What's The Process For Working With An Architect To Design My Home?

What do I get for my money? Are you worried about working with an architect but have no idea what to expect? Well here is a detailed layout of how a typical project can be structured when working with Mottram Architecture. What do you get for your money? Value! Sure, I’m trying to sell you something that doesn’t exist and below is a list of the meetings and items I will provide to you during the course of a project. But what am I really providing?You might ask yourself:Do I need to hire an architect?Nope! Homes are built every day without an architect. Building a home is a complex problem and we (as architects) thrive on those challenges. Isn’t your dream home a space that suits you exactly? Do you live in a home that you have been trying to reconfigure for your family's specific wants and desires? These are custom solutions that we can help you solve. Hiring an architect is about managing your risk through a complex construction project, and increasing the quality of your experience during the process and for years after as you live in your home.A project typically takes a natural progression that almost all architects follow. We work in a similar manor and this is the breakdown of how we work. Every client is different, however, and we give you the opportunity to take advantage of as many phases as you’d like. We also realize that this process is based on the average client and we may spend more time with you in different phases. Every client is unique and we adapt our proposals to meet your needs.Phase I is an existing conditions survey, or it's schematic design if you are building new. What happens in the schematic design phase?We meet to discuss your goals and establish the project requirements including the Project Scope, budget, space requirements and aesthetic preferences.Based on the requirements established at the first meeting, we sketch out a design comprised of up to three proposed solutions for the project. Solutions usually include floor plans and exterior building elevations to illustrate the home.After discussion of the first three design concepts, we have an additional meeting to present and discuss the combinations of all of the design solutions into one solution moving forward. Usually we provide two revisions to the selected schematic design solution.  More than two revisions during the schematic design phase could be considered additional services and can change the overall cost of the design proposal. Again, this process is based on your average customer.At this phase we provide a “design” budget using square footage cost estimation and the schematic design solution will be signed off on prior to moving to the next phase of design.Phase II, What happens during the design development phase?With your approval of the schematic design we get a lot more detailed! We will develop the floor plans, exterior elevations and prepare additional details to fix and describe the character of the project.You will now need to start thinking about and seleting hardware, finish plumbing fixtures, appliances, kitchen cabinets, tile, stone and decorative lighting fixtures. Depending on the project we typically prepare interior elevations as necessary to describe the locations and arrangements of fixtures and finishes that you have selected.As a rule of thumb, we usually meet once at the beginning of design development and once during the process. This translates to 2 design revisions prior to heading into construction documents where we tell the builder how it all goes together.Phase III: What happens during the construction document phase?Based on the approved design development drawings, we prepare construction documents consisting of drawings and specifications that will describe the scope of work and be suitable for filing with the building department and for construction by a qualified contractor.This is the part where we, as architects, spend a lot of time at the drawing board putting together all the details. We meet less frequently, and what is provided is a substantial set of construction documents that can include, but not be limited to:

    • Architectural Floor Plans delineating the existing construction, demolition, new construction, and the cross referencing of details and sections on subsequent drawings.
    • Power and Data Plans showing electrical receptacles, telephone, cable and internet locations.
    • Finish plumbing fixture locations.
    • Reflected Ceiling Plans indicating placement of ceiling-mounted, wall-mounted and recessed lighting fixtures, with associated switching arrangements, and locations for required smoke and carbon dioxide detectors.
    • Building Elevations at each exterior facade showing the existing residence with the proposed new construction including notes indicating finishes, materials and any special conditions.
    • Details, Sections, Schedules and Notes communicating, in detail, different aspects of the design relating to construction and/or code requirements. These details are essential in conveying the design concept to the General Contractor, the subcontractors and to the Building Department.

