Consultants for Custom Home Building – Who Will I Need?

Consultants for Custom Homebuilding

Custom home building is a team sport! In addition to the Architect and Builder, there are several other consultants that you may choose (or be required) to involve on your project. Many people are not familiar with these consultants or don’t understand their different roles in the custom home building process. To help clear up some of the mystery behind these consultants, we’ve put together a list of the most common consultants that can be involved in a custom home project.

Table of Contents

Interior Designer

The Interior Designer is considered an integral part of the Design/Build team, which includes the Architect and the Builder.  Services are broad in scope, encompassing everything from the aesthetic attributes of a space to the safety and health/wellness characteristics of the home.  Depending on your contract, the Interior Designer can be a source for: ideas, spatial design, exterior and interior elevations, illustrations and renderings, finishes, lighting, color, specifications, and purchasing.

Structural Engineer

The structure of your home is considered by the Architect, but is ultimately the responsibility of the Structural Engineer. The Structural Engineer focuses on the supporting framework of your home.  He or she ensures your home will withstand the stresses and pressures of the environment (soil movement, snow load, wind, etc.), the specific requirements of the architecture (clear-span, fenestration, economic considerations, materials, etc.) and remain safe, stable and secure throughout its use.

Civil Engineer

The Civil Engineer will consult on issues of site drainage, water detention/retention, retaining structures and final grading.  These services are not necessarily required for all custom homes.  Requirements are at the discretion of the permitting authority and are based on variables including lot size, soil characteristics, topography, and other site specific criteria.

Landscape Architect

Landscape Architecture is the art of composing landform, water, vegetation, buildings, paving and climate to make good outdoor spaces. Outdoor spaces are becoming increasingly important for today’s lifestyles.  Take advantage of a Landscape Architect as a resource to make the most of your outdoor spaces; the value of a successful landscape far outweighs the cost of the design.  A Landscape Architect can blend the home into the site and provide a stunning finishing touch to your project.

Soils Consultant/Engineer

A Soil Engineer, also known as a Geotechnical Engineer, is a Civil Engineer who specializes in evaluating the characteristics of the ground upon which a structure is built. A Soil Engineer investigates and analyzes a site for such qualities as soil characteristics, composition, and drainage; and makes recommendations to the Structural Engineer on how to respond to specific soils.

MEP Engineering

Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing engineering focuses on the disciplines needed to build safe, well-functioning essential systems for your home. The mechanical aspect focuses on heating, ventilation, and cooling; also known as HVAC.  The electrical aspect focuses on providing power to the home to safely supply all outlets and appliances with electricity. The plumbing aspect focuses on the delivery of water and the draining of waste water.

Energy Rater

A home energy rating is a comparative analysis of how energy efficient your home is in comparison to other homes. A certified Home Energy Rater will conduct a series of tests on your house to generate a score on the Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index. The lower the HERS Index score, the more energy efficient the home.  Energy calculations are required by most agencies issuing building permits.  These typically include:

  • REScheck – Commonly used to refer to energy compliance analysis required for many building permit applications, REScheck (previously known as MECcheck) is actually the name of software designed to compute this analysis, developed and distributed by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Building.
  • Manual J – Manual J is the name for a specific protocol (often called “Heat Load Calculation” or “Cooling Load Calculation“) used to determine how much heating/cooling a home needs to stay cool and dry in the summer and warm in the winter.
  • Manual D – For residential air duct designs ACCA’s Manual D is the procedure recognized by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and specifically required by residential building codes.

Technology Consultant

Home automation and the integration network infrastructure is no longer a luxury, but a necessity to operate the features available in today’s homes.  Services can include:

  • Cinema-style home theaters/ media systems
  • Whole house distributed audio systems
  • Lighting controls and lighting programs
  • Web- and TV-based home health care products and installation
  • Media center edition (MCE) computers
  • Multi-zone entertainment systems
  • Micro-display-based televisions
  • Remote monitoring capabilities
  • Security and surveillance systems
  • Energy management
  • Data networks
  • Phone systems
  • Gaming rooms
  • Even central vacuum systems!

Ideally, the Home Technology Specialist should be consulted as an important part of the design team and brought in while the home is still being planned.

Lighting Consultant/Designer

Lighting plays a key role in the mood and function of your home; Lighting Designers require a mixture of artistic skill and technical knowledge.  They create the lighting concept for your home, and then design how the concept can be implemented. They consider your specific needs in both the lighting design and products selected for your home. In addition, lighting designers create designs that consider safety (lighting paths are increasingly important as we get older) and the cost-effectiveness and energy-efficiency of running and maintaining the lights.

Color Consultant

The value of a professionally designed color palette is coming to light.  No longer an “after-thought”, color has the power to shape the aesthetics of your home.  A Colorist brings focus to the use of color, specializing in its complex effects.  Once the Colorist understand the goals of the client, they create color solutions to meet those goals.  Color selection is sometimes the role of the Interior Designer; if not, a Color Consultant can play an important and often dramatic role in the look and feel of a home.

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