In case you had any doubt about the role of the architect and how that has changed over time, below is a partial list of the items turned in for a building permit for a recent project: the drawings
Plumbing Fixture Count Form
HERS report (Home Energy Rating System)
ACCA Manual J & D (for proper HVAC duct sizing)
Solar Shadow Analysis
Bulk Plane compliance information
Floor Area & Building Coverage Worksheet
Lot Area Declaration Form
Engineered Trusses manufacturer's drawings and information
Stormwater & Flood Management Plant Investment Fee Calculation Form
IECC Code Compliance
Growth Management Allocation/Compliance with inclusionary zoning
Development Excise Tax Form
Impact Fee Form
Existing PUD Approvals (Planned Unit Development or platted suburb)
Floodplain/Wetland Development Permit
Steep Slope/Geological Constraint Information
and finally the Building Permit Application
(this amounted to 58 pages not including the drawings)
Needless to say, the drawings represent the design of the project and, with some additional information, will be used to create a Construction Set that will guide the making of the building. Everything else is the result of good intentions exercised as bureaucracy. I'm not necessarily opposed to completing all these forms and checklists, but love of this kind of administration is not why I went to architecture school.
All of these submittals certainly do constrain the worst projects from getting built, but not the ugliest or most insensitive. Unfortunately the worse actors in the residential building game, the bottom-line house speculators, have so dumbed down the making of buildings that the planning and building departments feel they need to babysit every project and try to ferret out the misrepresentations and outright lies embedded in a set of crappy drawings. It never occurs to code officials that the work that I and many other architects do, is of a higher quality than they can imagine. Unfortunately, getting there includes more hoop-jumping every year and makes a disincentive for truly imaginative and unconventional work.
In some places, like Chicago, registered, licensed architects, upon passing additional tests and with extensive experience, call self-certify that a single family house meets all codes and will be a safe and efficient dwelling at the very least. The code officials don't have to act as policing agents for these professionals and it is reassuring that the state that grants us a license to practice actually recognizes that this license actually means something. That program is not in place here in Colorado and all of our projects and work, and by extension our experience and very selves, will have to continue to be scrutinized and examined like disobedient schoolboys.
(sorry for the rant. I usually try not to infect the website and blog with these thoughts, but this is really getting a bit out of hand.)