Do I Need an Architect for a Backyard Office?

Backyard Office ArchitectA backyard shed or office seems like a pretty simple construction that wouldn’t need the services of an architect, right? As an architect, it’s not uncommon to hear the following question…

Do I need an Architect for a backyard office?

An architect’s services will not be a compulsory requirement in most States and cities. However, an architect can streamline the planning and building permit approval process. Some States and cities will have building codes and laws in place for backyard offices. Appointing an architect will be a good decision to take care of these building codes.

Architects are not only useful to help with planning permissions and building codes. If you are dealing with a tricky backyard or would like a unique and creative backyard office, then hiring an architect will be your best investment. Below we’ll go into a bit more detail about building codes and architectural services.

Building Codes and Planning Permission

Building Codes and Permits are some of the most boring legal documents that an architect has to read through. But, they do exist and must be strictly adhered to. I found two very detailed articles on this topic, the first is from Apartment Therapy and the second one is from Popular Mechanics. If you do not feel like reading through too much detail then I’ve summarized it for you below…

Building Codes and Permits are put in place to ensure that buildings are built to code and standards. Most States and Cities will have you required to obtain a Building Permit for even the tiniest backyard shed or office. This is to help prevent any unfortunate events, like a roof collapsing, foundations sinking into the ground, or structures blown away by heavy winds. The Building Codes also ensure that you as the owner do not encroach any property lines. Failure to adhere to the Building Codes can result in a fine, or worse, an order to demolish your structure (if you have already built, or partially built your structure).

You as the owner can obtain a permit to build a backyard shed or office entirely on your own. However, the hassles and headaches are probably not worth it. Most people opt for an architect to carry out the dirty work. Even though some people do not necessarily hire an architect to design their backyard office, they can still hire the architect just to obtain the necessary permits and get approval for you to start building. A simple Google search will help you find your local municipal council’s website which will provide you with more information regarding building codes.

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Architectural Services for a Backyard Office

When I started architecture, I pictured huge state-of-the-art modern buildings with lots of glass and steel, or mansions that spanned across 2 acres of lush landscape. The reality, though, is that more often than not, we spend our days designing single residential homes and doing minor modifications to existing homes and buildings.

In between, it’s not uncommon to get a gig that requires the design of some type of backyard structure. This can be anything from a backyard shed to a studio, barn, retreat, or office.

Earlier I mentioned that architects often just get hired to take care of permits for backyard structures. However, architects can provide great value and insights when it comes to the design of a backyard office.

The backyard office needs to be a space that will help you achieve your maximum productivity levels. You also want it to look visually appealing and professional for when you have clients over for a meeting. Architects will study your land, your views, your weather patterns and even your daily habits to achieve the best design suitable for your office needs.

Architects will also help you choose the best spot for the office to be positioned in your backyard. If your land is on a slope – no problem for an architect to solve. Your office will make the most of natural sunlight and counter any harsh winds with the assistance of an architect. Architects think of preventing the problems that would never have crossed your mind. So, in my opinion (and not just because I’m an architect), I think an architect is one of the best investments you can make…

How Much Does an Architect Cost?

It goes without saying that the cost of architectural services will all depend on what type of service you choose to hire and also the architect that you hire. Architectural services and packages differ from one architect to another. Architect’s fees also differ depending on their experience and services offered.

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If you just want an architect who will take care of the Building Codes and Permits, then you can hire a junior or mid-level architect whose fees will range from $50 – $65 per hour. You do not need a senior or more experienced architect to take care of admin work. In fact, I’d even ditch the junior and mid-level architects and go straight to the intern architects who will charge you around $30 per hour. This type of service is usually billed for 2 hours of work, which will amount to around $100 – $120 for the junior and mid-level architects and about $50 – $60 with the intern architects. Some architects will even bill just for 1 hour, if you’re so lucky.

For an architect to plan and design your backyard office, you have to learn their 3 types of fee charges. They are:

  • Percentage based fee – this is a fee that’s a percentage of the total building budget and ranges anywhere from 5% to 15%. So if your building budget is $3000 and the architect charges a percentage fee of 10%, then that means you will pay the architect $300 for their services.
  • Hourly fee – these range from $30 to $150 per hour. Intern architects will charge you around $30 per hour. Junior and mid-level architects will range between $50 and $100 per hour. Senior architects go up to, but not limited to $150 per hour. This is my least favorite fee structure as it’s often the priciest option for the client.
  • Square-footage fee – This option is probably the most value for money if you want a small building or structure. Fees range anywhere from $0.75 all the way up to $5 per square foot. Let’s take the average fee of $2 per square foot and apply it to a 100 square foot backyard office. Your bill will amount to $200.
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Premade Backyard Sheds and Offices

Most people who purchase premade shed kits will not obtain the necessary permits beforehand. I don’t think this is deliberate, but rather an innocent act of ignorance.

The positioning of the premade shed must be recorded and submitted for approval by means of a simple site plan. This is usually done by an architect. You may contact your local building authority to find out if you can draw it and submit it yourself.

Other Professional Services

Apart from architects, other professionals can also bring some great value to your project. They are definitely not necessary, though. Consider the following more as recommended services…

  • Interior Designer – As an architect, I often try to do the interior design work as well. The truth is, they are obviously better at it! An interior designer’s skill is to design spaces that set your perfect desired mood. Since a backyard office needs to set a scene for maximum productivity, an interior designer will come highly recommended.
  • Landscape Architect – These guys will turn your boring old backyard into a visually magical oasis. Your office surroundings may not seem important but it does have a big impact. Not only does it create stunning views from the inside of your office and home, but it also provides a beautiful path for your visiting clients.
  • Project Manager – This seems like a stretch for a backyard office but I included it anyway. A project manager is ideal for someone who is extremely busy. If you do not have the time and you are able to afford it, then you can just hire a project manager. Your only job will be to tell the project manager what you have in mind, and then forget about it until it’s completed.

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