Good question. If you don't get a reply here, you can check w/your local Municipal Building Inspector. I don't think you need an Architect but I WOULD consider having one review your final plans. Bottom line - You'll need a number of inspections during the building process. Some include foundation, electrical, framing, roofing, plumbing, among others. Since your Municipal is going to be 'monitoring' your project, it needs to be compliant to BOCA codes and local ordinances and laws and so on. An Architect in your area is familiar w/the laws.
I suggest that when you DO pick someone, that you pick someone that has built in the jurisdiction you are building in. The last thing you want is a Professional who isn't familiar w/the idiosynchrocies of your Municipality. Besides, a 'local Pro' probably has a 'working relationship' w/the local Inspector.
Also, you can start by visiting an Architect and getting a price on what it would cost for him to do what he's going to do. I suggest that you DON'T start by asking for any prices, though. You should start by asking 1) if he/she can design a home, 2) what else do they do for their fee, 3) what OTHER 'things' they can do (for a fee) that's NOT included in their 'regular fee', 4) if you can get some references, 5) if they've built in the same area you're interested in, 6) and so on. THEN, when they're AAAAALL finished talking, ask what it will cost. This way, you don't walk away thinking, up front, that you DON'T know what they're going to do for their price. It's like going to a mechanic and saying, "How much will it cost to fix my car?" Well, he hasn't even looked at it (which costs $$$), he hasn't had the opportunity to order parts (which costs $$$), and you he hasn't had an opportunity to determine if his diagnosis and 'fix' is the end-all. See what I mean? Oh, don't be 'surprised' if the Architect/Builder says that he/she needs XYZ-dollars for a 'retainer'. No, there shouldn't be any FEE for your 'interview'. I'm talking about the point-in-time where you say, "Yes, I'll hire you", and he says, he needs $1,500 to just do a PRELIMINARY design. Like I said - When you're finished interviewing him, then ask for a Schedule Of Fees. This will include costs for changes to YOUR original plans/request, Filing Fees, and so on.
If you're brave enough, you can ask him if there are 'ways' in which you could save some $$$. Of course, he's first gonna say that you should be FINAL in your plan and NOT make any changes. (AR-AR-AR!) Seriously, maybe you can do a 'rough design' yourself. Maybe you can do the landscaping. Whatever. What I DO suggest further is that you make a rough plan anyways, then let it sit for a while. Revisit it after a FEW days and see if you are thinking differently. Don't visit the plans, like, every time you have a mental change. Leave them alone and just make a written note and keep it in your pocket. After a FEW days, take your notes and revisit the plan. It works MUCH better, and you won't be looking like you're 'throwing darts' at your plans. After you've made your 'rash of changes', start a new list and revisit the plans after a few more days. Once you think you're finished w/changes, then start mentally living in it in the Summer, Winter, SPring, and Fall. Live in it during CHristmas, birthdays, cookouts, and card games. Then live in it raking leaves, watering the lawn, parking your car, and working in the 'shop'. Then have your wife do the same things. Oh, you too should live in it doing laundry, cooking, vacuming, and so on. You could be doing those chores too.
There are PLENTY of books out there for folks wanting to design and build their own home. You should consider this. (A GOOD book costs VERY little.) One thing I suggest is wide doorways and hallways, perimeter drainage systems, underground utilities, exterior lighting on all sides of the home, GFCI outlets and garden faucets on all sides, and as MUCH maintenance-free of an exterior as possible.
Whew!!! I've said enough. My best to ya and hope this helps.
Jay J -Moderator
PS: God Bless America!
Thank you for your full reply to my question!.
I am an Architect in Great Britain so i have 'experience' of designing homes, it is the building codes in the States that i shall have to find out about.
Thank you again.
I almost feel like I'm eating crow now. If I had known that you were an Architect (even in GB), I would have had a MUCH more limited reply.
There is no 'requirement' per se that you have an Architect plan/design your home. It's just that they're familiar w/the Codes (i.e. BOCA Codes), and that if a design would 'fail' the code, they'd be able to point that out BEFORE ground is even broken. That, among others as you already know as an Architect, is an advantage of having an Architect plan/design a home. Besides, these days, most Architects know how to use all that 'fancy' software to do home designs. ;-)
Just to reiterate - There are local codes IN ADDITION to the BOCA codes that might apply. (Hence my 'suggestion' that one hire a local Architect vs. someone from, say ..., the 'big city'.) Good luck!
Jay J -Moderator
PS: God Bless America and GB too!!!
Ooops...perhaps i ought to of mentioned i was an Architect (even in GB!) before i asked the question.
Your answer has proved to be most helpfull...but...where can i get my hands on a copy of the BOCA codes?.
I assume they are similar to our(GB)'Building regulations' ie..'though shalt not...etc.
Are they available 'on line' or does it mean i have to have a trip to the USA (Savannah please!) again to find a copy?
BOCA info is all over the WEB. However, the info for the town/city you're interested in may not be. What I mean to say is that the Municipalities take the BOCA book as a guide. Then, they apply 'changes', and such, to it. The reason no one takes the BOCA as the defato standard is because the country varies in many, MANY ways. For example, basements in Louisiana, in general, aren't permitted. In Pennsylvania, they are. Hence, Louisiana would exclude the basement code (for the most part), and PA would include it BUT have amendments applied to it. So, you can get the BOCA book but you'll need to contact the Municipality in which you want to build for the amendments.
Visit Build4U.com for a start. You can search the WEB by using your favorite WEB Search Engine and keying in the string BOCA or "boca code" (depending on how your particular search engine works.
Good luck! If you need more info, post back. My best to ya and hope this helps.
Jay J -Moderator
PS: Bummer about George Harrison, you know. Thanks for the memories ...
PPS: God Bless America and GB too!
I have a pretty good idea about most of the considerations. Some basics, though, seem to escape me.
For instance, how does one determine what should be a "standard" curve for a driveway. Is there some place or source for all "basic" items, with, perhaps, acceptable deviations?