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Residential Architecture

2015-01-20_blog_image_hiring an architect part 6-aaa

Ideally I would provide full architectural design services for every project. Let’s be honest, that’s the want of every architect for every project. However, for several reasons, I realize this is not always an option, nor is it always necessary. Cost is typically a primary issue on every project, and usually the first thing to be eliminated is professional design services of an architect. However, as a client you need to be aware of options that do not eliminate the services of an architect.

The primary means of reducing the design fee is to reduce the level of service provided. However, that in turn will result in more responsibility for you and it becomes crucial (even more so) to have a competent contractor. Obviously, the greater amount of detail included in the drawings, the clearer the procedure for construction. The design drawings are vital in assuring you that your house is built the way you want it. The more detail in the drawings the more control you have over the resultant house. Anything not included in the drawings is at the discretion of the contractor. You’ll have less control over the final outcome of the house because you have given the contractor fewer instructions/information to follow.

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In this installment of the ‘Hiring an Architect’ series, I address typical levels of service available from an architect. Keep in mind not all architects are willing to work on a project where their services are limited- and there are some projects I won’t either. However, it does afford potential options to a client who is not in a position to hire an architect for full services, but does realize the value of an architect in the design of their home. Outlined below are differing Levels of design service available to you:

LEVEL 1: SCHEMATIC DESIGN DRAWINGS

This level uses an architect’s special training to problem solve, but the task of producing drawings for permitting and construction is the responsibility of others and is hired by you. This level is appropriate for simple designs. This level of service is appropriate if you want a house designed for your particular needs, but want to either draw the plans yourself or to have the builder, or a drafting service perform the drafting.

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These drawings are by no means enough for permitting or actual construction. The drawings indicate the design intent of your home. Prior to building, you will need to hire someone to think through how the house will be constructed, and to document those decisions in a set of drawings, suitable for obtaining the permit and building the house. This approach is appropriate if you wish to have standard finishes and details. Services typically include the following phase and associated deliverables:

Schematic Design (SD)

Schematic Design Drawings provided. Room sizes will be indicated but not dimensioned. The Schematic Design Drawings will be formatted at a size of 11×17, hand drawn, and consist of the following:

– Floor Plan(s)

– Roof Plan(s)

– Exterior Elevations- at each exterior façade

LEVEL 2: SCHEMATIC DESIGN + SCHEMATIC DESIGN RESOLUTION PACKAGE

This level of service is appropriate for those seeking a house with standard construction and finishing details. Like Level 1, this level of service is recommended for simple designs, where everything is straight forward. This level of service is the same as previously described in Level 1. However, once a design is agreed upon, a Schematic Design Resolution Package is provided.

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The Schematic Design Resolution Package contains additional information to lessen the burden on someone else completing the drawings. Even though you will still need to hire someone else to complete a set of drawings, suitable for obtaining the permit and construction, major dimensions will have been determined to aid in the creation of drawings. Services typically include the following phases and associated deliverables:

Schematic Design (SD) + Schematic Design Resolution Package

Includes services and deliverables as indicated in Level 1 , in addition, a  Schematic Design Resolution Package is provided. The Schematic Design Resolution Package will be formatted at a size of 24×36, created via AutoCAD/BIM software, and consist of the following:

               –  Floor Plan(s)

               –   Roof Plan(s)

               –   Exterior Elevations- at each exterior facade

               –   Two (2) Building Sections

               –   One (1) Wall Section

LEVEL 3: SCHEMATIC DESIGN + DESIGN DEVELOPMENT DRAWINGS

This level of service is the same as previously described in Level 2. However, once a design is agreed upon, a set of Design Development Drawings is created. The Schematic Design is developed so it more precisely fits your desires and needs. Preliminary materials are indicated/selected for your house.

