An architect is a licensed professional who is charged with protecting the health, safety, and welfare of the public. An architect is a designer, but a designer is NOT an architect unless he/she has been duly licensed by the state. In addition, a person who ONLY holds an architecture degree from a college is also NOT an architect.
It is always in the homeowner’s best interests to hire the architect directly because the architect works for the homeowner.
It is common these days to hire the contractor first, who sometimes includes the architect's fee in their estimate, but you should keep in mind that the architect in that case is working for the contractor, not you, the homeowner.
Projects can be complicated to build...even ones that may appear simple in scope. The architect doesn’t just provide documents so you can get a construction permit. Our drawings contain crucial information, and the quality and clarity of the information provided will help ensure the quality of the finished product - the realization of a vision...your vision.
However, our drawings can only be as detailed as the input provided by the client (such as budget, program requirements, schedule, etc.). Items that are not clearly described to the architect will generally be done to industry standard, but might not represent the desires of the client. To help avoid surprises, the client should talk in as much detail as they can, early on, about what they envision for their project. In addition, when dealing with multiple clients on a project, the clients must make sure to talk to each other and be clear about their goals before sending mixed messages to the architect and the contractor.
Legally, the architect is there to protect the client. The content and quality of the drawings we provide become part of your contract with the builder. The more detail provided, the more protected you are, because there is less ambiguity. Very little is left to chance, misunderstanding, and misinterpretation.
Fees are based on length of time required to do your project. The amount of time is affected by the size and complexity of the project, which is determined at the initial meeting by the architect.
Our fees are FLAT FEES because we bill for our time and work only. We do not base our fees on a percentage of construction cost as this is very hard to control or justify.
The fee does NOT include our reimbursable expenses, such as blueprinting costs (copies of the drawings), computer plotting, etc.
A variance is a deviation from the "bulk requirements" or standards for the zone in which your project is located. These requirements are determined solely by the municipality on which your project is located and are subject to the interpretation of your local zoning officials. It's not uncommon for a project to require a variance from the local zoning Board of Adjustment.
During the course of the preliminary design and design development phase, we do a zoning analysis of your proposed project. If, during the course of design, we determine that you need a variance, the general procedure is the same for all municipalities.
Each project must be reviewed for local zoning ordinance compliance. Projects requiring a bulk variance must have an application filed with the local official (Owner’s Responsibility) and a hearing before the Zoning Board of Adjustments (ZBA). We recommend that a lawyer be retained to perform any variance application and presentation, though it is not required for a project that is occurring on your primary residence. Our office will be present, as required by the lawyer, to provide expert testimony regarding the project. The decision rendered by the ZBA or Planning Board (PB) are final and our office makes no guarantee as to the successful outcome of ANY project required to go before either the ZBA or PB.
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Dugasz & Brower Architects, PC
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