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Building your dream house is once a lifetime opportunity - a chance which you'd have received after plenty of preparation and patience. You, as a house owner, would naturally want it to craft spaces as per your taste and want the whole construction process to run smoothly. This complete process of building your dream home starts with you choosing a knowledgeable professional to materialize your vision, entrusting them together with your investment, and the dream of your perfect home.

There are many debates about who plays a crucial role in designing, planning, and constructing a home and, most importantly, which agency presides over all the stages of construction and ensures that the home is built as per the set goals by the client. 

There are two major stakeholders within the process, one is the architect and the other is the builder. While both are equally important, it's important to understand the role each plays within the construction process. This understanding helps you to be clear about the roles and responsibilities and make informed decisions. 

Further, it is also important to know the stages of construction. This helps to know which professionals are required at which stage of the construction. Further, we will look into the roles each profession plays at what stage. 

Following are the stages in construction 

 

  1. Client’s brief on design

  2. Design Conceptualization / Planning stage

  3. Working Drawings

  4. Drawings approval 

  5. Pre-construction stage

  6. Procurement stage

  7. Construction stage

  8. Post-construction stage

Now, let us look at the architect's and builder’s roles in detail to get a better understanding of the construction process.

Architect’s Scope of Work

The National Council of Architectural Registration Board, 2021 defines an architect as a licensed professional who is trained in all the aspects of providing a shelter. They also add that architects not just look at the aesthetics but also the functionality, health & safety, and economics of the buildings.

An architect is the first professional who marks the beginning of the building construction. This journey starts at the client’s brief. An architect understands the space requirements, space functions, design style, and dreams of clients pertaining to the building and designs conceptual sketches and maps. This stage is very important and can take a few days to a few months until the client’s requirements are met. 

An architect communicates the end product to the client using 3D views, floor plans, elevations, sketches, and physical space models. This helps the client to visualize how their building will look like and suggest any changes to design as necessary to suit their needs. Further, the architect also obtains feedback from the builder.

Once the conceptual design has been approved, the architect prepares a set of instructions and is in the form of blueprints or, more appropriately, CDs (construction documents). The architect needs to ensure that all the state regulations, applicable building codes, structural, electrical, acoustic, fire, and other safety requirements are met while respecting the vision of the project owner. Architects may or may not give their opinion on the probable cost of constructing the building. But, with the knowledge of product innovation and material selection, an architect can help save the client’s money in the purchase of building products and supplies and can also help reduce operational energy use and maintenance costs of a new home. For example, if architects suggest using double glazing for windows over single glazing, the client might have to pay the higher first cost. However, double glazing windows will help reduce cooling/heating costs during the building operation phase and will also reduce the maintenance cost.   

Furthermore, by making detailed CDs, architects can help builders interpret and visualize the building design and other services which are otherwise complex to follow. These CDs reduce the chances of builders misinterpreting the design and reduce the overhead costs due to time delay, and also reduce the expensive change orders during the construction phase. 

Following is the list which outlines the architect's scope of work. 

  • Generating conceptual drawings/models as per the client’s design brief. 

  • Code Research – Identify the local codes applicable to plot margins and height restrictions. This also includes designing the firefighting, safety alarms, and other services as applicable. 

  • Design the whole structure and mechanical systems of a home. However, at the architect’s discretion, a structural and mechanical systems engineer may be hired. 

  • Focus on the home’s exterior design and interior architecture, trim, millwork, and ceiling finishes. 

  • Build and develop a set of permit drawings that show compliance with a building department's checklist, and it also shows it will meet the minimum standards of safety and energy efficiency. The following is a list of additional construction drawings necessary to describe the construction details and materials to the builder. 

    • Plans (Site Plan, Foundation Plans, Floor Plans, Structural Plan, Roof Framing Plans and others)

    • Exterior Elevations

    • Building Sections

    • HVAC/Electrical/Plumbing plans

    • Interior layout plans. 

One important thing to note here is that while service plans are necessary to be developed during the construction document phase, the architect may hire additional consultant engineers at the client’s discretion. 

Builder’s Scope of Work

The builder or contractors are professionals who construct the building, which is designed by the architect. The scale of the building, building timeline, complexity of building design are few key determinants in choosing the builder. Generally, it is understood that the larger the building area more the number of complexities involved and hence choosing the right builder is very important. The bidding process helps in choosing the right builder for you.