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The Design Development drawings illustrate and describe the refinement of the design of your house. They establish the scope, relationships, forms, size, function, and aesthetic character of the house. These documents will outline the major materials and the building systems proposed. While these drawings are still not suitable for permitting and construction, they do start indicating additional information that assists in alleviating the contractor making assumptions. Services typically include the following phases and associated deliverables:

Schematic Design (SD) + Design Development (DD)

Includes services and deliverables as indicated in Level 2, in addition, Design Development Drawings will be created. The Design Development Drawings will be formatted at a size of 24×36, created via AutoCAD/BIM software, and typically consist of the following:

– Preliminary Architectural Site Plan in CAD (plot plan provided by Owner)

– Floor Plan(s)

– Roof Plan(s)

– Exterior Elevations- as needed

– Building Section(s)

– Preliminary Wall Sections and Details

– Preliminary Electrical Plans- locating outlets, telephone and cable only

– Preliminary Ceiling/Lighting Plans- locating lighting and switching only

– Preliminary Schedule Sheet(s)- including door and window schedule, interior finish schedule and interior elevations as required

– Preliminary General Specification Sheet- major materials and systems and establish their quality levels

 

LEVEL 4: FULL SCOPE OF ARCHITECTURAL SERVICES (psst… psst…this is the one you want)

This level of service is the same as previously described in Level 3. However, once Design Development is complete, a set of Construction Documents is created. These drawings are also used for obtaining a building permit and for construction of your house. All of the information obtained throughout the previous phases of work are incorporated and coordinated to create a set of drawings and documents that set forth in detail requirements for the construction of your house. This also includes structural engineering of your house.

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This level of service offers you the greatest amount of specificity regarding your house, and consequently the greatest amount of control over the end ‘product.’ The resultant home will reflect who you are and how you live. Services typically include the following phases and associated deliverables:

Construction Document (CD)

Includes services and deliverables as indicated in Level 3 , in addition, Construction Documents consisting of Drawings and Specifications setting forth in detail the requirements for your house, including Drawings and Specifications that establish the quality levels of materials and systems required for your house, will be created. A typical Construction Document set will include:

– Cover Sheet

– General Specification Sheet(s) or Book Specifications

– Architectural Site Plan

– Foundation, Floor, and Roof Plan(s)

– Exterior Elevations

– Building Sections, Wall Sections, and Details

– Electrical Plans- locating outlets, telephone and cable only (circuitry by electrical subcontractor)

– Ceiling/Lighting Plans- locating lighting and switching only (circuitry by electrical subcontractor)

– Schedule Sheet(s)- including door and window schedule, interior finish schedule and interior elevations as required

– Selection sheets indicating what fixtures, appliances, lights, etc. that you need to select.

– Structural Framing Plans and Details as required (services provided by a structural engineer)

CONSTRUCTION OBSERVATION

This is the construction phase of your project. Basically, we are involved during this process to see that the builder is following the Construction Documents during construction. Ideally, at a minimum, visits to the site would occur at; Foundation and Footings, Substantial Completion of Framing, Pre-Electrical, Before Drywall, Trim work approximately 50%, and Substantial Completion. This service is only provided if Level 4 is selected. There are far too many liabilities to be involved with the construction unless we are the author of the Construction Documents.

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HOURLY CONSULTING

For any other services not indicated, and for any situation where our experience in residential design and construction would be of value, we are available on an hourly basis.

 

Ideally you would select Level 4. However, even limiting design services, there remains inherent value in employing the services of an architect. As a future client, you need to be aware of the options available such that you can realize your dream home. If you are considering/making such an investment, why not hire an architect to assist you in getting what you want? If you want your home to reflect who you are and how you live, hiring an architect is something you cannot afford not to do.

All of the previous posts in the ‘Hiring an Architect’ series can be found here:

Hiring an Architect: Part 1- The Search

Hiring an Architect: Part 2- Q&A Yourself

Hiring an Architect: Part 3- Ask the Architect

Hiring an Architect: Part 4- A is for ‘Architect’

Hiring an Architect: Part 5- “What? Me, hire an architect?”

