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I'm looking for advice and direction in the field of residential design and build. For those who have successfully built a career in this field, how would you go about getting the training and/or certification ? 

Any advice would be appreciated. 



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If you wish to be an Architect, go back to college and get an Architectural degree. Then work for an Architectural firm a while. Then take the State Architectural board test.


If you wish to be a draftsperson, what I did was I was working for a remodeling firm, first as a sub and then as Construction Supervisor. Then the boss decided to start using Chief for our drawings and he asked me to evaluate the software which was recommended to us by our consulting Architect. I fell in love with it and self taught myself how to use it and how to Architectural draft-all self taught. Draftspersons can also train themselves and become AIBD (see their website for requirements) and or the AIA associate program, do the studying and take the tests to become certified with them.


What customers require is competence whatever you do. If you wish a job you then have to meet the bosses requirements. Good luck.



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Design-build. Thats what I do. It's a fantastic niche if you can get established. Training? Certification? Hahaha. Around here, training is spending a couple years fetching sky hooks, pipe holes, and board stretchers, and certification is hanging a 4' level from your gun rack. If your area requires those, I feel for ya. 


Knowing HOW to build a house is key to convincing people to sign your contract, IMO. I've built many, many custom homes for people who ran from another larger builder because the owner openly admitted he had no idea how to build a house. Being small and doing some of the work yourself keeps building trust with your community.


Getting connected with a strong realtor can help get you off the ground. It sucks to pay the commission but if you're good you won't need them for long. Word of mouth is still the best advertising, if you want to stay small. I don't have any advertising, a website, or even a current business card. Heck sometimes I want to change my phone number, too much demand. Good subs are also key.


Bottom line, the requirements will be dictated by the area you want to serve. If you're in the US look up your state's contractor's business licensing requirements, then to the local county, city, or other governing body, and go from there. They can guide you into whatever licensing, bonding, etc you're going to need. 


It can be a great gig but keep in mind you're never off the clock and every project is a potential time bomb, so if your phone rings on Christmas day and that house you just finished has a flooded basement, don't say I didn't warn you. Yeah, ask me how.

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Here's what I did. May or may not be helpful.

I had recently gotten married (long ago now) and my father-in-law was a well-respected custom home designer (he learned on the job from a licensed architect). My father-in-law didn't know how to use a computer in an area that was moving towards that nearly as a requirement (Seattle). I didn't know anything about designing but I knew how to turn on a computer. I literally went to Barnes & Noble, bought "AutoCAD for dummies," bought Autodesk LT, and sat in front of my computer reading the book and working the program. I started out taking his rough drawings and developing small things like garages. I was soon doing the same with 8,000 square foot homes. I went to job sites with him, listened to the builders, picked up a hammer, and figured out how to build a home. I figured if I was going to do help design them I should have an understanding of how they're actually built.


Fast forward several years, my father-in-law has passed away, and I've moved far away. I hadn't been drawing for awhile but decided to design my own home. I bought Chief, sat down with the program, watched every video and read every tutorial. My own house was my first Chief design.


The builder I contracted with loved my plan so had me do a couple of neighborhood homes. My plans were a lot more detailed (learning in Seattle but moving to a much less regulated area) than builders were used to. He talked to a couple of other builders and they started calling. Private families and realtors started calling.


In three years I went from buying Chief Architect to working with 20+ builders and lots of individual families. I designed 281 homes last year (you read that correctly), have my wife and kids reviewing, printing, packaging plans day and night.


Can't say I would do much different. It has not been easy. I read everything I can find, watch every video, stay up late, memorize "for dummies" books, get involved with builders, look at their work to see how everyone is doing stuff. It really helps that I learned the keys to designing from a well-respected designer who had homes in magazines, Seattle home shows,  had previously been a builder himself, etc.


I have found that it is a very unique combination of having the knowledge of how to build, being able to pick up the hammer if you need to, lots of self-drive, a true ability to envision design, the ability to talk and relate to people, and the ability to pick up the phone when it rings.

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