Hello, and welcome to our new series on Architectural Services. This series serves as a response to the numerous questions we get from new clients who have not experienced the architectural process of design and construction. So, if you have ever wondered what is zoning in architecture or what services an architect provides, look no farther. Likewise, if you do not know which codes might or might not apply in your jurisdiction.

Now and historically, architects have provided code and zoning guidance, as well as data analysis. The typical set of services architects provide depends on the project type and scale. We will focus on those that apply to single-family residences and light commercial construction in this series.

The first subcategory of architectural services relevant to any project you might undertake concerns an analysis of zoning ordinances and code requirements.

Part 01Zoning and Code Analysis

This is one of the first architectural services you will likely see in any proposal that you receive. Each project individually requires that the architect review the specific rules and regulations applying to the use, scale, and location. On a project-by-project basis, architects can assist in three critical areas on the way to project completion.

Architect as Zoning Expert

View of digital proposal template

Zoning regulations are enacted on both the town/city level and the county level to protect the health and welfare of the public. These regulations, called “ordinances,” delineate the type of uses permitted for a structure in a given area. They also define maximum and minimum areas, the maximum height, the maximum lot coverage, and to some extent the building’s placement on the site itself. Jurisdictions make this information publicly available along with a map to clarify zoning district boundaries.

Architect as Building Code Pro

Building codes are the regulations that define the minimum requirements for a structure’s safe construction and use. The codes govern The codes govern building (including structure, all design elements, and finishes), fire, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and energy conservation. In the United States, the majority of jurisdictions have adopted a model set of codes and standards created by the International Code Council, or ICC. Each state ratifies these codes differently. Some are adopted at the state level, and others are adopted by counties or cities. No uniform version of these ICC codes prevails nationally. Architects keep current with these codes and can advise you on the latest best practices.

Architect as Ambassador

Gathering data that pertain to your individual project is, in and of itself, an art form. The architect not only must understand the project type and use when contacting the jurisdiction but must also take into account the peculiarities of a given jurisdiction in how they may organize their data or in the terminology they may employ. Experience is key. Obtaining the correct information and understanding how to apply it to the project can have a major impact on the budget and timeline to completion. The architect will use these data throughout the project to inform design decisions as well as solve construction quandaries.

That’s it for our first installment on Architectural ServicesZoning & Code. We welcome any questions that you have in the comment section. And if you would like to move forward on a stalled or new project, we’d love to help-just provide us with a few initial details here!