jennajspark

New Construction: Architect vs Design Build Firm

Jenna Park
October 4, 2019

We recently purchased a land and are planning to build our dream home. We are going with a super modern style house, with construction budget of 600-700K.

I initially thought only way to go was starting with an architect, then bid out the plan to builders and go from there. However today we talked to one of local builders that actually has an inhouse designer- so that they can do everything as one-stop shop. (Which I learned from Houzz just now that it's called a design build firm)

The design build firm told us all about benefits of having inhouse designer and builder as one team (that they can work seamlessly as one team, will be committed to our budget from the start and etc) But I would say the biggest plus for us is how much they charge for the design fee, which was significantly lower than what we were quoted by architects. (About 40% - 60% lower)

I'm leaning more towards to design build firm mainly due to the cost, but now I'm curious what would be downside of not working with a separate architect (especially for a new construction home) ?

Please help! Any insights will be appreciated.

Comments (211)

  • just_janni

    Building a house, like many things in life - is a series fo tradeoffs. And the whole is more than the sum of the parts. No house is defined by a single feature - just like humans are not defined by a single event. No one here can make a full assessment of someone's house without understanding their life - land, budget, timeframe, local architecture, climate, goals, future needs, etc. And yet....


    The ugliness displayed here is heartbreaking.


    Based on the behavior - I will no longer engage with DE - even when s/he appears to be asking pertinent questions.

  • bry911

    Seriously. this is a two story house. WHERE are you going to vent your dryer?

    Am I missing something? Can someone explain this problem to me?

    A dryer vent can run 35' - 2.5' per 45° turn. My laundry room is on the second floor with all the bedrooms. Yet it still vents down into the floor joists and runs 24', then goes out the rim joist. It hasn't been a problem for me at all, so I fail to see what the concern is.

    Furthermore, ventless dryers are much better for your clothes. They cost a bit more upfront, and they take longer, so Americans, who just can't wait, don't typically love them. Having said that, your clothes will last years longer, and your laundered goods will be much softer without having to use chemical fabric softeners.

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  • D E

    just_janni.

    fair enough. life goes on for both of us.

    but I hope others (who are not bold enough to post) can at least see the absolute hypocrisy on display here.

    I haven't said anything that hasn't been said numerous times here , about other plans, by the houzz elite. you guys criticize so vehemently that dozens of people leave and never come back. but let the criticism be at one of yours then you take it personally?

    as much as it pains all of you I stand by what I said. even the worst plan maker would not put a dryer vent by the front door.

    prove me wrong

  • bry911

    as much as it pains all of you I stand by what I said. even the West plan maker would not put a dryer vent by the front door.

    First, I am assuming that West = worst. I Googled houseplans and the first non-add site that came up was houseplans.com. They had something on the front page called signature plans so I selected those and filtered for two stories.


    Here is the second picture I clicked on.

    Another


    I can keep going, but I am a little confused as to the reason. Again, a dryer can vent 35' - Assuming your run is going to need one 90° then you can go 30' more.

    I know we don't see eye to eye on many things, but I would fire someone in three seconds who chose to eliminate completely reasonable and viable options allowed by the codes unless they could reasonably explain why prescriptive codes were insufficient.

  • PRO
    Virgil Carter Fine Art

    As Lyndee Lee said, condeming a house design solely because of the location of a clothes dryer is the height of ridiculousnes.


    The fact that Debbie did so, repeated that she "stands by what she said", and then challenged "prove me wrong" illustrates just how far off center Debbie's thinking lies.


    Holly and Mark must be laughing at the nonsense.


    As for me, I'm ready for another bowl of popcorn. And a cool one...


    Keep it up Debbie...at least until a good game comes on the tube.

  • D E

    Bry


    the two examples you posted are one story plans. They'll vent through the roof. that is something I see here in my area when the designer does not want to take up valuable exterior wall space with a utility room. I get that.


    completely different story than a 2 story plan - unless you want holly to run a line through the middle of the upstairs bedroom to vent out the roof.


    also, lets say we can go 35 ft on the vent (Ive always read a maximum of 25ft)- show me in the plan how you would take advantage of that.

  • PRO
    The Kitchen Abode Ltd.

    Just my opinion, but I would never base my argument, for or against, on something as petty as a dryer vent. Omissions or oversites like this occur in every plan, no matter how hard one tries to avoid them. Things like this are here nor there when one looks at the bigger picture. Also, I do not see designing as a process that is driven by the mechanics. Yes, the mechanics should be kept in mind but they should not drive the design.


