• Benny Kuriakose


Do you need an architect? What is his role?

You know best about your requirements for the new house you are going to build. When you design a house yourself without consulting an architect, you will be happy since your requirements have been met. There is nobody to impose their taste on you. You can choose all the details and you have complete control over the project. You may think that you do not need an architect to build your dream house.

There are many books with drawings and the design of the houses available in the market. The design of the house is much more complex than buying a new car or a washing machine. There are much more than the physical requirements of the house, the home should evoke feelings and should be something where you would like to come back to always.

You may think that some of the ready-made plans which come in various magazines and books may suit your requirements. One disadvantage of copying a ready-made plan and elevations from one of the books is that they are made for a different site and a different person. Your site might have a large mango tree or it might have a beautiful view of the mountains or it might be sloping in one direction. The ready-made plan might not be taking into account these aspects.

Kodaikanal House designed by us. Click the image to visit the project.

My experience is that there is a tendency among the house owners to get influenced and carried away by the elevations of these buildings. You may think that you will save the cost of hiring a designer. Many run into problems when they make changes to the plans to suit your requirements and due to lack of their experience, some other disadvantage may crop up which one never notices until the construction is over. If you make changes to a ready-made plan, then they have to be done carefully, because one change in a positive direction may bring in a new disadvantage if the expertise is lacking.

But there are chances that certain aspects, which can be foreseen only by an experienced architect, may get overlooked. Although you may save the fees to be paid to the architect, an architect’s advice may be useful in the long run and save money also in the long run.

Is the role of the architect needed only during the initial phase of design? Some house owners terminate the role of the designer after the drawings are given. I will say that the services of the designer are needed most during construction. Even if you can do the planning aspects of a house, you need technical expertise. It is difficult to know the beam size or slab thickness which may vary from room to room. To know the depth of the foundation is something which even an experienced architect might not know and he may be consulting a structural engineer specialist since the soil conditions are different in different areas.

Click the image to visit the project.

The job of an architect does not end by giving away the drawings for construction and his job is also to coordinate the construction between the civil, electrical, plumbing and other related works. He also controls the costs and sees that the original concept of the design is being carried out during construction. The responsibility of the designer might be even more if the works are handled by different agencies or sub-contractors. Good contractors will study the drawings thoroughly, but the sub-contractors may carry on with the works without studying the drawings properly. Although many of the masons and carpenters are good at doing the works, they may not know how to read the drawings. The details will be overlooked or misinterpreted. The architect can supervise the construction just like the way an auditor keeps an eye on the accounts.

If the house owner has prior experience in construction, then things may be seen differently and the owner himself will be able to manage the construction.

My personal experience is that in many cases, the contractors are not interested in having the best design. In at least some cases, they want to maximise their profit and as a result, the design suffers. Many house owners do not have any knowledge about construction and they might be closer to the contractor or would have known him earlier. They tend to listen to the Contractor more than the designer. The Contractor may also prefer not to have the designer since he can do the construction the way he wants.

Double-height floor to ceiling glass window to enhance the interior space by connecting it to the exterior view. Click the image to visit the project.