Get the right advice
It may cost a little extra to bring on board an architect when you are building or renovating, but in the long term it will save you money
The saying “penny wise, pound foolish” may have been written with architects in mind as the concept of spending money on the design plans you have faultlessly conceived seems wasteful. However, Engel & Volkers Southern Africa CEO Craig Hutchison says possibly the best reason to hire registered architectural professionals when building is to save money. While this may seem contradictory, architects have the professionalism to create cost-effective designs meeting clients’ briefs as well as the competency and technology to adapt plans long before the first sod is turned.
“This may be the difference between a lifelong investment and a continued money pit,” he says. Architectural professionals are not merely designing walls and roofs, but are creative souls creating unique environments through their training, experience and insights, he says. “When it comes time to sell, buyers purchasing a renovated property are also assured any additions and alterations were executed under a registered professional’s supervision.”
South African Council for the Architectural Profession (Sacap) CEO Marella O’Reilly says the importance of consulting a fully qualified, registered professional cannot be underestimated. While a builder wholly understands the mechanics for putting together a structure, qualified draughtsmen, technologists and architects have the insights and experience vital for a successful project. A legal entity incorporated under the Architectural Professional Act, Sacap regulates the profession; upholds education and training standards through accredited architectural learning sites within tertiary institutions; registers qualified candidates and professionals; promotes continuing professional development via collaborative engagement with voluntary organisations; and protects the public interest by identifying the type of work its members are capable and competent to perform.
Elphick Proome Architects director George Elphick says clients’ requirements and aspirations are paramount in designing their space — and that means creating buildings, environments and spaces that respond to the unique nature of each project. “Our philosophy emphasises an appropriate architecture that responds to context, region and climate,” he says. Hutchison says any building project requiring foundation excavation requires town council approval, while part of the architect’s responsibility is creating working drawings that provide the construction team with a step-by-step guide on how the design must be built. This avoids construction mistakes that might later have to be demolished and rebuilt. Hutchison says good professionals ensure clients are wholly happy with the design before construction starts and, while there is always space for minor adjustments, this step is essential in avoiding time wastage and additional costs.
Sakhisizwe Architects director Patrick Mawesane says that on receiving a client’s brief, architects create a design dialogue and devise a concept shaped by the project’s geographic urban setting intertwined with economic, social, environmental and other related aspects to produce a holistic product. Architects also keep updated on the latest design trends, product developments and building regulations, meaning they are knowledgeable about the most appropriate and cost-effective products for a particular project. “It is their business to know about energy-saving construction methods that will save you money in the long term, long after the workers have left the site,” Hutchison says.
O’Reilly says it is particularly important when people are making additions or renovating older properties that the professional understands the design and construction methods used when it was first built. “This is vital to understand any engineering implications and to appreciate the weak points. An architectural professional has been trained to identify these issues and has studied the different construction methods through history.” She says that using experts ensures homes are legal; illegal constructions can significantly affect the property when owners look to sell. It is also in the professionals’ interests to earn continuing professional development points by attending industry related conferences, seminars, workshops and lectures, by lecturing at an institution or by becoming a member of a registered voluntary association as this makes them eligible for continued Sacap registration — and operating without Sacap registration is illegal.
UNDERSTANDING THE PROFESSIONS
Draughtsman: a person who prepares detailed technical scale drawings of buildings, machinery or devices under supervision. Hire a draughtsman for small or medium projects where drawings are required that provide technical detail; they do not do design. They have a certificate or diploma in draugthing.
Senior architectural technologist: a person who is involved in the technical side of construction and works closely with architects and other building professionals to resolve any potential design issues on construction projects. They have a national diploma in architectural technology.
Architect: a person who designs buildings, advises on their construction and often administers the contract during construction. They design new buildings, restore and conserve old buildings and develop new ways of using existing buildings. They have a degree in architecture.
The Architectural Professional Act has historically governed architectural fees with the law including an annually updated guideline fee structure. The structure works according to percentages with different amounts paid at different stages of construction. Typically project management is included, meaning architects frequently visit the site to ensure their design is being correctly executed. They have the knowledge to identify problems not obvious to the untrained eye. The fee structures can be used as a negotiation guideline, but O’Reilly says as clients cannot negotiate with doctors or lawyers, architectural professionals have undertaken years of study, a structured candidacy internship process and written practical examinations before qualifying to practise their profession and should be afforded the same respect as other professionals.
Credit: Photo: iStock, Text: Nicola Jenvey