    "Design first and then figure out how to do it."


    The design is then only altered/adjusted if for some reason it just can't be constructed or the cost to do so is unacceptable.

  • Lidia

    KA brings up an insight into the mind of a designer many clients may not be aware of. So if her philosopher is shared ubiquitously among the trade, what is the financial impact on the client? If the client assumes the architect designer considered the mechanics and the mechanics or design needs to be changed, that sounds like more money out of the checking account. How would the builder fold those “figure it out later” fixes in the timeline? Perhaps those in the trade are aware of these issues but new homeowner builders are not. It would seem to be best practice to share with the client that pros know they make mistakes, changes are expected to be made later therefore the proposed cost to build is only an estimate based on how experienced the pros are and the end date is a guess as well. Being forthright and honest with the client initially should help the homeowner decide on which architect or design build firm they feel more confident and comfortable in hiring.

  • bry911

    the two examples you posted are one story plans. They'll vent through the roof. that is something I see here in my area when the designer does not want to take up valuable exterior wall space with a utility room. I get that.

    Neither of those plans are one story plans, although I agree they are technically story and a half, in both plans the second story would easily straight venting out the rear of the roof, unless you are suggesting that a dryer vent protruding out the front of the roof is a good suggestion.

    also, lets say we can go 35 ft on the vent (Ive always read a maximum of 25ft)- show me in the plan how you would take advantage of that.

    Using the prescriptive codes for 4" diameter pipe 8" radius bend you can open up a lot of the back wall. Just running the vent pipe through the joist cavity, which is what mine does. Here is a rough example of what would be allowed with up to two 90° angle changes.



  • bry911

    So if her philosopher is shared ubiquitously among the trade, what is the financial impact on the client?

    In this case it could be an additional $33.70 in elbows and up to $50 in additional vent pipe. Then the additional labor to run the pipe might be $75. Assuming they even bother to spend the time itemizing that part of the build and don't just unit bid the job, in which case the cost will probably be zero but might get up to $33.70.

  • PRO
    Revolutionary Gardens

    @Lidia I'm pretty sure what KA meant was design first (space planning, shapes, sizes) to get the overall concept, THEN figure it out as you move to biddable, buildable drawings, well before construction happens or contracts are signed. Because that's how designers work. Sometimes I have awesome ideas for a design, and then when I move to detailing everything in AutoCAD I have to throw it out and start over because of stupid physics. I doubt there are many pros that advocate for winging it and figuring it out on the client's dime.

  • D E

    bry911, ok, that's a potentially workable plan, I'll give you that.

    "the maximum length of a straight run of dryer duct is 25 feet for electric or 35 feet for gas, with a 5 foot deduction in length for each 90º bend and half that for 45º bends, based on using a 4-inch smooth metal vent, with no screws protruding into the air flow"

    ill assume it's a gas dryer and there are two 90 degree bends . one going up And another going towards the back of the house. the limit is now 25 feet. it'll go up 8-10 feet which leaves 15-17 feet to go backwards so it may be doable.

  • ksc36

    You could also install a booster....


    Meets UL 705 DEDPV &
    IRC-2015 Requirements
    Dryer Duct Booster Saves significant energy - reduces drying times 50% or more. Reduces lint build-up, dust & fire hazards by maintaining proper velocity in duct runs up to 150 equivalent feet. Features the Lint Blitzer™ material handling wheel & 5 year no-clog guarantee. 50 watt motor is not exposed to heat, lint or moisture. Includes 115 VAC cord - automatic operation. Suitable for gas and electric dryers.

    https://tjernlund.com/dryer_booster.htm

  • Architectrunnerguy

    The first starter townhouse we bought back in the '80's had the dryer in the dead center of the basement. A 20' run and two bends to the rear wall presented no problems at all.

