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From Napkin to Blueprint: Where Do You Find a Great Barndominium Architect?

You have only gotten so far in your quest to build the perfect barndominium. You have it sketched out on the back of a napkin, So, the question is:

Where do you find a great barndominium architect? The same way you’d find an architect for a custom home project. You would conduct a thorough search based on experience, cost, creativity and, most of all, a willingness to adapt your hand-drawn plans for your dream barndo to a final blueprint..

How much does it cost to hire an architect?

A survey of 1,000 homeowners indicates an average hourly fee of between $60  and $125 an hour. So, final costs will depend on how much new input you’d like from your chosen architect on your design and the time involved in rendering whatever you come up with to the final blueprint stage.

“An architect can turn your vision into an actual plan,” says “They are not only skilled at structural and spatial relationships, as well as planning, but they also are familiar with applicable building codes and zoning regulations. They work as your agent and can also help you in bid evaluation and selecting a contractor.”

That is, they can be helpful in those areas if you’re well-heeled enough to have them conduct those types of transactions for you. Other articles on this website can help you do those things as well. This article is primarily to advise you on how best to output your forever floor plan to final blueprint.

But first, let’s consider more fully the notion of hiring an architect..

How do I hire an architect?

Here are the steps we suggest:

  1. Determine whether or not you even need an architect (good question.)
  2. See if a reasonably priced well-rated home design software will do what you need (here’s one)
  3. Search for an architect by asking friends and business associates for recommendations, or
  4. Conduct a search through the American Institute of Architects website.
  5. Choose several candidates, and schedule a time to meet with them.
  6. Assess the fee and the terms of payment.
  7. Read the contract carefully.
  8. Decide whether you get a good “vibe” (a nebulous requirement, but you know what we mean.)

In case your architect isn’t familiar with barndominiums

Here are the main benefits of designing your barndominium within the walls of a steel frame structure:

  • Absolute freedom in designing your floor plan. There are no constraints under the vast openness within the shell.
  • Taking advantage of no-load-bearing walls. Since metal buildings are made up of clear span welded beams, there is no such thing as a “load-bearing wall.” You are free to place walls wherever you see fit.
  • Industrial grade steel completely provides support clear across the height and width of the building, making interior columns needless.
  • Living space can flow freely into kitchen space, bedroom space and finally into a wide open, 40 to 100-foot shop space. If you can dream it, it can be built out under a metal barndominium roof.

But what about hiring an architect with barndo experience?

We’ll admit that it’s not easy to find a local architect who has had experience in designing a barndominium’s living space.

But if you can find one recommended by a friend or associate and explain that basically he (or she) is mainly there to render your design into something that tradespeople can work from in the way of blueprints — an interior design not constrained by load-bearing walls or predefined hallway locations — they will generally be able to see the possibilities.

Most architects who have done so love working with barndominium owners-to-be, says a respected architect.

‘Casual, low maintenance and always ready for an impromptu gathering,” is how architect Peter Stuhlreyer of Designhaus describes a typical barndominium. “What we have found, as designers of many barndominiums, is that the client is far more relaxed about design decisions and material choices, so the projects are really organic, spontaneous and enjoyable.”

Designhaus, by the way, is an internationally renowned architectural firm that not many readers of this website could afford, although you are welcome to contact them. They tend to be very modern and almost stark in their designs.

However, what Stuhlreyer says is true. Barndo owners love the unique features of a barndominium.Like the garage-size roll-up glass doors that let in a maximum of sunlight when down and allow seamless flow of people from outdoors to in and vice versa during parties, for instance.

For many owners, it’s what attracted them to the idea of a barndo in the first place.

But getting back to the question of where to find an architect willing to work with you to produce your vision. Go through the steps outlined above and then visit with each one until you find one that seems to understand your vision. An initial consultation is often free, but best to ask before you show up and start a consultation meter running.

What about just working with a draftsman instead?

You can do that, if you pretty much know what changes you might want and can show him or her a more-or-less finished sketch.

The cost for those services should be less than an architect. Blueprints are typically created by a draftsperson using CAD software. But the average cost for a 1000 sf barndo blueprint could still be as much as $1200-$1500.

Still, that’s less expensive than meeting with an architect. So where can you find a draftsperson with CAD design equipment capable of turning out your blueprints?

Just type in “where to find a draftsman near me.” and Google will work its usual magic, bringing back the names and locations of several candidates.

Go through much the same process as above, interviewing  and asking questions before you agree to let them render your design.

Working with a supplier, not an architect

In some cases, it may be easier and more cost-effective to just pick out a steel frame supplier that has a staff architect and software already on hand to make a few changes for you and output your homesite plans complete with electrical and plumbing schematics already laid in.

But in most cases, you’re adapting their plans a bit — not adapting yours — to reach a final compromise design. This can be far different than the floor plan you spent so much time perfecting. It may not be worth the money you might save by skipping the architect consultation. Basically, you would be buying an off-the-shelf barndo.

It’s totally up to you. Save some bucks by going with a mostly set design. Or spend significantly more to get what you really want.

That’s what it boils down to.

Just for comparison’s sake

Here’s a short list of national metal frame “kit” or “shell” providers who will ship a preconfigured set of steel components to your homesite, ready for assembly.

Some will let you alter their set floor plan. Just ask if that’s a possibility in your initial conversations with them.

General Steel Buildings — will deliver a pre-welded barndo frame ready for erection. Often has a sale going on popular sizes like 30×40 and 40×60.

Worldwide Steel Buildings —  will also deliver a pre-welded frame for easy construction.

Absolute Steel — especially good if you want a smaller barndo or cabin-style structure that’s easily assembled by you and a couple of friends.

Rhino Steel Building Systems — these folks say they have an architectural design specialist who can work with you on your hand-drawn plans. They also run specials now and then. So, if you’re not wed to a particular size, you should check this tab out on their website.

A bit more on the subject of floor plans

Barndominium floor plans are everywhere these days.

A simple Google search will bring up a huge number of floor plan images. From these, you can easily cobble together your dream layout.

However, to get a set of floor plans rendered properly into four or five sets for your construction foreman to use on the jobsite — well, it’s not impossible. Just highly unlikely. Even if you are lucky enough to find a set that’s perfect for you, requiring no changes.

In summary

The chances of seeing the floor plans you took such pains to create are going to be much better if you just budget for a professional architect. He or she can work with you in getting just the plans you had in mind.

You’re still going to need to know exactly where to put doors and windows. Even working within the relatively open space of a clearspan metal building. And if you have a few of those wonderful glass rollup doors in your plans, they will have certain specs that must be allowed for when the frame is erected.

You can’t just guess at what those parameters might be. Someone has to read and interpret the manufacturer’s specifications. It could be you, working with a lower-priced draftsman.

Or, it could be a highly qualified, bonafide architect who will factor in those specifications in relation to a host of other considerations you might never have thought of.

Again, it’s up to you.

Hopefully, this article has been helpful at laying out your options. Please leave your comments below on how it helped in the building of your perfect barndominium,