Joshua Sukenick on Houzz

 

Professionals

It is often difficult to understand all the people involved in a project and what each of them does. Their backgrounds, skills and specialties sometimes overlap, but often each professional is focusing on one specific aspect of your project. Knowing all of the players in the game will help your understanding of the process, and why it can take longer than expected to achieve a "simple" task.

Architect

An architect is the design professional who will work with you to provide the design and documents for the new space. An architect often acts as the owner's representative to other trades during the construction stage.

An architect is a highly trained individual who has most often obtained a five year Bachelors Degree in Architecture, practiced as an intern and then sat for their Architectural Registration Exams (ARE). An architect is initially licensed in a single state; though once registered, it is not uncommon to pursue additional states as necessary to provide services to clients in different areas. Having passed the ARE and gained licensure in a particular state allows the architect to "seal" a set of drawings. This seal represents an individual who is expected to be highly knowledgeable in all aspects of your project, and therefore liable for any errors or omissions within the drawing set they've sealed.

Architects are trained to balance function with aesthetics to provide a unique end result. Some architects rely more heavily on the aesthetic approach while others focus more on the way the space functions.

Architects often work long hours to meet deadlines and are expected to be fully knowledgeable in all areas of each project. While paid well on a general scale of all professions, they are paid poorly when you factor in the amount of education and professional development required to become licensed.

You should always hire an Architect who is licensed and insured.

General Contractor/
     sub-contractors

A general contractor is someone who oversees and coordinates the entire construction project. They may perform work themselves, but most often coordinate and direct various sub-contractors who perform specific tasks during the construction process.

Unlike architects and engineers, there are no required college courses or professional licenses required to act as a contractor. Some contractors learn by working in the field and moving up in their industry while others do obtain college degrees (frequently in business), before entering management positions within the field. There are often courses that can be taken to develop new skills or further strengthen existing ones. In Pennsylvania, all contractors are required to register their business with the state.

Contractors work hard in the field and generally are paid well for the work they perform considering the lack of formal education required to work in the field. While contractors know construction as well as (or often better than) architects, they do not get the aesthetic training that an architect does. Therefore, they often lack the eye to make an addition or new project stand out as being well done.

You should always hire a contractor who is licensed and insured.

Engineers

Engineers can perform many different tasks, often working directly with the architect. Engineers perform highly calculated aspects of design in developing the systems that will exist within the constructed space. Civil/Site, Structural, Mechanical (HVAC/Plumbing), Electrical, and Fire Safety Engineers are the most common. An Engineer often performs a highly specialized task for the project.

Engineers most often obtain a four year Bachelors degree in Engineering before entering the workforce as an intern. Many will eventually go on to sit for their Professional Engineer's exams. Once their "PE" is obtained, they, like an architect, can seal their work within a set of drawings.

They tend to be more business-like- working set hours and are usually very regimented individuals. They will sometimes put in long hours as necessary to meet deadlines. Engineers are paid fairly well, often considerably more than architects.

Township Officials

A township or municipal official or inspector is the person who is responsible for verifying code compliance.

As of 2003, all construction is governed under the International Building Code or IBC. The IBC dictates materials and methods to be used in specific locations and for specific applications. A branch of the code, the International Residential Code, or IRC, is what governs residential construction. Because the IBC was designed to be a "universal" code, the requirements are usually the same from locale to locale. Therefore, it is usually not important for a professional to have done work within a township for them to have knowledge of what will be required.

Inspectors are often educated in some aspect of the field. Many were previously architects, engineers or contractors. Their primary job is to verify that the architect has followed the national and local codes in documenting the project and that the contractor is following those same codes during its construction. The vast majority of requirements are set in place to ensure safety and reasonable longevity of the building.

Since the inspector's job is to enforce the code, they have final say in its interpretation. They also often choose which parts of the code to enforce more than others. The inspector will also enforce any local additions to the code as well as enforce the zoning requirements which still remain different from place to place. Therefore, the architect and contractor may be presented with specifics that are atypical and sometimes unpredictable from one locale to the next. The general guidelines and detailing of the building's construction are often not decided by the architect, but rather the codes adopted by the township and the person enforcing those codes.

Interior Designer

An interior designer works within the spaces created by the architect and other design professionals. They will often get involved when it comes to finish materials, colors and textures, furniture and other d├ęcor. While an interior designer may be able to assist in suggesting sizes and layouts of spaces, it would be an architect who documents the construction of the space.

Interior designers most often receive a four year Bachelor Degree in Interior Design before entering the field and working as a designer. The courses requirements parallel the architectural curriculum for the first two years of school but vary greatly from the final three years of the Architectural curriculum.

Interior designers are most often brought in to develop or replicate a style or simply to ensure the colors, patterns, textures and furnishings work together to complete the space. Their focus is primarily on the aesthetic value of the space not on how the space is constructed or its overall size and shape. They tend to be very people oriented and spend time doing a variety of tasks within the office, on the project site or shopping for items for their clients.

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