Armed with this series, a residential client should feel at ease about hiring and working with an architect. Architects will listen to your needs/wants and in the end you’ll have the home you wanted because your architect was able to assist you in bridging the gap between your budget, your vision and reality. You’ll end up with a home that fits you and your lifestyle. If you still have reservations or questions fell free to comment below or send me an email!

 

Design On,

** Even limiting services an architect will bring value to your home, it won’t come with large fries or a super size drink, but it will be value.

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I don’t get to draw all day. I’m not a cartoon maker. Honestly, I’m getting tired of hearing clients and architects say “Isn’t that great, you/ I get to draw all day and get paid!” I know it’s typically stated flippantly, but we, or at least myself, need to really think about that. That’s not what we do and it’s part of the perception problem that the public has with what we architects do. “Don’t you architects just do some drawings?” No, no we don’t. Now before you get up on your soap box and start calling me out, I admit… I’ve been guilty of stating the same thing. However, I’m making a conscious effort to not say that anymore, it marginalizes what we do. Part of our role as architects is educating the public what it is we really do… we fall short on doing so, I know I do.

We architects get excited about meeting new clients and voicing our thoughts on the design problem and the solutions we have. We prepare awesome drawings that represent the vision for the project, with any luck the client loves them… and… pause…that right there is part of the problem. The problem is quite simple; it’s the ‘awesome drawings’ the client sees. Even worse, if we’ve been good at the design solution, the resultant drawings look effortless and as if that was the only solution. While awesome drawings are… well, awesome, they can also be a detriment. We need to do a better job at explaining the architect’s value to our clients lies well beyond the drawings created… and that we don’t just draw all day.

 

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An architect’s value is lost on the client if they only see the drawings and aren’t fully vetted as to the process/experience that ‘created’ the drawings. It’s the drawings backed by such that instills value. Yes architects draw. However, drawing is part of a larger process of architecture. A process backed with experience and expertise. The process involves problem solving, addressing your needs/wishes/budget/schedule, and complying with local building and zoning codes- all while designing an aesthetically pleasing efficient structure. Architects help you design/discover a structure that works for you and fits your individuality and preferences. The value of an architect’s services is occasionally related directly to cost savings. However, typically our value is in questioning, planning, clarification, detailing, and ‘solidifying’ numerous moving ‘parts’ into a cohesive design- which ultimately results in cost savings to you. This in turn enhances the value we bring to a project. Drawings play a supporting role in the overall process.

Drawings themselves do not bring value to architecture. It’s the due diligence, experience, role of the architect in the design/construction process, and the thought(s) that created the drawings that bring value. Many people seem to be under the impression that drawings are cheap, and they’re right. Drawings themselves are cheap. However, it’s the thought and expertise that ‘back’ drawings created by an architect that’s going to cost. You can have cheap drawings; you’re just not going to get them from me or any other architect who has your best interests in mind. As a client, you need to look past the architect’s drawings and be cognizant of the process that created the drawings. The drawings themselves are cheap, heck I’ll even pay* for the paper myself. What you’re paying for is the architect’s expertise that created those drawings.

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No, I don’t get to draw all day everyday, my typical day looks more like this- Drawing Baths and Architecture. Yes I do get to draw, but my drawings are more than graphic representations. They are a wealth of knowledge and are backed by a solid thought process. Architects offer a service in which drawings are a tool to reach a conclusion… a conclusion that ultimately brings value to your project. Drawings are a product; architects provide a service, a valuable service!

 

Design On,

* Offer only applies when my services are rendered for the project, cannot be combined with any other offers unless Neutra comes back to life and wants to collaborate.

