Deciding what to build
The first phase, called Programming, is a time for information gathering. It is our time to listen, question and explore possibilities. It is vital for your architect to understand your tastes and preferences. Many people like to gather appealing pictures from magazines and books. This is your opportunity to indulge in a little creative daydreaming. The goal isn’t simply to list elements or features that are appealing, but to understand the reasons behind those choices. Many other methods are available to help describe your dreams. You may write about the activities you do in your home, or prepare wish lists and reality lists. You might fill out questionnaires provided by describing your family’s daily life. You might find it an interesting exercise to walk through your existing home noting your likes and dislikes, which areas you use frequently and which you hardly ever use. The point is to utilize whatever works best for you, realizing that the more you can tell us about what you like and need, the closer we can come to fulfilling your architectural dreams.
Thorough programming doesn’t take a tremendous amount of time, but it certainly requires more effort than simply listing the rooms and features you want. It will give you clear criteria by which to evaluate our work and make it much more likely that your new home will live up to, or better yet exceed, your expectations. Other tasks also need to be accomplished before the start of design. You will need to provide us with a site survey so that factors affecting the building can be analyzed. We can assist in procuring the survey, or for that matter, we would welcome the opportunity to be involved in the site selection process. If you are remodeling or building an addition, it is necessary for us to document your existing house. Documentation includes taking photographs, and measuring and preparing scale drawings. Even if you have original blueprints, some verification of existing conditions will be necessary. Houses are not always built exactly according to plan.
02 Schematic Design
Site analysis & preliminary sketches
While you’re working on the program, we’ll visit the site. We make note of the topography, the vegetation, the prevalent winds, views, site features such as rock outcroppings, etc. We’ll walk the site with you, likely numerous times, at varying times of day and seasons of the year, to understand how your site works. The site analysis and your program will then work together, as one, to begin the generation of your home.
Once you have decided what to build, the architectural design begins with a series of rough sketches known as schematic design. These sketches show the general arrangement of rooms and placement of the building on the site. Ideas are explored and evaluated with you through the use of drawings and cardboard models or 3-D computer models until a direction for the design is set.
The actual process will vary with your ability to visualize as well as the project architect you are working with. These schematic design sketches convey the overall design by illustrating the shape, slope of roofs, approximate size and location of walls, windows, doors and cabinets. These sketches are adequate for gathering preliminary cost figures based on area, but do not contain the resolution or detail required for construction or final pricing.
Feedback at this point is very general. It is difficult to predict market conditions, the availability of materials, and other unforeseen circumstances at the time your construction documents are complete and actual bid prices can be obtained. To avoid any surprises, we are regularly obtaining and update the preliminary pricing. It is vital the schematic designs capture the essence of what your project will be and that you and your architecture in agreement about the design direction. It is much easier to make changes at this stage when your project is in sketch form that later when a great many hours have been spent working on construction documents or even later when foundations have been poured and walls erected.
03 Design Development
Redefining the design
This step, called design development, is when the architect prepares more detailed floor plans, elevations, and cross sections to illustrate other aspects of the design. All decisions that are to be documented in the construction drawings are made. These include decisions about interior and exterior materials and finishes, lighting, windows and cabinets. Other technical matters such as the type and placement of insulation, the structural system and heating and cooling systems must also be determined. Many of these decisions impact other decisions. For instance, the depth of a structural member can affect the ceiling height in a roof, the light fixtures, and the amount of insulation in ceiling. These in turn can affect compliance with either building code or energy codes. Whenever a change is made, a ripple effect is created, requiring adjustments elsewhere.
When looking at these drawings, try to visualize yourself actually using the spaces. Do the traffic patterns flow well? Does each space serve its intended purpose? Do you like the way it looks and the materials that have been selected?
04 Construction Documents
The next phase sets down on paper all the decisions made to this point so they can be incorporated into the built project. These working drawings, which are also called construction documents, consist of both drawings and specifications. The drawings are detailed and illustrate the quantities and relationships of all work required to build the project. The specifications are a comprehensive written documentation outlining the levels of quality to be met in materials and workmanship. The contractor will use these documents to establish the actual construction cost, and to build the project.
These construction documents become a part of your contract with the general contractor or builder and establish his contractual obligations. As a result, anything not contained in the documents is left to the contractor’s discretion and may potentially lead to additional charges for you.
Complete documentation means that there will be fewer problems and delays during construction, since most decisions have been made before construction begins. The more detailed and complete the construction documents, the more accurate the bid price can be.
05 Hiring the Contractor
There are a number of ways to select a contractor. When the time comes to hire a contractor, we can provide assistance in evaluating their qualifications and bids as well as in negotiating a contract. The first and most traditional approach is to ask two or three general contractors to bid the project using completed construction documents. As the architects or your project, we are in the best position to coordinate the bidding process by answering bidders’ questions, evaluating requests for substitutions, providing updated information to all bidders, establishing a bidding format and analyzing the often confusing bids. The lowest bidder is often selected to do the work, but not always. As your architect, we will help you make the contractor selection based on the best value.
Another approach to selecting a contractor is to pre-select the general contractor early in the design process and work together to obtain input during the design process. When construction documents have been completed, your contractor will often obtain competitive bids from subcontractors. This approach is used quite commonly, particularly when contractors are especially busy. You get their early input, get them lined up on your schedule and still have competitive prices for the majority of the project. Our experience can be extremely valuable in helping you to obtain a complete and carefully bid contract with your general contractor.
While, as your architect, we may suggest potential contractors and assist in the selection process, the final choice is up to you.
Our involvement normally does not stop with the preparation of construction documents. We act as your representative by monitoring the contractor’s work for conformance with the working drawings and contract. Even the best two dimensional documents cannot fully convey all aspects of a three-dimensional building without being open to interpretation. Knowing the intent of the drawings is crucial to proper interpretation. Having been intimately involved from the beginning, we are best qualified to provide assistance to ensure your finished home is built as intended.
This assistance to the contractor usually consists of answering questions by phone, providing regular site visits to observe the work, providing supplemental drawings as requested by the contractor, reviewing shop drawings, materials and product samples, and reviewing requests for design changes. Our involvement in this phase can make a smooth transition from construction documents to a complete project.
We provide other services that look out for your interests. These included reviewing and approving the contractors’ applications for payment and keeping you apprised of the project’s progress. The contractor has sole responsibility for construction methods, techniques, and schedule and procedures. Dale & Elizabeth both have a great deal of construction administration experience, and will represent you in this complex process.
We can ease the way by helping you avoid wrong turns and can direct you to solutions you never considered. The result is a unique home created to meet your needs, express your individuality and to provide enjoyment to everyone who uses it.