I was asked recently, "On what kinds of residential projects is an architect absolutely recommended?" Renovating a home or building a new one often is one of the greatest investments a person can make. Therefore, an architect can add value to most projects.
A beautifully designed house and happy homeowner are at the heart of any architect's work. Architects look at an empty space and see a world of possibilities. They have the talent and ability to see the big picture, to glean the most potential out of a property, and to interpret a client's aspirations.
As trained problem-solvers, architects transform complex problems into brilliant solutions. In one project, my client thought a major kitchen renovation was needed. We relocated one door and all the traffic flow problems were solved.
The challenges of a residential building are as profound as those of a large commercial project, but in a different way. A site can be complicated in terms of zoning or terrain, and designing for our climate is not for the uninitiated. I was hired by another client after they had started a project with an unlicensed jack-of-all-trades. The under-construction guest house was a dysfunctional, unsafe mess. We were able to salvage the project to meet their needs and the building code.
Finding a balance The value of an architect rests in the ability to find the balance between program, construction and cost. In essence, to find the right harmony between pragmatism and aesthetics. The architect is at the helm, working towards giving clients choices and options, helping to prioritize a client's wish list, and giving an experienced opinion about how to maximize the financial investment.
Architects know that the way our surroundings are designed can change the way we live. Architects can connect your house to the site and take advantage of the views, breezes and rhythms of nature. We have done numerous renovations where the original house was a plan book house that was plopped down with total disregard to the uniqueness of the site. By adding windows and exterior living spaces, the homeowner can enjoy their Lowcountry view.
Architects prepare construction documents that are a graphic and written record of decisions made. The drawings include information a contractor needs to build the project. This also allows the bids from contractors to be comparable.
Finally, architects serve as the owner's advocate during the construction phase. They review the work and advise a client on design compliance. The architect also advises on the appropriateness of change orders. The architect helps as contractors understand the design intent and ensure that decisions made during construction are consistent with the decisions made during design.
Jane Frederick is an architect and co-owner of Frederick + Frederick Architects in Beaufort.