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It’s always exciting meeting a potential client for the first time. Excitement. Nerves. Possibilities. That’s how I feel as the architect. Once I’m in their house I don’t get on the sales pitch soap box. The great thing about the modern ‘online world’ is that clients can do vast amounts of research before calling an architect. They’ve seen my work and know what I can do. I don’t need to sell myself at this point… well, I’m always selling the virtues of an architect, it’s just covert at this point.

 

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We start walking through the house. The clients go on and on- in a good way- talking about their project. I spend most of the time listening shaking the dog off my leg, checking out their medicine cabinets and nodding my head… after all it’s their project that they wish to share with me. I see the glitter in their eye as they discuss wishes and goals for the project. Really good clients have binders full of images they like. The best clients can describe why they like them. Finally they’ve exhausted themselves. Then it happens. They turn to me and ask, “So what’s the answer? What will it look like when it’s done?” They seem to be waiting for me to snap my fingers, toss my cape back over my shoulder (I should start wearing a cape) and exclaim “A-ha, I’ve got it!” However, my typical response is “Yes. No. Something. I don’t know.” To which I’m greeted with a blank stare for two minutes… than a nervous laugh… then the client says “ No, really, what’s it going to look like?”

 

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Sometimes it’s a bit of a let down to the client that I don’t have an initial grand vision for their project. If I did, it would be my vision and not theirs. I don’t work that way. The bad thing about the modern ‘online world’ is that clients want answers instantly. I explain how I approach each project by striving to define the inherent design issue(s) at hand. I need to figure out how they ‘live’ life on a daily basis and what is or isn’t currently working for them in their house. I don’t approach a project with a preconceived notion of an aesthetic- style if you wish. I strive to absorb a client’s beliefs and wishes and respond with an appropriate design. This doesn’t happen at the first meeting. I may even have them fill out a questionnaire in an attempt to further solidify their goals and wishes for the project. Then it happens. They look at me and exclaim “A-ha, so we’re going to be involved more than we thought. We have a say in what this will look like, nice. This sounds like a lot of fun!” Trust me, its barrel of monkey’s kind of fun.

 

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My initial meeting with a client involves a vast amount of listening, looking, and investigating the root of the design issue(s) at hand. Good design is listening and investigating, only after doing such can an architect respond appropriately. I suspect a majority of architects would agree.

A client’s project starts as theirs, but if it’s successful it doesn’t end that way. I like the give and take between architect and client, it makes for a rewarding experience and project for both of us. The most successful projects start as a client’s project and end as our project. It never becomes my project. So take on me (see what I did there) as your architect and we’ll come up with a project that’s not yours or mine, but ours

 

Design On,

** Come on A-ha and a barrel of monkey’s… in one post… never done before, couldn’t have been.

What is the best house? Is it a mid-century modern? Perhaps it’s a contemporary? Is it a Georgian Revival? Is it a Craftsman Bungalow? Is it a 100 year old renovated farmhouse? Or is it something else? Yes, it’s all of these; the best house is the house that works for you and your lifestyle! However, without an architect, achieving the best house for you is challenging.

Most people have lived in houses of one sort or another their entire lives. Typically we take our houses for granted and do not appreciate just how many decisions have to be made prior to constructing a new house, or renovating/adding to an existing house. At some point, someone had to think through the entire design and construction process- address needs, wishes, budget, schedule, and comply with local building and zoning codes- all while ensuring that the resultant house was structurally sound, efficient, and aesthetically pleasing. The best ‘someone’ for the task is an architect. Architects are educated to help you define your needs, present options you may not have considered, prepare documents that instruct how your house is to be built, and assist you in the myriad of decisions inherent in the design/construction process… all while making it fun!

 

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Your house may be the most expensive project you will ever undertake. If you are making such an investment, and you want your house to reflect who you are and how you live, hiring an architect is a must. An architect will help you design/discover a house that works for you and fits your individuality and preferences. This house, your house, will be vastly different than one designed for someone else. Your house will fit you like a glove. An architect will assist you in bridging the gap between your vision and reality.

