What Is the Architect's Role During Construction? / by Josh Brincko

Most people don't quite know what architects do exactly. I have a relative that thinks we actually build the buildings. Some people think we just sketch an idea and let the builder build it. Others understand that architects are the center of the complicated and expensive construction universe.  

Here's a quick summary of the first steps in the architect's process before construction starts: 

1. Discuss project goals with the client to determine the basic feasibility by researching land use codes, budget analysis, schedule, and basic design ideas and considerations. 

2. Draw a few rough design options that incorporate the client's goals while explaining the pros and cons of each option.

3. Narrow down the options based on client's (and hopefully a builder's) feedback into one final option.  

4. Draw a more focused version of the selected design option with additional information regarding size, layout, and materials that is specific enough for builders to provide bids. We also draw 3D views to help clients understand what we have designed. 

5. Seek bids from builders based on the drawings and specifications, and help clients compare and contrast the bids and the qualifications of the various builders before selecting a builder to construct the project.  

6. Prepare drawings to submit to the building department to obtain a building permit. We coordinate with the building department to provide them with the specific information they request for the plan review processes.  

7. We add more detail and specifications to the drawings as needed to help the selected builder refine and revise their bid to be within the client's budget. 

8. DURING CONSTRUCTION we coordinate with the builder to protect the client's investment in construction costs and also design fees by interpreting the drawings for the builder to ensure they understand the design intent, level of quality, and keep the project on time and budget. We also meet on the job site regularly to review the completed work to ensure it is executed according to the plans, and we also troubleshoot issues as they arise. The architect also discusses upcoming scheduled construction items with the builder to help prevent errors pertaining to ordering materials, building code issues, and interpreting any information which may be unclear or not available to the builder. During construction, we also review the progress payments requested periodically by the builder to ensure the work and materials were adequately built and ordered prior to authorizing the client to pay for them. 

We really team with the builder during construction to evaluate the best possible ways to achieve the mutual goal of making the building the best it can be within the schedule and budget constraints. The architect plays a crucial role during construction because he or she is the client's best hope of protecting their investment in design and construction costs by helping the builder properly understand and execute the information portrayed in the construction drawings which is a contract between the builder and client. The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) has written guidelines for the profession that mandate architects to provide these services during construction to protect the interests of the client since they relate to safety and welfare of the building and the people who use it. After all the time and money a client invests in the architect to design a project, it becomes obvious that the architect is critical in helping the client realize their dream the way it was initially intended in step 1 above.