1.Establishing Goals And Preparing A Program Or Outline
This is typically the initial meeting between the building designers and you to discuss and layout the framework for the project scope to and clarify any of your expectations and needs along with the project budget.
This is a good opportunity to share photos, ideas and any other information that is relevant to the Project such as a copy of the property survey which is needed to complete the construction documents.
2.The Preliminary Design Phase
This second meeting with you will be when the building designer will put forward the first rough drafts of the floor plan and exterior elevation studies for you to review, critic and or approve. This can be a process and the time needed to work through this phase can depend on the size and how complex the proposed design is. There can be as many as 2-3 revisions before a preliminary design is approved to proceed to the next phase. At this time you may request additional drawings to further clarify the design. The goal is for you to have a clear understanding of the proposed design and to make any alterations necessary to achieve the project goals at this stage before moving on to the more detailed drawings.
3.The Design Development Phase
In some cases, this phase may be blended into the previous phase. I typically present the preliminary drawings to my clients as scaled and partially dimensioned drawings to show room sizes and overall building dimensions. This helps establish if any areas need to be increased or decreased in size or relocated a little earlier in the process. But I am aware of other building designers that do it differently. Either way is fine. This phase just takes the preliminary drawing to the next level by adding additional information and specifications allowing you, the client, to see the project pulling together and becoming cohesive. This is the time to address any final questions you may have relating to the layout, size or function of the spaces.
4.The Construction Document Phase
This phase involves the preparation of detailed Construction Documents and possibly Specifications* for obtaining bids from contractors, obtaining a building permit and for use by the contractor to construct the Project. The Construction Documents, sometimes referred to as CD”s, typically required by municipalities for obtaining a permit include but may not be limited to:
Once completed by the by building designer You are presented with completed and final construction documents for review & approval prior to being sent for sign and seal by the Engineer of Record when required by the municipality.
*I typically don’t provide specifications for my clients as often this is part of the general contractor’s contract with the client. I include as much information about the exterior and interior finishes, etc. as provided to me by the client on the plans. Very often the client hasn’t made specific selections for flooring, counter-tops at this stage. This may not always be the case, however.
5.The Bidding Process
Some building designers may offer services to assist with the bidding process. This involves preparing bidding instruction or a set of guidelines to the contractors with the intention of securing an apple-to-apples estimate that fit within an allotted time frame from each bidder. Next potential contractors are given the chance to bid on your project with each receiving a complete set of drawings, specifications and bid instructions. This is more common in commercial projects and large-scale residential projects.
I often encourage my clients to include the contractor in preliminary design meetings for their expertise and valuable input if they have already made a decision as to who they will be working with. But in most cases, the client is interviewing general contractors once the preliminary plans are completed enough that an estimate can be prepared or later when plans are finalized and ready for permitting. This can be a very daunting part of the process and I am always available to answer questions my clients come across when talking with contractors. It is very important to do your homework and check references to be sure that you will be hiring someone who will be a good fit for your project. A low bid is not always an indicator that you are hiring a qualified contractor that is best suited for your project.
The process to your dream home can take a bad turn if drawings are less than thorough and specifications are left in unanswered. Contractors very often refer to Construction documents to justify an action or lack of action. A disagreement between you and the contractor can result in a halt in your project while issues are worked out and can sometimes result in legal action. A professional building designer will try to avert any such conflicts before work begins by exploring design solutions with you on paper, and communicating with the contractor to answer any questions regarding a specification or drawing detail. Regardless of the scope of your project, thorough planning, and good design go hand in hand and will not only save you money but make the entire process go easier and with fewer complications.
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Within the first few meetings with your building designer, many areas will be discussed such as your ultimate goals for the project, your personal taste and lifestyle, and of course your budget. This information is what the designer will draw on for inspiration to create preliminary designs. You will find it helpful to gather family members and everyone who will be living with you, to do some initial homework around these topics.
Your Objectives and Ideas
Sometimes I find that my clients have an idea of what they want to create but may have different language they use to convey these ideas and as a result, these ideas may not be communicated as clearly as intended. The saying ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’ applies here. This can be a fun way to involve everyone in the family by collecting articles, photos, product brochures, paint chips, etc. to convey ideas. I have also had clients share their boards on Pinterest and Ideas on Houzz that they have collected while planning their new home.
Setting your Priorities
As you collect your wish list of ideas, you will want to take into account the things about your current home that you like and don’t like. Make a ‘New’ list that includes things and conditions that you want or need in your new home and an ‘Old’ list which will include things and conditions about your present home that can remain the same.
Refining the List
Now that you have made your lists, you will want to prioritize them in order of their importance to your needs, desires, and budget. This may be more of a process than a final conclusion and reordering the list several times before you’re satisfied. This process will more clearly define your project goals effectively.
This can be beneficial if in the future you have a need to deviate from the original project goals because of budget constraints. Items at the bottom of the list can become discretionary items and as such having a smaller negative impact on your preferred design.
