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Necessity to hire an architect?

 
Debra Moore
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My husband and I have been saving to build a straw bale house. We are wondering if it is an absolute necessity to hire an architect to make blueprints of the home we have sketched out. We have planned a simple 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom with a very large kitchen; non-loadbearing with a hip roof. We have saved some money for our home project, and prefer to NOT have a mortgage. My concern is that hiring an architect will use a large portion of our savings, forcing us to wait even longer to begin our build while we save more to cover this cost. We have built an awesome greenhouse using only sketches, but we realize a home is a totally different build!

 
R Scott
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Depends on your or your builder's skill, and the codes and zoning where you are.

You need pretty accurate plans if you are hiring a builder, just to get accurate bids if nothing else.
 
Terry Ruth
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IRC (International Building Code) does not require a licensed Architect and most state laws and licensing boards do not up duplexes residential. Your local AIA would know too. Commercial it does but now the code is IBC. If your sketches are decent try Sketch-up first and make a floor plan. Take it to a drafter, or sketches to your trades to see if it is enough. One problem with SB is finding trades or even drafters or Architects that understand it, especially electrical, HVAC. 2015 IRC Appendix R has code, if your local inspectors allow it they will have a copy and should give it to you and discuss their ability or inability to inspect to it.
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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We are wondering if it is an absolute necessity to hire an architect to make blueprints of the home we have sketched out.


PE (professional engineer), yes (sometimes)...Architect, never (that I know of?)

Frank Gehry wrote:"...Let me tell you one thing. In the world we live in, 98 per cent of what gets built and designed today is pure shit...There's no sense of design, nor respect for humanity, or anything. They're bad buildings and that's it...""


I am not a fan of modern architecture (and architects or contractors for that matter) for just the reason Frank Gehry has shared on numerous occasions. Of the "modern" architecture I do like...most of Frank's is at the top of my list. He is a curmudgeon, arrogant (some say), egocentric (with reason to be) and simply one of todays best (or infamous) architects...like it or not...

It takes a great deal to "design well"any architecture and to create it so that it is "in balance" (a.k.a. homeostatic) with the environment around it. Show me 10 contractors (or DIYers) and I will show you at least 8 that "think" they can design as well as the "best architects," (and the same can be said for most architects...) FEW IN THESE GROUPS (60% of them at minimum) can actually pull even moderately good architecture off, even though they "think" they can.

So with that said...I agree with both Terry and Scott.

You don't "need" an architect, as more often a municipality, insurance group, or funding body will require a PE...not an architect. I am not an "architect." I am a "designer" (more like "copycat" as I tend to follow traditional themes and modalities in design) and at the end of the day, I cost less than 90% of most architects. Again, at the end of the day, if a "blue print" has to be "signed off on" and IF it is a requirement.. it isn't by an "architect" but a PE that needs to do the signing...I don't know of anywhere (North America, Europe or Asia) where this isn't the case...

You will probably need more detail (and accurate) plans than you may think to build well, and/or logistically/fiscal efficiently. At least have them looked at by others with experience to give you feed back. You can do that here, for free or with a professional for a few.

Regards,

j
 
Debra Moore
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Thank you for your replies
 
Andrew Parker
pollinator
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Location: Salt Lake Valley, Utah, hardiness zone 6b/7a
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My experience with a large addition (somewhat conventional, not straw bale but non-standard) was that an architect or PE is only required if the design is non-standard or complex. You will need a good set of plans for review. You can either do that yourself, usually using house design software which will set you back a few hundred dollars (I used Home Designer by Chief Architect), or, you can hire a (self-described) "professional" home designer or draftsman to do the plans. Quality can vary from one extreme to the other, so check for legitimate references. A good designer or draftsman will have a PE to work with, when needed. If your inspector is familiar with straw bale homes, you may not be considered non-standard, otherwise, plan on hiring a PE or an architect. A busy inspection office will not have time to spend figuring out anything new, so will default quickly to requiring a PE stamp. PEs are usually a lot less expensive, from around a thousand to sky's-the-limit, but you will probably still need to supply the plans to keep charges to a minimum. Firms will always charge a lot more than independents. You should take what you have to your inspection office and review your ideas with them first, before you invest significant money.
 
Terry Ruth
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Ch 1 "admin" of the IRC defines two paths that can satisfy a building and safety office. 1. "Prescriptive" or code(needs no Arch or PE) 2. "Analytic" or Engineer (Arch depends on building size and type, PE always required. If taking #1 path and the inspection office is not comfortable with or has not adopted 2015 IRC Appendix r or s, bales, clay-slip, code...that drives you to #2. For example, per code bales have to be less than 20% max moisture content as tested by the number in code at random by dry weight vs wet weight. If the inspector does not have a moisture meter with probe to get to center of bales and does not do it often they may shy away. Usually to get to that moisture content the baler has to be informed a season in advance to produce "construction grade" bales since there is also a density requirement of 6 psf IIRR. Other requirements in code are plaster mix ratios that have to be inspected, etc. If you hire a good PE they are going to require the same but it will be on their drawing in notes and notes will usually require GC or installer to inspect or an independent inspection office. As Andrew said the bigger B&S offices have dedicated staffs to do "plan reviews"..I did call one permies office asking these questions to help out they were so small and under staffed, had no clue what I was talking about. I suggested he try and build what they understood or better get a PE.
 
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