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Uh-oh, DIY Architecture

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Since there's an app for everything, why not for architecture? So asks the uncharacteristically credulous New York Times.

... in recent years, a spate of computer software programs has made it possible for homeowners to skip the architect altogether and do the design work themselves. And while they have mainly been used to design interiors, these tools are becoming increasingly sophisticated, allowing homeowners to tackle bigger projects.

You can save a bundle, you know, by cutting the architect out of the loop: "Ms. Petersik estimated the new kitchen cost around $7,000, far less than the $30,000 to $40,000 it would have if they had needed a professional’s opinions on onyx." Right, in an alternate reality where architects' fees run between 300 and 500 percent.

And what could possibly go wrong?

Ms. Rodriguez, 55, learned that the hard way when she used Chief Architect to draft plans for a kitchen remodel in her home in Santa Maria, Calif. Even with years of professional experience, she ran into trouble when she took the renderings to the city’s planning department. Her plans, she discovered, called for the removal of a shear wall that helped support the impact of earthquake loads and kept the roof attached. 

Here's the question I always ask friends thinking about going down this road: Do you think someone who's had years of training and experience with houses, thinks about them all the time, and is part of a whole network of builders, suppliers, and craftspeople can design your project 15 percent better than you can? Based on the outcomes of the many DIY designs I've seen, the answer is, "Uh, yes." Software hasn't changed that yet. --b.d.s.

 

 
 

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