How our design process works
You think you want to build something, but you're not sure where to start? This is your helpful guide.
Before we even meet, we need to learn about your property. We look into the zoning, land use code, building code, environmental considerations, and other pertinent information that is specific to your property. Every single property is unique, but we know how to be resourceful and show up at our first meeting with actual progress to show you.
This enables you to know basic things like: what can be done, what cannot be done, what are the code requirements, are there any red flags, what basic costs will be like for construction and design, and which professional engineers we may need to use such as structural, geotechnical, surveyors, etc.
Many architects will show up empty handed and just talk - but not us. We show up ready to show you how to begin. The best way to start is to click the link below and fill out the questionnaire to describe your project to us as best as you can. The more information you can provide, the more we can help you. We will use this information to put together a basic feasibility to review with you. It would also be wise for you to be prepared to show examples of other buildings and materials you like from websites like houzz.com and pinterest.com. We do charge a flat fee of $250 to cover the few hours we spend assisting you, and this does not obligate you to continue.
The next step is to get your approval to begin working for you. We will send you an agreement that outlines our services and explains what to expect from each other, so we can work productively toward a common goal. The agreement will include an estimate of design fees to give you a general idea of what to expect. It is typical for full service design fees at most firms to be between 5% to 20% of the construction cost of a project, and like most architects, we bill hourly as we work on your behalf. Our fees tend to fall in the middle of that range.
(Did you know that residential design is considered the most complicated form of design work in the industry by the American Institute of Architects and Royal Architectural Institute of Canada? It's the "brain surgery" of the industry.
This is the fun phase where we get to start designing your project! We draw a few rough floor plan options and exterior views of your project to get more feedback from you. We will use your feedback to further develop the project and create more precise floor plans and exterior elevations for your review.
Some clients also choose to involve a builder at this stage to get a ROM (Rough Order of Magnitude) estimate to get basic pricing feedback on the project. Since the drawings are still pretty rough at this phase and do not include detailed information like specified materials, structural engineering, etc, a builder can only give a rough ballpark. We carefully draw just enough, so you and the builder understand the concept without going to far down the wrong path. Projects work best when we can work in short sprints and take pauses for feedback from you and other professionals.
Once we have your approval to develop the concept further, we commission the required licensed engineers to figure out the structural requirements, soil conditions, and to create a survey to carefully document the locations of your property lines, so we may accurately calculate maximum lot coverage and determine required front, side, and rear setbacks. This sets us up to prepare all of the documentation needed for permitting.
After the engineers finish their scope of work, we incorporate their information into your architectural plans. We also add further detail and more drawings to the set of plans including a site plan, roof plan, building sections, window and door schedules, energy code calculations, construction details, and fill out the permit forms as required by your building department. Our approach is to keep the permit drawings as simple as possible, so the building department can review them more quickly. We purposely omit a lot of construction information, so the review process may go more quickly because the reviewers will have less to scrutinize.
Next, we setup an appointment with the building department to deliver the plans, and then we wait for them to be reviewed (which fluctuates from a few weeks to a few months depending on the climate). Once the building department reviews the plans, they typically request certain more specific information. We respond to the requests of the various departments until they eventually approve the plans and issue the permit.
Either after the permit is approved, or while waiting for the permit to be reviewed, we start creating your construction documents. These are very detailed and technical plans and a thorough list of specifications that your builder will use as a contract during construction to build your project. Whatever the construction documents say to build, purchase, install, demolish, etc, is exactly what the builder is required to do. For this reason, the more detailed the construction documents are, the more control you will have over the quality of your construction. If the plans are less detailed, you are enabling/requesting your builder to design those portions of your project (which is not fair to the builder who already has a busy job building the project).
With a clear set of construction drawings and specifications, we send your plans out to qualified builders to get construction bids. As they prepare their bids, they will consult with their sub-contractors for accurate pricing such as plumbers, electricians, excavators, etc. They will commonly ask for clarifications or request permission to recommend alternate materials or methods. As we answer their questions, we communicate the answers with the rest of the bidders to ensure everyone is bidding on the same information for consistency. We also work with the builders in this phase to come up with cost saving strategies known as value engineering.
Once the builders have submitted their bids, we help you interview the builder and evaluate their numbers to ensure they have not omitted any aspects of your project. After deliberations, we help you select a builder, and construction begins.
This is the MOST IMPORTANT PHASE of the process. As the general contractor begins construction, he or she must communicate your dreams to the laborers performing the work. This is communicated from you, to the architect, to drawings, to a general contractor, to the site superintendent, to a sub-contractor, to the employee swinging a hammer. The information gets lost and misinterpreted if not carefully coordinated. The information is also very technical, and there is A LOT of it. The information in the drawings and specifications was created by highly educated and experienced licensed professionals, and the laborers on site simply need guidance to understand it.
That is where we come in. With our expertise, and their craftsmanship, we work together for the common goal of ensuring your design goals are achieved. We administer regular meetings to review the completed work, discuss work to be fixed, materials to be ordered, and we troubleshoot problems before they arise. During construction administration, we rely on our own previous experience doing construction to ensure the theory on the plans and the realities of construction are consistent. We answer the phone calls and quickly come up with solutions as hold-ups arise, and we review the product orders for completeness, accuracy, and code compliance to keep your project on time, on budget, and with the highest level of quality.