Time does not stand still, and neither should we! I’m in the calm before the storm at the moment. Although things are busy at the firm, Studio m Architecture + Design, I know that the slew of calls is coming!
About half of the work I do is residential. Every year around this time, people start to suddenly realize that the Spring is coming sooner than they thought. . . and that they need a set of drawings before they can build their new home. How do you get there though?
There are a few different ways to get to your goal, and the design is only a small part of that process. There are people who hesitate when it comes to up front design costs. After all, they probably found something kind of close to what they want on the internet, and it sounds like it’s only going to be a few thousand dollars to just buy the plans online.
Option 1: Get plans Online:
Make sure, however, that the plans include structural / framing information. Some sites skip this important detail because they really don’t know where you are building (snow loading in the northeast can increase framing sizes quickly). I’m sure someone along the way will figure it out. . . . . hopefully. Depending on what kind of drawing package you get, it can probably be submitted to the local municipality for code review and permitting. Some municipalities ask for structural calculations, residential energy compliance (again, depending on where you are building, this will effect the insulation values), and sometimes specification sheets for materials. You may or may not get that from online plans. Once you have your drawings, you can reach out to one or several contractors to get a construction cost.
Option 2a: Call a builder (design/build firm):
Some design/build companies have drafters on staff who can help draw your home. Often, these services are “free” as long as you build a house with them (some charge a fee. . . some take a loss). More often than not, you will be given a “portfolio” to review and choose from (after all, it’s less expensive for them if you build the same house that everyone else is building – the drawings are already finished!) These free services, of course, are wrapped up in the cost of your house, so the cost really isn’t free, it’s just rolled into the overhead (profit costs) of your construction contract. The benefit of hiring a builder is that they will be able to track your costs in real time as you make decisions on your home. Sometimes, these guys call me, which I love because it usually means that their client wants something unique. Chances are, you will get a price from them, but will have a hard time bidding to multiple contractors (some firms may restrict it).
Option 2b: Call a builder (contractor):
This is almost the same scenario as above, but with a General Contractor. This typically happens when you have family or a friend, or someone who you already know you want to build your house. Some of these guys have a “go to” guy to draw up the plans for them. Sometimes, they will just ask that you come back when you have plans. Ideally, they will be able to keep a finger on costs as the home design progresses.
Option 3: Hire an Architect:
This one is my favorite one (OK, I may be a bit bias. . . . ). Architects cost money. In fact, building a house. . . . costs money. The cost of hiring an Architect can be offset by the fact that you hired an Architect. If you are about to spend more money than you ever have in your life, why would you NOT hire someone to help you design it and make it exactly what you want? Accurate, thought out plans have continuously benefited the Owner in cost savings during construction. Contractors make assumptions when they have to, and it would make no sense for them to guess low on something that they don’t understand (or, if they do guess low, you either have to pay more for what you wanted in the first place, or settle for what you don’t want at all).
Chances are, you have an idea of what you want. You may even have an example of a plan you like (we’ll use that as inspiration, not to copy). An Architect can sit down with you and dissect what you like and why, and turn those ideas into your new home.
For some more info on how you and your Architect can work together: