Architect Services is about what the architect does in each phase of work involved with a project.
Basic Services typically include the following services:
2. Schematic Design
3. Design Development
4. Construction Documents
Architects try hard to explain these services, but not many owners understand them very well. These services are necessary and are typically not negotiable in terms of what they contain, as it would be nearly impossible for an architect to provide the on-going services without providing these Basic Services, which is why they are called BASIC.
In brief, these services typically mean and contain the following items:
The architect takes notes of what the owner states that they want in the project. Usually, the architect provides these notes in some form of typed format, possibly with photos of the property, with some discussion of site features and opportunities for the to-be-built items. The architect will often include a site visit with a typed understanding of site elements and how and where the built structures might be located.
SFR (Single Family Residential):
The architect uses the Program established in the previous phase of work to conceptually create a diagram or plans of the proposed project. In SFR projects, some architects may combine Design Development with Schematic Design, as sometimes some architects only make a hazy sketch, in schematics, while others start out the project on computer and stay on computer, as they feel that is a more efficient method and that nothing is wasted. However, there is no precise right or wrong method. Each architect has their own preferences about how they go about creating something from nothing. Some architects produce only floor plans and site plans at this stage, often for SFR projects.
Others go far beyond this, based on their desired method of creation, particularly for commercial projects, where it is quite common to see plans, elevations and conceptual building sections.
This is where additional detail is added to the previous Schematic Design.
Some architects add exterior building elevations at this point and perhaps a roof plan. Others may decide to include a building section. However, there is no specific right or wrong method. Whatever works for each firm. Additional dimensions are tested to insure that various items will fit into the proposed design. And additional dimensions are added to the work.
Depending on the scope of the project, this can become a very detailed phase where equipment selection is made and tested to make sure it all fits within the building shell and arrangement. Also, energy calculations may be made to test glass, insulation and other requirements to insure that the building will properly function to meet Energy Code.
Traditionally, this = Working Drawings & Specifications. This is where the final details are added to the project. Building sections, wall sections, finish schedules, door schedules, title sheets, index sheets, final graphics, blow-up detail plans and elevations of critical conditions, notes, final detailed dimensions, interior elevations (depending on scope of services and other additional services). The architect does coordinate all the building consultants, whether provided under the architect’s umbrella or not. The amount of fee can and will affect the amount of drawings and other items provided by the architect.
There are some architects that do not create specifications for residential projects, while others believe they are essential. In general, the more information, the better, to minimize the chances of unknown conditions and pricing changes.
Just about always feature Working Drawings & Specifications and many sheets in the set.
This website is not going to address all of the variations possible involved with Construction Documents. Suffice it to say that these are the detailed documents that the General Contractor uses to build the project.
SINGLE FAMILY RESIDENTIAL (SFR) PROJECTS:
Record Drawings comes into play when an owner does Not have drawings for their existing home or building that they wish to renovate. This happens often. Owners lose track of these important documents, or they never obtained copies. Whatever the reason, it is not the fault of the new project architect if the owner cannot provide these Existing Condition architectural and structural drawings. The architect needs these documents. In order to design new improvements to an existing home or building, the architect must have drawings depicting what exists. Therefore, if the owner cannot provide these, the architect will often offer to provide an Additional Service that some may call “As-Built” drawings. However, the use of this term could carry with it certain liabilities, so architects these days may be better advised to use the term “Record Drawings”. Record Drawings do not guarantee that they are perfect. Rather, Record Drawings disclose that they are being prepared using measuring instruments such as flexible measuring tapes that will give approximate, and not entirely accurate readings and that the architect is not responsible for these approximations, which the Contractor will need to field verify. The creation of Record Drawings is almost impossible to estimate in terms of fixed fees and for that reason, should almost always be provided hourly. The project could be a one-story, one-room cabin, or it could be a complex laboratory 6 floors high. The amount of required Record Drawings will vary with the type and complexity of new project desired by the owner. The architect will need to make their own decision as to how much information is necessary for them to design the new improvements. Therefore: this fee will become an hourly service that will be unknown until it is done. This service is Not free and could become quite involved. Also: the architect will not be expected to perform destructive investigations to look above ceilings or under floors to actually see structural elements and other items that are concealed by the finishes and other other elements of the existing project.
Electrical Schematics is Not required for most home projects, even though many owners think so. The architect is typically under no requirement to provide this. It is highly recommended, as the architect has special knowledge about the organization of a home project, including appliances and cabinets and room arrangements, without which the owner may experience some difficulties. However, if the owner wants this service, then they are required to pay the architect to provide it.
Cabinetry Elevations are Not required for just about any house project, anywhere, by any jurisdictional authority. And if it was, the architect deserves to be paid for this very detailed service. The architect can easily spend over 100 hours drawing and detailing these for a medium to large house, and it may be more, based on the level of detail.
It is highly recommended that owners compensate their architect to provide Cabinetry Elevation drawings, as the Electrical Schematics and those are closely related and the owner can obtain a higher quality design by having their architect perform this service.
