Why do I need an architect?

Architects provide imagination, vision, planning, structural integrity, code compliance and safety.

Town building departments require engineering calculations and drawings from architects when the project calls for wood framing and foundation work. This means that if a homeowner is knocking down a wall between two spaces and needs a beam installed, is creating an addition with new walls, roof, and foundation, or is building a new house from the ground up, an architect will need to provide certified drawings to the town proving all structural members—wood and concrete—are correctly calculated and sized to carry weight. Contractors are not licensed to provide structural information.

Town building departments require your house project to comply with state and local building codes. Architects in New Jersey, for example, incorporate the International Residential Code (IRC) as “The Bible” for how all building parts are to go together, how parts are related to each other, and how spaces are to accommodate people in terms of walking space (circulation), access, and exit, among other factors. Architects have extensive experience with building code and are trained and licensed to implement it correctly with each project.

What is the difference between an architect and a general contractor?

While hiring a builder is an important part of a home expansion project, it should never occur before a consultation with an architect. An experienced architect will help you get the most out of your expansion or remodel, saving you time, money, and frustration.

Alongside engineering calculations, architectural drawings and building code compliance, architects bring spatial planning expertise and visual composition perspective. Architects are trained and experienced to take great care of how one space flows into the adjacent space, how one space links with several and how efficient application of space can result in a building with a smaller footprint (in size and economy) versus an assemblage of spaces cobbled together.

The general contractor (GC) typically applies for the building permit with the town’s construction office to be granted the approval to begin construction. The GC also establishes the construction budget, sets the construction schedule, purchases all the materials, and provides all the labor to install the materials and equipment.

My General Contractor can provide drawn plans, will that suffice?

Some GCs can provide drawn plans of how the spaces are arranged and what the exterior façades (called exterior elevations) of the house will look like. Often these plans are called spec houses, which are plans that get reused from project to project. Other times, contractors produce specific drawings for a specific project. GCs who do this are often referred to as design-builders; they first design the project, and then they build it.

An architect will bring imagination, training and expertise to create spaces which offer both form and function.  They will look at proportion of window size to a wall, of column thickness to height, of roof pitch to story width, how one form interacts with another, how a building casts shadow on itself, all of the spirit of a place. Architects take on each project as a custom design, because all homeowners are unique individuals.

What will happen during my initial consultation and how should I prepare for it?

Our initial consultation focuses on listening. We know that the most thoughtful architectural plans come from really understanding our clients’ needs and interests. We also answer questions, help with worries, discuss likely construction budgets and outline timeframes.

So come along with ideas, goals, and desires. Or simply tell us what is not working for you in your current home. This is a relaxed meeting to explore options and make sure that any money spent on home improvement really ticks every box for you.

Can you advise me prior to purchasing my property?

Sweebe Architecture offers a suite of services which help homeowners on their journey from pre-purchase and zoning exploration to spatial planning, construction and interior design.

We’re happy to come and visit a potential purchase and give you general ideas and advice.

Will I need zoning approval?

Not every project requires zoning approval. For those that do, we are experienced in handling Historic, Zoning and Planning Board applications. We prepare drawings, represent our clients and give presentations at public hearings.

How long does the design process take?

During the design phase, we work on interior layouts and spatial planning, including kitchens and baths. You will receive 2-dimensional views of the exterior plus a documentation of existing conditions. We can also provide 3-dimensional views of the interior and exterior in addition to renderings or sketches.

On average the design process takes about one to two months.

What types of projects do you handle?

The firm designs additions, ground-up new construction, remodels interiors and manages full renovations.

What is your fee structure and when do we discuss money?

We work on an hourly rate and at a capped fee. Depending on the size/scope of the project, assigned hours vary from project to project. You will know the exact fee for our services in our initial proposal document.

What will be the total cost of my project?

We have a downloadable Construction Budget Guide, complete with budget planning calculator, that helps homeowners estimate likely costs right from the outset.

We also offer a complimentary bidding service, providing drawings to interested builders and working with them to answer questions so they can calculate a more accurate cost of construction and schedule of works. Our clients find this assistance valuable as it helps navigate through diverse estimate formats from multiple contractors. Your general contractor will establish the construction budget.

What is your process for staying within my budget?

Many project owners enter a project with no budget specified.  If you have a concrete number at the beginning of the project, you are ahead in planning.  Construction costs vary widely from builder to builder, but there are rules of thumb that can be applied to assess the allowable size of a project for the available budget. One way is to look at a likely per-square-foot cost. Our downloadable Sweebe Architecture Construction Budget Tool will help you assess how much you can build for the amount of money you have available.

Equipped with architectural drawings, Sweebe Architecture will work with the bidding contractors to help develop their estimates. When estimates are submitted to you, we can work together to hone the design to ensure it fits within your budget. This may mean the design scope is reduced, materials are substituted or we bid out to additional contractors for alternate pricing.

How do you collaborate with other professionals?

We offer a complimentary bidding service, providing drawings to interested builders and working with them to answer questions so they can calculate a more accurate cost of construction and schedule of works.

Once a contractor has been chosen, we are always on hand to answer any questions, clarify design elements and help problem solve. We also work in partnership with structural engineers.

This type of team approach ensures everything lines up properly and the project is completed on time. It also gives you peace of mind and eliminates frustration.

What is your role during construction?

We are able to provide a full Construction Administration service, where we function as the build Project Manager.

If this service is not required, we are still on hand for advice and questions from the homeowner, contractor or structural engineer. And we always stop in and check to see how work is progressing.

Why should I hire Sweebe Architecture?

Our vision is to make life more joyful through thoughtful and meaningful design. We always explore what lies at the heart of each family we work with, providing insightful guidance.

We focus on truly understanding the rhythms of family life. People often base requirements on where they are now, such as needing an open plan design to see a toddler or wanting a playroom. Our approach is to explore these current needs, whilst also anticipating how a homeowner might use the space in the future. What happens when that toddler is a teen? Can a playroom become the homework nook?

Our goal is to give each of our homes purpose and meaning, instilling life and vibrancy long after we have left.

Connect with us for your project