The Case for Architects

Article by Scott Shonk, Principal Architect – Originally Published in the Central Pennsylvania Business Journal

American culture has promoted and encouraged an appreciation of design in the past few decades.

From PBS’s “This Old House” and TLC’s “Trading Spaces” to the recent “Fixer Upper” on HGTV, the American public is increasingly aware of the benefits of design. As a result, many people are attempting DIY projects and flipping houses, improving aesthetics through cosmetics changes and decorating — moving a space to become more than just a room with four walls.

This receptiveness to design is an opportunity to discuss architecture and for architects to demonstrate their value to the design process. Architects are one set of professionals truly trained in design and problem-solving. From challenges early in the design phase to facing unforeseen conditions occurring on-site during construction, architects find solutions.

Good design can bring added value to your investment.

Architects apply design principles holistically so that spaces and building components fit well together. And, they consider the effects of potential future phases.

Good design can positively affect how you live and work.

Detailed programming leads to maximizing the efficiency of the space for a project’s uses so buildings function well. Determining a solid initial program allows rooms to be sized correctly during space planning early in the design. How occupants move into and through spaces and room adjacencies are addressed. Buildings are tailored for their owner with efficient and flexible layouts.

Good design creates safe environments.

As most projects require a building permit, construction drawings will need to be sealed by a design professional, a licensed architect, registered in Pennsylvania. (Note that engineers can also seal drawings, but this typically applies to work related to their area of expertise.) The architect is trained and experienced in using the ever-changing building codes and brings that knowledge to the design from the initial sketches.

Having a code-compliant design smooths the entire process, as plans can be approved promptly and surprises from inspectors are minimized. If there are structural impact considerations or security concerns, the architect will address them up-front.

Good design can be green and earth-friendly.

The benefits of creating sustainable and environmentally friendly buildings are publicly acknowledged. Many architects encourage integrative design where building encompasses maximized thermal performance, energy-efficient mechanical and electrical systems are provided, and passive solar features may be included.

Good design can be well executed.

Construction is a complex process, and there are hundreds of design decisions in every project.

The architect can navigate a client through this process by leading and coordinating engineers, consultants, zoning officers, banks, building code officials, contractors and subcontractors. Architects have built good relationships with these groups, which can help a client new to the process feel more at ease. And architects have the knowledge to recognize and minimize potential problems before they seriously affect the budget.

Good design benefits from extensive training.

An architect’s education initially includes five years at an accredited university (or seven years if the accredited degree is from a master’s program). An internship, working under the direct supervision of an architect, follows this for several years. All six sections of the national exam must be passed before an architect is licensed. A decade can easily pass before an architect begins to practice architecture.

Good design is an economical investment.

Some people skip talking to an architect to save money due to the perception that working with an architect is too expensive. In reality, architectural fees are typically not excessive, and architects can provide services to fit the needs and budget of most clients.

And, in return for your investment, architects provide great design.