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Do I need an architect or a builder?

  • March 16, 2017
  • By admin
Do I need an architect or a builder?

Looking to take on a big project like a remodel or redesign?

This may be for your own personal residence where you plan on living, a business build out for a commercial retail space or for an investment property you want to flip and resale. Whatever stimulates the reason, this may be one of the most fulfilling, challenging, inspiring and satisfying projects undertaken in life.

Though this is a dream for many, the process can be fun and exciting but also very stressful and costly. You’ll want to do your due diligence and then some to avoid any of the money pit-falls others have experienced.

Whether you’ve been finding inspiration on sites like Pinterest or, we’ve got you covered. Check out the differences between an architect and builder below and we’ve even included some interview questions at the end of the article you can use before making your selection.

__________________  ARCHITECT vs BUILDER  __________________

 To keep it simple, you hire an architect for their design expertise and professional recommendations regarding design and its execution. A builder has a great expertise on building and an architect should recognize and pay attention to that strength. Some architects can be out of touch with what materials and labor cost, putting them at odds with both builder and home buyer. Gathering the team, custom builder, architect, interior designer, landscape architect, and other key players before the project even starts can help ensure everyone is on the same page and help avoid surprises.

__________________  PLAN YOUR DESIGN  __________________


This phase includes, discussions, thought, and exploration that lead to the moment when you realize you need to build something new. The phase ends with your decision to move forward with a project.


Here you define the project – its scope, features, purpose, and functionality. This is the time to select an architect or builder, and establish an owner-architect agreement. Together with your architect or builder, you develop and refine a “vision” for the project. Your architect leads you through a “programming” exercise to help you explore the needs of those who will live, work or play in the space you create. You will identify the services you need from your architect or builder, and the design team will begin to form a cohesive relationship and a shared concept for the final building.


Once the requirements of the project are determined, the design phase begins. Your architect gives shape to your vision through drawings and written specifications. Your input into this phase is vital, as you get the first glimpses, and then a more defined look at how your building will take shape. It is important to establish a clear decision-making process with your architect or builder during this phase. The design phase ends when you agree to the plans that will guide construction.


The contractor who will construct your building becomes the most active member of the team during this phase. Investments are made in materials, and timetables are extremely important. Good communication within the project team is critical, as the need for changes often arises. This is typically the time of highest stress for the project owner. Your architect or builder will discuss changes and options with you, and ensure that alterations are compatible with your vision and budget for the project.


This phase beings the day the project is up and running and never really ends. It’s where your satisfaction with the project is determined. If you are turning over the project to others who will ultimately use it, good communication during that process is important. Your architect or builder can help ensure that the terms of your building contract were met, and can use the experience of this project to inform future work, should you team together again. For these reasons, it’s a good idea to maintain a relationship with your architect or builder.

__________________  FINAL THOUGHTS  __________________

Selecting the right team can help avoid conflict and communication problems while keeping all players and the homeowner happy. When a homeowner chooses the builder and architects, having a meeting as soon as possible can pave the way to a good relationship and foreshadow the months ahead. An experienced professional be it builder or architect will likely want to be involved in a project from the beginning to offer solid opinions on the proposed project plan. Keep in mind, if you hire an architect the plans are the property of the architect. Even if you have a custom home builder modify these plans. The last thing you want is to try to reproduce the plan and a year later you get a call from that architect asking for something like $15,000 or $20,000, whatever was charged the first time.


AIA – How Design Works – The 5 Phases

Click here for interview questions provided by The American Institute of Architects




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