Design Center

Tips On Selecting a Plan Designer

There are three choices when designing a new home:

  • In-House Builder Design
  • AIBD Designer
  • Architect

In House Builder Design

Builders who are more experienced, more tenured or have larger operations tend to offer in-house design services. The advantage of these services is that the person helping you design your home has a construction background and/or has a builder working beside them to ensure nothing gets drawn that is too costly for your budget. Normally these builders have a comprehensive library of home plans to choose from and then the Builders in-house design team helps adjust the plan to better meet your needs. This Design Build approach is also the most cost effective typically for most buyers.
  • Select an existing pre-designed, pre-engineered home
  • Make minor modifications to the plan
  • Make final selections with the builder and start building

AIBD Designer

The American Institute of Building Designers is a professional designation that represents a much higher degree of professionalism, continuing education, experience, and ability. Select an AIBD Designer that specializes in residential design and not office buildings or churches. This individual knows how to design to your home to meet all building codes, electrical codes, energy codes and ensures the construction plans have all the information properly on them for all men and women in construction that read the plans to build your home.


Architects are a completely different educational process than either of the former methods. Architects utilize specific education and license to become an architect. Architects also have a wide variety of specialties whether residential, commercial, industrial, hotel and resort, or even high rise skyscrapers. It is important that you choose an architect that specializes in the style of housing you are interested in and also that housing is a specialty. Too many people hire an architect that specializes in other areas and not residential. This can result most often in designs that are not easily buildable, or within any proximity to what the client's intended budget is. The end result all too often is a project that cannot be built and all the months and dollars spent are no longer useful. Architects either charge an hourly fee for their services or a percentage of the total project budget once the cost data comes back from the builder. Unless an Architect specializes in a specific size, style, and price range of home that is relevant to your taste and budget, it is often found that the Architect is more expensive for your budget than you intend to spend.

Are there any more options I need to know about?

Plan Services/Books
Another path people take is to buy pre-designed floor plans and elevations from a Plan Service or from a Plan Book. Caution to all here. These plans are not necessarily designed to be built in your part of the country. Plans that sell well in Florida for instance may not be as cost-effective to be built here in Texas. Also, the vast majority of plans from magazines are dated, not from your geographic region, have basements, or building materials not utilized in your climate. In essence, these plans that only cost $450.00 may not meet local building codes, energy codes, or other factors that are necessary for your area. In essence, the builder will have to have them redrawn to meet the local laws, costing you even more money on your plans than you intended.

Chad the CAD Guy
The Last category is one to be cautious of. In any community in America, there are individuals who offer design or plan drawing services for a fraction of what market cost is. These individuals are CAD draftsman during the day at a local chemical plant, a technology firm, lumber supplier, or other such commercial industry. Since residential design drafting is not their expertise and they do not have any actual field experience in residential construction they do not know how a home gets built and assembled and therefore do not know exactly how to draft residential plans properly. Saving money on the construction plans is the wrong place to save money and will add cost throughout the project for materials, labor, supervision, and overall budget of your home.

So Which Do I Choose?

Ask your builder who is best for your overall budget, style, and lifestyle. Your builder will assist in whom is best for your situation and watch over the process to ensure none of the choices above draw anything that you do not wish to have, that costs more than you wish to spend, or is not the way a home is built correctly.

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