  • Lidia

    Thanks revolutionary gardens, nice explanation. Bry ...my apologies for not using spellcheck and reviewing before I hit post. My perspective, obviously, is as the consumer wanting to keep costs and timeline in check. As the consumer, I assume, it’s my responsibility to be concerned about costs and timeline and question how the pros do their thing. For example, we used an official kitchen designer separate from the building company to design our kitchen. (I hear applause from the PRO crowd). The builder offered his sub (Amish cabinet maker) to make the cabinets, pictures of the partially installed cabinets look gorgeous by the way. Builder’s other sub ran the HVAC venting. Full disclosure...I’m happy overall with the builder, the cabinet installer could be a bit better in being available (maybe I’m too demanding) and don’t know the hvac crew. So...when I visited the site with the builder, I noticed the return vent in the island and it appeared to be in the wrong spot but what do I know. The cabinetry at this point wasn’t made yet. The builder said he’d contact the cabinet installer. The cabinet installer met me the following day and confirmed the hvac guys ran the venting to the wrong spot despite him telling the hvac guys where it needed to go. At that point I was relieved to catch an error, their error, and headed off what could’ve been horrible. Then... I GOT DINGED $250 TO HAVE A VENT HOLE AND VENTING MOVED 18 INCHES. What would’ve happened if I had not questioned it? Clearly more money and more time spent fixing the issue that despite it not being my fault, I as the consumer would’ve had to pay for. Hence my question, how much and who pays for “making it work later”? And who is the sub doing that dryer vent work for $33.70? That’s an awesome deal and should be shared with whomever has the dryer in the house plan above!

  • cpartist

    Then... I GOT DINGED $250 TO HAVE A VENT HOLE AND VENTING MOVED 18 INCHES. What would’ve happened if I had not questioned it?

    Why are you paying for THEIR error? I would absolutely dispute that!

  • PRO
    The Kitchen Abode Ltd.

    I believe it comes down to what you believe the Architect/Designers role is. I do not use or expect them to be experts in the mechanical issues. Not saying that they should not have an awareness of this but I don't see this as their primary area of responsibility. From my perspective Architects & Designers are primarily responsible to ensure that the building or structure respects or compliments it's surroundings, it is not some inanimate object and it excites the senses of those observing the structure and of those within. Like an artist who uses specific types of paints, color combinations and specific brush strokes to create their art, Architects & Designers use differing building materials in varied arrangements and order to create their art.


    From a cost perspective, it really is the primary responsibility of the client to express, monitor and control this. Architects and Designers are not Accountants and one must keep in mind that any budgetary numbers derived before the design has been completed and costed are purely very rough guestimates or guidelines. Entering into such a process with the absolute belief that those original numbers will be meet is a bit naïve to say the least.


    I've never really found that a good Architect or Designer intentionally performs their duties with the intention of driving up costs. In fact in most cases they attempt as much as possible to create something within the original cost expectations. The reality is that often in order to meet the clients expectations/desires costs inevitably rise. No one wants costs to keep rising but on the other hand would you want the Architect or Designer to not show you something that maybe you might desire just because it costs more.


    Lets say you are in the market to purchase a new flat screen TV, your budget is $1,200. You go to the showroom and there are no TV's on display, the sales rep asks you what your budget is, you say $1,200 so the sales person brings out 3 TV's that cost $1,200. You choose one and take it home. A week or two later you look on the internet and see a TV @ $1,400 that is much larger with more features than the one you bought. You then say to yourself if I had of known I could have that for $200 more I would have bought it instead of the one @ $1,200. You then go back to the store and complain to the sales rep that they did not show you that better TV. The rep says I showed you only the TV's that meet your budget. You then say well if you had of shown me some other options I might have been willing to spend more.


    You employ an Architect or Designer to show you the possibilities you then decide the value/worth to you of those possibilities.



  • bry911

    "the maximum length of a straight run of dryer duct is 25 feet for electric or 35 feet for gas, with a 5 foot deduction in length for each 90º bend and half that for 45º bends, based on using a 4-inch smooth metal vent, with no screws protruding into the air flow"

    First, the code that I am using:

    2012 IRC - M1502.4.4.1 Specified length. The maximum length of the exhaust duct shall be 35 feet (10 668 mm) from the connection to the transition duct from the dryer to the outlet terminal. Where fittings are used, the maximum length of the exhaust duct shall be reduced in accordance with Table M1502.4.4.1. The maximum length of the exhaust duct does not include the transition duct.

    2015 IRC - M1502.4.5.1 Specified length. The maximum length of the exhaust duct shall be 35 feet (10 668 mm) from the connection to the transition duct from the dryer to the outlet terminal. Where fittings are used, the maximum length of the exhaust duct shall be reduced in accordance with Table M1502.4.5.1. The maximum length of the exhaust duct does not include the transition duct.