We architects take the opportunity to work with you on such an important aspect of your life very seriously. One of the most enjoyable aspects of our work is that we are hired to create wonderful places for daily living. It is a very rewarding experience for both architect and client. What is the best house? Easy, the best house is the house that works for you and your lifestyle! How to achieve the best house, well that’s a bit more challenging and should involve an architect.

What is the best house for you? Talk to an architect and begin the journey, it’ll be a great experience!

 

Design On,

** I really need to get to the post about house vs. home.

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I’ve been involved with client based single family residential design for over nineteen years. I’ve worked on single room additions, five million dollar+ custom houses, and everything in-between. Each house has its own unique set of circumstances that need to be resolved or addressed. No two clients have the same set of circumstances or needs for their house. However, one issue is always prevalent- value. Usually value is associated with a monetary amount, but that’s not always true. Clients talk about wanting to add, increase, and maintain value… but typically they’re not sure what value they’re talking about or how it applies to their house.

So how does one address value in a house? It’s actually pretty simple; value in a house comes down to common sense and avoiding excess frill. Real value comes from things that make sense and enhance ones comfort and enjoyment of living in a house. A valuable house should employ as many of the following as possible:

1. Location/ Orientation house should be located within a reasonable proximity to the client’s daily needs. Ideally, the house should be in a mixed-use community that offers various amenities with-in walking distance. The less dependent on a vehicle the better for the environs and one’s health. A house should be orientated to take advantage of the sun, prevailing winds, and site specific features. In addition, the house interior should have a connection to the outdoors, both visually and physically.

2. Sustainable house should take advantage of both passive and active sustainable building practices. There are numerous exterior and interior strategies/ methods that can be employed to reduce a house’s impact on the environment. However, the best thing is to construct only the spaces necessary.

3. Floor Plan should meet your needs and how you live. Do not design for what you are told is needed to re-sell the home or include whatever the latest trend is, i.e. “man cave.” You don’t want rooms that you never use- not only will you have to furnish them but you will also have to heat and cool them- these monies are better spent elsewhere. Efficiency can be achieved by the minimization of the plan and simple building volumes.

4. Rooms/ Spaces all rooms and spaces should have ample daylight, sufficient applicable storage, and logically accommodate the intended furniture. Dedicated hallways and circulation spaces should be kept to a minimum. (*note entries to the house should be ‘spaces’ not just doors)

5. Kitchens + Bathrooms should be well organized, have efficient layouts, and provide ample storage- all of which can be achieved in a compact or moderately sized space.

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6. Mudroom minimum should include a washable floor, floor drain, and utility sink with a hose attachment. Ideally each occupant of the house would have their own cubby/locker for storage. The mudroom should be located wherever the family foot traffic passes on a daily basis. (* pssst… pssst… it’s usually not the front door)

7. Garage cars are a reality that is not going away any time soon. However, a garage should not be the dominate element on a house. Ideally the garage should be set-back from the main elevation, or even better, if the site allows, the garage should be located on the side and underneath of a house.

8. Roof complicated gables, hips, gambrels, etc. can be very distracting to the overall design of a home- they’re even more difficult to flash, vent, and properly waterproof. A roof should be simple in design and shed water. (** shed water ** hint hint **)

9. Materials use low-maintenance long lasting materials.

10. Quality should take precedence over quantity. This applies to the entire house- overall size, rooms/ spaces, finishes, etc. Employ fewer elements executed to a higher degree of proficiency.

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The most valuable houses are the ones located in mixed-use walkable communities. Ideally the house is close to the owner’s daily needs. Houses that rely on an efficiency of space and are well designed in simple forms and details. Houses designed to meet the needs of the owners, minimize the life-cycle costs of operating and maintaining the house, a house designed for you– these are characteristics of a valuable house.

