Q&A - Architect

Oscott's picture
Rank: Senior Monkey | 81

Hey so as most of you were asked when you joined; I decided to host an AMA. Due to the current Virus Outbreak I have a few more hours in front my computer screen.

A little bit about myself.

  1. Im from New Orleans, LA
  2. I lived through the Hurricane Katrina.
  3. 15 Years later many neighborhoods have still never fully recovered.
  4. I have spent time living in Southern Virginia and Kansas.
  5. I started working for a GC helping with estimating in 2010.
  6. 2011 I became a licensed GC.
  7. 2015 I finished a Master Architecture Program.
  8. I spent 2015-18 in an Architecture Firm helping developers get their projects approved in various places across the country.
  9. 2018 started my own firm Architecture Consulting Firm.
  10. 6 Days out the month I travel with friends.
  11. 16 Hr days are far to common.
  12. INTJ

Comments (12)

Mar 24, 2020

How big a budget do I have to have for it to be cost effective to use an architect to design my single family house? As opposed to working with a builder who offers tiered options the way car companies do.

Mar 24, 2020

Well, it largely depends on size and complexity. You hire an Architect for their expertise and their signed and sealed stamp on the drawings. Most local permitting departments require signed and sealed drawings by local licensed Architects/Engineers.

Personally on a residential home I wouldn't do a job under $3500. I charge by SF in Louisiana for a single family somewhere between $1.75 - $3.25/SF for Architecture Fees. (other Engineering fees separate)

Complexity on a project can mean a difficult site, a complex building layout, or strict neighborhood covenants conditions.

If you find a good local builder who knows how to draw up the drawings, and has access to an architect friend, who is willing to review, sign and seal those drawings, then you may be in good shape.

But explain to me how the builder tiered options work, what is he tiering?

    • 1
Mar 24, 2020

Builder tiered options work like car company trim levels. Each trim level, cheap to expensive, has options, some of which are only available at that trim level.

Developers do likewise. Pick an expensive tier and you get the best options. Which is to say, spend enough money and the developer will offer you enough options that the house comes close to being custom designed and built.

When I asked about budget, I meant the entire project, not just the architect's fee. In California especially, fees charged by city/county for permits,, I'm told, can be very steep. And take a long time to be issued.

Do people hire architects in areas where single family houses cost less than $500k?

Mar 24, 2020

Thanks for doing this!

  • What type of developments did you work on at the old firm?
  • Do you specialise in a particular property / asset type now?
  • Does your shop do the same / similar work your previous firm did?
  • Is it common to open your own shop after only 4 years at an architectural firm? Or did you think of it as 7 years of experience (including the GC time)?
  • Are there any strange / unexpected building codes unique to New Orleans / Louisiana that those of us elsewhere would never encounter? (municipal / geographical / geological)
    • 2
Mar 25, 2020
  • Previously my firm was an Architecture firm, serving as a client to the Developer. My group worked on Retail in the DC/MD/VA area.
  • Well I'm most familiar with retail, but as of late I have been working on hotels - here in Louisiana the hospitality industry is very popular.
  • I would not think its very common at all, even 8 years in this industry one could still be too green to open a general practice traditional architecture firm. This is especially true if you found yourself pigeon holed in to one particular project type.

On the other hand, if you did happen to work on the same project type for 2-3 years, I could reasonably see someone leaving their firm and opening a small firm to continue to do that particular project type.

  • What makes New Orleans unique is our notorious bowl shape. This is created by our city being sandwich between a lake and a river with the elevation dipping down as far as -10 ft. This creates 2 unique conditions.
  1. It is very HARD, rarely feasible to dig underground. We have no basements - this is likely true for most of the state.
  2. Flooding can turn into a really big problem. The improved surfaces created around your buildings must careful deal with the water on your site.
    • 2
Mar 24, 2020

Few questions:

  1. What has been the most valuable work experience in your career?
  2. What city has the best architecture?
  3. You work 16 hours a day and travel every month - how?!?
  4. What is your favorite building in the world in terms of design?
  5. Any piece of advice for developers who what to learn more about design?

