by Jon Gunson, Architect

Most people decide to build a “custom” home for one of two reasons:

                    1. You have looked at all of the houses on the market and have not found one that meets your vision of how you want your home to look, feel, and function.

                    2. You have found the perfect lot and now you want to create the perfect home that will best take advantage of all that it has to offer.

These are both very important reasons so now you owe it to yourself to select the right architect to help you fulfill all of your expectations for your custom home. Architects are educated problem solvers. They can assist you in defining what you want to build and propose ways to get more from your investment than you imagined to be possible. Many people think that anyone who designs buildings is an “Architect”. In actuality, only a person with specific qualifications is allowed, by law, to be licensed by the State and to call him or herself an “Architect”. These qualifications include the following requirements:

                    1. Education – Minimum of a Bachelor of Architecture from a nationally accredited school.

                    2. Training – At least 3 full years of training as an apprentice under a licensed Architect.

                    3. Testing – Must pass a rigorous 7-part national exam covering all aspects of the profession.

                    4. State Licensing – Application to a State Licensing Board to allow working under the title of “Architect”.

                    5. National Licensing – Application to a National Board for further accreditation.


  • First of all, your architect can assist you in evaluating your budget and quantifying the types and sizes of the rooms and spaces in your home. He will also help you in defining all of your needs, wants, and wishes in order to shape your vision of everything that should be included in your new home.
  • However, just as you are asking for specific requirements for your home, your land is asking for its own requirements. In the mountains, each homesite has unique characteristics of topography, views, sun exposure, utilities, and access. Your architect can study your property and carefully evaluate your requirements with those of your land.
  • Your architect can then present you with multiple design options and fresh ideas that you might never have considered. You are totally involved in the critical part of this process in deciding what works best for you, your budget, and your land.
  • Once the design of your home is exactly the way you want it, your architect will work through the approval process. This often involves subdivision regulations, design guidelines, review boards, zoning laws, and building codes.
  • A mountain home must be designed to deal with heavy snowfall and a harsh climate. Your architect should know about advances in building materials and methods. Many of these are especially related to mountain construction. He can help you choose materials and finishes which are durable as well as beautiful, saving on future maintenance and replacement costs.
  • Your architect should prepare thoroughly detailed plans and specifications for your home. This will save in construction costs because a well thought out project can be built more efficiently and economically. This will also help avoid costly change orders during construction because plans that thoroughly explain everything that is required will avoid contractor claims for added costs due to ambiguities.
  • These detailed plans and specifications will allow your architect to get accurate, competitive bids from reputable contractors so that you can be assured that you are getting the best quality of construction for the best price.
  • You need an architect that looks out for your best interests and who represents you, not the contractor. During the construction phase, your architect should conduct regular inspections to verify that your home is being built with the best quality and according to those same detailed plans and specifications.
  • Your architect should review the contractor’s pay request each month and evaluate it with the actual progress and invoices on your home. You will then be given a complete accounting of the costs and your payments to date for each part of the construction contract.

Building a custom home is an involved process that can be complicated further if you live hundreds of miles away. However, a local, licensed Architect is the one professional that can look out for your interests. He can make the process go smoothly by coordinating all of the construction professions – design, engineering, government agencies, interior designers, and contractors – so that you can enjoy a beautifully designed home that fulfills your specific needs and works within your budget and time frame. Hiring the right Architect will smooth out the process and allow you to enjoy building your dream home in the mountains.

Filed under: Articles by Jon Gunson

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