Do Architects Actually Build Or Only Design? (Explained)

Becoming an architect can take years of study, a license by the state in which they practice their design, and many exams, internships, and apprenticeships.

This means that an architect will really understand the space they are designing and how it will come together as your new house, office building, theater, etc.

Here’s Whether Architects Actually Build:

An architect’s main service involves designing a space. They draft the entire building, spaces, entries, exits, outer landscaping, even, sometimes all the way down to the light fixtures. Some architects design the shell of a house, and contractors figure the rest out. They don’t usually build.

An architect must understand how a contractor might build the building they are designing, but they don’t usually take a hammer to nail themselves.

How Often do Architects get to Build their Ideas?

There are different levels of architectural services that architects and firms provide for their customers.

For example, a design-build firm is a company that both designs and then builds the house you would live in.

These companies include architects as both the preliminary designers of the house and the project leads or supervisors once construction has gone underway.

In this scenario, the architect is still not building the house themselves, they aren’t helping to construct it, but they do supervise as the construction goes on.



Most architectural designers design or draft the shell of the house or building. Their designs may go as in-depth as knowing exactly where each light fixture will be, and other times they may not do more than tell you where and how big the bedrooms and kitchen are on the draft.

Finally, it is rare when the architect is allowed to supervise or take over a construction site, as they are not usually both an architect and a licensed contractor.

What Are the Main Tasks for an Architect?

Architects first and foremost are designers, but there is a lot that goes into the design and construction of a new house or building:

Work with Clients:

First, an architect must meet with and discuss plans with their clients.

Client-designer relationships are key to making the experience a positive one. Without a proper understanding of what each person thinks will be best for the project, the entire thing could end in a dissatisfied mess.

Furthermore, when a client’s needs change, or their approval is withdrawn, the architect will have to work with them to redesign their ideas.

Design & Present:

Once both architect and client are satisfied with the preliminary idea, architects design, structure, restructure, and finalize a draft for client approval.

If the client approves, the architect will move through several more drafts until a final one is reached and agreed upon.

Blueprints & Paperwork:

Once that final draft is ready to do, the architect must set it into official documentation and blueprints to present to contractors and building officials.

It may also need approval from the architecture firm’s financial department.

These plans will help the contractors and building officials understand what they need to do to get the construction done, but it also helps create financial estimates.

Knowing what materials you need and how much it will cost will send you back to the client for final approval before construction even begins.

Agreements & Building:

Finally, once the client approves of the overall cost of the design, contractor company, construction, and labor, the development can begin.

Sometimes the architecture firm will stick around and help supervise the build, and other times they will go completely hands-off and move on to the next client and design.

Breaking ground on a new project is a thrilling experience, and an architect can help you get there!

How Involved are Architects in the Building Process?

Architects are semi-involved in the building process if their firm is a design-build firm.

If they are a design-build firm, the architect is asked to supervise or consult on the construction process. They will review plans, follow the construction process, and make sure to edit anything if something should go awry.

Anything can happen on a building project, and if an architect is there to supervise, they can catch problems or find solutions during construction.

If the architecture firm is hands-off and design-only, the architect won’t be part of the building process at all.

Do Architects Sometimes Lead the Building Process?

Architects supervise but don’t usually lead a building project.

If an architect is both licensed in architecture and contracting, they could be the leader of a build-site. However, without a contracting license, the architecture may not be legally allowed to run the project.

This is because of injuries and insurance and other disasters that can occur on a building site.

For example, if the architect were in charge and a wall was improperly placed and collapsed, the architect in charge of everything would be responsible.

Without a legal license as a contractor, the build-site and the company running it could get sued, fined, or the entire project could be dissolved.

Therefore, most architects work on a consultant, supervising, or design basis only.

Are Architects Allowed to Build Legally?

Only licensed contractors are allowed to build and operate a construction site legally.

Architects can be hired as consultants or supervisors, but cannot be in charge of the build itself.

This would lead to legal complications and sometimes lawsuits if something went wrong.

Finally, architects do not hands-on build the houses or buildings that they design. They will usually never use power tools on a site or operate heavy machinery.

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