Through education, training and experience, an architect is the one professional person who is equipped to guide you through the design, permitting and construction of a building or renovation project. Unlike other specialized professionals (that may also be needed) such as structural engineers, mechanical engineers, geotechnical engineers, an architect is trained to be a generalist, to see both the big picture and the fine details. No other professional on the building project team can to talk with you about space, light, building regulations and the strength of concrete with equal ease (often in the same sentence!). He or she will work with you to define your functional needs, your budget, schedule, the restrictions of your site, building code requirements, engineering requirements, and construction methods to create a building for you that is beautiful, strong and functional.
Other professions solve problems with public policy, deductive reasoning, diagnosis, mathematics or composition. Almost unique among all professions, architects solve problems with geometry. Architects are three-dimensional problem solvers. You can find architects involved in the design of anything that can benefit from their unique skill set: cities, office towers, hospitals, schools, houses, interiors, furniture, or even dishes. It is the architect’s holistic approach to a design challenge that brings benefit to you.
It may sound self-serving, but 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 after you have made the decision to build or remodel. 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 traditions, the architect can help you evaluate potential building sites, order your budget and priorities, and suggest creative ways of meeting your needs. Particularly in a highly regulated urban 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 during the building process.