Bidding/ Negotiating/ Price Discussions with Contractor is highly recommended. This is where the architect can be of tremendous influence and help in helping to find general contractors to bid the project, then help to obtain possible price reductions through negotiated changes in the project design/features/ quality level. Most owners have no idea what these sorts of changes impact. The architect’s counsel at this stage can make a project happen, where it might have been stalled otherwise. Note regarding Construction Cost Bids: no owner, anywhere is happy with the prices contractors propose to build their projects. Without fail, they want to see if the project can be built for less cost. That’s where this crucial architect’s additional service can help the owner a great deal. The architect is the only party to the project that has the project detailed understanding that will allow a coordinated price reduction, without sacrificing important items that could seriously damage the project (if changed without the architect’s guidance).
These services are Not required by law. These complex additional services are where the architect periodically visits the project site, reviews contractor submittals, including shop drawings for the various items of the project, including but not limited to doors & windows, insulation, concrete, wood, paint, and many other items. Without the architect’s watchful eye, any of these items could be changed by the contractor and suppliers without the owner’s knowledge, cheapening the project, damaging its durability, increasing its monthly utility charges and possibly leaking, rotting and being compromised structurally.
Furthermore, during construction, if the architect is compensated to do so, they can process the contractor’s pay requests, checking on the progress of the construction and comparing that with the amount invoiced. Without this knowledgeable service, owners overpay up-front, which can induce a builder to walk off the job later, after they have obtained too much money too quickly, leaving the owner stuck with a project that will cost more to complete than remains in the budget. Very few owners have this type of experience in-house and would do well to pay their architect to help them. And there many other activities during construction that are too numerous to mention here. Serious situations that arise and without the architect’s wise and helping hands, projects can develop all sorts of problems that can have them come screeching to a halt.
This is a catch-all for anything and everything that the owner can’t handle but needs to be managed for them, not included in any other service. For instance: selection of colors, tile, paint, appliances, coordinating a home-owners association and other situations that can and will develop. It is wise to have the architect on-call for such things on an hourly basis.
Architects may offer three-dimensional hand-drawn or computerized imagery of their designs. This can also involve 3D animations, which is a movie of a Client’s project. Images can be either fixed (static) of a single viewpoint, or have multiple single views. The imagery may be plain and only consist of lines, or may be near-photo-realistic. Architects typically will not include such imagery in their Basic Services, unless paid additionally for these services. 3D computerized imagery may be provided to the Architect from a third party specialty source, as such imagery typically requires expensive and complex software and powerful computers to provide high-quality images. Architects may provide these services as a fixed price or hourly.
Record Drawings: see under Residential above.
Electrical: this is typically provided by an Electrical Engineering company, who the owner pays either through the architect or directly.
Cabinetry: this is something the architect could provide as an additional service and for which the owner would pay.
Bidding/ Negotiating/ Price Discussions with the Contractor. This is often provided by the architect on commercial projects and paid for by the owner.
Construction Administration these services are often provided by the architect and other consultants on commercial projects and paid for by the owner.
Project Management these services could include Interior Design Services and other services, for which the owner would pay.
3D Imagery: similar to those provided under SFR above.
COMMENT ABOUT ENGINEERING AND PERMITTING
With SFR projects, it is NOT the architect’s job to provide and pay for any sort of engineering. The owner is the one who wants the house or building, so they are responsible for paying for what is required. Many architects make it a requirement that the owner directly contract with and directly pay the structural engineer and any other type of consultant, such as, but not limited to: soil scientist, surveyor, and others.
Note: there is a common misconception in residential projects (particularly SFR (Single Family Residential)) that architects are providing mechanical (HVAC) and plumbing drawings/engineering. This is Not true. It is Not required by building departments for permitting, and even if these drawings were provided, the respective HVAC and plumbing subcontractors would change them, based on how they are used to doing it and the detailed constraints that develop during any project. On a SFR project, the General Contractor’s HVAC subcontractor will typically provide the energy calculations and ductwork layout, as well as the plumbing layout, often worked out in the field, as the work is accomplished by the respective subcontractor.
However, in commercial projects, it IS a requirement that ENGINEERS provide these documents for many types of projects.
For SFR projects:
to obtain the Building Permit, the General Contractor will need several items:
A. Architects Construction Documents (containing architectural drawings).
B. Structural Engineering (by a Structural Engineer working directly for and paid by the owner, but coordinated by the architect).
C. Truss plant engineered shop drawings, signed and sealed by the truss provider through the lumberyard used by the General Contractor. Also typically includes LVL (Laminated Veneer Lumber engineering).
D. Survey by a licensed Surveyor, provided and paid for by the owner.
E. Some jurisdictions are starting to mandate soil scientist involvement for some steeply sloping areas and other specialized regions.
F. HVAC subcontractor’s energy calculations.
It is a big misconception that all of the above are provided by the architect and that architect pulls the building permit. No. Not true. The General Contractor should be the entity obtaining the building permit and the Contractor is the one that obtains many of the above items through their suppliers and subcontractors.
Architects do often still provide the engineering disciplines through their office, although this practice is changing, as that includes substantial liability.
While the architect does Not provide any shop drawings for pre-engineered items such as those above under SFR, they do often provide the Structural, Mechanical (HVAC), Plumbing & Electrical engineering through their associated sub-consultant engineering firms. However, this is changing. In due course, it may become standard future procedure, even on commercial projects, for owners to provide and pay for these services, with the architect continuing to totally coordinate them.
However, it is Not common practice for architects to provide a survey. That is nearly always provided by the owner, along with other site-oriented services, like soil scientists.