    2018 IRC - M1502.4.5.1 Specified Length The maximum length of the exhaust duct shall be 35 feet (10 668 mm) from the connection to the transition duct from the dryer to the outlet terminal. Where fittings are used, the maximum length of the exhaust duct shall be reduced in accordance with Table M1502.4.5.1. The maximum length of the exhaust duct does not include the transition duct.

    All three - TABLE M1502.4.4.1



    2009 IMC - 504.6.4.1 Specified length. The maximum length of the exhaust duct shall be 35 feet (10 668 mm) from the connection to the transition duct from the dryer to the outlet terminal. Where fittings are used, the maximum length of the exhaust duct shall be reduced in accordance with Table 504.6.4.1

    Next the really laughable part of this entire discussion...

    For as long as I know there has been a manufacturers exception to that length... Here is the one from the 2003 IRC.

    M1501.3 Length limitation. The maximum length of a clothes dryer exhaust duct shall not exceed 25 feet (7620 mm) from the dryer location to the wall or roof termination. The maximum length of the duct shall be reduced 2.5 feet (762 mm) for each 45-degree (0.79 rad) bend and 5 feet (1524 mm) for each 90-degree (1.6 rad) bend. The maximum length of the exhaust duct does not include the transition duct.

    Exceptions:

    1. Where a clothes dryer booster fan is installed and listed and labeled for the application, the maximum length of the exhaust duct, including any transition duct, shall be permitted to be in accordance with the booster fan manufacturer’s installation instructions. Where a clothes dryer booster fan is installed and not readily accessible from the room in which the dryer is located, a permanent identifying label shall be placed adjacent to where the exhaust duct enters the wall. The label shall bear the words “This dryer exhaust system is equipped with a remotely located booster fan.”

    2. Where the make and model of the clothes dryer to be installed is known and the manufacturer’s installation instructions for such dryer are provided to the building official, the maximum length of the exhaust duct, including any transition duct, shall be permitted to be in accordance with the dryer manufactures installation instructions.

    __________

    In 2005 the most popular dryer sold was a GE and it's instructions noted, "for satisfactory air movement the total duct length should not exceed 90 equivalent feet."

    I feel kind of screwed, my current dryer only allows me 80 equivalent feet! Anyway, should I modify my drawing to show which exterior walls we can get to in 80 equivalent feet? I will give you a hint, it is all of them...

  • bry911

    I will argue that there are two important lessons from this particular bent of the discussion...


    The first is the danger of being overinformed and underexperienced or undereducated. It is through experience and education that you learn to weight information. Sometimes that is bad and you are hesitant to accept new information, but it can also be good as you have some other criteria by which to judge information.


    The next is the danger of letting rather minute details drive a plan. While any plan needs to be executable, in reality, the goals should dictate the details and not vice versa.

  • Architectrunnerguy

    The next is the danger of letting rather minute details drive a plan. While any plan needs to be executable, in reality, the goals should dictate the details and not vice versa.

    I agree. Get the big concept down and then work on smaller and smaller parts of the design. That's one reason why I work on overall concepts at a realtively small scale usually 1"=20' or 16'. It helps me focus on the big design goal.

  • Lidia

    Cpartisit...I am...but I feel I shouldn’t have to.
    KD...I meant no disrespect. The kitchen designer did an awesome job! She happened to really care about mechanicals as well as excellent design. I was very fortunate to have her help us, she was also trained in Belgium at some fancy international design school, worked with a local kitchen designer in my State and was available to and shared her plans with the builder and cabinet maker several states away...best experience ever.

  • Lyndee Lee

    My ventless dryer functions quite well for much of the year and is very energy efficient. There are no perfect houses or even perfect systems within a house. Even if one eemed to exist, the imperfect portion would be the price tag. All design is a matter of selecting which of the competing priorities is the most important and which of the multiple issues must be resolved and which ones can be tolerated. The optimal prioritizing of competing demands is an exercise left to the user in conjunction with whatever team they choose to assemble.

  • D E

    "The next is the danger of letting rather minute details drive a plan. While any plan needs to be executable, in reality, the goals should dictate the details and not vice versa."

    ok, let's go down this road. if this is a minute detail then what are non-minute details when it comes to design?

    I await your answer

  • PRO
    Diana Bier Interiors, LLC

    Jenna Park, the OP, is either laughing her head off or has run for the hills. I don't blame her for either.

  • PRO
    Virgil Carter Fine Art

    We are all laughing.