 

Design On,

** Notice I used ‘house’ and not ‘home’… a future post on that is in the works.

In this installment of the ‘Hiring an Architect’ series, I address the most common question I’ve heard over the years from potential residential clients- “What? Me, hire an architect?” In my experience what they’re actually asking is;

“Can I afford an architect, aren’t they expensive?”

“Can’t I just by a builder house or buy plans from a book and still end up with what I want?”

“Isn’t an architect just going to design what they want and ignore me?”

These questions weigh heavily on clients, in reality; they couldn’t be further from the truth. However, hiring the services of an architect is not for everyone. Not everyone is building a custom home or taking on a significant renovation/addition. If you are considering/making such an investment, why not hire an architect to assist you in getting what you want? If you want your home to reflect who you are and how you live, hiring an architect is something you cannot afford not to do.

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People often don’t think about the cost of a realtor or contractor. Engaging their services costs thousands of dollars. However, you realize the value that they bring to your home and I doubt you would attempt to buy/sell or build your own home without them. Architects should be viewed in the same light. We aren’t as expensive as you might think, our fees are as flexible as the type of project you have in mind. Your home is in all likelihood the most expensive investment you’ve made/will make. Wouldn’t you want to enhance your return by hiring an architect to help guide you through the design and construction process?

Hiring me an architect is not something reserved for the wealthy. The majority of my work is working with ‘every-day people’ with moderate budgets- much like me. No matter the scale of the project, be it a garage addition or a new million dollar custom home, architects offer services for a variety of budgets and project types. An architect’s value is problem solving, addressing clients’ needs/wishes/budget/schedule, and complying with local building and zoning codes- all while designing an aesthetically pleasing efficient home. I help clients design/discover a home that works for them and fits their individuality and preferences. The value of our services is occasionally related directly to cost savings. However, typically our value is in questioning, planning, clarification, detailing, and ‘solidifying’ numerous moving ‘parts’ into a cohesive design- which ultimately results in cost savings to the client. This in turn enhances our affordability.

Builder Mitten

You could buy a builder house or build a house from a ‘plan book’ or on-line source. Going that route will allow you to build someone’s house, it won’t be your house, but it will be a house. These houses and plans are typically designed for what the ‘masses’ want or what some market analysis determines they want. Either way, it’s not going to be a home tailored to how you live. You’ll be able to choose paint colors, flooring options, fireplace surround, etc. However, for the most part you’ll be locked-in to a floor plan that appeals to mass buyers. If that’s all you want in a home, than this may appeal to you. The best option is a home designed specifically for you. This home will be vastly different than one designed for someone else. I like to equate it as a builder/’plan book’ home fits you like a mitten while an architect designed home fits like a glove.

Architect Glove

When it comes to designing your house, an architect will have strong preferences and recommendations. However, ultimately it will be up to you to make decisions. An architect will not force a design on you which you don’t want; if they do try, than you didn’t follow this series about ‘Hiring an Architect.’ It goes without saying (typing isn’t saying, is it?), we will make recommendations; present differing options, and offer our professional opinion- which is why you hire us. However, ultimately you make the decisions- we work for you. Working with an architect will allow you to make well informed decisions. Architects will listen to your needs/wants and in the end you’ll have the home you wanted because your architect was able to assist you in bridging the gap between your vision and reality. You’ll end up with a home that fits you and your lifestyle.

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Armed with this series, a potential residential client should feel a bit more at ease about hiring and working with an architect. If you still have reservations or questions fell free to comment below or send me and email.

All of the previous posts in the ‘Hiring an Architect’ series can be found here:

Hiring an Architect: Part 1- The Search

Hiring an Architect: Part 2- Q&A Yourself

Hiring an Architect: Part 3- Ask the Architect

Hiring an Architect: Part 4- A is for ‘Architect’

So the next time you find yourself asking “What? Me, hire an architect?” Be sure to answer with a resounding YES!

 

Design On,

** Another way to look at is that a builder house is like wearing a friend’s underwear, it’ll work, but it just feels icky!