Thanks for the AMA!

    • 1
Mar 25, 2020
  1. Anytime spent on a construction site, especially doing a renovation project.
  2. The homes in La Jolla, CA are some of my favorite pieces of Architecture. I think Chicago has the best downtown Architecture experience that I have visited. Overall though, the city Aix En Provence in the South of France seemed to really get the proportions of Architecture on a city scale.
  3. I have no other choice for now. I work remote when necessary.
  4. That's a tough question. My favorite design in the world wouldn't be a building, it would be 1965 Corvette. For buildings there is a group out in Australia call Wolveridge Architects - I like a lot of the work they are doing.
  5. Yes try some of these:
  • Attending Architecture Events and Conferences.
  • Join organizations like the AIA (American Institute of Architecture) so that you can receive their publications and become privy to the happenings of Architecture.
  • Pop in to more of your local Zoning review sessions downtown. I would use that time to see how other Developer/Architect teams prepare their rebuttals to the zoning boards.
  • If you really wanted to get a more dense look at the actual application of Architecture. I am referring to the essential decision making process we go through to designing a building. I would suggest you look at some of the study materials Architects use for licensing. If you don't have time to sit down a read through technical books, I would suggest The Amber Book. You can search it on Youtube for a sample. It is a collection of videos that cover a lot of material. The videos are very digestible, they contain a lot of animation explaining scenarios.
    • 3
Mar 25, 2020

Just Google searched those places. Beautiful cities. Will put them on my list of places to visit.

Amber Book looks like a gem!

Mar 25, 2020

What are some questions you can ask an architect to tell whether or not they really know their stuff?

Do you think it makes a difference whether engineering (MEP, structural, civil) is run underneath you or if the developer hires them directly?

Is it better that a developer be more closely watching the architect and their conversations with engineers, or just focus on getting the deliverable finished?

Do you ever negotiate on price, and if so, on what basis and what advice do you have to developers who want to make sure they're getting the most value for their soft cost dollar?

And thanks for doing this.

    • 1
Most Helpful
Mar 25, 2020

Ask if they if they licensed

I would first asked if they are licensed. Many "architects" operate under the umbrella of Architect but are not an actual licensed Architect and therefore can not refer to themselves as one. Though if called one, sometimes they choose not to directly clarify. This is common.

Ask about Construction

An experienced architect understands construction - they understand how their design will actually be put together and they have a good idea of the cost.

If they Developer hires them I hope he is hiring guys that he has previously worked with. From my experience it benefits the Architecture team when the developer puts someone from our typical consultant team on his team, when that consultant will be performing a scope of work outside the typical expectations for a similar project. This would reduce the amount of potential risk exposure to the Architecture team.

For instance, if we were doing a building for a developer who really desired to put his building near a potentially active earthquake fault line. I may feel more comfortable if the Developer retained their own structural engineer. While it would be difficult for a legal team to blame to falling of a building near a fault line on the quality of work on a structural engineers drawings. They could still be selected to go through proceedings. They may also have to add uncommon specialty equipment to the project like a Tune Mass Damper.

Quite often they retain their own Civil because they use them early own while doing their due diligence on a perspective piece of property.

The Architect and Contractor discussions on how the project will get built are very important to watch. The contractor is the most familiar with the current cost and happenings in construction. Early on conversations with the Architect can help better navigate a project. The deliverables presented by the Architects & Engineers should show all their resolutions in their drawings and the additional documents that accompany them.

Sure, we have to negotiate on price. We don't negotiate on cost though. My cost to get it done will include all the cost directly need to get the job done, plus overhead. My price has my profit range. Some folks allow themselves to negotiate their cost to later beat the developer/owner over the head with additional fees.

You are not just paying an Architect for the book of drawings they give you. You are paying them to be your confident representative. You want a guy/gal that knows your local folks downtown and can help get you through things like entitlement. You also want that same person to be able to show up at the construction site and point out to the contractor that his framers are not using the correct size wall studs per the drawings.

    • 5
Mar 28, 2020