Frequently Asked Questions and Resources for Owners
What does an Architect do?
"Architect" is a regulated term for a licensed professional who plans, designs, and advises in the construction of buildings. Architects are responsible for the health, safety, and welfare of building occupants. They are creative problem solvers who strive to meet their clients' goals with aesthetically pleasing solutions compliant with local building codes. Drawing plans to communicate the design to the permitting authority and the Contractor is just one of many tasks that the Architect does.
As a sole practitioner Architect, I fulfill the roles of Design Architect, Technical Architect, and Project Manager (related to the design) as described in the linked article above. I am licensed in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. You can read more about me and my extensive experience in design and construction on my Introduction page.
Interior Designer and Landscape Architect are separate professionals who I can refer you to and coordinate with on your project.
How can I make my project environmentally sustainable?
Environmental sustainability is a critical goal for new projects. Many sustainability requirements are adopted in building codes, but much more can be done.
SAVVY Design Studio can assist with exploring options for design upgrades to make your home more sustainable, such as advantageous solar orientation, "right-sizing" the project to avoid waste, and reducing fossil fuel use in your systems.
For projects where sustainability is a high priority, services can be upgraded to include engaging a consultant to help minimize your environmental impact. For best results, this process should be started in the earliest planning stages.
When can I start building my project?
As with everything else, this is highly variable by project.
However, generally speaking, the process of Pre-Design planning, Schematic Design, Owner decisions, Budget Pricing, more Owner decisions, Final Design, Engineering, and Permitting - assuming timely decisions by the Homeowner - will take approximately 6-9 months for most projects. Interior-only projects and those not requiring structural engineering may go as quickly as 2-3 months. The permitting timeline depends on the local jurisdiction. Once the permit is in hand, construction can begin depending upon the Contractor's schedule, availability, and material procurement.
Can you help me find a contractor?
SAVVY Design Studio maintains positive working relationships with multiple local contractors, and can assist you in selecting one that's right for the project.
If you have a contractor already who you would like to use, I'm happy to work with them as well. I can help you determine if a contractor recommended to you by friends, family, or neighbors is a good fit for your project.
How much will my project cost?
All projects have a basic Project Cost that will include what are known as "hard costs" of construction cost and Owner's contingency, as well as "soft costs" of Architectural design, Civil and Structural Engineering, and Permits, all necessary to complete the project.
Construction costs are specific to each project, it's location, existing conditions, and the level of quality and finish. However, as as starting point the following wide ranges can be assumed (updated Fall 2023)*:
Interior Renovations - $100 - $200/square foot
Additions - $250 - $375/square foot
New Houses - $250 - $330/square foot
(see also "Other Resources" below)
The hard costs will include 5-10% over the construction cost for Owner's Contingency, to cover unforeseen conditions during construction. The rate varies based on the level of risk of the specific project.
Preliminary Planning Example: A typical addition project may have hard costs of 80% and soft costs of 20% of the overall project budget. These ratios vary depending upon the project, and an estimate can be refined in a phone consultation .
If the Owner's all-in budget is $300,000 and the project warrants a contingency of 10%, the Owner and Architect should be working towards a construction budget cost of approximately $240,000. At an average cost of $340 per square foot, the addition could be approximately 700 square feet.
Not included in the above "project costs" are optional goods and services such as landscaping, interior design, lighting design, furniture, artwork, temporary housing, moving and storage during construction, sustainability consulting and certifications, and mechanical/electrical/plumbing engineering.**
*The market is seeing wide volatility right now. These are subject to change on a constant basis and can be reviewed in a Consultation.
**Mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineering are required by some jurisdictions for residential work.
Can I get what I want within my budget?
SAVVY Design Studio can help you during the schematic phase to establish a scope of work that falls within your budget based on approximate costs per square foot. If you don't have a budget in mind, I can help you establish a realistic one.
I specialize in creative design, focusing on the client's goals and then proposing multiple options during the schematic phase that meet those goals.
Once the client has selected an option, we have it budgeted by a contractor to make sure it fits the budget before continuing, and may adapt the selected plan as needed.
...select my finishes?
...design my cabinets?
...build my project?
...select my finishes?
...design my cabinets?
...build my project?
There are specific professionals for each of these roles, and some of them are optional. If you need any services I don't provide, I can help you find someone who does.
As part of my design process, we'll talk about the general character of your space and review inspiration photos, and the architecture will be coordinated to this character. My final drawings will show a general layout of cabinetry and casework which are then further developed with an Interior Designer and/or cabinet supplier based on current market availability and pricing. Interior designers charge an additional fee; cabinet suppliers have kitchen designers on staff to assist you with specific casework selections without additional charge. Interior designers can assist with finish, furniture, fixture, and lighting selections as well as help you procure the materials in line with your project schedule; or you can do these tasks yourself.
As an Architect, I work on your behalf as a resource and advocate during the construction process (more on that under Contract Administration ). A residential General Contractor builds the project and should provide adequate project management and site supervision for your project as a part of their fee. A separate Construction Manager who is independent of the Contractor may be desired for large, high-end residential projects, and will charge an additional fee to coordinate all parties and run the project smoothly on your behalf.
How much does it cost to hire an Architect?
Architecture fees vary significantly depending on the scope of the project, but a helpful guideline for custom residential architecture can be found here:
Generally speaking, common industry practice is to base architecture fees as a percentage of the cost of construction. Savvy Design Studio's recommended level of service for most projects is comparable to Tier 5 as described in the link above, with the exception of cabinetry, which is typically done by the cabinet supplier. Additionally, I include any required Structural Engineering in my proposals.
For projects with a total project budget of $60,000 or less, a minimum fee applies for architectural services to bring the project through permit.
Pre-Design and Schematic Design services through the point of obtaining a budget price from a contractor will typically amount to approximately 15-25% of the total architecture fees, if the scope remains as originally planned.
Contracts Between the Owner and the Contractor
For most projects, there is no contractual relationship between the Contractor and the Architect. The Owner has separate contracts with the Architect and with the Contractor.* The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has created template contracts for construction which clearly define each party's responsibilities and expectations. While it is ultimately a decision between the Owner and the Contractor, it is my recommendation that these standard AIA Contracts be used:
*Design/Build projects are the exception. In these situations, the Architect works for the Contractor.
Construction Cost Estimator for a New Build
Important Notes: This is an outside website providing approximate budget costs only. Please use caution related to the ads on this site. Also note that the line item for "Construction Plans" listed here is based on the most basic stock plans with no modifications or professional certifications, not custom residential architecture as provided by Savvy Design Studio. For a more accurate budget of custom architectural fees, please see the "How much does it cost to hire an Architect?" dropdown above.