Before we discuss what an architect does, we should define what an architect is. This will help give you a better understanding of what an architect is typically trained to do, and what projects they can and can’t help you with. Architects are individuals who are licensed professionals trained in the design and construction of buildings and structures. It’s usually an architect’s job to design the overall look of buildings and structures, especially when it involves multiple buildings or structures. When an architect designs a building or structure, it must be safe, functional (in the case of buildings/structures that need to be used in some way, like an office building or an art gallery), and it must suit the design and structural needs of the contractor. Buildings have to be built with the public’s safety in mind, above all else.
Though you’ll find most architects sketching during the early stages of the design process, when it comes to producing drawings of the construction they’re designing, most use computer aided design software. Programs like AutoCAD, Revit, and even Photoshop are popular among architects that need a cleaner, more professional finish to their work.
Architects work through five standard design phases to complete their work:
- Schematic Design. This is where an architect consults with the project owner to discuss ideas, goals, and requirements.
- Design Development. This stage uses the initial design documents created during the Schematic Design phase to begin laying out internal structures and architectural details.
- Construction Documents. Once the design drawings from phase 2 are agreed upon, the architect completes the design process with a more complex drawing that includes specifications for construction.
- Bid or Negotiation. During this phase, the finished design is offers to contractors willing to construct the design. A winning bid is then selected.
- Construction Administration. When architectural plans are in this final phase, the architect assists in the building process by providing sketches to help any issues that arise in construction.
There are several types of architect:
- Design Architects, who usually have between 3 and 10+ years of design experience. They are usually the leaders on project designs, and work on everything from hand sketches to 3D developed models.
- Technical Architects, who often draw how the building is going to be constructed, rather than just what it should look like.
- Project Managers, who are in charge of planning, organising, and staffing a design project.
- BIM Managers, who are responsible for the 3D model of a building created using BIM software.
- Spec Writers, who create written documents that describe how various materials will be used within a project.
- Interior Designers, which can be needed depending on the size of the project. Sometimes there’s a separate interior design team, but other times they may be part of the whole project.
Design is an involved process, with large teams tackling a range of projects. An architect’s job is to ensure that the building or structure is taken from their designs to construction completion with as few issues from the designs as possible.