you don’t need a drawing

you need a drawing

This one is inspired by real life events. It is proof that all of us need to educate the public more and more. Dear AIA are you listening?

You don’t need a drawing, trust me.

Actually you need a design service. Yes, the service will yield a set of drawings and specifications that record decisions and directions of what to build.

We all know that buildings, mostly houses, go up each day without architects. However, rarely does one walk into a building with the desire to renovate it and not have any type of written or graphic plan for all of these expensive changes. Remember the Bible parable of counting the cost? You can’t count the cost in your head; you must have something graphic.

Recently I had someone contact me stating someone with their local municipality told them they “needed a drawing” from an architect before they could get a permit to renovate a commercial building. They had no intention on hiring an architect and quite frankly thought they could do it on their own…without drawings.

Ok, that’s fine, they meant well. Everyone tries to save money however they can.

The municipality could have explained it differently; maybe this person didn’t listen well. Nevertheless, the reason I can’t drop this one is despite my effort to educate, this person couldn’t see value in the planning required to consider, think, design, edit, redesign and document the plethora of decisions required to plan a commercial renovation…for a restaurant no less. They stated they knew what they wanted, so this “requirement” to submit sealed drawings for a permit seemed to be just a hassle.

If you don’t think you need a service that will lead to a (good) set of construction documents for your construction project, consider these ten things:

  1. no drawing, no plan, no idea, no luck, no business, no money
  2. it’s not drawing what is there as much as what is not there – how do you document the intended changes?
  3. how can you demonstrate compliance to building codes? – this should probably be #1…it’s public safety folks
  4. how will you review, design and confirm the integration of many parts and systems? – all buildings are complex
  5. you avoid costly mistakes by figuring out design on paper when changes are far less costly
  6. you will see everything at the same time – look for conflicts, make adjustments…before it’s real
  7. how can you consider alternatives? – cost, function and appearance – better now than later
  8. how will you quantify all the aspects for cost estimating? – can you afford not to do this?
  9. you will ensure everyone is looking at the same thing – there is a team of people on every project that needs to work together
  10. fail to plan…plan to fail

Look, you don’t need a ‘drawing’ you need a design professional. Paper on its own is useless and drawings that merely show existing conditions and not what it takes to get to your end result is just…more paper. You need someone who can listen, review your needs, study your budget, consider alternatives, design solutions, integrate building components and systems, comply with building codes and document clearly and thoroughly so every team member knows their part. A little creativity in there couldn’t hurt either.

But for goodness sake, you don’t need a drawing. Save those for hanging in museums and posting on refrigerators.



you don’t need a drawing

20 thoughts on “you don’t need a drawing

  1. It’s like you’re inside my head, man! 😛

    I’ve also had a great deal of experience with this type of “client” over the last year or so. It seems to be getting worse, rather than better. I recently had a client, you find out why “had shortly, that wanted to hire me to provide a architectural set of design drawings for a house he wanted to build in Costa Rica. I started the conversation with the typical “you will also need to consult with local engineers for x, y and z, etc etc”. He seemed to understand and was ready to move forward post-haste.

    I get halfway through design for my very nominal fee and suddenly he’s forgotten all about those other consultants, like a structural engineer, that I kept telling him he needed in order to ensure his families safety and also meet local planning requirements. Suddenly he’s asking “what am I paying you for”. As you can imagine the conversation deteriorated from there.

    I politely cancelled the contract and let him know that a home is not a simple kit of parts to be put together on a weekend and that he needs a minimum of design services in order to get what he wants and in a way that will be constructible within his budget and meet the minimum for safety and security.

    It’s been my experience that these types of clients that “just need a drawing” have not the slightest notion of what it means to construct a building and, in the case of a business, do not have real plans of sustaining that business anyway. These are the types of clients that I now automatically add 15% to a reasonable fee for the “headache” factor. :-\

    1. Thanks Ray. This reminded me of some of our LinkedIn conversations where some of our online buddies were struggling with this type of client. I dodged this bullet so far.

  2. Edgar Brown says:

    I couldn’t agree more with your statement. As a Sr. Plans Examiner with a local jurisdiction, I see this on a regular basis. It even accords with engineering: you’d think it woudn’t but it does. Everyone still sees an design professional (architect or engineer) as a creator of “pretty drawings” only. They, inturn, look for a drafting service, which, by the way, have become even more removed from the design process, to produce that “pretty picture”. Eventually, they return to ask for “forgiveness” for mistakes made because they didn’t have a design professional involved on the project. And, you’re correct in saying that it happens all the time with residential work. But, it is surprising how many commercial projects have tried to take this path. The problem is that the general public doesn’t see all the intangibles that take place long before the “pretty drawings” are complete. Unfortunately, though, it’s not the general public that has this problem; it’s usually the knowledgeable, repeat owner/developer. That’s what so strange.

    1. There could me many reasons for all of this, but I think it boils down to people are cheap. That sounds mean and uncaring, but people spend money on things that are important to them.

      1. That is true. But think on this:
        The average person will take their car into the shop and won’t hesitate to drop hundreds and sometimes thousands on their car repairs, not realizing that most commercial mechanics bill about $80 an hour, yet when building a home (a structure that will house their most precious possessions – their family) they want the cheapest set of plans, the cheapest contractor and the cheapest materials in the shortest amount of time possible. Oh and it has to look good and have no maintenance.
        That’s not cheap, that’s stupid. Mass production of housing has killed architecture and is killing architects.

  3. José Francisco says:

    Being an architect is to design all the way to the interior and its entire infrastructure – read Tecnolgia – but everyone knows the value of home sweet home …… believe some dollars will make a difference in their quality of life. Thanks, architecture is globalization…..

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