Re: Hiring an Architect
From: Laura Fitch, A.I.A. (
Date: Mon, 4 Nov 2002 06:37:04 -0700 (MST)
I am very confused about why the message below says "10 reasons why you want to hire and experienced DEVELOPER", but then lists everything wrong about the ARCHITECT on a particular job. Of course I am biased but I think every cohousing project needs and deserves both an experinced developer and and experienced architect. Both can be found, and neither will be perfect.

Laura Fitch, A.I.A.
Principal Architect

110 Pulpit Hill Rd.
Amherst, MA  01002
413-549-7918 (fax)

lfitch [at]

Sharon Villines wrote:

10 reasons why you want to hire an experienced developer and have an
ironclad contract that stipulates penalties for lack of performance:

1. The architect's recommendations turn out to be based on reputation, not
fact. People said, "He knows all there is to know about green building" when
the "people" knew nothing themselves. Even knowing what "green" means is
more than they knew. What people told you was based on the PR distributed by
the architect.

2. Before your plans are complete, the architect decides to get married and
have a baby and move to another house -- one they are building and
supervising. No phone calls answered for weeks and weeks at a time.

3. To speed up the process, plans are sent to the engineers _after_ copies
are made so when the engineer finds the buildings can't be built as
specified, the architect has to make corrections and charges you for all the
recopying which is substantial.

4. Zoning board finds that the inground work does not match the present
sewer system connections or meet specifications for drainage so all the
foundations have to be redesigned in order to connect to water, sewer, etc.

5. Architect closes their own office (no surprise) and joins a firm that
actually expects them to submit plans on time so your project goes on the
back burner again. Phone is disconnected. If you complain to the firm, you
may never get your plans.

6. Finally delivered, each page of the four sets of architectural drawings
(3 x 4 foot sheets), each set with at least 30-50 pages floor plans,
elevations, and mechanical systems has an error that the architect denies is
their error. It takes the entire design team weeks of sorting through old
messages and communications to demonstrate that the architect did not keep
careful notes.

7. The engineers and the builder disagree on whether the structure can be
built as designed. Sub-contractors refuse to submit bids because they can't
guarantee their work.

8. Engineers fix  problems but new drawings have to be paid for before they
are released and before it is decided who is responsible for these costs.
The investing members are now well over $175,000 in debt with no workable
plan for actual construction.

9. Subcontractors' bids come in 50% higher than originally estimated by the
builder. Builder says this is normal. Inflation during the three year delay
and the steel beams required by the "innovative" design account for all the
increases. No chance of lowering costs.

10. Architect does not consider staying under budget his or her
responsibility. "That is the responsibility of the builder. I did what you

11. Project folds. People lose all money invested.

I am be off in some of the details here and there but this actually happened
to one project. Always work with experienced professionals who know what
they are doing. Do not take chances on members of your group who always
dreamed of designing a building and will work for free or at reduced costs.
Be clear about legal obligations and enforce them. Successful bankers and
business people are not conservatives for nothing.


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