The value of architects as project managers in residential construction is not as clearly understood as it could be, according to a senior figure within the architecture profession.

Cameron Frazer from Ask An Architect – a website set up by the Australian Institute of Architects designed to raise awareness about the profession and the building and renovation process – said an ‘information gap’ exists between consumers who want new or renovated homes which meet lifestyle preferences and architects who have the capacity to act as a delivery mechanism for good quality design outcomes.

He says a particular area of concern revolves around a lack of awareness about how architects can guide clients through the building process and act as a ‘trusted advisor’ with regard to things like building approvals, contracts administration and unexpected problems which surface during construction.

“We did quite a bit of research over the past twelve months to understand consumers’ appreciation in general of architects and the value they bring,” Frazer said.

“What we found is that many people did not fully understand the value architects can bring in terms of helping them through the documentation, applying for permits, selecting a builder and seeing the builder build the project.

“That trusted advisor role is a really important one that we really want to get forward to people. You look at the difficulties people can experience in building homes – the cost problems, the misunderstandings and the challenges of getting a result which meets their needs as a homeowner. Architects are perfectly placed to guide people through these issues to get the best possible result.”

Frazer’s comments follow the Institute’s recent launch of the Ask an Architect website,  an initiative which arose out of the Institute’s aforementioned research.

Outside of communicating the project management capabilities of architects, Frazer says additional areas of challenge revolve around raising awareness about the difference between an architect – with their seven years of training and ongoing professional development – and a draftsperson and other professionals as well as about the value of architect designed homes as opposed to stock-standard product from volume builders.

Asked about how consumers can maximise the value of their relationship with their architect, meanwhile, he says clients should select only architects who they trust and in whom they have confidence, and should be forthcoming with all relevant information. This latter point includes budgets, which Frazer says should allow for unexpected challenges during construction such as pipes which were discovered that were not expected to be there or tree roots which are found to be in the way.

Asked about strategies to raise awareness of the profession’s value, Frazer said in addition to the new site, the Institute was focusing on communicating the full value of custom design though its state and national architecture awards programs as well as through local architecture festivals, and was encouraging consumers to visit architect designed homes and experience subtle aspects such as the way the morning light comes into the kitchen during spring because windows are well-placed.

He is particularly excited about the Grand Design Live program in Sydney and Melbourne as this involves an audience which is already engaged in design.

“Communicating the value of design is really important,” Frazer said. “The way we are tackling that is through exposing people to good design.”

“We are encouraging people to go out and experience good design for themselves, to go and look at architect designed homes, go to open days and open for inspections and look at what an architect designed home is like compared to your average home or a volume builder’s home.”