Building

Do I Need an Architect to Get My Building Permits on Maui?

As an agent that enjoys selling vacant land, I get many questions about the permitting process on Maui. One question I get a lot (no pun intended) is, do I need an architect to get my building permits? The short answer is NO. The short answer is not the full story.

Permitting Process on Maui

The bottom line is that Maui County requires that your plans be stamped by a Hawaii licensed architect or Hawaii licensed structural engineer. Hence you could use a draftsperson for your drawings and have an engineer stamp the plans. This strategy does not require the use of an architect.

This brings up the question, what is the difference between using an architect and a draftsperson? Either way, there is still going to be a structural engineer involved. I have used both an architect and a draftsperson, and for me, this comes down to whether you know exactly what you want your house to look like or do you want the input of a professional to give you advice on making the house as great as it can be?

What Does an Architect Do?

An architect is a blend of engineer, artist, and efficiency expert. They typically bring years of experience on what has worked and not worked for other clients that they can apply to your house design. They will hopefully bring insights such as house positioning, natural lighting, and airflow into the design. An architect will also help with efficiency, especially in a room like a kitchen to ensure that tasks can be completed easily. The architect will also hopefully take your lifestyle and the way you like to do things into account. Finally, the artist portion will hopefully design a home that is beautiful to the eye. Naturally, this all comes at a price.

What Does a Draftsperson Do?

A draftsperson, on the other hand, is more of someone that will follow your instructions. They might have some suggestions; however, you can’t expect a draftsperson to give you the same level of guidance as an architect since the architect has years of schooling in addition to their experience. As such a draftsperson is less expensive.

Should You Choose an Architect or a Draftsperson?

For you to select the right approach, you need to be super honest with yourself. Do you know exactly what you want your house to look like, or do you need guidance? Can you visualize what each room will look like from a simple drawing or do you need help with visualization? Do you know how you should layout your kitchen from an efficiency perspective, or do you need guidance? How comfortable are you in determining the appropriate size for each room in your home and making trade-offs when the house you design is too big for your budget?

Speaking of budget, even though an architect is more expensive than a draftsperson, making changes during construction due to design errors or oversights can easily exceed the cost of an architect. Hence the reason why I said you need to be super honest with yourself and with your ability to visualize the design from drawings.

At this point, it may seem like I am arguing that you should use an architect. That is not my intention, however, as an experienced real estate professional, I have shown homes to many clients that have limited vision or little ability to visualize simple changes to existing houses, so I know they would be totally lost in the design process using a draftsperson. My guess, not based on any real data but the 80-20 rule is often right, that 80% or more of the population should use an architect and less than 20% of the population will get a satisfactory result using a draftsperson.

I married someone in the 20% category, so for my current house, we went the draftsperson route. Our home is turning out great. Did we get it 100% correct? Of course not, but we got close enough. Previously we used an architect for a design, and at times I thought the design was more of what the architect wanted compared to what I wanted. Just like hiring any professional, interview architects carefully, and use one that will meet your needs. Some of you will want someone that designs the entire house and then show it to you when they are done, and you say great. Others of you will want to discuss every detail as the house is being designed. Many of you will land somewhere in-between. Just find an architect that is comfortable working the way you like to work.

When I was reviewing this blog with a builder friend of mine, he suggested that I add something about asking if the architect will provide you 3D drawings. In his experience, many of his clients only got a real understanding of the design of their house once they saw the 3D drawings. He also told me that these 3D drawings are also super helpful for the different trades that will be working on your house to ensure that one does not negatively impact another. Yes, this is an extra expense, which may save you money in the long run.

As for hiring a draftsperson, I recommend choosing someone that has a close working relationship with your structural engineer. The ability for the draftsperson to bounce things off the engineer during the design process will save you time and frustration when it comes to the engineering phase.

So Do I Need an Architect?

Back to the question, do I need an architect? The answer is no, but for many of you will want to hire an architect as they bring expertise to the project that you may not have personally. The upfront cost of an architect might be offset later by the changes that you will not have to make. Making changes on paper is much cheaper and easier than making changes during the actual construction phase. Whoever you hire, make sure that you will be able to work with them productively.

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