  • Lidia

    I appreciate the thoughtful comments. I’m not laughing but then, I’m not having a cold one either. (:

  • PRO
    The Kitchen Abode Ltd.

    Don't laugh too hard, save some for when the discussion moves on to the ideal location of the mail box. I don't see it in the plan, another fatal omission, another item not in the costing, just keeps getting more and more expensive. If it were I, I would shut the whole thing down, fire everyone, tear up the plans and sell the lot to some other dreamer.

  • PRO
    Virgil Carter Fine Art

    "...What I do see, going back to the design-build vs architect question, is that homeowners live INSIDE their house and then want as a result, a nice exterior...typically. What I see with architects, per their process (creative and billing) is that they design the footprint and then move into the interior..."


    No...this is simply an over generalization which is not true. Some architects design from the outside in. Other architects design from the inside out. And some design simultaneously thinking about both inside and outside.


    Some architects are excellent space planners and interior designers. And some are not.


    So, it pays to due one's due diligence about what's truly important.


    It's impossible to generalize about architects and their residential design. Except...


    Except when you encounter someone who designs one floor at a time and waits for a consumer approval before starting on the next floor. And who only begins to look at exteriors and roofing when all floor plans are approved. And never, ever starts their design work by first considering site planning, orientation and architectural organizational concepts.


    When one encounters this sort of "designer", the best tactic is to stop, back away and go find a talented, experienced architect, because this is NOT how such an architect designs anything.

  • Lidia

    When one encounters this sort of “designer”, the best tactic is to stop, back away and go find....and all this after they created a plan, visited the site and....
    The designer gives up the project to an intern who then keeps replacing a pocket door with a swing door again, and again and again, despite the client saying, keep the dang pocket door, I don’t care if you don’t like it, it’s my house! And the fancy big city experienced architect bills you for each plan that puts in a dang swing door after you told the intern 3x to remove it. And on your first meeting you say storage is important and the first plans include NO STORAGE. This was after many interviews with many experienced architects and us then being totally smitten with the one we went with who then gave our mere 5,000sqft home to her foreign intern. Researched architects, check. Architects visited site, check. Clients flew to architect office TWICE and communicated via multiple web meetings, check. Clients spend over $20,000 on basic plans with said fancy experienced. Hi Cory architects. Sometimes Virgil, you just gotta bail because you don’t want to be dead and broke AFTER your house is finished...unless you’re a Vanderbilt. There should be some accountability with the pros and if there isn’t any because their contracts are so generic and yet specific, then the accountability falls on the client. I wasn’t generalizing...I was referring to my specific situation and experience. I’m not a pro, just building one house in my life, And from the creative design and billing process I see on the web for architects, it is outside first, then inside design...happy to send you links but I’m sure they’ll be the top google results for you as they were for me. Not dissing architects, I wanted to be one as a little girl, but as always...buyer beware...love and learn.

  • PRO
    Virgil Carter Fine Art

    Sorry for your experience. It's not typical or normal. And it's not acceptable.


    Did you check past clients of this architect? What did they say?

  • Lidia

    Sorry Virgil, and thank you. I truly mean that. As you can imagine building a home is incredibly personal and an emotional experience. Homeowners typically go thru this once, the architects are involved in dozens of projects in a year. We are at a disadvantage, not being lazy about not knowing all there is to know about building a house but being respectful and trusting. Architects are educated in this field, HO are just trying to do their best. I guess then I just got “lucky”. And perhaps when my job came up, this particular award winning architect perhaps was going thru issues with their life and business. I get it...we don’t always have perfect lives all of the time and maybe she was trying to keep her head above water by pawning off our job to an intern and billing us as if she was doing 100% of the work and saying she was overseeing everything. I take 100% accountability for my actions, it was just very frustrating. Building a home isn’t for the faint of heart, or thin skinned people who put their trust in those with licenses or fancy titles. My problem was that I wanted this dream house for our retirement to be filled with good karma, I was too complacent for too long. The industry seems to promote the fantasy. I should’ve picked an educator who became an architect, I didn’t and that was my fault. Other than that, I can’t see where I could’ve made better choices along the way.

    Im glad my experience was atypical. The house will be great when it’s done and I’ve learned to be less trusting but thankfully not distrustful of those in the trade. Knowing what I went thru is not normal, I’ll just keep quiet.

  • PRO
    Virgil Carter Fine Art

    Yes, I agree--so very sorry your experience was not what you expected or deserved.

