Why do I need an Architect?

The most common misconception is that Architects only draw up plans and that their service costs a fortune. BUT this is not the case, especially when you look at all the additional services architects offer and the value they can add. Most new home builders underestimate the role of an architect but once the role and value of the architect has been unpacked, clients only then start seeing the value of having the right architect on board and how they can help in turning a dream into a dream home.


So let’s establish what Architects actually do…

The architect’s role is larger than most people realise.  When an architect manages your project, it is their to role ensure that every part of the process is handled correctly so that your  investment, in your home and future is in safe hands.



There are statutory requirements that need to be considered, as stands have limitations governed by the relevant Town Planning Scheme, and or the Title Deeds.  These regulations generally cover these important aspects :

  1. Zoning (what the building is zoned to be used for),
  2. Density & number of dwelling allowed.
  3. Coverage,
  4. Floor Area Ratio’s (the RIGHT architect knows what this is so don’t worry…),
  5. Height restrictions,
  6. Building line restrictions,
  7. Parking requirements.

Before any design can commence, your architect will need to do the research required to find out what these limitations are.  You can see how these would be very important to avoid redoing the entire design and having a nightmare build!



On top of the statutory requirements your building needs to comply with building standards.  In South Africa this is known as the National Building Regulations (NBR), local planning regulations & restrictions as well as any Heritage Requirements (if any).  The NBR relate to safety and performance of the building.  The RIGHT architect will be up to speed on all the newest regulations with the National Building Regulations.



Why do I need an architect?If your land is within a Residential Estate or if you are considering land within one, the Estate will have an additional set of rules.  While these rules generally govern the Aesthetics of the homes, it’s important to read through these regulations as there often contain limitations and requirements that affect coverage, first floor ground floor ratio, systems allowed and or other requirements.

To give you an example may make it mandatory to build a staff accommodation, a real grudge purchase if you don’t want one.  Of course the RIGHT architect will have a creative way to deal with this … Ensure that the Estate rules are in line with what you plan to build.

No good you dream of a modernist box of steel and glass only to find you are only allowed to build a fake Tuscan villa!  The RIGHT architect can’t even offer that much creativity.



Budget is number one on every clients mind.  Although your architect is not a Quantity Surveyor, the RIGHT architect should be able to guide you in setting up budgets and through analysis of the many variables advise on the viably of your project.  This is critical before any design starts to avoid costs spiralling out of control.  Your Architect plays a key role in this process.



Green buildings are a misnomer as all building consume raw materials and energy in their construction and lifecycle.  However, it is possible to create a SUSTAINABLE building that consumes less resources through its function, lifecycle and construction.  A building that also makes best use of natural light, heating and energy flow.  The RIGHT architect will be able to advise and design accordingly in keeping with your vision and budget.



To put together a dream home takes a DREAM TEAM!  A good Architect will follow a team philosophy on site, as they will realise they do not know everything.  However a good architect needs to be firm in their intent and that the desired design results in the required outcome and what finish is needed.

The RIGHT architect will create a good team environment and work together with the team to deliver an amazing project.



So finally we get to the ‘drawing plans’ part.  Once the design is complete, the architect translates the design into instructions and technical specifications for contractors and construction experts.  This consists of numerous drawings and written specifications (as not all the information can be contained in the drawings).

Construction documentation of finer details always carries on into the building process.  This is also where the architect obtains approvals from the relevant authorities, essential for the build to commence.  A reputable and respected architectural firm does a set of detailed construction drawings that are submitted to the local authority so that a written specification can be added and go to tender while approvals are in process, which can generally be long and tedious.  The RIGHT architect will have a system and a reason for their system.



A great architect will always advise a tender process even if a client is set on going with a specific builder.  The RIGHT architect will contact all the parties tendering, set up all the documentation, and analyse the results to look for any omissions and or errors or ask questions.  The RIGHT architect will then give you a summary and make recommendations so that you can adjudicate the tender.



Once you have decided which contractor to appoint the RIGHT architect will advise you on the means of contracting suitably to your project and will facilitate the signing of the contract.  FINALLY you get to build your DREAM home! Possibly the most exciting (but also nerve wracking) part of the process as money will now start leaving your account in large sums!  In order to deliver top quality projects, project management in all good architectural practice should include:

  1. Site visits and overseeing the construction and validating quality of work,
  2. Negotiating with contractors and subcontractors,
  3. Dealing with any problems that arise on site,
  4. Certification of claims,
  5. Aesthetic co-ordination of finishes and fittings,
  6. Assisting with procurement,
  7. Design of detailed items.

While this post is not exhaustive I hope it’s given you some insight into the work the RIGHT architect carries out and the value they should supply to you . Architects do really need to wear many hats and this is possibly why many people see architecture as a calling rather than a career!

At Meik it is not just a career, it’s a passion. We love it!  There is nothing more rewarding than seeing a project come together!

At Meik we offer a FREE New Build Planning Pack (with many resources).  If you are considering building your dream home, please download our pack as we offer you a check list and a huge amount of valuable advice.


A quick side note: to ‘draw plans’ in South Africa one has to be register with the South African Council of the Architectural Profession (SACAP).  “Architect” is a statutory professional title only meant to be used by individuals registered as ARCHITECTS, and while SACAP is meant to regulate this they do not.  There are other categories of registration such as Professional Technologist, Technologist, and Candidate architect and drafts person. So if the person you are considering’s title says Architectural Designer it could be likely that they are not an ARCHITECT.  It might be worth confirming this.

Please also remember that architects all need the relevant architectural training which is extensive, but not all architects are created equal.  Practices also operate differently which is why it’s important to use our FREE checklist when you are interviewing architects you are considering, even if it’s not us!