“We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us.” – Winston Churchill

As Mr. Churchill famously suggests, the built environment has a significant impact on human beings. Which is why architecture is a profession that has been around for millennia. The first recorded architect was Imhotep, of the Egyptian civilization circa 2600 BC. However, architecture has been practiced far before the history books mention a single man. Architects throughout history have been philosophers, artists, builders, physicians, engineers, inventors, protectors and so much more. Though architects of the history books and of today join the profession from all kinds of backgrounds, the architect’s most basic of responsibilities is the health, safety, and welfare of people. The practice of architecture explores both the functional and expressive roles that a structure can offer; then progresses to the realization of those design solutions. Only in recent history has the role of the architect been separated from the construction of their designed structure.

Somehow, over the years and with this separation of design and construction, the purpose of an architect has been muddled and even stained with a negative stigma. One such influence is the self-serving egos of individuals within the profession, thankfully, not the majority. The majority of architects are not egotistical narcissists, but genuinely have a heart for serving the public. Architects truly have the health, safety, and welfare of the public in mind and have chosen to become an architect with the lofty goal of making a positive impact on the world around them. They are visionaries, problem solvers, humanitarians, environmentalists, and so much more. For most architects, the opportunity to design an aesthetically pleasing building is a treasured goal to the practice of their profession.

Architects are a small community of practitioners with only about 150,000 licensed, nationwide. Why? Architects are required to hold a degree from an accredited school, complete 3700+ experience hours, and pass 6 exams before becoming licensed. Each state holds the right to have a different approach to the requirements on architects and their license agreements. After licensure is achieved, architects must complete continued education credits each year based on what state(s) they are licensed in. However, in every state, architects are regulated like this because they are held to a different standard than your typical home designer.

Drafters and designers do not have a regulatory body holding them to the standard of protecting the health safety and welfare of human beings. This does not make them less of a designer or unable to design your project. Many designers are very skilled and create beautiful structures. It just means they are not regulated, which is why their pricing or practices are different to architects. Evaluating your project and asking yourself what type of standard you want your project to be held to will help you determine if you hire an architect or a designer.

In summary, architects come from a tradition of design and construction. Their backgrounds are all different, but their motivation usually is about making their world a better place through the built environment. Even though they are a small community, architects can make a big impact and finding the right architect for your project is vital to its success.

If you have decided your project needs the experience and skills of an architect, what do you look for in order to choose which architect to hire? Everyone who embarks on a construction project is making a big decision and needs to know they have the right team for the task. See our article on “How Do You Decide Which Architect to Hire?”