Thrifty Clients / by Josh Brincko

I get it. We all want to save money. I personally look for the best value in everything I do. I’m not afraid to DIY to save some money. Over the years, I’ve learned when DIY is actually appropriate for saving myself money. Usually it is not effective unless it’s something I can plan to DIY many more times in the future. For example, buying my own tools has helped me to take care of common maintenance issues around the house without needing to hire a handyman. 

For design work, people commonly think they can save the cost of the architect if they do this work on their own. I have had several clients attempt this on their own in different capacities, and it has never turned out as planned resulting in higher costs instead of lower costs. Some clients try to draw their own floor plans and insist we use them without changes. Then they discover their concept violates basic building codes, costs more money to build, or doesn’t take into consideration things like views, daylight exposure, privacy, etc. We end up re-planning the project in a way that actually works after we were requested/required to draw it their way which becomes an expensive exercise in showing someone why their solution doesn’t work. We could have skipped that step and saved the client a bunch of money. 

Other clients will try to coordinate the permit process on their own. This is another area where a lot of time and money gets wasted. Architects are very versed in the processes required by the building departments and know how to more quickly maneuver through. Architects also know what to say and what not to say. All too often, clients or builders shoot themselves in the foot by using the wrong terminology or mis-classifying some technical aspect, and the building department incorrectly imposes some costly construction requirements. Architects know how to more carefully design and represent the project goals to prevent costly, erroneous requirements from the building department.

The entire service provided by an architect is intended to be a cost saving investment that results in a functional, yet aesthetically pleasing building. By allowing the architect to do his or her job, this is the outcome. It is not feasible to DIY something that takes 5-6 years of professional accredited college training, 3+ years of interning, passing 7 state board exams, and staying abreast of the current land use codes, building codes, material/product capabilities, coordination with engineers, and other factors that require a lifetime of dedication to master. By ignoring this, the construction project suffers financially, the schedule slows, and the performance of the building is inferior.

Hiring an architect is a special experience, so give them (and yourself) the opportunity to benefit from their creative and technical skill set.