Alternately these items can become a future phase of construction when money is available. An example might be where structural accommodations are made for an addition; utilities can be run and capped so they will be easily accessed to tie in at a future date. This kind of planning will result in less demolition and expenses when this phase of the project begins.
Some questions you will want to consider when gathering ideas for your home:
• What style of home do you want?
• Do you need all rooms on one level?
• Do you need more storage or closet space? Over sized garage? More room for the family gathering? Larger Kitchen? Home Office?
• What kinds of space do you need? A Home office or Workshop? Sewing or Hobby room?
• Are outdoor spaces important to your family to expand living spaces, etc.? Front Porch/Lania?
• Is a low maintenance exterior important?
Helping our clients crystallize design objectives is important to a design professional. As the homeowners, you and your family are essential members of the design team as well. It is a collaboration that will result in years of comfort and pleasure and a living environment that will enrich your family lifestyle.
Establishing an outline and budget
Your designer will ask many questions initially. Try to keep an open mind as you work with your designer. New ideas or solutions may be presented that you haven’t considered.
All projects have to comply with applicable building codes within the community. This does not have to mean an ordinary home. An experienced and educated eye can offer creative solutions to unique design problems, using the best applicable technologies in the solution. Staying on a budget can be one of the most challenging aspects of any project. We’ve all heard the horror stories… This can happen due to underestimating or because something was overlooked completely. And sometimes it can be the result of decisions made during the construction process even with the awareness of the extra cost associated with the decision.
There are so many variables in construction that it is difficult to give preliminary estimates that are 100% accurate. With this in mind, it is often prudent to establish a contingency amount for each line item in the construction budget. In this way, you become aware of the potential cost overruns during design development and can make decisions accordingly. Once budgetary decisions have been made, a building designer can work to achieve the most value for the allowable budget
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Next: The Design Process
A professional will take you from planning and design, through construction, and finally to occupancy, bringing your dream home to life in ways you might not have considered.
No two designers are alike. Each one has their own process to design and system of operation.
Some Designers may only offer planning and design services, And others may offer construction administration services in addition. So how do you decide who is right for you?
Finding the right residential building designer is similar to finding any other qualified professional.
Select Your Designer
Now for the next step; a phone call or email to each name on your list to introduce yourself. Describe the project; a new home, addition, or renovation. The objective is to construct a summary profile of the individual or firm.
Be specific with your questions:
This meeting may feel uneasy as this is where your needs, goals, finances, and dreams for your new home will be candidly discussed.
Just as important is the information you will glean about the building designer prior to engaging their services
The building designer also wants to evaluate you as a potential client. Since a project can typically last upwards of nine months, both parties need to decide if they can work together comfortably for the duration. The interview should last at least an hour or longer if the “chemistry” is right.
Most building designers will not charge for the initial interview meeting, but this is not always the case so be sure to ask if there will be a charge before scheduling an appointment.
The building designer must be able to understand your vision and provide a creative design solution by fitting structure to the architectural style you choose. Photos or magazine clippings you’ve collected will help in defining your goals. Pictures are worth a thousand words…..
It can be easy to be confused with building vocabulary so be sure to ask for an explanation if there is anything you feel uncertain about.
With each interview, ask yourself if this is someone you can work with; do your personalities in harmony? Do you feel this person is right for your project and responsive to your ideas?
Remember that there are many decisions to be made during the development of drawings and specifications for your project that will impact your day to day gratification with the completed project. You will be relying on the designer’s technical expertise, creative skills, and professional knowledge. The right building designer will get the most for your project dollars.
Although there is not a standard for how building designers charge for services, fees can be fixed any number of ways considering different aspects of the project. Designers may use one of the following:
Any fruitful relationship starts with a clear, well-documented mutual understanding. Your written agreement with a building designer should indicate:
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Next: The Design Team
When you are considering a new home or addition, a qualified residential designer is your best choice to guide you through the design/building experience.
No doubt you’ve collected photos about homes you like and have clear and definite ideas about what your dream home should be. But that is just the beginning….
A good designer listens to your ideas for your home and will visualize space within the proposed design and then explore that space with you to ensure it meets your needs and desired expectations. In addition to considering aesthetic issues; form, scale, and balance; structural design and code requirements must also be taken into account.
As your design evolves, a residential building designer will also suggest innovative products and materials that would be appropriate for your new home and may even assist you in selection.
There are no two projects completely alike, and that is true for residential building designers as well. Each will approach design in their own way and may offer different levels of service beyond planning & design.
Next: Finding the right Residential Building Designer for you.
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My name is Judith Ann Koehn and I am the principal/designer for Ontwerpe Studio a Residential Design and Drafting firm. I am passionate about “good sustainable design” and with more than 20 years of experience designing small casitas to large custom homes, multi-family housing and many different kinds of remodeling projects I would be very comfortable helping you bring your next project to life.