“Just the plans.  Just the plans, ma’am.”

When US residents consider a new home, they essentially have two options: select from available listed homes or build a custom home.  When building a custom home, the process often starts with a search of residential home design plans.  There are many ways and places to get house plans but for this post I will refer to them as “plan-services”. When homemakers explore plan-services, they may be told that they will save by not pursuing custom design. Realistically, how many owners do you think live in plans-service homes that are built without edits to the original design? The answer: not one. If, by chance, they reside in a plan-service home that did not require changes, I guarantee the builder made design changes before the house was listed (existing stock).

Custom Home Design, Residential Home Design Plans

Elements of Custom Design by Fivecat Studio | Architecture and Lamidesigns

This Friday, July 19, I will begin a custom home design discussion series at the Big Time Small Firm community on Google+.  Part 1 will feature Mark LePage of Fivecat Studio and the prolific Entrepreneur Architect, an extensive online resource for entrepreneurial development, education and camaraderie for architects.   We will also talk with Gregory La Vardera of LamiDesign, the leading source for architect designed modern home plans on the internet.  These two are leaders in the residential-design-by-architects world as well as in the profession at large.  I plan to get their hard and fast opinions and views on why only 3% of US homes are designed by architects, as well as what they are doing to be a significant part of that slice of such a large market. In the US, Residential Home Design and Architecture are considered two separate things. Surprised? The American Institute of Architects (AIA) and architects in general are surprised.The AIA is spending millions in dues money (already more than most professions) on a repositioning campaign that largely involves CRAN (Custom Residential Architects Network) a sub org of the AIA. The goal of this campaign is to increase awareness about the benefits to working with architects and their role on a project.  Hopefully, the existing statistic that only 3% of homes in the US are designed by architects will increase also.  If successful, it will be because the home buying public will know there is more than “just the plans” to building a great place that is comfortable, functional, sustainable and reflective of their personality and style while keeping the wind and rain at bay.  When home buyers search the typical plan service for a design, they delve into a plethora of homes sold with a plan and an attractive picture.  Those usually go to the field with minimal, if any, attention to construction detailing and thought about the owner’s needs and wants.  It is more about merchandise. The perception of architects in the residential design market must be transformed for our profession to have increasing opportunities to provide service to those who now believe architects are not affordable. Architects must be seen as equals to design practitioners and custom builders that build design value in to their prices in order to provide quality solutions and great work. How do we make those changes?

Big Time Small Firm began after a group of like-minded professionals met on a Twitter chat, #EntreArchtetChat hosted by Mark LePage, and decided that a grassroots group of architects would be a great way to aggregate our experience and learn from and help each other.  We share ideas, examples of work and even contract with each other to balance out workloads and experience.  Part 1 of the custom homes discussions will be a big step for the Google+ Community.  We have been talking about a lot of issues with the profession of architecture and the diminishing market and influence in residential design. Now we will begin to address the possible solutions. If you considering a new home design, please join Big Time Small Firm Friday, July 19th, at 2 PM Eastern. Home design architects Mark and Gregory will discuss custom residential design and reveal 5 lasting and tangible benefits to you and your family while designing, building and living in an architect designed home.

Link to the Custom Home Design discussion hangout event and the Big Time Small Firm community on Google+

Link to Big Time Small Firm on Youtube

Link to Mark LePage , Fivecat Studio and Entrepreneur Architect

Link to Gregory La Vardera and LamiDesign

Until next time, live nicely!