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Working With An Architect

Design and construction is a process. It is the conversion of an idea into the physical realm. Conceiving a building or a renovation starts with sometimes vague ideas, but these ultimately have to evolve into a physical reality.

The way this happens can be rather abstract. Architects are trained how to conceive of a design and then how to manifest it using abstraction and analytical tools. Sometimes these are explored with just a pen and roll of trash paper. Other times its with sophisticated systems of software, information management, industry convention, or legal arrangements. These all assist in identifying outstanding information and help the architect develop critical thinking, analyze problems, and resolve solutions.

Without industry background, it is challenging to understand how all these activities and tools are organized. The 4D»2B tool, discussed at services, is a road map of the entire process.

Fees

Historically, architects worked at an hourly rate or as a percentage of construction cost. Both methods are attempts to roughly equate the amount of effort against the overall complexity of the building.

A more precise method is to determine the actual services required, from finding a site, developing an architectural expression, building new construction, renovating existing, adding additions, or re-purposing or rehabilitating new life into one expired—all demand different efforts.

So after we establish how the project is defined and what services it needs, proposals provide a single lump sum fixed fee. Break-outs for optional services can be provided. Invoicing and payments are based on progress and only accrue as the effort moves along. Even limited investigations and initial programming are proposed by fixed fee against the task at hand to correctly quantify the effort.

Architectural and contracted consultant service fees will then range dramatically, from 3% to 25% of the project's construction budget. For example, an initial survey or study might be $3,000, design drawings for a small renovation $10,000, a restaurant upfit maybe $20,000, to a large, sophisticated building many times over. These scopes are all adjusted by numerous variables:

Specifics are everything, so contact me directly with questions about a particular project.

Architects and Contractors

Architects design and Contractors build. And the law separates their respective licenses, business entities, qualifications, and legal status, too.

Becoming an architect requires a minimum bachelor's degree in architecture plus a professional or master's degree, a minimum three year internship which usually takes five, and passing the Architectural Registration Exam (ARE) (formerly just one two-day exam, then nine parts with 16 sections, then seven parts, now six). Statistically, most architects don't get through all the requirements and get licensed before 30-35 years old, but the industry is trying to improve.

You can verify architectural licenses online at the NC Board of Architecture license search. ( holds firm license #52833 and Steve Hall individual #9868.)

Becoming a contractor requires proof of financial stability and a qualifying individual in the firm to pass an exam. In North Carolina, there are five primary classifications of license certifications: Building, Residential, Highway, Public Utilities, and Specialty (sub-contractor, of which there are many). Financial stability is arrayed in three levels depending on the firm's assets which limits the contract size of the construction project:

Architects are legally restricted from recommending unlicensed contractors. This is more common in residential work than commercial. You can verify license and limits online at the NC Licensing Board for General Contractors license search.

Incidentally, the 1972 Federal Brooks Act Legislation prohibits the selection of design professionals by price or bidding. It requires qualifications-based methods. This is implemented in North Carolina by G.S. §143-64.31, called the "MiniBrooks Act," for architectural, engineering, and surveying. See also the NC Board of Engineering FAQ and the NC Board of Architecture article.