The Questions To Ask

The Design and Planning of Your New Home

The design and planning of your new home is the most important aspect of a richly rewarding process which will establish the value of your creation.  Your role is key in creating the roadmap to a beautiful, comfortable, safe, and energy-efficient personalized home.  Once a community and individual property have been selected, you can move forward with the programming, planning, and creative phase of the project.  The complications of today’s building program are often best addressed through a team effort; so your next step in the process will be to assemble a team of experts.  Initially, there will be your architect, structural engineer, and builder.  Others such as interior designer, kitchen and bath designer, landscape architect/designer, system designer, lighting designer, media consultant, and energy auditor may follow.  Although the architect will generally be the lead professional, when this team of professionals have the opportunity to collaborate before ground is broken, you will reap the rewards for years to come.  Their blend of experience and expertise can give you insights into the wonderful potential of your home and site that you never would have considered.


The Creative Process Starts With…

The creative process starts with a strong collaboration between client, architect, and builder.  It takes a seamless participation of all parties to bring out a truly vibrant and unique design that will be your special home for years to come.  The right architect will not only have a strong creative ability; but, he will also have the technical savvy of years of experience with design and construction technology.  Architects that maintain a reputation for superior residential design do so because their buildings are stunningly conceived, technically sound, and well crafted within your budget.  As the key member of this design partnership you will need to provide your architect with a well thought out program, an idea notebook, certain relevant site information, and above all, a well conceived budget.  From there the architect will begin the preliminary design phase to create schematic concepts and bring your ideas into focus.  Once your wish list, site and budget have been translated into graphic form, the next stage will address the technical drawings – called “Contract Documents” or “Working Drawings.”  Upon completion of these drawings, work with the contractor will begin and a building permit procured.  As the project moves to the construction phase, most of your involvement may be with your builder.  At this point, the architect acts in your behalf as a consultant to assure that the spirit of the design and intent of the working drawings and specifications are followed exactly.  During the construction phase you may also with to retain your architect to oversee payments to the contractor, review shop drawings, provide more detailed interior design services, and, perhaps, provide communication with the builder.


Your Choice of an Architect

Your choice of an architect to assemble your dreams must be well-considered and most firms will allow an hour or more for this important conversation.  You should be well-prepared and bring relevant site information including the site plot and topography (if available), your program (wish list), square footage information, and your idea notebook and pictures of houses that you appreciate.  The following is a list of informative questions to ask the prospective architect:

  1. What does the client see as important issues or considerations in the project and what challenges does the architect anticipate?
  2. How interested is the architect in this project and how busy is he/she?
  3. What are the steps in the design process and which services comprise the fee?
  4. If the scope of the project changes later in the project, will there be additional fees? How will these fees be justified?
  5. What services does the architect provide during construction?
  6. Does the architecture firm have a specific design style, language, or philosophy?
  7. What information will you need to provide to the Architect?
  8. What unique qualities and experience bring to your project?
  9. In what manner might the architect provide cost evaluation?
  10. What services are basic to the project and what optional services does this firm offer?
  11. Which presentation techniques does the architect offer to explain the progress of your project?
  12. What software does the firm employ?
  13. Who in the firm will represent and design your project?
  14. What is the architect’s background with this type of project?
  15. Does the architect have a list of past clients and references?

Building a Custom Home

Are your needs specialized enough to warrant building a custom-designed home?  The custom home process is not for everyone.  An experienced architect can aid you in making this important decision.  Consider present and future needs, location and budget and allow him to help you analyze all of your requirements. To provide maximum thought to your investment, share everything you can with your architect: your thoughts, notes, sketches, photos from magazines-anything that illustrates what you like.  Tell him about your routines, the way you function in your current home.

By asking wide range of question about your goals, and architect can help you to outline the scope of your project in detail.  Doing so also sets the stage for building cost-efficiency into your project.  By setting parameters early in the process,  we can help you control costs long before groundbreaking.


Marry your wants with practicality

There are many decisions to be made in the planning stages of a building project and during construction.  These decisions will determine how your new home will function, what it will cost and what it may be worth in the future.  An experienced architect can help you make smart decisions about your home’s design that will serve you in surprising ways.  It’s critical to have a realistic understanding of the potential and limitations of your project’s budget.  An architect may propose ways of altering square footage or the type of materials to be used.  A registered architect is especially knowledgeable in marrying your goals with practicality.


