Most people assume that what an architect primarily does is design and create drawings. While this is an important part of what we do, it’s not what the majority of our time is devoted to. We wear may hats during the design and construction of a home: we listen, we advise, we analyze all the options and recommend a course of action, we interpret building regulations, we refer experts, we value-engineer, we mediate, we direct and re-direct, and we oversee. Even when the project is complete we continue to assist our clients if they need a good painter, window washer or want to modify their space down the road.
Having helped clients for over 20 years has given us the perspective to see all the potential pitfalls that can and do arise during the design, permitting, financing and construction of a new home, office or restaurant. Let me outline some of the areas we can help that may be outside the obvious:
Having worked here for over 20 years we are intimately familiar with the market in Austin, Texas. We also have experts in the commercial and residential real-estate community to help our clients understand the economic viability of their plans. Recently a client came to us and wanted to build a hotel. Their original goal was 30 rooms. We were able to get the opinion of 3 commercial real-estate brokers and one hotel operator and they all agreed that 80 rooms was the minimum size for a profitable hotel venture. Then the Architect was able to bring in a venture capital firm who expressed an interest in financing the new larger hotel. It is not uncommon that we recommend that our clients not spend on a property where they would not recoup their investment within a reasonable amount of time. In one recent case we discovered that our client would generate a greater return on their investment by tearing down the existing home and subdividing the lot into two properties. We helped them do this rather than renovate the existing structure. We are also involved in several joint-venture developments with our clients.
Hiring an Architect and building your dream home or office usually requires a signifiant financial investment. We have mortgage and financing experts who are able to tell our clients up front what they will be able to afford, how much they qualify for, what their payment will be, and what their options are in terms of a 10, 15, 20 or 30 year mortgage. We can also help educate you about the various steps including construction loans versus permanent financing, how draws and appraisals work, how “points” and interest-only loans work and so forth. One of the lenders we work has been able to obtain a Home Equity Line of Credit for our clients on their existing home with no fees, points or closing costs which they then used to pay architectural fees while their new home was being designed.
The Architect can help you refine the identity for your new project. In the example of the hotel above we were able to bring several ideas to the table for the name of the hotel which set it apart from other hotels in the Austin metro area. We also work closely with some of the top branding and P.R. firms in Austin, San Antonio, Fort Worth and Dallas. Im a recent restaurant design we helped design the little details that make for a unique dining experience, including the selection of the plates, flatware, staff uniforms and signage. We made sure that even the restrooms were a unique and memorable experience for our client and their customers.
It is not uncommon for a client’s desires to exceed what they can reasonably spend. Part of our job is to understand the client’s priorities and design accordingly. Recently a client wanted a large cantilevered balcony, which was initially designed in concrete. When this proved to be too expensive, the builder said “we have to eliminate this”. Instead, the Architect came up with an alternate design in steel and wood that saved the client about $24,000 and still gave them the balcony they wanted. On another recent project the client wanted a metal roof. By only using metal on the sections of the roof that were visible from the ground we were able to save that client about $9,000.
Last week the stucco bid on a project came in higher than expected. It turns out that we had worked with an excellent stucco subcontractor on another job. We introduced them to our current client’s builder and the new stucco bid came in $18,000 less, and the result exceeded expectations. Over the course of our work as Architects we deal with dozens of builders and hundreds of subcontractors in Austin Texas, Fort Worth, San Antonio, and other major metropolitan areas of Texas, so we have the experience to recommend those who do the best work at the best value, and we also know who to avoid.
Sometimes people come to us before they have secured the property for their new residential or commercial project. Your Architect has likely worked with many Realtors and knows which ones are best for what areas and who is a good buyer’s agent versus a listing agent, and who is good for a downtown Austin condo versus a home in Westlake Hills.
As Architects we have worked in many local jurisdictions throughout Austin including City of Austin, Tarrytown, Westlake Hills, Pflugerville, Lake Travis and more. We have forged good working relationships with many of the plan reviewers, the City Arborist, City Council members and others who are responsible for approving your residential or commercial architectural project.