If you haven’t read our post The Initial Meeting with Your Architect, you might want to start there. Generally, every project we engage in begins with an initial meeting that takes from an hour or two, depending on the scope. We’ll ask about your budget and timeline, learn about your vision and preferences, and engage in a dialogue to ensure that our design philosophy will align with yours.
Since we’ve been designing spaces for the past twenty-two years, we understand that translating your vision with good design is the most important aspect of the relationship we establish, so that the outcome is what you were seeking, and more!
PROPOSAL AND CONTRACT
Before we engage further into the process, we like to send you a proposal outlining all we discussed and what our anticipated fees might be. Transparency being a critical component of our business, we typically charge hourly as we feel it’s the fairest to both parties and this is how we represent accurately all our costs to our clients.
A FIELD TRIP TO YOUR SITE
One of the key elements to designing any project is visiting the site and seeing the type of amenities it has: if there are trees and where, a slope, what the solar orientation is, any potential views, or one to be blocked. We like to get a site plan when possible, go to that property with a compass and swing view angles of distant mountain peaks, a river, a neighbor’s house, or any notable landscape feature. We might utilize other resources such as the county GIS (Geographic Information System), a framework for gathering, managing and analyzing data, to deepen our investigation when necessary; for example, needing to know more about the floodplain, or natural resource overlays, or when the property is under various restrictions. All this information goes on the site plan so that when we start designing the building we have a good idea where the optimal placement of specific parts of the structure might be.
This is the first attempt at design, being done by either Kurt Dubbe or Chris Moulder. We work quickly, sketching, designing, and drafting ideas at a rapid pace, and generally do it at a smaller scale of 1/8”=1’-0”. We then translate the result --very crude drawings, into a presentable layout, very accurate yet highly editable: the intention is to show that we can modify anything easily and you won’t feel committed to a design you’re not set on. For instance, placing furniture on the design lets you relate to the space; understanding how you might move within it, you might want to change some of its aspects. This schematic design phase is the very essence of translating an abstract thought to something legible that you can understand. Its goal is to further our dialogue by eliciting a response and a sense that this direction is the one you want to move forward with.
NARROWING THE VISION
We now can go from a few presented ideas down to one. The drawings scale moves up to ¼”=1’=0” in a more refined capacity. You’re satisfied with the general floor plan we’ve proposed and we turn to generating renderings on the computer using our complete in-house CAD services, full graphic and 3D-modeling capabilities. These CAD drawings outline the envelope of the building (walls, plate heights, the anticipated structure of the building, whether it will be hand-framed or trussed, what the trusses might look like, etc). At this point, we can refine surfaces of the project and investigate it in three dimensions to ensure that the overall result is what we initially imagined, as well as solidifying the idea in your mind.
BIDDING FROM CONTRACTORS
Once we have the plan sections, elevations, and site plan package put together, it’s sufficient to initiate a conversation with a potential contractor, or contractors, and have them meet with you to find the right match, not just from a price stand-point but also a personality one. This is when negotiations with the contractors happens. We’ll give them enough information to provide us with an estimate of what they feel it might cost to build. During this time (a significant portion of the fee) you’re able to discuss with the contractor what their business philosophy might be, or how they might react to your requirements. We need to underline here the importance of all parties seeing eye-to-eye, otherwise it could be a difficult and unpleasant building process. Of course, there is the occasional situation where you might already have a contractor for your project and this step is minimized.
Now that we have all ideas refined and all the details we needed from you, we prepare drawings that will serve contractors, sub-contractors and tradespeople. Typically, at the end of this phase, the constructions drawings are complete enough for the contractor to provide you with a much more accurate estimate encompassing most details (with an allowance for more). If you judge it acceptable, you sign and enter into a contract with them.
At this point, it is implied a building permit has been issued from the appropriate governing authority, and their code requirements and other submission requirements are met. Construction can begin but we don’t step aside as we continue to supervise and mediate the process, so that everyone is doing their job properly and in a timely manner. Note that this doesn’t mean modifications are not possible, changes can still occur: unforeseeable factors can happen, for example a large stone ledge that was not detected while testing the grounds, or a pocket of poor soil. This is when the contractor will submit to us a Change Order; we will review it with you, approve it, and that will adjust the construction budget. It is done in a formal way so that all parties know what the final number will be.
The construction phase being the longest until completion, you will, most likely, have more questions and we will do our best to answer them. This is how we ensure you understand the whole construction process, feel confident that all is going as it should, and that all parties are mutually excited about the end result.