Design For Your Future

If you expect to live in this home for an extended time, an architect can: provide flexible design options to accommodate your changing family size or reduced mobility as you grow older; help choose certain amenities that can affect long-term value and resale; propose ways to lower energy cost and house maintenance over the long term; even suggest features such as window options that can protect carpets, flooring, and upholstery from damaging ultraviolet rays.  At this planning stage you and your architect will analyze the big picture and design solutions with the long term, in mind.


Visualize the design

Once you define what is to be built, your architect can help you visualize the design possibilities in a number of ways.  Using rough sketches or computer programs, the architect can show you the general arrangement of your new house and its effect on the site.  While not finished construction documents, schematics are visual representations meant to show possible approaches for you to consider.  These concepts are then refined until a solution is developed that meets your needs.

After your approval, the design is developed even further.  Your architect will prepare detailed drawings through plans, elevations, sections and details to illustrate all the spaces to be built in their correct proportions.  The materials and finishes to be used are analyzed and included in the documents.

Consultants are often called upon to enhance the scope of the project depending upon individual requirements.  A structural engineer will be a part of this team.  Other professionals such as electrical engineers and systems analysts, interior designers and landscape architects may be essential to a truly successful dream house creation.


Schedule of the work

After the design phases are complete, bidding, selection and construction phases ensue.

Your architect can assist you in selecting the contractor best suited for your project.  He will help you analyze the many considerations to be taken into account during this phase of the work..  Price is important, yet time and timing, availability, reputation and relationships with subcontractors and material men are all significant.

Your architect has been through the construction process many times; during the construction process depend on your architect as much as possible.  An architect can help anticipate problems so that your decisions are followed, construction is carried out efficiently, and the project is kept on track.


Want more detail on the process?

 6 Steps To Building your Dream Home

To Renovate, or NOT To Renovate

Consider the costs of renovating and how they compare to the value of your house, neighborhood real-estate values and the availability of other properties that could meet your needs.  Many times, renovations are not, or are just barely, cost effective.  Kitchens and master bedrooms typically bring higher return.  Once you have analyzed your wants and needs an architect might ask: Do you want to improve your house for you and your family or do you want to increase its resale value?  If you intend to move three to five years after the renovation is complete, it may not be worthwhile going through the renovation process.


Controlling Costs

It’s easy for renovation projects to snowball when you begin to consider existing utilities, wiring, insulation, and windows-even finishing touches such as window coverings, furnishings and artwork.  An architect can help you to plan your renovation and set the stage for building cost-efficiency into your project.  By setting parameters early in the renovation process, your architect can help you control costs before construction begins.


Making the Best Use of Space

Your architect will help you analyze and understand how you use the space you have now, and how you’ll use the space you want to create through the renovation.  Do you want formal, quiet space separate from common areas or airy, informal space?  How could the spaces serve a dual-purpose?  This can help minimize the additional square footage you’ll create.  For example, you might want to expand the living room to provide quiet space for reading and occasional work at home.  But after exploring how you currently use the space, the architect might demonstrate how the space and privacy you desire is best attained by creating a large master bedroom instead.  Your architect has the experience to show you the possibilities.


Potential Problems

Potential problems can lie behind walls and beneath floors, especially in older homes.  Consider your existing plumbing, wiring, heating ducts and foundation and how these will work with your renovation.  Consider what affect this could have on your budget.  Outdated wiring may not support the increased power needs of your modern home office or considerable rerouting and replacement of existing plumbing.  Or, a weak foundation might have to be reinforced to support an addition.  An architect takes such possibilities into account when assessing your project and developing a design, which can help avoid costly surprises later when you’re under construction.


More Than Just Drawings

An architect’s involvement doesn’t end with preparing drawings for renovation.  As your adviser and agent, the architect will visit the site to protect you against work that is not according to plan.  With an architect observing construction, you get informed reports of the project’s progress, a trained eye toward quality control and even a check on the contractor’s invoices-mandating that the contractor does not get paid until the architect is satisfied that the contractor has fulfilled all obligations to you.