    I do think your experience was not typical and I hope very much that your project comes to a wonderful, rewarding experience.

    Best wishes!

  • Lidia

    Thank you, sincerely.

  • PRO
    The Kitchen Abode Ltd.

    Lidia, it's unfortunate that your experience with this Architectural firm was far from idea. Kudos to you for continuing on to achieve your goal despite all of this.


    I understand that it can be a bit disappointing when the Architect delegates things to a subordinate. This however is a normal common practice, especially in firms of more than one. When commissioning an Architectural firm you are actually hiring the firm and not any particular individual within the firm. Yes, specific individuals will be assigned to your project but this mix may change depending upon what tasks need to be performed.


    Regardless of this, in any project communication is paramount and having to request a change multiple times is unacceptable. Have been dealing with a similar issue over the past 8 months where the Architect is extremely slow to respond and often misses requested changes. Definitely frustrating but the rest of his work is fine so we are willing to cut him some slack on this.


    Just of interest, as you are continuing your build, are you using the design from this firm or did you scrap that and do another design with someone else?

  • Lidia

    Thanks KA. The architect’s plans are the architect’s intellectual property so no, we didn’t use their design. We found it odd that even though we paid for a product, we couldn’t use it unless they followed the build to completion. And that was fine, the house they drew up belonged on a different site, with rolling pastures or in a suburb and didn’t have any storage or space allocated for mechanicals. We asked for a CCC inspired cabin and they gave us modern farmhouse. We tried to warm up to the design, but it just wasn’t us. The resulting design kept some of our initial ideas, a dogtrot, large back deck and detached garage. What we have now looks completely different than the original plan. Our kitchen designer was brilliant. That experience helped us heal a little from the disappointment of the architect.

  • patriceny

    Aw geez Lidia, I'm sorry too. You seem to have made your peace with a crappy situation and I salute your ability to do that. I swear to heaven the biggest lesson I've learned from hanging out on this forum is that building a house is a lesson in the eleventy-million ways life can go wrong on you - and that in that process, you will learn more about people than you ever expected. You've shown an incredible emotional resilience, and I bet that serves you well in all areas of your life.

    =======

    Architects are people. And given that they are people, they are fallible. I'm getting pretty darn old, and looking back on my life I can think of all sorts of people I interacted with who were annoying, or stupid, or who took advantage of me, etc..

    I've had bad hair cuts, HVAC techs who couldn't fix my boiler problems but charged me a ton of money in the process, one GC who I swear is Satan reincarnated and who came back to earth to personally test me, and one doctor who provided "service" to me which was bordering on malpractice.

    What I have not done is decided all beauticians, HVAC techs, GCs, and doctors are worthless scum of the earth. :) All of those people, were PEOPLE, not representative of their professions as a whole.

  • Lidia

    Thank you patriceny. I did cry, it did make me depressed, some of it was the wasted money but also the frustration. Mostly we were upset because of the time it wasted. Our aging parents travel,less and less each year and we wanted to share this with them. Now my Mom won’t be able to make the trip.

    Oh geez, so sorry to hear about your less than successful encounters! You’re right though, we have to accept people as they are, they change because of pressures on their lives as well. It was an expensive lesson for us but in many ways after that experience we feel lucky and blessed with our other experiences. This house will be our refuge and nothing is going to taint that dream. And I hope your health issues have passed and you warned the medical board of that MD.

  • PRO
    The Kitchen Abode Ltd.

    Lidia, Design/Plan ownership is something one needs to consider when first commissioning an Architect. On my current project this was discussed in advance with the Architect as we whished to have the right to decide who oversees the project once the plan/design was completed. Not that we may not use him but we did not want to be contractually obligated to do so. As in your situation there is no guarantee that as the design process evolves the relationship may sour and then be forced to start all over again. Not all Architects will work this way but some are just happy to do the design work only.

  • PRO
    Charles Ross Homes

    Hi, Lidia,


    I'm sorry for your experience. I agree it's odd that you couldn't use the plans you paid for. Although the architect/designer retains the copyrights to a plan (unless otherwise agreed to in writing) payment in full usually entitles the home owner to construct or remodel a single home as per the design.


    There was another case recently described on houzz where the architect prohibited the homeowner from remodeling based on their design unless the homeowners agreed to all the architect's design elements and retained the architect through construction.


    While your experience may not be typical, it's a good reminder that no profession or professional is perfect. To those architects who routine bash all builders and remodelers, I simply ask who should Lidia have hired to protect her from her architect?






