Investing a little time and money at the front end of your project will pay dividends to you and your project.  Even if you don’t want to begin construction for years, it’s wise to begin working with an architect at your earliest convenience!  Below, 10 reasons to start your project today.

1. Spread the financial impact of your project over years, not months.  Architectural services are a substantial portion of a project budget, typically ranging anywhere from 8-18% of the cost of construction.  Incurring all fees (architectural, engineering, general contracting, etc.) can be financially overwhelming.

2. Explore design solutions when time is not an issue.  Time crunches affect both the architect and the owner.  Multiple design iterations produce more successful designs. Artificial or unreasonable time limits substantially restrict the number of revisions, often to the detriment of a project.

3. Marinating makes design better.  By allowing time for both owner and architect to “marinate” on a design, projects inevitably change and improve.  Reflecting on a design over a period of weeks and months, can produce pleasant surprises and create projects that better satisfy owner requirements.

4. Take advantage of borrowing rates.  Imagine that you purchased a lot a year ago.  For one reason or another, you’ve decided to wait three or four more years to begin building or even talking to an architect.  Suddenly, new home construction loan rates have dropped to a level that you’d like to lock into.  You talk with the bank and they require construction drawings prior to loan approval.  If only you had construction drawings ready for the banks approval, you could take advantage of the low borrowing rate.

5. Take advantage of material/commodity prices.  Like borrowing rates, material and commodity pricing fluctuates greatly.  Higher commodity prices from oil to copper increase costs of materials such as structural steel, copper wiring and plumbing piping, plastic components, and other construction materials.  While it’s impossible to time things perfectly, having architect-provided construction documents ready for construction increases the possibility of beginning construction at a time that coincides with low material/commodity prices.

6. There are no time shortcuts to properly prepared construction bid documents.  While an architect may be able to shave off a day here or a day there by working long hours and weekends, there’s no way to safely reduce the time required to prepare appropriately detailed construction bid documents.  Procuring architectural services early ensures adequate design and drawing time is allocated to a project.

7. Enjoy the freedom to move at an accelerated rate.  With construction documents in hand and financing in place, you have the freedom to move at an accelerated rate.  Construction commencement can begin at your discretion.

8. Expect less contingency in contractor bids.  Contractors often pad bids (and rightfully so) when there is an incomplete construction documentation package to bid from.  This most commonly happens when insufficient time/money was allocated for architectural services.  Procuring architectural services early ensures that there is sufficient time for the architect to complete his/her work and you can easily avoid bid padding.

9. Hire contractors that are hungry for work.  During depressed economic times, similar to those we are currently experiencing, contractors and subcontractors must aggressively compete for work.  This is because projects are few and far between.  As a result, you may have more bargaining power if you are adequately prepared and have the proper project documentation in place.

10. Rules and regulations can change.  In the city of Austin, a building permit is good for 180 days after issuance.  Per the city of Austin website, “An application for a permit will be deemed abandoned after 180 days if no permit issued.  A building official may grant a one-time 180 day extension to an application.  Extension must be requested before the application expires and include justification in writing.  Permits expire on the 181st day after the date the permit is issued if the project has received no inspections, or after the date of the last inspection that shows progress toward completion of the project.  The Building Official may grant a one-time 180 day extension for an active permit upon written request prior to expiration date.

With these things in mind, you could feasibly have a permit in place for nearly a year prior to having your first passed inspection.  The advantages of early permit application aren’t obvious, so let’s examine it further.

Codes, ordinances, and regulations are constantly being adopted or revised.  Many of these rules and regulations will affect the final cost of your project.  By applying for and receiving a permit, you are agreeing to comply with the currently enforced codes, ordinances, and regulations.  Obtaining a permit in advance and complying with the appropriate inspections within the applicable jurisdiction’s time frame can safeguard against costly changes caused by the adoption of new, potentially financially unfavorable rules and regulations.