimated, giving you a ball park idea of cost. However, it is not until the construction drawings are finalized that estimates can include the costs of framing, mechanical, and plumbing systems. It's not what homeowners want to hear, but the best way to receive an accurate estimate (and a competitive price) is to bid completed drawings out to multiple contractors.