  • Lidia

    Hi Charles Ross Homes. And thank you.

    We did pay the architect in full for the phase 1 plan. They never returned to us a fully executed agreement so legally we may have been able to use the design but it wouldn’t have been the right thing to do. They performed work, they should get paid. We decided the best step was to cut our ties and move on.

    Good question you raised. For those out there in a less than desirable situation, how could they minimize the impact of wasting more time and money?

  • PRO
    The Kitchen Abode Ltd.

    Charles Ross Homes, the Architect always has by default ownership rights to the design. It is up to the Architect to determine if he/she wishes to extend or relinquish those rights. Somewhere in your contract with the Architect this will be spelled out. If this does not suit your needs then you need to discuss this in advance and have the contract amended accordingly. Just be aware that the Architect is under no legal obligation to accommodate your wishes so it's important that this be clarified before signing any agreement.


    Though not applicable to most of the projects discussed here, some jurisdictions based upon size and intended use require by law that the Architect must oversee the project through to completion. They and you have no choice.

  • PRO
    Virgil Carter Fine Art

    Well...first of all, Lidia's experience was awful and that's probably the best that can be said. I think we all admire her character and strength for how she handled the experience.

    "Ownership" and use of architectural materials typically depends on the terms and conditions of the owner-architect agreement. Traditionally these materials are described as "instruments of service" with the architect retaining ownership. Owners are traditionally licensed to build one house using the architectural documents.

    A number of architects see their finished projects as reflecting on their skill and talent, and, in addition, as the single most important method for business development and future work of the type they want to produce. Said differently, built projects are used to encourage new clients who desire similar work.

    The more an architect is in the public eye, and in the popular and professional press, the greater this approach may be common, IMO.

    Thus, in this case, these architects may be very protective of their construction administration services, as well as any unsupervised use or reuse of their materials.

    But every architect is different and it takes interviewing and discussion to evaluate the issue.

  • PRO
    Charles Ross Homes

    @The Kitchen Abode Ltd.


    I am well versed in architectural copyright regulations having pursued an infringement case in federal court. While the original plan designer owns the copyright to the plans, payment in full by the client generally permits them to build a single home from the plans. It may be specified otherwise in the design agreement which is why it is important to understand those conditions. Home owners retaining an architect will be well served to have an attorney review any proposed agreement before signing it, just as they should with a builder's construction agreement.


    Regulations pertaining to residential design and construction vary from state to state. Here in Virginia an architect or professional engineer is not required for the design of single family dwellings three stories or less, although unique structural details may require sealed plans. I'll speculate that requirements applicable to commercial structures aren't of any particular interest to users on houzz.com and certainly not to this user.

  • PRO
    The Kitchen Abode Ltd.

    Charles Ross Homes - Agree, but the devil lies in the details. Generally something that is copyright protected affords the copyright holder certain protective rights to the copyright holder and limitations of use on the purchaser of the copyright material. The home owner may have the right to build the home but may be restricted should they desire to make any material changes without permission to do so. I'm certain that as you have been involved in this type of litigation you've likely heard all of the arguments from both sides. As both you and I have stated, best to check the contract before signing as this could include other limitations of use above and beyond what one might normally assume.

  • cpartist

    It was an expensive lesson for us but in many ways after that experience we feel lucky and blessed with our other experiences. This house will be our refuge and nothing is going to taint that dream.

    And you will. Just like we did. We love our home despite the 3 years of trials we had and continue to have. Yes continue to have. Unfortunately, I can't say much more right now, but our saga isn't over.

    However at this point, we love what we created and know it will all get worked out. And I'm a firm believer in karma. ;)


  • Lidia

    We started with the architect (issue)3 years ago this month, broke ground August 2018, foundation set January 2019 and hope to, at least, make a turkey on the grill even if we have to sleep in sleeping bags on the floor. May the walls of your home hold many great memories for many years...cheers to your awesome attitude...HUGS to you cpartartist!!!!

  • Lidia

    Whoops! Broke ground August 2017, foundation January 2018...geez time flies when you’re old!

  • Lidia

    Nope, architect November of 2015. Good grief...we’ve been on this path for 4 years! No wonder I’m exhausted...Virgil...pass me a cold one! Please!

  • PRO
    Virgil Carter Fine Art

    On the way, Lidia!

  • Lidia

    Thank you, Virgil!

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