SHOULD I EMPLOY MY OWN ARCHITECT FOR THE DESIGN OF MY NEW HOME?

08.02.2022

Of course you want to build a home that is unique to you and your family, so you may be thinking ‘what if I hired my own architect’? And that is 100 percent okay - it’s a decision only you can make.

However it is worth noting a few things about working with an external architect compared to the inhouse experience you get when engaging Classic Builders in the whole process end-to-end. So if you’re curious about the pros and cons of each option, read on, and we hope it provides you with some clarity around understanding which is the best choice for you.

First things first - the difference between Architects and Architectural Designers

It’s important to know that there is a difference between architects and architectural designers.

A lot of what they both do practically, is the same - both can design buildings (residential and commercial), engage engineers and other consultants for the tricky stuff, and both do their utmost to get the plans approved all while helping the builder to put it together.

But some of the differences are that architects study more build contract management than designers and architects also quite often include interior design and detail as part of their plans - some even design the furniture in the home. Designers traditionally have a good understanding of how buildings are put together in fine detail and most architects engage designers to do the final drawings and details.

So of course, all of this can be a little confusing from those of us on the outside - why would you have two things that sound the same, but aren’t technically the same? Especially when there can be some greying between the two occupations.

The word ‘architecture’ holds the clue in that most ‘architecture’ firms are in fact designers. Only architects are permitted to use the word ‘architect’ and while there may be exceptions, generally a business name with ‘architectural design’ or ‘architecture’ are not architects.

Here at Classic Builders, we employ both architects and designers, but mostly designers and we have a strong team of more than 30 of them.

So back to the question ‘should I employ my own architect (or designer)?’

No matter your decision, we want you to be happy with the final result of your home. So here’s some things to consider:

  • Concept plans from your own designer can sometimes be a reasonable idea if you have no major budget restrictions and are looking for something that is particularly special (which is often the case if you have a unique site to build on)
  • It’s worth noting that concept plans from other designers can be costly and they can be tricky to price. And even once they are priced, there is a reasonable chance they will need some re-design to meet budget.

Here at Classic Builders, we actually provide concept plans - at no charge. We always aim to meet your budget and we also know it will be buildable.

“From modest, well-thought out brick and tile homes to multi-level terrace housing, we’ve designed and built almost everything from scratch, with our client’s site, budget and dreams in mind at every step.

“We also put a lot of detail into the concept plans, so they can be priced accurately, and there are no surprises,” says Nick Gillingham, Design Manager for Classic Builders.

And the reason he says we do this so well, is because we not only understand building, but we also work in collaboration with the builder.

Understanding the ‘trade-off’

There’s a lot of ‘cool’ stuff about modern architecture. But sometimes there needs to be a trade-off between designs and details that look amazing, and what is actually weathertight and safe.

All architectural designers and architects are governed by New Zealand’s strict building code, which provides the big tick of approval when it comes to a design. But while the design might meet the building code, Nick says it is important to consider the practicality aspects of more unique details.

“Ongoing maintenance for something like internal gutters will be a considerable expense when you have to hire scaffolding every five years to maintain them. So our designers will always consider these kinds of things - like how a client will need to care for their home in the future.

“And cladding choice is another one. Some of the most beautiful and on-trend claddings are unfortunately quite high maintenance, which - while not in the initial build budget - could cost the homeowner in the long run.”

Specifying is simplified

Because the designer specifies all the products in the build, it is of course crucial that this part of the process is done well. And because we are also a build company, we have a long history of figuring out the best products for the job, as well as benefiting from our significant buyer power to get the products we want and at a price that saves money for our clients - ideal for those on a tight budget.

“There are a lot of products in a build you don’t see - like the building wrap, hot water pipes, waterproofing membranes in your wet areas - and this is the stuff we have already worked out to know which is best,” says Nick.

“We’ve seen some odd products specified in client-supplied plans, which makes it tricky for them to take advantage of what we do best - and have been doing for 25 years.”

Here at Classic Builders it’s our belief that using our in-house designers from the beginning truly is the smoothest path - whether you want to use one of our already established plans, or would like to start fresh. We create designs and choose products based on both their quality and their safety.

  • But, like we said at the start, it is totally your decision as to whether you want to employ your own architect. So if you do have your own plans, or will be using another designer to create them, here’s a few tips to safeguard your design and build
  • Make sure you own the plans. If you have paid for some plans then you should own them, meaning you can take them to any builder to quote - this is something you should confirm and have in writing.
  • Make sure the designer actually understands your budget, and also understands how to design to your budget.

We will generally re-draw client supplied concepts to be sure they are buildable the tried and true Classic Builders way.
So, are you ready to get started designing your dream home? Our friendly team are always ready to talk about what’s possible. Contact your nearest branch here.