Architects vs. General Contractors: What’s the Difference?

When you think of construction projects, you will undoubtedly think of two contributors to the project, a contractor, and an architect. To some, the mention of these two is saying the same thing. To them, there is no difference between the two.

In reality, the two are quite different even though they work in the same field. There are significant differences between these two professionals, even though people get them confused. In simple terms, architects create designs that contractors then implement. 

Another definition will tell you that architects combine artistry and engineering while contractors do hands-on work to implement what the architect has designed. You need to know this difference before you can implement your project. Consider the following responsibilities of each before you hire one for your next project. 

The Architect

An architect works to create a design that will satisfy the client’s wants and needs. They do this by uniting artistic vision with practicality way before any construction begins. The beginning of a project relies heavily on them as their design must meet both the client’s needs and building codes.

Their drawings are a reference point for all future construction work. Beyond the designing phase, architects maintain close contact with contractors to bring the project to life. They oversee the delivery process from start to finish.

Architects have certificates from accredited schools following the National Architecture Accrediting Board (NAAB). They often charge by the hour if it is strictly for design and planning purposes. They can also charge a percentage of the overall cost of a project if they are involved from start to end. 

The Contractor

A contractor is responsible for bringing the architect’s design to life. A general contractor works on large projects and does not need to worry over building codes or permits as those issues have already been sought out.

The contractor will use the architect’s design to work on the project while consulting with them to ensure everything is done correctly. A contractor will use their expertise to deliver the result.

They rely on communication with the client to complete the vision and meet goals. Contractors do not charge by the hour; instead, they charge a fee for the whole project. The fee will vary depending on the size of the project and what you want done. 

Can You Get One Without The Other?

The two professions complement each other and are, therefore, both necessary for the success of the entire project. Their chemistry must be undeniable, and communication must be effective to deliver the client’s needs fully. Their relationship should be one of mutual respect to avoid clashing ideas and miscommunication.

A good architect should provide clear and concise designs that the contractor should be able to follow. Moreover, the contractor should refer to the architect for any information and clarification during construction. 

Contractors provide a good practical approach for the entire project, and they will often be found working with architects to solve any solutions that may arise from the project. The key to a successful project is to find a contractor and architect that work together.