Who’s Better at Evaluating an Architect – The Homeowner or Builder?

Who do you think is in a better position to evaluate how well an architect does his job… a homeowner or a builder? From my perspective, it’s a builder hands-down & I’ll tell you why.

Most homeowners who hire an architect have not been through the process before.

They don’t know what to expect, they don’t understand the process, they don’t understand what they’re getting, and they don’t really know if it’s any good or not once done (meaning the quality of design & construction drawings).

I think that even once they’ve been through the process, they have a better idea and they appreciate all that went into it, but I still don’t think they really “get it.” Design is very subjective, so hopefully they like the design (but that doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily good). They’re in no position to evaluate the quality of the construction drawings because they just don’t know a good set of drawings from a bad set.

On the other hand, a builder (much like an architect) is a much better evaluator of “good design” vs. “bad design” and a good set of construction drawings vs. a bad set of construction drawings.

Builders are the real end-users of the construction drawings. They’re the ones out there building off of the plans… they know if the numbers add up and if it can be built as drawn.

They know if there are problems, as they’re the ones who have to fix them. During construction, the homeowner may be completely unaware of these issues unless brought to their attention by the builder.

Builders work with many architects…

They know the good from the mediocre.
They know who’s a great designer and who does a really good set of construction drawings.
They know who charges more than another and if they’re really worth it (or not).

I’ve heard numerous stories from builders who’ve done projects designed by other architects, and they complain about the quality of the construction drawings.

It makes their job more difficult, as they know it’s going to take them longer to figure things out and resolve problems during construction.

A set of construction drawings should be seen as a really detailed set of instructions or a recipe… now imagine every other page is missing. You’ll figure it out, but it’s going to take longer and may not come out exactly as expected.

I’ve asked these builders if they said anything to the homeowners and they usually say no out of respect for the architect, but I’m not sure that’s the right thing to do. I think the architect should be held accountable, and the homeowner should be aware that what they got was not a quality product (which is usually tied to what they paid).

If the homeowner hired an architect providing a bare-bones set of drawings at a bargain rate, they should be aware that this led to problems during construction.

When a homeowner is shopping for an architect, I think they should definitely talk to past clients as they will surely have a certain perspective on the architect’s ability. For a much better perspective, I strongly suggest that homeowners talk to builders as they’re in a much better position to comment on the true ability of the architect.

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