Architecture meets the gig economy. How a website saved me $15K in Architecture fees.


I love building things, I love the legacy of building projects, but I’m not a big fan of the design process. It’s long, time demanding and expensive. One of the most interesting developments I’ve come across in the architecture space is a new online platform called ArcBazar. This takes the complexity out of designing a home and turns it into a simple, enjoyable experience that saves you a fortune. Here’s how Arcbazar saved me about $15,000 in architecture fees.

Not your typical ADU (Accesory Dwelling Unit

My wife and I bought a house recently in California, and the place we bought had enough space in the rear yard for an ADU (Accessory Dwelling Unit, or granny flat). Now, being in California, I knew it was going to be expensive. In order to get everything ready, from permits to drawings, to construction, I knew it was not going to be cheap. I’m always looking for ways to save money, and did a lot of homework about the best local architects, and assigned a task to my assistant to find me a local architect that could help me with drawings, and get everything through the permit process.

After about a week of research, my assistant came up with a list of about 5 local architects. From what I could gather, it was going to cost me around $15k to $20K just for the drawings. This is in addition to the fees that the city was going to charge me for getting a permit ($10K+) plus the final construction cost ($150k) All the local architects were great, and had great references, but I just could not justify spending that kind of money on design fees. After all that, I’d probably only get one design. I also wanted to get lots of great design ideas, and I thought that if I could outsource some of the design, I could take the design and renderings to a local architect, and they could do the construction drawings.

That’s when I came across Arcbazar. Arcbazar is an architectural design competition platform, that makes getting 20 or more designs from great architects around the world easy. I wrote a detailed description of what I wanted, added some photos of buildings I liked, and gave them my address and sent some screenshots of Google Maps with the 3D View, so they could get a sense of the local area. I awarded some prize money (under $1000) that would be given to the winning architects, and then I waited. All I wanted was to get some good ideas, that I could give to my local architect.

How ArcBazar works is that they have a pool of architects who are looking for interesting things to work on. The architects who want to compete for the prize go about creating the design they think will win. Architects can ask for feedback from the client during the process, which lasts a couple of weeks, depending on the prize money. All in all, I got 22 designs from architects around the world, from places as far as Nigeria and Egypt and of course from the US. All of the designs were great, such as:

Another great design!
Love the sunlight rendering here, very creative.
People and dogs too…

In the end, I chose an architect from Turkey, who did an amazing job of taking my ideas and turning it into beautifully rendered images. I wanted an easy to build ADU, that would be relatively cheap to build. The architect kept this in mind but also wanted to create something visually beautiful.

Lots of light here..

In addition to that, the architect in Turkey that I chose researched locally sourced materials that I could find easily, such as windows and doors from nearby manufacturers. They also sourced everything online that I could buy and only used those materials in the materials list.

I took my finished drawings back to my original architect in California, as I thought that I’d have to get him to take those ideas and make them into a final submission for the city. I was really surprised when he told me “You don’t need me. You can go to the city with these drawings, as long as you get a structural engineer to make some structural drawings” He said the fun part was done, and I should get construction drawings done.

I have now gone back to my new Arcbazar architect, and they have agreed to do the construction drawings, at a cost of $1500, so in total, this will cost me around $2500 for something that was going to cost me $16,000.

I have been recommending this platform to everyone that wants to do some design work, it’s a fantastic platform. It’s got its bugs and quirks, like every software platform, but overall the experience was fantastic.

I think it’s really interesting how the web is taking these very niche services and democratizing them. A few years ago this would have been impossible. Just like Upwork has created a huge population of successful freelancers, we’ll continue to see traditional industries disrupted by new services like ArcBazar. @arcbazar