This is a salute to those people who choose to create special buildings and homes by serving as architectural clients. Undertaking the custom design and construction of a building is not easy, which is why so many people decide to just buy a “builder special,” – which is a standard house plan like ten thousand others dropped on a site without consideration of the views, orientation to the sun, or the architecture of the local community. Since the builder never intended to own it, the quality of the construction and insulation was probably only as high as was required by code (and sometimes not even that high as we have opened the walls of a builder houses constructed in the 1970s with no insulation at all). The cost of the excess energy to heat and cool these uninsulated houses was probably 50 times as high as what it would have cost to properly insulate them to begin with but the builder felt that cost would have come out of their profit margin and therefore the best value for the long term occupation of the building was never really considered.
With a custom design structure you will have the opportunity to maximize the quality and minimize the cost of the operating and repairing the building over the longer term with the help of your architect and contractor. You may not always choose the most expensive or long lasting material but you will at least be appraised of your alternatives and can make a decision that balances initial cost and longer term savings.
The design of a building custom designed to your needs and aesthetic tastes is considered a luxury in the present day. Enjoy this the way you might enjoy getting the best looking custom suit or dress made. But remember, this process is one you will enjoy every single day of your use of it, and it has the power to be more affordable to operate and more profitable to sell in the future as a result of superior design and construction quality.
In the end, the vast majority of clients deeply enjoy the journey of seeing their abstract designs and goals turned firstly into a design, and then later into an actual structure. It is a bit of an addictive process but hopefully the owner is satisfied by their enjoyment of the building they helped give life to.
To all those commissioning architectural projects: good luck with your design and construction project. If you do it well, hopefully it will become a permanent and long lived part of the community in which you live and work. Here in Newport, Rhode Island where our head offices are located, houses are known by the names of the men and women who commissioned them, in some cases more than three hundred years in the past. You too will leave a legacy in the structure you are about to have built of who you were, what your aesthetic taste was, and how you wanted to leave something behind that was more permanent than the frail and temporal human form. Michelangelo had the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Shakespeare had his plays and Humphrey Bogart had Casablanca to be remembered by. For many there is little to no remnant of their existence left behind other perhaps a gravestone that hopefully someone will visit on occasion and make sure the lawn is trimmed around. But for those that commission or design structures, they leave a tangible, visible, and real assemblage which becomes part of the “architectural fabric” and subtly imparts design direction and influence over time within the community in which it was built. That is a noble and worthy undertaking so take care to do it well and best wishes to you on a successful, satisfying, and profitable result! That is why architecture (and those that commission design) are at the foundation of our culture.
Looking to remodel your home? Let’s connect.
Join the Architectural Forum to stay up-to-date with architectural news from Rhode Island and abroad.