Of course you need an architect. Hey…you can trust me.
Do I need an architect…
Why do I have to use an architect…
Should I use an architect…?
I know, I know you’ve been up night after night pondering this little conundrum. Well, most likely not, but these are the questions many clients are asking their contractor, engineer friend, or neighbor before making their way to me about their design project. Quite often a client will have had someone (possibly mentioned above) draw plans for their project and after submitting to the building official for construction are told the plans must be stamped by an architect.
But, but…no one told me this. I am already behind schedule and over budget and now I have to spend money on a #@%! Architect. Is this really required or are you just trying to make my life difficult?
As much as I believe all construction projects should require an architect, the truth is, they “sometimes” do not. To try and make this easy (not really because there isn’t an easy answer) I am going to answer the question in two parts. Number one, because by law you are required to do so and two, because it just makes sense.
Here in South Carolina, and similar for most other states, there are laws written that make it “perfectly” clear when you have to use an architect. The South Carolina Code of Laws states:
(C) If the drawings and specifications are signed by the authors with the true title of their occupations, this chapter does not apply to the preparations of plans and specifications for:
(1) a building which is to be used for farm purposes only;
(2) a building less than three stories high and containing fewer than five thousand square feet of total floor area except buildings of assembly, institutional, educational, and hazardous occupancies as defined by the Standard Building Code, regardless of area;
(3) a detached single-family or two-family dwelling, as defined in Group R3 of the Standard Building Code, regardless of size, with each unit having a grade level exit and sheds, storage buildings, and garages incidental to the dwelling;
(4) alterations to a building to which this chapter does not apply, if the alterations do not increase the areas and capacities beyond the limits of this chapter or affect the structural safety of the building.
In other words…you do need an architect if your project is:
- A building of assembly, regardless of size. Assembly uses include: movie theaters, banquet halls, nightclubs, restaurants, art galleries, churches, courtrooms, funeral parlors, libraries, museums, and stadiums.
- An institutional building, regardless of size. Institutional buildings include: residential board and care facilities, assisted living facilities, halfway houses, group homes, congregate care facilities, social rehabilitation facilities, alcohol and drug centers, hospitals, nursing homes, mental hospitals, jails, adult care facilities, and day care facilities for more than five children younger than 2 1/2 years of age.
- An educational facility, regardless of size. Educational facilities include: schools, higher education facilities, and day care facilities for more than five children older than 2 1/2 years of age.
- A hazardous use facility, regardless of size.
- A residential building that houses more than two families or one that is regulated by an institution (i.e. orphanage, residential care facility). Residential buildings include: boarding houses, hotels, apartment houses, townhouses, convents, dormitories, fraternity/sorority houses, and monasteries.
- All commercial use buildings such as retail shops, business offices, etc. that are more than 5000 sf.
When it comes to Up-fits and Alterations to existing buildings referenced in Section 40‐3‐290(C)(4) we can interpret that Up-fits or Alterations to a building that is less than 5000 square feet and less than 3 stories in height do not require the services of an architect unless:
- Either the building size is increased to more than 5000 sf. or structural safety is affected by the alteration.
- The building use changes to one of the types mentioned above. (assembly, institutional, educational or hazardous occupancy)
- Designs for up-fits and/or alterations are inside of a building that exceeds 5000 square feet. Example: a former warehouse (30,000 square feet) is now used for retail shops such as fast foods, gift shops, or personal services (tanning beds, manicure salons). Alterations to any one of these spaces require the services of an architect even though the individual retail space is less than 5000 square feet.
What makes this even more difficult to answer, and isn’t specifically mentioned, is it often is required by the building official (this is the person that all construction in your area must be approved by) to have an architect design buildings that have multiple occupancies, require fire separations, or a complex design that might affect the welfare and safety of the public even if it does, or doesn’t, meet the criteria mentioned above. So when it comes to the legal aspects of , “Do I have to use an Architect? we have some somewhat clear conclusions. But to me the real question that should be asked is, “Do I need an Architect?” or “Why in the world would I not use an Architect?” and that will be answered in, “Do I need an Architect? Part 2”.
If you have any questions, comments, or kind hearted words, please leave them in the comments below.