While the average person knows what an architect is, they likely do not understand exactly what an architect does. This extends into the home renovation world where many homeowners know they can hire an architect, but they may not understand exactly which projects an architect can assist them with. Architects do more than just design beautiful buildings. They have years of knowledge and experience that can help bring your home’s vision to life. To help answer the most common questions around what architects do exactly, we went to the experts.
HomeStars spoke to Kyle Khadra, Director and Principal Architect at KBK Architects. Kyle has worked in the industry since 2001 and is a member of the Ontario Association of Architects (OAA). After completing over 1800 residential projects, Kyle is well aware of how an architect can benefit and beautify almost any home improvement project. Keep reading for Kyle’s expert opinion on when to hire an architect.
1. What Do Architects Do, Exactly?
Becoming an architect is no easy feat and requires years of schooling that covers a wide range of topics. From learning about the history of architecture to implementing the art of design, architects also learn about engineering disciplines that are associated with the construction of infrastructures, spaces, and buildings. Architects gain extensive knowledge in building codes, structural systems, materials, assemblies, and are very technical. They also practice City Planning, and many architects are able to deliver planning services.
Simply put, architects use their diverse knowledge to help manage all phases of design and construction. They will not only ensure a project is built to code but also ensure it is beautifully designed as well.
2. Do You Need an Architect for Every Home Improvement Project?
Kyle points out that while generally an architect can design any project, retaining their services is not required for every home improvement project. If you need something straightforward done that does not require thought in the design, you do not need an architect.
For example, you can hire a licensed designer for projects that are purely structural such as building a small deck or simple box-shaped garage shed. However, when you are looking for creative solutions, and/or aesthetically appealing designs that are tailored for your family’s needs, then hire an architect.
3. When Should You Hire an Architect?
While you can hire an architect to design your deck or to get permits to enlarge a window in your dining room, an architect’s level of expertise is beyond that. Kyle suggests homeowners think about it like this:
Let’s imagine you want to dispute a traffic ticket. You can hire either a lawyer or a paralegal. While both will get the job done and are licensed to provide the service, the lawyer’s level of expertise is much higher than handling a simple traffic ticket case. In addition, their fees will be substantially higher.
This same logic applies to hiring an architect compared to a designer. While the architect can handle your simple project, your dollars will be better spent working with the designer. You want to work with an architect when you need them to handle all phases of design, including project planning, site analysis, building code review, zoning review, all the way to finalizing the technical/construction drawings required to build the project.
You will need to hire an architect anytime the project requires deep thought into the design and flow. For example, if you’re building a house from the ground up, an architect will aid in not only the structural and technical aspects but also the design. This is especially important if you want a particular style carried throughout your home.
Kyle notes that almost all architects work with engineers to complete the structural, mechanical, and electrical drawings. Specifically, at KBK, they have in-house engineers and are able to deliver all disciplines of the project while coordinating the work internally to make sure the designs of the engineering disciplines are aligned and synchronized. This is just one example of the benefits of hiring an established architect to handle your project.
4. What Are the Benefits of Hiring an Architect?
Having a direct point of contact is one of the major benefits of working with an architect. Kyle believes that communication is the pillar to deliver any project. He takes the time to fully understand his clients’ needs, their family structure, how they think, what they are passionate about and, perhaps most importantly, what they don’t like. Working closely with your architect will allow you to create a home (or whatever the project might be) that truly represents you.
By having someone who fully understands the needs and wants of your project, they will also be able to correctly communicate a timeline and help manage expectations. Kyle explains the timelines, soft and hard costs, possible complications, who’s involved, required applications, the phases of design, and what his expectations are so that everyone is on the same page and is clear about what is going on.
In addition, Kyle also likes to put his experience on the table so that his clients, who are probably making the largest investment of their life, understand all aspects of the project.
5. How to Hire an Architect
Having an architect who is proud of their experience is a great sign and one you should look for. But before you hire an architect, Kyle advises homeowners to always do their research first. To do this, confirm the company is licensed, do your online research and read their HomeStars reviews. You want to look at photos of their work and check their website to confirm they do the type of work/provide the service you’re looking for.
Not all architects are equal so you want to ask those you are considering technical questions. For example, will the architect handle submissions and communication with the municipality? Will they provide structural, mechanical, and electrical design and engineering services? You need to understand what you are paying for when you hire them. Kyle also advises homeowners to take note of how the architects present themselves, their attentiveness to your questions and how they communicate with you. These are very important as you will be working closely with them.
In Kyle’s expert opinion, the bottom line is finding an architect who is professional, talented and has an established reputation. These are non-negotiable if you want your project to be completed with the least possible amount of complications and come in on budget.
Red Flag Warning:
If a firm claims to guarantee the issuance of a permit, don’t work with them. Any good architect knows that getting a permit and completing a project cannot be guaranteed.
Reach Out When You’re Ready
Now that you know whether or not your project needs an architect, the next step is to reach out when you’re ready. Kyle notes that the sooner an architect is brought into the project, the better it is for everyone involved. This is because an architect will need to understand the full scope of the project in order to coordinate all of the moving pieces. Keep in mind that designing a home, or redesigning, is more than moving some lines around a page. With every small change that is made, a cascading effect happens and results in hours of work. So, be sure you’re ready when you reach out to an architect.
As Kyle previously mentioned, communication is a pillar so be honest and upfront with your architect. A clear established timeline, scope and budget in the early stages of the project will help the architect’s team to adjust and manage the project in a more effective manner.
The last piece of advice from Kyle is that there are no silly questions to ask an architect. An experienced architect does not expect the homeowners to understand all the technical details and aspects of the project. Do not hesitate to let your architect know that you need additional information and explanations on processes and requirements. The goal is to work together to design something you love and you need to understand what you’re taking on in order to do that.
KBK Architects Inc. is a proudly Canadian multidisciplinary Architectural and Engineering firm. Established in 2012, KBK has since gone on to be an award-winning firm. In 2021 alone, they have been awarded as the Best Architectural & Engineering Firm and Best Sustainable Architectural Design Project. Interested in learning more about KBK? Check out their HomeStars profile, full of happy homeowner reviews, beautiful project photos and a Verified badge.
*All images kindly provided by KBK Architects Inc.