Generally, the builders are chosen by a bidding process. Construction bidding is the process where contract documents are drawn up along with the final drawings and specifications. The builders/contractors then submit the tender proposal of how they will conduct the construction project along with the cost estimates to the client.  This process helps the clients to ensure that appropriate builders/contractors are chosen to construct the intended building. 

After the builder is chosen, a primary site examination is conducted, which allows the builder team to identify any environmental challenges. Later, the builder procures the required construction material, equipment and labor force. Various services like water lines, electric lines, and sewer waste lines are also managed. They also arrange for the basic sanitation facilities as required on the site. This stage is very crucial as any delays can impact the entire timeline of the project. The builder coordinates the innumerable players and products needed to translate a set of two-dimensional drawings into a finished home. The builder has to ensure that everything happens as per the design of the architect so that the end results are as what the client envisioned it to be. 

Furthermore, it's the builder's responsibility to obtain, schedule, and manage subcontractors and to track costs, prepare estimates on change orders, obtain lien waivers, resolve construction problems, and handle subcontractor and supplier pay requests. The builders can also offer technical expertise for any alternatives construction techniques that may result in time or cost savings. Builders also examine and analyze various tasks of construction stages using the Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT) method and or Critical Path Method variation (CPM) method. Builders also work with subcontractors to resolve on-site issues to ensure that construction operation runs smoothly. An experienced builder often will insist on extensive upfront planning to reduce costly changes during the construction phase. They also have a systematic procedure to follow and will provide documents showing what the client can expect during each construction phase. Besides, the builder also addresses deed restrictions, serves as liaison to building inspectors, handles inspections, and resolves the owner's “punch list”. Finally, the builder also educates the occupants and or the facility manager in operations and maintenance of the new building. 

Following is the list which outlines the builder's scope of work. 

  • Team Communication

  • Forecast budgets and sometimes firm bids depending on the agreements made. 

  • Procure required equipment and materials to install the mechanical systems in the building. 

  • Hiring and scheduling tradespeople.

  • Providing construction calendars and timelines.

  • Providing quality working conditions for working of the laborers. 

  • Ensure the construction standards as per the specification from start to end of the process.  

  • Observance of codes as applicable to buildings

 

Once the building is completed, the builder hand it over to the clients. This is done by running the client through overall contractual agreements and ensuring that the project is free from any legal bounds. Builders also carry out the project walk-in review along with the client and architect to ensure that all has been constructed as per the set goals. The project could be completed by submitting the project completion report to the client and the architect. 

Discussion 

While there are many differences between an architect and a builder, the two go hand in hand when it comes to building a home. Design and construction are two inseparable processes and are generally sequential and sometimes simultaneous. The former deals with preparing the documents, whereas the latter deals with interpreting and translating the drawings into ground reality. 

The following table could be used to summarize the differences between the architect and the builder. 

Table 1: Table summarizing the role of the architect and the builder at each stage of construction activity


The chances of the project to succeed increases substantially when the owner, architect, and contractor come together. Having a design charrette at the beginning of the project helps to clearly define the project goals, and all professionals involved in the process can find common grounds. However, a good design would be a result of the architect being in the advisory position from start to end of the project as they are the professionals who can help understand the client’s vision and communicate to the builder in the technical language they understand. Architects can translate the client’s thoughts into design and drawings, which the contractor understands and executes. This segregation of roles clears out the grey area and hence less possibility of compromise in construction time as well as design. 

Most design-build firms have either designer/architect as a part of their team, and if they are not charging a separate design fee, it's probably part of their construction cost. Having a neutral member who makes no profit in the actual construction gives the client some edge and control over the design process. 

By understanding the difference and value between the two, you can ensure that you approach the right person for your project.

How Design Everest Can Help

Modern homes rely on a variety of people to ensure efficient and within the budget construction. That's why projects large and small, often need both builders and architects alike. At Design Everest, our team of professional architects and builders has been serving California's residents for over 15 years. They have the right expertise to design cost-efficient homes and will be happy to assist you with your project. Please contact us at (877) 739-2591 for a consultation and free quote. 

 

*Note: The content published above was made in collaboration with members of Design Everest.

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