June 20, 2021

Most homeowners planning a luxury home build or even a major renovation project hire (or at least consider hiring) an architect to guide the process. Today, we’re going to uncover some of the potential pitfalls of going this route. But first, why do people hire architects? What benefits do they bring to a project, and why is hiring an architect the expected course to take? 


Why Luxury Home Builders Hire Architects

One of the primary reasons people hire architects is that they want an expert to guide them through the stress and complexities of building a home. They want someone who can take their vision and turn it into a reality, perhaps supplementing that vision with innovative solutions or design best practices, all while guiding them through an industry and process with which they are not well acquainted. 

Architects are seen as wise mentors who can manifest your dreams, customize your layout to meet your particular needs, add creativity to your plans, guide your material choices, and lend cohesion to how the home vision fits into the surrounding landscape all while helping advocate for you with contractors, and avoiding costly mistakes. Building a luxury home is both daunting and expensive, and hiring an architect can give you some measure of assurance that you’re on the right track as you navigate decisions. 


Possible Issues When Hiring Architects

With all of these potential advantages of hiring an architect, what are the potential pitfalls? 

  1. Inaccurate Cost Estimates

When you’re working with a separate architect and builder, you run the risk of costs getting out of hand. The reason for this is that most homeowners hire an architect, ideate and solidify designs, and only then take those designs to a builder and a construction team. Because the architect isn’t involved in the building process, he or she may be out of touch with how much certain material costs or how a certain construction decision will affect the budget. 

Another ramification of the architect not being involved in the building process is that the home building schedule may be impacted, as the architect may have selected materials that are back ordered or designs that require specialty contractors who may not be available on short notice. In other words, while architects are master designers, they are not necessarily properly guiding or factoring for all aspects of a successful project.

  1. Back to the Drawing Board

The need for design revisions may mean going back to the drawing board–quite literally. After solidifying a plan with your architect and presenting that plan to your builder, unforeseen cost and scheduling issues may make you want to revise some of your plans. This means going back to the architect to revise the blueprint into a design that your builder feels is feasible within your defined budget and schedule. 

This disconnect can be costly in terms of both time and client expense.

  1. The Homeowner Pays

Unfortunately, it’s the homeowner who pays for the changes. You’ll likely need to pay your architect extra fees to revise the plan you created, and due to consulting fees, you may also need to pay your builder a little bit more than you would have if the plans were in place from the get-go. Any discrepancies between architects’ plans and project execution fall back on the homeowner’s lap in the form of a change order. Right now, the rate of change orders in the luxury home building industry averages an over 20% increase.

  1. Who’s Managing the Project? 

Beyond all of these possible pitfalls where your budget and timeline are concerned, you’ll also need to understand that in hiring a separate architect and builder, you are opting to manage the project yourself. Yes, you will have experts advising you and explaining design and construction practices and ramifications for your projects, but at the end of the day, you will be the one responsible for deciding where to follow your architect’s advice and where to follow your builder’s advice should there be a conflict.

Many clients find this can create significant levels of stress.

Beyond this, you’ll also be responsible for coordinating schedules and communication between these professionals. Some homeowners prefer this level of engagement and responsibility for their new luxury home build, but the bottom line is that you need to know what you’re getting into. If you do opt to hire a separate architect and builder, it’s advisable to bring the builder on from the very beginning so that communication is facilitated early and decisions are made with a better idea of the whole picture.

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A Different Model

So if hiring an architect comes with the risk of such serious financial repercussions and potential timeline setbacks, is there another way to approach your remodel? The answer is design-build. If you’re unfamiliar with the design-build model, it essentially means working with one team that has both a licensed architect and a builder under one roof. 

This means that every specialist who understands the factors influencing the cost and schedule of your remodel is involved from the outset of the project. At NEDC, we practice a detailed planning system in which all materials and every fixture and appliance are defined before beginning the construction process. With a builder on board from the beginning, this means that the budget and timeline estimates we bring you are meticulously prepared. 

Compared to the industry average of change orders that can increase in cost by more than 20%, NEDC’s change order is historically under 2%. This is because with a design-build model, “change orders” occur during the design process when the homeowner has full control over what will be adjusted. As a design-build firm, NEDC’s trade partners and specialists are an extension of the firm itself, meaning that they assist in the design process to problem solve and create the most effective design for clients.  

The best part of working with a design-build firm is that you gain all of these cost and schedule advantages without compromising superior design. At NEDC, our team includes multiple trained and licensed architects in addition to skilled builders. The stunning results of these close collaborations are evident in our portfolio. If you want trustworthy estimates for your luxury home building budget and timeline in addition to professional designs and lower project stress, design-build is the model you’re looking for.


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Published June 20, 2021 | By

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