Why do you need an architect?
Updated: Dec 9, 2021
Architects are one of the key personnel on construction projects. They are the foundation on which the design process is built and the creative minds behind how any building or structure will look and function. An architect is the person who will be most involved in the creation of a building, from conception to completion. They plan out, design and oversee the construction project and must understand both the requirements of the building and the space it is to occupy. An architect must also have a thorough understanding of relevant planning policy, achieving the best outcome for the client within the defined parameters of the site. Architects must also be much more mindful these days of the environmental impact their designs will have on the wider world and utilise eco-friendly components and methods where possible. In this way, they must be at the forefront of new thinking on any design and construction processes.
Design for living
We all have a preconception of what being an architect means and what they do. Before digital technology, someone working on paper over a drawing board would be the most familiar image of an architect at work. But nowadays, design has moved on and technologies such as computer-aided design (CAD) and latterly Building Information Modelling (BIM) are widely used as the go-to for all aspects of design, from drawing out designs to 3D modelling and interactive simulations. The advancements in both technology and design have resulted in a streamlining of architectural practice. This hasn’t removed the creative aspect however and vision and imagination are still required to make great buildings and grand designs. Architects must also be good communicators, via their designs but also when articulating their standpoints verbally too. Understanding how buildings and the construction process works is as important to an architect as how a building actually looks.
Imaginative and realistic
In the course of their work, Architects may be required to design a wide variety of projects, ranging from residential housing developments to office blocks. The functionality and design of each discipline has very different requirements and an understanding is required of how to turn a concept, or a mere idea, into a finished, usable building. Architects are commissioned by clients to realise their projects and as a result will be a contributor throughout the building’s lifespan, potentially beyond its completion. Indeed, building lifespan, whole life operating costs and end of life strategies are now common considerations for many projects.
Design concepts have to be both imaginative and realistic. They can be extravagant and elegant, but they must also be purposeful. Whatever the building looks like, it must fulfil its primary functions – be they work or home related. An architect may find themselves working alone with a client or may find themselves part of a multi-disciplined team, in joint ventures involving several partners and company representatives.
Beyond the lines
But an architect’s role includes much more beyond the actual design of a building. An architect will be responsible for the overall research, planning and overseeing of building projects for clients. An architect’s approach must be holistic and their consideration all encompassing. A good architect is not able to do their job in isolation and must have the ability to communicate well and collaborate with other consultants to ensure the best outcome for a project. Other consultants can include planning and heritage consultants, ecologists and arboriculturists, engineers and specialists such as M&E or home automation.
Architects have to retain a wide working knowledge not just of construction methods and architectural designs, but also be present as part of the construction team as the project is carried out. For example, any problems encountered in the day-to-day building of the project will have to be discussed on-site between the contractor, architect project client and other relevant consultants, if they are to alter the finished construction from the agreed design. Any deviation will have to approved by both client and architect, and amended in the overall design.
An architect may be fully involved with a project, from planning to occupancy, and is the most fundamental influence on the shaping and impact of the building. It’s not just lines on a page or screen, but the creation of a living, breathing component of the built environment, that must stand the test of time.
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