Architect vs Home Designer: Which Do I Need for My New Custom Home?
Updated: Jul 17, 2022
Often when I start working with a couple on the creation of their new custom home, they will ask if they need an architect. I tell them: "if you're building skyrise office building or a sports stadium, then you definitely need an architect, but for your your custom home, a home designer will likely better serve your needs at a much more reasonable cost."
So, what is the difference between an architect and a home designer? Well, there is a lot, and it starts with the cost of services and the amount of training between the two professionals. Both home designers and architects can design residential projects in Texas, however, for a person to use the title of 'architect' they have to meet high standards, including having completed a high level of training/education and real world experience. This includes a college degree in architecture and understudy time with other architects. Architects are state-licensed and are held to a very high degree of professional standards. If you can find an architect that has the time, and the desire, to work on your residential construction project, their rates are usually considerable: in the range of $10-$15/ sq foot of the total framed area. For more information about the training and requirements for an architect, I would direct you to the AIA web site.
For the rest of you, who are wanting a beautifully designed home and would rather save some money for your custom cabinets, a local home designer can do wonders for you! For staters, there is some amazing home design software that experienced home designers can use to collaborate with you on a floor plan (which is the best starting point) and then onto rooflines and elevations. In addition to a dimensional floor plan, elevations and roof plans, a full set of blueprints typically also includes a site plan (showing the location of your home overlaid on the survey), and a detailed electrical detail plan (showing all plugs, electrical fixtures and switch locations).
Most of the houses that I build, I also design. This is a unique benefit that I can offer my clients. Although there are many very talented home designers and architects our there, it's extremely rare for them to also be home builders and actually understand current construction costs. Having both design and construction knowledge / experience allows me to provide real time recommendations through the design process that increases the home's functionality and beauty, all while keeping costs in mind and staying in the client's budget. It typically takes 1-3 months to work out a design, but the result is a well thought out and clearly understood model of my client's Forever Home. Most home designers (including myself) charge only a fraction of the typical architect design rate. Commonly home designers are in the $1,50-$2.50/ sq ft range for design with blueprints.
^^Above: rendering of a home designed by Travis White for a couple in Bella Oaks, in Bulverde, TX
For more information about the house design process, please check out my blog article linked here.