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To Use an Architect or Designer

We have the lot, we have the house idea in our mind, and now the question is: Architect? Designer? Architect? Designer?  We have totally confused ourselves and seem to be overthinking the answer and would like to know your thoughts. 

 For sure, there are few things that are more exciting that building a new home and the builder and the architect or designer certainly touch and have an impact on the form, function and behavior of your new home.  The relationship with an architect or designer and builder is very personal and emotional.  Your personality, your vision, your lifestyle will all play an important part in the design of your home, so it is critically important that the professional you select be right for you, fit your budget and understands your dreams.

In a nutshell the difference between an architect and designer is the education, training and professional licensing.  Tom Reilly, local general contractor and licensed architect; owner of Renovations Your Complete Remodel Resource said “while design is often thought of as something most anybody could do, there is a level of experience that comes from formal professional training which is not duplicated through years of drafting.” 

There are differences between an architect and designer and people working in these professions are very capable in designing homes.  An Architect is a licensed professional, qualified to practice architecture.  In most cases an architect has a degree from an accredited college and they have mastered in some cases thousands of hours working under licensed architects as an intern prior to obtaining their degree, in addition to completing very arduous and difficult exams.    A designer is someone who does not have an architecture license.  Not to say that a designer does not have the skills, they do not have the overall education and certifications that is required to become an architect.  However, it goes without saying that a designer certainly could have achieved a master’s degree  in architecture but never pursued obtaining their architect license

Architects have a professional code of ethics mandated by the state, which is an overreaching authority looking over their work.  That certainly does not mean that designers are not to be considered unethical.   In most cases, architects carry liability insurance.  Our area has some wonderful designers, quality individuals, hardworking and great at their job and we have many top drawer architects that have been recognized nationally for their project work and sustainability values. 

Architects are well versed in the overall project such as environmental concerns, social impacts, historical preservation and in many cases structural work for  the building.  Architects are also educated to work hand-in-glove with the builder to obtain the best design for your dollar. There is a common misconception that architects are way too expensive compared to designers and that is not typically the case. 

A great design will add value to your project and whether you elect to use a designer or an architect, it is important that that your general contractor review the plans because they will need to understand the design intent.  So in a pistachio shell, an architect is a licensed professional, in many cases holding advanced degrees and rigorous testing in order to meet the licensing obligations of becoming an architect.  An architect is legally responsible for their design work i.e., to ensure the home does not collapse. 

There are local homeowner associations that require new homes and/or remodels have plans that are drawn and submitted by licensed architects. 

A designer can certainly capture your vision and design a set of working documents.  They are not required to be licensed and many designers do have construction experience.

YCCA represents both architects and designers, so we cannot tell you which one to hire.  Regardless of the scope of work for your project, talk to each entity and see their past and current work, talk to their clients, ask them how they would approach your project, what are their fees, talk to other builders they have worked for, how long will it take to develop a set of working plans, what about change orders; how are those handled?  Also, it is important to discuss your budget.  This is a major investment for you, so hiring the applicable architect or designer will certainly have an impact on the outcome of the project.

Phone: (928) 778-0040


810 E. Sheldon Street, Prescott, AZ 86301

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