Need Drawings For Property - Who Else Besides Architect?

14 Replies

Who Else Besides an Architect Could I Hire To Create Drawings For A Property?

I spoke to the city and they said the person I hire must be a "Pennsylvania licensed design professional". I had originally considered looking for someone to work remotely, such as finding someone on Upwork. 

The property is a heavy interior rehab on a 9 unit building. (8 residential and 1 commercial). 

We are only making 3 minor changes to the exterior:

  1. - Adding a porch with a wheelchair ramp
  2. - A roof over the porch
  3. - Adding a fire escape to a 2nd floor.

For the interior we will be moving or adding about 35% of the walls, updating the electric, HVAC and plumbing.

I, of course, would like to control my costs.  It is not an A-class property, it does not have to be anything fancy. Just take the existing building make some interior changes and move on.

go to your local lumber yard, not a box store.  They all usually have a drafts guy on staff that can draw up what you need.

@Tim Johnson , It is not likely that a draftsman is not going to be able to handle a "heavy rehab on a 9 unit building". 

@Chad Eisenhart , The definition of a licensed design professional as determined by most locales is a Registered and Licensed Architect (RA) or Engineer (PE). You are not talking about a small project and the City wants to place liability and assure that the completed work will meet the required local building codes. The job of an architect is to safeguard life, health, property, and public welfare. You will run into issues if you go against their minimum requirements. 

It baffles me in that the cost of hiring an architect/engineer is a sliver of the construction cost and an even smaller sliver from the long term profit on the property. A basic permit set as you stated to rearrange the interior and make the changes, shouldn't break the bank. However do not expect it to be a few thousand dollars either. Investors need to understand the liability also. It's not just "creating drawings." If the City doesn't require a design professional and you complete the work with a fly by night contractor, you as the owner have much more skin in the game if something goes wrong.    

-Jared Smith, RA (NY)

Just to add to what @Jared W Smith has said, the reason the city is pushing you towards an Architect or Engineer (and no draftsman would qualify for this) is that it is a commercial building. If this was a SFH you probably could go with a draftsman but for commercial its a requirement to get an Architect or Engineer, no way around it.

@Chad Eisenhart

What was said previously is really good. I’ll just add the key words are that the city asked you for a Pennsylvania LICENSED design professional. Which tells me they’ll require stamped drawings. So going to a hardware store, Fiverr, Upwork, etc., or even your local community college for a drafter will most likely not get you to what you need.

I will add that you also won’t need to hire a large architecture & engineering firm for this. A small operation will do as long as they as fully licensed and insured.

@Chad Eisenhart The most cost effective way to handle this would be to find someone on Upwork ie a draftsman or anyone familiar with a dwg software ie cad/revit (obviously someone with good feedback and has worked on similar projects which you can see from their portfolio), have them put together the construction drawings based on your specifications, construction budget, ETC, basically a full set of construction drawings which depending on the level of regulation/red tape within your municipality could include mechanicals, landscape/grading plans, ETC., and once you’re satisfied with the plans, find yourself a P.E. with a license from your state on Upwork to review and stamp the drawings. As long as the P.E. has an active license within your state and has given his stamp of approval the planning department of the municipality should be able to approve this (assuming the proposed design meets the guidelines for whatever the architectural standard is in whatever city this is being built in). We’ve done this a number of times for a few new construction multi family buildings down in central Florida and have never had an issue. Can give you the names of a few freelancers we’ve worked with in the past for our construction drawings and can also recommend a licensed PE’s (license for Florida) we’ve worked with that can do a quick review & stamp for you as well-shoot me a pm if you’d like some more guidance on this. Have nothing against architects or PE’s, but it can sometimes be difficult to squeeze the A & E fees into the budget for a smaller project. Good luck with your project, hope it turns out well.

@Chad Eisenhart Honestly, I'd advise you to get an architect. 

You will inevitably save yourself a lot of hassle, time, and money. 

we've done projects similar to yours and we always get an Architect. 

Good luck on the project.  

@Steve S.
I do not know the laws of all states (such as Florida), however I do know what you are proposing is illegal in NY State. It's commonly termed "rubber stamping". No architect or engineer is suppose to stamp/seal documents that were not personally completed by them or have been completed under direct supervision by them.   

According to PA laws it applies there also:

"9.142. Unlawful use of seal or stamp. (b) An architect may not impress the seal or stamp, or knowingly permit it to be impressed or affixed, on drawings, specifications or other design documents which were not prepared by the architect or under his direct supervision." 

Steve- I'd be careful what advice you give online, especially if you are encouraging something illegal. 

Would love to hear from a PA Architect or Engineer to confirm. 

FYI@Chad Eisenhart  

@Steve S.

Florida has a similar law: 

481.221 Seals; 

(6) No registered architect shall affix her or his signature or seal to any final construction document or instrument of service which includes drawings, plans, specifications, or architectural documents which were not prepared by her or him or under her or his responsible supervising control or by another registered architect and reviewed, approved, or modified and adopted by her or him as her or his own work according to rules adopted by the board.

I completed a similar rehab: needed insertion of beams for structural support when we took down a wall between dining and kitchen, plus new deck, and a few window enlargements.  We went to a local draftsman at a "residential drafting and design" place, not a full architect.

These are valid points, however, I can say with confidence that as long as the P.E. is comfortable with the design and specifications as indicated on the drawings, the P.E. can chose to stamp/approve the drawings if he/she feels comfortable that the building meets all standards and requirements as per the state/local laws, and if he/she does not feel satisfied with the drawings, he/she can make those adjustments themself or coordinate with the draftsman to make the necessary modifications to satisfy the local requirements or whatever the approval level is. The bottom line is that it is up to the engineer, whether or not he/she feels comfortable to provide his/her stamp of approval and every P.E. I’ve worked with understands the level of liability when it comes to stamping drawings, so it’s not something they take lightly therefore you can expect them to thoroughly review anything before they put their stamp on anything. This is a widely accepted practice even in the most tightly regulated markets for construction ie NYC (where we’ve worked on large municipal projects as a GC) where it is common place to have an in-house draftsman that would handle drawings for change orders for example and at that point you would typically have it sent over to the project engineer for approval (if this provision is allowed in the contract) or you can have it sent through an expeditor who can usually take it from there. On the other hand, as a contractor, if I’m submitting a bid on a public project, there is always gunna be a line item for A&E/Consulting, in this case I have no problem sending this over to a “Registered Architect” or P.E. to handle as the owner (the city, state, whatever agency) is paying for it. But for anything where we’re an owner/builder on, there is no chance I’m spending 50-75k on something we can usually have done for less than 4-5k. Just my 2 cents