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Finding the Right Fit – A Timber Frame Architect Checklist

From the timber framing, to the interior spaces, to the finished look, the image of your ideal home is crystal clear in your mind. But, unless you are an architect yourself, you are going to need a professional to translate this mental image into a functional floor plan design. Here are some things to consider when you begin your search for the architect that will bring your dream home to life.

Has the architect ever designed a home with timber framing before?

Traditional timber homes require special materials and methods that will impact every aspect of construction— from the overall building plans to schematics for electrical wiring and plumbing.  You will want to look for an architect who’s experienced with this niche building style.

Will the architect stay true to traditional timber framing?

You are building a traditional timber frame home because you love its timeless look of mortise and tenon connections, but will your architect stay true to your vision? Make sure that the architect is on the same page as you, and not trying to modify it with contemporary beams and metal braces.

Can you see yourself living in one of their past designs?

When you review the architect’s past work, do you feel a connection with the designs?  Can you envision yourself living, entertaining, and relaxing within the homes they present?  Your emotional reaction to their work is important to think about before you put your dream in their hands.

How do you plan on communicating?

In today’s technological age, communication is faster, easier, and there are more portals with which to communicate.  Although it is not uncommon for an architect to live away from a build site, communication is still important.  Ask your architect how they interact with their clients and decide if that will work for you.

Will the architect provide engineered construction drawings?

Are you building in an area with slopes, snow loads, or other site related conditions? Engineered construction drawings are essential to the design process, so it is important to know if your architect provides them, or if they are something you are responsible for procuring separately.

Is the architect familiar with sustainable design?

Has the architect designed energy efficient buildings or had experience with structural insulated panels (SIPs) and insulated concrete forms (ICFs) before? For many timber frame homes, SIPs are an integral part of the building envelope. Ask the architect if they are familiar with or have their own energy efficient building techniques that they use in their design.

Is the architect aware and able to design to a budget?

When building a custom home, adhering to your budget is of utmost importance. Let your architect know your budget parameters before they begin their design. Are they willing to make the commitment to designing to your budget and not just your design parameters? By determining this, you can eliminate the risk of them creating a design that you cannot afford and then spending extra time and money to have them revise it. 

What are their rendering capabilities?

In addition to your floor plan drawings, you’ll want some kind of image of your home rendered in a detailed sketch, computer enhanced drawing, or 3-D model.  Check with the architect to see if this service is available. Without it, it will be harder for you to visualize your completed home.

What will the architect provide for you?

Don’t hesitate to ask the architect what is included in their services. Will you get conceptual drawings or full construction drawings?  Will you be receiving the aforementioned renderings, or just a floor plan and elevations?  How many revisions will they include in your design fee?

Will the architect be involved throughout your building process?

The communication between an architect and the crew responsible for constructing their design is crucial, without it, the integrity of the design can be compromised. Discuss with your architect whether or not they will participate in, and monitor your project’s progress.

Does the architect have experience with varying site conditions?

Does your architect have experience designing for your site’s specific conditions? An architect’s experience drawing for a variety of terrains or weather conditions can impact your design and its structural integrity. Make sure your architect’s abilities are not limited to one building region or terrain.

What other services do they offer?

Does the architect have options for interior design, landscaping or outdoor structures?  If these are important to you, know up front if they are available or if you will have to conduct another search.

 

By following these guidelines, you will be better equipped to choose an architect that will be most compatible with your building style and who will instill the confidence you need to continue through all of the stages of building your custom timber frame home.