Ask the Expert: Hire an architect?

Q: We are thinking about adding on an addition to our existing home. What would be the benefit of hiring an architect for a large-scale remodeling project like this?

The biggest benefit of hiring an architect for a residential addition is that you profit from the architect’s experience. An architect who has been working with similar project types will have years of lessons learned to apply to your project. This can include the impacts of zoning and other regulatory agencies on your project (property setbacks, height and use restrictions, parking requirements, hazardous material abatement), a sense of structural consequences (“what happens if I open up this wall?”), as well as sharing the wealth of ideas that they have collected through their practice.

Hiring an architect costs more up front but may save you over the long term. Often the “while we’re at it” list adds a lot of cost to a project that is not initially anticipated by the owner or the builder. Having a clear sense of the scope of the project defined before construction starts is very important. Remodels and additions cost a lot; it’s wise to spend a little money up front in the planning process to be sure you’re happy with the final result.

With today’s technology we can model projects three dimensionally fairly quickly. We find this is an invaluable tool for sharing ideas and making sure we understand each other. Plans, sections and elevations are helpful, but sometimes deceiving when it comes to the actual experience. 3-D modeling helps ferret out those surprises sooner.

Catherine Call has been a registered architect in Alaska since 1990. She opened Blue Sky Studio in 2002 and has been focusing on residential architecture for 20 years. For information, visit