Trying to understand which professionals are required when undertaking the design and construction of a major home renovation project can be confusing. In Ontario, the term architect can only be used by someone who is accredited by the Ontario Association of Architects (OAA). Some architects do design houses, but it is not necessary to be an architect in order to design houses, and in many cases an architect might not be the best choice for the job.
Architects are broadly trained in the design of all types of buildings, including skyscrapers and institutional and multi-residential buildings. But they aren’t always specialists in home design, and few specialize in the niche area of single-family home additions and renovations. Architectural firms tend to focus on larger projects and are less likely to have extensive experience with the unique challenges related to renovating and expanding old Toronto homes.
Restrictions of OAA
The OAA has strict policies limiting how their members can offer their services, and they preclude their members from practicing as employees or associates in firms that are not owned and operated by licensed architects operating as architectural firms. They also have policies that restrict the ability of the architect to sell combined design and construction services to the public.
The reason for this is to avoid possible conflicts of interest, and to maintain a level of independence as professional consultants serving the best interests of their clients. This is an admirable objective. But for homeowners seeking a cost-effective, efficient, one-stop shop to help them through the planning and execution of an addition or renovation, these well-intentioned OAA policies can actually have the opposite effect.
The policies can potentially make involving an architect more expensive, time-consuming, and complicated, and they may introduce unintended conflicts of interest. Delivering a design that meets your target investment budget, a positive construction experience, high-quality construction, and after-construction warranty support are not the direct responsibility of the independent architect, but are all matters of serious interest to you.
It's All About BCIN
To design houses and make submissions to Ontario municipalities for building permits for home renovations, one must be a licensed architect, a professional engineer with a certificate of authorization from the Professional Engineers of Ontario (PEO), or accredited as a house designer by the Province with a Building Code Identification Number (BCIN). To obtain this accreditation, one must study and pass exams with specific focus on specialized areas of design, law, and building technologies related to single-family homes.
Some BCIN-qualified designers may have taken training through community college programs in residential design or architectural technology, while others may have followed the same educational path as licensed architects, obtaining a bachelor or master of architecture university degree. For many who have chosen to follow a career path with a focus on residential design and renovations, pursuing a BCIN designation can be a more practical and versatile accreditation than an OAA designation.
Design + Build Specialists
If you like the idea of dealing with a single responsible party guiding you from start to finish, providing a comprehensive warranty, and being directly accountable for your satisfaction throughout the whole process, then an architect might not be right for you. A professional design-build company with well-qualified BCIN house designers, professional engineering services, and properly qualified interior finishes specialists with expertise in kitchen and bathroom design may be a better option.
At Men At Work Design Build, our staff is comprised of highly specialized, multi-award-winning professionals, with the right education, accreditations, and insurance, and focused experience in single-family home design and renovations. Our BCIN-qualified house designers, Sava Miokovic and Keith O’Brien, have degrees in architecture from well-respected university architectural programs and many years of experience working on home addition and renovation projects for old Toronto homes. Behnam Torkan is our in-house professional structural engineer (P.Eng), and we have a team of interior specialists, including Claire Muldrew, Margaret Brosnan, and our senior designer, Natalie Venalainen, who was recently named by the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) as one of the top 30 under 30 designers in North America for 2017
So, Are We Right For You?
Having the right design professionals involved in your project is obviously important, but one of the major benefits of design-build lies in the collaborative approach of bringing the design team together with the project management, contracting, and trade professionals and product suppliers. As an integrated team, we equal much more than the sum of our parts. We can deliver customized, optimized solutions more quickly, efficiently, and cost-effectively than a fragmented group of independent parties.
So, do you need an architect for your project? We don’t think so. You need a team of the right specialists who understand how to help you make your old Toronto home functional, beautiful, and comfortable at a price you can afford, delivered through a positive, enjoyable experience. This is what we’ve been doing day in and day out for nearly 30 years. We would love to help make you and your family feel right at home.