How the Design Process Works …

We meet at your building or site to look at the existing conditions or the site conditions. We listen to your concerns, desires and priorities and then discuss the most efficient path toward a solution, how the process works and we address any questions you might have about the design process. This first meeting is a free consultation. A proposal for professional services is given to you a few days after the initial meeting with a description of work included in the service per the initial meeting.

To continue, the proposal is signed and a retainer is paid to initiate Phase 1.

Phase 1 – Schematic Design
For an addition to an existing building, a Survey is often required by the city. This should be done prior to the architectural work.

If a set of plans for the existing building does not exist or the existing plans are not accurate, then all measurements of the existing structures need to be taken and the existing plans and elevations need to be drawn. If a set of drawings does exist then we will need to verify dimensions. In both cases, the site is documented with photos.

Typically, three schematic designs are developed based on the client’s wishes and per the city standards for your property. A visit to the city is necessary to obtain the standards and answer and questions for your specific property. From the three schematic plans we will discuss and make changes as required until satisfied with the results. At this point you should know if a solution is possible and if you’d like to continue to the next phase.

Phase 2 – Design Development
The approved schematic plan will be developed and adjusted. The drawings developed are those best suited to enable a contractor to put together a project cost.

We will meet as many times as necessary to establish and answer any design questions. This is dependant on the complexity of the project.

Generally plans and elevations are developed for your review. Finishes and product selection are not necessarily made at this time.

Phase 3 – Construction Documents
Construction Documents are developed for submittal to city agencies for approval and for the contractor to use in construction. These drawings are stamped and sealed as required. They are also city approved and ready for permitting by the contractor.

Depending on the scope of the project, a structural engineer might be required in addition to other engineers (mechanical, electrical, etc). Coordination and communication with the engineers happens during this phase to be sure all the areas work together.

Phase 4 – Construction Administration
Typically, this phase includes selection of a building, help in a bidding process (if necessary) and site visits during the course of the construction to verify continued adherence to the drawings.

We will still be available during construction to answer questions for both the client and contractor whether or not this phase is included.

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Questions you might want to ask the city before starting your project …

First and most importantly, ask if you city has a handout for additions or new construction. Many cities who have made the time to put together their own ordinances have compiled a handout for you. This will list many important requirements. If they do not have a handout or some information is not clear be sure to ask:

Are the utilities required to go underground?

Are fire sprinklers required? (This is generally more for larger metropolitan areas)

What are the permitting fees? Such as plan check fees or school fees – this last one is usually a surprise to people when they first build and this fee can be quite significant.

Is there a design review for your area? Sometimes there are additional fees for this process but the architect or designer will be responsible for more drawings and meetings so they will charge a fee for this additional service.

Are utility upgrades required? When adding plumbing fixtures or a fire sprinkler system you might be required to upgrade the pipe from the cities main water pipe to your home.

Also, be sure you ask the city general questions about what you want to do to see if it is allowed in your area. Ask if there are restrictions on number of bedrooms, if there is a minimum car space requirement. All this should be listed in your general handout if your city has additional requirements.

Many times general information can be obtained from city websites. Your project address will need to be asked about specifically in case in falls into a specific city plan or if it has restrictions.

An architect or designer can go to the city and retrieve this information for you and in general they will want to ask some of their own questions also. But having the information up front will keep you informed.

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Do you need more Space?

Do you need more space at home? And you are wondering how to start and what it will cost. Take a peek at some of the topics below to help you on your journey.

What do you need?
If you are looking at this list, you have already decided that you need more space or need to rearrange and change your home. If you need space – what do you need the space for? Is it something specific like a new member of the family arriving or now you work from home and need an office? Are you getting close to retirement age and you see that your home might not work well as you get older?

Write down all the parameters that are informing your decision to change your home. Then take a good look at your home – at every room – and think about what you use it for and what you would like to use it for. Write down what isn’t working or what you would like to see changed. Be sure to get input from the rest of the family to include on the list. People tend to use different areas of the house and will give more insight on what needs to be done.

Be general about your wants – like “I need an office area” instead of “We need to add 200sf for a new office”. Sometimes rearranging the existing space can give you what you need.

What do you like?
Now for the fun part – start a file of what you like. Collect pictures from magazines, print out things from the internet, if you find a material you like (a specific stone or fixture, etc) include product brochures.

Look at the images you collect and figure out what it is you like about it. Is it the color? The open space? The type of stairs? Be aware of what you like (or possibly don’t like in the image). People can pick out different likes and dislikes from the same image so it is good to be clear what you are looking at when you are discussing it.

What do you want?
So make a list of things you’d like to do – from the general to the specific. And then prioritize what is most important.

Is creating a better flow through the house most important? Adding a connection to an outdoor patio? Putting in new windows throughout the house?

After you have refined your list and have what you think you need and want and like, revisit it occasionally to be sure you have everything listed and your priorities have not changed.

What is this going to cost?
Cost is a factor that is highly fluid. It has many factors that affect it:

Where you build:
Labor fluctuates greatly depending on where you live in the US and what time of year it is. Winter in snow areas might have more workers available but be much more restrictive on what can be accomplished.

Materials vary greatly from region to region also. Red oak might not be too expensive in areas that mill it but its price goes up the farther it has to be shipped.

If you build in an area that has more structural concerns, such as a hillside area or a seismic area, your cost will go up.

What you build:
A small project will cost more per square foot than a larger one since many of the same equipment has to be rented or arranged to be brought to site.

If you choose more expensive materials or procedures your cost will go up. Slab on grade is the least expensive foundation but it can’t be use in all areas. Aluminum windows and carpet and drywall tend to be the least expensive materials to use so using vinyl frames or wood flooring or adding specialty walls (such as stone features etc) will cause your cost to go up.

Renovating or building a bedroom will cost less per square foot than a kitchen or bathroom. The fixtures and cabinetry will add significantly to the cost.

The numbers listed here are only for your information and do not guarantee you can build it for this amount. To get an accurate cost you will need to speak to a contractor with a clear plan for your project they are responsible for providing a detailed cost estimate for you that is specific to your project.

$150 sf to $300 sf
New construction or an addition
Renovating a kitchen or bathroom

$100 sf to $250 sf
Renovating other areas of the home

Remember the low number is for certain areas in the US where labor and materials cost less and if you are using the least expensive materials and procedures (be aware you might not have a choice depending on your region and city ordinances). This cost can go up much higher if you choose fixtures and materials that are custom or exotic. The upper number actually has no limit – you can spend much more than what is listed here.

This cost is just for the construction. Additional costs can be incurred for architects, engineers, permits, etc. Another rule of thumb is to use about 15%-20% for architect, engineers and city costs. Again, this number varies greatly from architect to architect and city to city but giving yourself a number here will help keep your budget more realistic.

Many cities have different plans that can affect your budget – what if you city requires an automatic fire sprinkler system? That could add another $10k to your project. So perhaps asking your city a few questions before you start the project will help keep you informed as to what you will be required to do.

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