How to Get the Best Results With Your Architect and Builder

As a quality builder of homes and remodels in Oregon, we are often brought into discussions with an architect or designer well before construction begins. There are plenty of articles written about how to work with architects, yet we’d like to offer our insights from the builder’s perspective.

Your first meeting with an architect for home construction

It’s important to find an architect that best resonates with you, whether it’s for a kitchen remodel, a home addition, home remodel, or new home construction. Start with their website and portfolio. References are helpful, and we can provide you with some architect names too, or help you identify if you need an architect or a designer. Both professions know design, yet there are important differences.

Next, we suggest you call some architects. Once you have found someone who could be a good fit, here are some ideas to prepare for your first meeting:

  1. A budget is critical. Most people want to identify a budget. If you want to know some ballpark costs, talk to us and we can quickly give you a price per square foot.
  2. Know your project’s biggest goals. You may need additional bedrooms, want to move the location of your kitchen, or want more private space for working from home. Or you may have a specific feature of your home that you want to enhance, such as moving a balcony to maximize a view. Be prepared to talk about what works and does not work in your current home. A family meeting ahead of time may help.
  3. Get ready to talk about your lifestyle. What hobbies do you have? How do you like to best live together?
  4. Be prepared to talk about styles you like. Do you love modern homes with open spaces? Mid-century? Or is there a traditional type of home that appeals to you? Any photos and magazine clippings can help. Or if you just don’t know, you could simply describe your new envisioned space and how it feels. 
  5. Be ready to be flexible in your timing. For the last few years and into the expected near future, architects and quality builders are busy. Ask about general timing up front so you know what to expect.
collage of beautiful and luxurious home interiors

Consider magazines or online portfolios for inspiration to get clarity on your project goals and the styles that resonate with you.
Architects-left to right: Christie Architecture LLC, Paul McKean Architecture LLC
Architects-left to right: Howell’s Architecture + Design, Gary Holbrook
Photography: KuDa Photography

Some homeowners assume they should draw up their ideas ahead of time, but we don’t think that is necessary. If you just describe what you want, a good design professional can easily interpret! It’s impressive to watch an architect or designer in action. Once they have listened to you and have assessed your site or house, more often than not, they will quickly present something much better and surprising than anything you had envisioned, even after much deliberation on your part.

An architect will next design a schematic drawing

After your first meeting and a property visit, your new architect will propose some fees and timeframes to draw up a schematic or two. A schematic typically includes a site plan, floor plan, elevations, and some illustrative sketches. Once you have chosen a final schematic, this is typically when an architect will bring in a builder. Most architects do not need to involve a builder to help design the project. We are not the designers, but builders, so we rely on an architect to do what they do best, and the architect and homeowner relies on us as the experts in home construction.

From our perspective, we’re happy to give our input whenever it works for the architect and/or the client.

How a builder can help a homeowner on costs and more

Once a schematic is final, this, again, is typically when we are invited into the discussions with a homeowner and architect. We are happy to help with our input on costs, timelines, building material, product options ideas, etc. Sometimes we may be asked to give input into two final schematic options. For example, we recently met with an owner who had not formally chosen us, but was considering adding a second story on their house. This was a big decision with no easy answers. The architect had drawn up two plans: the first option added a dormer, where two bedrooms would share a bathroom, and the second plan added a full second story with more room. We gave our opinions and a gut-check on budget expectations and we think we helped. The client chose the smaller-budget dormer option.

But, there are exceptions; and in some situations, we may give input on two conceptual plan ideas with a homeowner before a schematic is drawn. These conversations sometimes help a homeowner to choose to pay for just one schematic plan. We’ve noticed that one thoughtful discussion on choices and ballpark costs may help clarify the best direction.

blueprint for a home remodel

How a builder can help a homeowner with construction choices

Once the plans become solidified, we can help a homeowner make the detailed decisions on construction materials and products. For example, we may introduce our HVAC expert to discuss the pros and cons of heating systems, or we may set up an appointment with a trusted representative to show window products. Or we may discuss the choices on soundproofing and where we recommend certain solutions, depending on how each room will be used. Behind the scenes, we are sometimes called upon by the architect to advise on particular materials or products they are considering on behalf of our mutual client. Once we are in the construction planning phase, we may anticipate or find out that a particular product is back-ordered, which will impact construction, and will bring it to the attention of the architect so that we can come up with other recommendations.

Once construction begins, your architect will want to stay involved at the right strategic moments to ensure that your project is executed as envisioned, such as confirming placement of lights, outlets, trim, and tile design. Each architect will be a bit different on how often they come on site. We are happy to collaborate as much or as little as our clients or architects want, but will proactively involve someone when we need some collective decisions made.

What else to know about builders and architects in greater Portland, Oregon area

As you start your home project, know that residential construction is busy. Expect that a good builder and architect could be booked months out. We suggest that good things are worth the wait.

Also, ask your architect about zoning codes and work with a builder who is certified with a good license and history in your property area, such as the FIR program in Portland, where it allows the contractor to skip the traditional permit program.

Tell us about your residential construction experience

At Hamish Murray Construction Inc., we pride ourselves in knowing not just how to build a quality home or remodel, but how to build on schedule and on budget. We work with independent designers or architects. When you choose an independent architect, you have the opportunity to choose both the best architect and the best builder for you. We would be delighted to talk with you about your project ideas or refer you to some architects or designers. We seek to bring your home dreams to life, while keeping your project within a realistic budget for you.

Contact Us

We’d love to hear from you. Contact us or call us at (503) 460-7203 with questions you have, or to tell us about your home plans.