So, You’ve Been Busted…How Can an Architect Help Resolving Issues

An odd service we get called on to provide frequently is resolving issues after someone has already started the work. Unfortunately, one thing we don’t have is a magic wand. We cannot provide our seal and everything magically gets better. There are usually two ways we can help clients resolve issues after they’ve already triggered the ire of a permitting official.

Legal Requirement

Resolving issues where the client has been stopped due to the legal requirement of having a sealed set of drawings is common. When this happens, usually the client tried to obtain a permit and been blocked. The jurisdiction requires sealed drawings which they don’t have, yet. Sometimes, the client has even started construction. Knowing what the architect’s role here is key to setting expectations.

An architect’s role in the design process is to act as a client’s advocate, within the bounds of life safety. Sometimes we also are responsible for other functional aspects without a specialist engineer, but we are always the guardians of the safety of the public. With that in mind, we cannot usually simply take your information, format it, and present it. We will need to review it, confirm if it conforms to code, and possibly modify it. This can take some time, and for clients who have not expected to need this service, it can seem like a waste of resources.

A real downside of this process is that the architect doesn’t always understand what the client is trying to achieve. Our limited involvement with the client often limits our knowledge. This is sort of like building a motorbike from a bunch of random parts rather than from the ground up. Sure, it’ll run, but it might not run as well or smoothly.

Failed Inspection

Sometimes we get the call well after construction is complete to verify an odd detail is legal or sufficient. This usually happens residentially, but can sometimes happen at property transfers, usage changes, or as a result of a complaint. Generally, in each case, drawings were not prepared. We come in and verify conditions that we often did not have a hand in setting up. This can also be frustrating for clients as the disturbance to their plans and cost of having this done is often completely unexpected. In this case, we’re often working with a motorbike that is missing a wheel and figuring out how to craft one from a hose and a dinner plate. Obviously, these projects have a high likelihood of going sideways and costing money, time, and frustration for all parties.

Resolving Issues A Better Way

Our suggestion to avoid needing a magic wand? Always get an architect involved early in any changes to a building. Of course, if that advice worked, we wouldn’t get those calls. That being said, having a relationship with an architect can be a lifesaver. We’re not that common, but having one you can ask quick questions of can sometimes save a lot of trouble later. We’ve seen a lot of situations and can help steer clients away from getting busted by the permitting officials. Who really needs a good architect friend in their lives? Anybody who routinely renovates, constructs, rents, or assists in the sales of homes. Being able to lean on the expertise of a friend or being able to whip out someone who might not have a magic wand, but does have a very handy utility belt, is the best way of resolving issues in existing structures.