Building a Custom Home

Analyze Your Wants and Needs

Are your needs specialized enough to warrant building a custom-designed home, or would a tract home built to certain specifications suit your needs just as well? An AIA architect can help you decide. The cost of building your custom home and its anticipated value should be consistent with real estate values of the surrounding neighborhood. When analyzing your situation, an AIA architect might ask if you want to make your house more livable for yourself, or make it more salable to the next owner.

Share everything you can with your architect: your thoughts, notes, sketches, photos from magazines—anything that illustrates what you like. Tell your architect about your routines, the way you function in your current home, and what you like and do not like about it.

It is often said that architects not only have the answers they also know which questions to ask: How many rooms will you need? How will the home function? Who will use it and how? What are your tastes? How long do you plan to live in the home? Do you work at home? How much time do you spend in the living areas, bedrooms, kitchen, den, office, or utility space? How much time and energy are you willing to invest to maintain your house?

By asking a wide range of questions about your goals, an AIA architect can outline the scope of your project in detail. Doing so also sets the stage for building cost-efficiency into your project. By setting parameters early in the process, your AIA architect can help you control costs before you even break ground.

Marry your wants with practicality. There are many decisions to be made in the planning stages of a building project and during construction. These decisions will determine how your new home will function, what it will cost and what it may be worth in the future. If consulted in the earliest planning stage, an AIA architect can help you make smart decisions about your home’s design that will serve you in surprising ways. It is critical to have a realistic understanding of the potential and limitations of your project’s budget. Often an architect can propose ways of altering square footage or the type of materials to be used. An AIA architect is especially knowledgeable in marrying your goals with practicality.

Design for your future. If this is your “forever” home, an architect can: provide flexible design options to accommodate your changing family size or reduced mobility as you grow older; help choose certain amenities that can affect long-term value and resale; propose ways to lower energy costs and house maintenance over the long term; even suggest features such as window options that can protect carpets, flooring, and upholstery from damaging ultraviolet rays. While the list of possibilities seems endless, your AIA architect can help you see the big picture and design solutions with the long term in mind.

Visualize the design. Once you and your AIA architect define what is to be built, the architect can help you visualize the design possibilities in a number of ways. Using rough sketches or computer programs, the architect can show you the general arrangement of your new house and its effect on the site. While not finished construction documents, these visual representations are meant to show possible approaches for you to consider. An AIA architect can refine these concepts until a solution is developed that meets your needs.

Depending on the project, your architect might also provide three-dimensional renderings, build models, or even stake the site so you can physically see important features, such as traffic flow, access, and views.

After your approval, the design is developed even further. Your architect will prepare detailed drawings to illustrate floor plans which show all the spaces to be built in their correct proportions, down to almost every detail. Outline specifications are also prepared that specify the primary materials and finishes to be used.

Many architects also provide interior design services. Ask to see examples of their interior work. If these examples suit your tastes, the architect can help you get the most out of the design process right up to selection and placement of furniture, wall color schemes, fabrics, and window treatments. These important finishing touches, advised by your architect, ensure continuity with the design of the home and enhance of its architecture.

Schedule the work. After the design phases are complete, the management and scheduling of the construction work is critical. The actual work of construction could disrupt your lifestyle considerably.  The many details that need to be addressed can be overwhelming. Making such decisions and coordinating the necessary manpower and materials requires professional attention.

Your architect has been through the construction process many times – this may be the first time for you. Depend on your architect as much as possible. An architect can help anticipate problems so that your decisions are followed, construction is carried out efficiently, and the project is kept on track.