Your local building department may require you to hire a registered architect or engineer, but there are also many advantages of working with an architect that go far beyond simply complying with the law.
Through education, training and experience, an architect is equipped to guide you through the design, permitting and construction of your building or renovation project. Unlike other specialized professionals (which you may also need) such as structural engineers, mechanical engineers, geotechnical engineers, etc., an architect is trained to be a generalist, to see both the big picture and the fine details. No other professional on your team can talk with you about the quality of space and light as well as building code regulations as well as the strength of concrete with equal ease (and often in the same sentence!). An architect will help guide your project through a web of issues including your functional needs, budget, schedule, site restrictions, zoning requirements, building code requirements, engineering requirements, and more to create a building for you that is beautiful, strong and functional.
At a higher level, think about how different professions approach problems through diagnosis, policy, finance, deduction, mathematics, or writing. Almost unique among all professions, architects seek solutions through geometry. Architects are three-dimensional problem solvers. You can find architects involved in the design of anything that can benefit from this unique skill set: city planning, office towers, hospitals, schools, houses, interiors, furniture, or even video games. It is the architect’s holistic approach to any design challenge that delivers benefit to the project.
If you are already convinced that you should hire an architect for your project, it is in your best interest to do it as soon as possible in your intended project. A well planned project will be both cheaper for you and more successful in the long term. Based on his or her experience and extensive knowledge of local codes and building practices, the architect can help you evaluate potential building sites, develop your budget and priorities, and suggest creative ways of meeting your needs. Particularly in a highly regulated environment such as the San Francisco Bay Area, bringing an architect into the team early will almost certainly save you time, money, and many problems as your project moves from dream to reality..