5 Things to Tell Your Design Professional Before the Building Process Starts

Published March 30, 2018 by Whirlwind Team


A building project, whether it's a house or business structure, can be overwhelming to contemplate. Selecting the right design professional and clearly communicating your needs is the first step in making sense of it all.

A good design professional will ascertain your needs and listen to your ideas while providing feedback about the things that work and options to optimize the building. However, there are five things you must convey before the building process starts.

Before you can ask, you need to know about the design professionals you may meet.

Types of Design Professionals

There are three types of design professionals. They differ by the education they receive and whether or not they hold a special license.

You can work with an architect to design your building. The architect is someone with a bachelor’s degree at a minimum in architecture or a related field. In addition to the degree, an architect must complete an internship under the direction of an experienced, licensed architect. Then there are seven separate exams to pass before the architect can apply for a license.

Architects must be officially registered and licensed with the architectural governance body in the state where they practice. They may be required to attend continuing education classes to renew their licenses. They must also be covered by liability insurance.

A draftsman has a certification or diploma in architectural drafting or drawing. The draftsman can prepare construction drawings and documents and may be employed by an architectural design firm or design-build firm. Many draftsmen are self-employed.

A draftsman does not usually have the same educational background as an architect.

A house designer, also known as a building designer, designs and draws house plans. This individual is not an interior designer (the person designing the interior decor of the home).

A house designer designs the structure and layout of the building and, like draftsmen, may work for an architectural firm or be self-employed. Often they are trained draftsmen but may be graduates of architectural school as well. They cannot claim the title of architect until they complete the licensing requirements.

Things to Tell Your Design Professional Before Breaking Ground

The Budget

If there is any limit to what your design professional can do, it will be the size of your budget. Communicate this information up front so the design professional will avoid design options that are clearly out of range. They will also be unable to provide an estimate of costs during your initial meeting so detailed notes that include your financial limits will save time and effort.

If you meet with several design professionals while shopping for the one most suitable for your needs, presenting a budget can help you determine how the designer works. Most designers have access to particular resources. One might be able to get a design element for less than another.

Your Ideas and Requirements

You must be able to give some direction to the design professional. Write down what you envision the completed structure to look like. Cut out pictures or save images on your smartphone. Build a small collection of design ideas you like and show them to the designer who can tell you how workable they are.

The design professional needs to know what you intend to do with the space plus any design requirements that may limit your options. For example, if you are building a commercial space on a pre-designed campus of retail, educational or office buildings, the design professional is restricted to the materials required by the owner of the development.

You may want a high-pitched roof, but the design requirements say the roof cannot exceed a pitch of 3:12. You envision an awning, but the development owner says no. A design professional can help you comply with such restrictions while advising you of different ways to achieve your vision.

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Size Counts

How big does your structure need to be? You may have a precise number of square feet or just an idea. Maybe you know how many and what type of rooms you need. Your building site will also dictate how big your building can be.

Don’t feel the need to build the biggest place possible. Depending on the building’s use, you may wish to reserve space for landscaping or limit the building size to save on energy costs.

Who Are You and How Do You Live or Work?

Since your design professional makes decisions on your behalf during the build process, you should make sure to pass along everything you can about who you are, what your business is and how you prefer to live or work.

  • Will you be expanding in the future?
  • Do you think your needs might change?
  • What types of spaces do you need for storage and work?
  • Why are you building this house or structure?

The designer needs to know your thoughts, needs and desires to bring you the building you want. Making changes after construction begins or after installation of utilities or other elements is expensive and time-consuming. 

Never be afraid to ask any question that occurs to you. The designer should not assume you understand the entire process or the consequences of your decisions. If the professional seems unwilling or unable to explain, you need to find someone else. This project is too costly in too many ways to allow misunderstandings to create a space you don’t like and will hate using.

Thorough preparation early in the process, long before groundbreaking and foundation design, will pave the way for the type of building you want that meets all your current and future needs. Follow-up on your initial meeting as soon as possible with information the designer asks you to obtain and ask every question now, not later.

If possible, ask your design professional for a 3-D walk through of the plans for your new building. Today's building information management systems can help you visualize the spaces and how they relate to each other better than two-dimensional plans. The designer can show you how your requirements were translated into walls, roof, ceiling and floor. You can see where utilities are expected to be installed so you can understand the work spaces.

Clear communication throughout the design phase and into the build phase will result in the best structure for your needs.

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