Engineering Note: Basic Architectural Services do not include mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fire suppression, structural or civil engineering. Phase IV: What happens in the pricing and permitting phase:We should qualify that we will help with putting a project out to bid as noted below, however, we find that our clients are more satisfied with the overall construction project when they select a contractor during the design phase and bring them into the process creating a truly integrated design. This almost always saves time and money for the homeowner.Contractor SelectionWe will assist you in interviewing (3) contractors of your choosing or if you need some contractor referrals we know several people in different geographical locations that would be happy to talk with you about your project.We coordinate with the contractor during the design development and construction document phase to reduce design fees and meet the clients scope and budget. We work closely with the Contractor to value engineer a project to meet within the constraints of your scope and budget and revise the design accordingly.Bid CoordinationIf you choose to put the project out to bid we will assist you with assembling, distributing and evaluating the bid package, which includes things like preparing and distributing the Construction Documents to each contractor. Addressing contractors questions and issuing clarifications and/or addenda (as required). Assisting you with the evaluation of the bids, as it needs to be reviewed to be sure each contractor is bidding apples to apples.Building Permit AssistanceWe will assist you in preparing the application for the Building Permit as required by the local zoning code. We will make sure the drawings include all the necessary elements for permit along with any other paperwork you might be required to submit. Fees associated with the Application for Building Permit are the responsibility of the Client.Phase V: What happens during construction administration?Based on the signed contract between you and the contractor of your choice, we can provide a number of services during construction!We prefer to start construction off with a project coordination meetings just to be sure the client and the contractor are on the same page! This helps to provide clarification of construction documents.If you need us to, we will visit the project site at regular intervals to observe the progress of the work and answer any questions the contractor might have. When you are dealing with renovation projects you should know that something always comes up during construction.On larger projects we review subcontractors’ submittals such as shop drawings, product data and/or samples. Sometimes that means we might prepare supplemental and clarification drawings during construction to meet the requirements of your project.At substantial completion, the Architect shall prepare a “punch list” of work to be corrected and review the corrective work to completion. It's always that last 5%.We give our clients a proposal after our first meeting that details these steps with our understanding of their scope of work. At any time a client can choose to move forward to the next phase, or only complete the current phase.  We like to think we make architectural services available to everyone. We think we add value to every project, so we'd like you to give us the opportunity to prove our worth!~ Emily Mottram, Mottram Architecture

What Does A Homeowner Need To Know When Building Their Own Home? An Interview with Karen

As 2015 ended and 2016 took off soaring, I sat back to think about what my clients, future clients, and every homeowner might like to know about building their own home. As the Architect, I'm here to help you every step of the way with charts, lists, project schedules and whatever you may need.  However, I think it's just as important to hear it from my clients.  So I sat down with one of my current client, Karen, to get her feedback on the process of building her own home.How many builders did you interview before you selected your current builder?"One!" Karen had intended to interview three different builders.  She got referrals, asked her friends, and had every intention of being her own general contractor for the projects.  She thought, with her connections, she could get great pricing and save money.  When her excavation contractor, who she knows, likes, and trusts, recommended a builder to her she thought, why not, let's hear what he has to say.  Karen says "He pulled into my driveway and starts  chatting with me. I immediately tell him that I want to GC my own project because I'm well connected and I know people.  To which he responded that he too knows people, and because he does repeat business with them, they give him even better pricing.  When I found out he could do the project as the GC for the same price that I could I was shocked. And it turns out he was right. I had friends in the trades that I thought would help with our project that never even called me back to give me a bid. It simply isn't worth their time for a one-off project. Honestly I don't even think we made it into the house. We talked for 10 minutes and I hired him on the spot without ever seeing his work. When you know your supposed to work with someone, you just go with your gut. I never interviewed another builder".What's so great about working with this builder?"As I mentioned, I wanted to GC my own project.  So I went to the builder with spreadsheets and cut sheets on everything I wanted.  Then he explained to me his perspective with other clients as we moved through the process. There were definitely glitches during the project, but my husband and I try not to sweat the small stuff.  We either fixed it if we could, or we lived with it and let go of it if we couldn't. Communication is definitely key" And from experience I can tell you that Karen and her husband are constantly on site, just like every homeowner will be with their project.  In Karen's words. "There needs to be an established trust.  You need to pick someone you can work with and he was willing to work with me"What has been the hardest struggle with building your own home?"Hmm, that's a tough one. It's all gone so well.  I guess that I wanted to be in by December 31st.  Everything was ahead of schedule and under budget, but now that we are getting down to the finish level we have had coordination issues.  The doors were backordered and won't come in for 6 weeks, but then we couldn't complete other finish details without the doors and that's when the schedule went right out the window.  When something doesn't get installed on schedule it affects other pieces of the puzzle. When other trades can't come in on the scheduled date you get bumped to the back of the line.  Our contractor is actually finishing today and going to another job.  He'll be back to finish the finish carpentry when the doors come in"What's you're advice for other homeowners who might deal with a similar situation?"Add 4 weeks to your move in date just to be safe.  And be realistic. I know my contract says December 31st, but I'm not going to hold my builder to that when this delay was out of his hands. Lots of things happen that are out of your control"What other advice would you give to homeowners? "If you're building on your own property check your homeowners insurance will cover the cost of the new build especially if you're financing it yourself. I woke up one night with a near panic attack that the new house might burn down. I called the insurance agent and had coverage the very next day. When I checked what our homeowners insurance covered it was only 3/4 of the cost of the build. Also, make sure everyone signs lien waivers so you're covered in the event of an incident. And on top of that, document every conversation so when someone gives you a quote and it comes back double you can say: What changed here? I kept a little journal though the whole process." said Karen.  As an Architect I often follow up meetings with my understanding of the scope and the next steps.  This helps to reduce confusion and gives everyone a hard copy to go back to incase there is a discrepancy.  I don't believe it is legally binding, but it's a great paperwork trail to figure out how you ended up somewhere.What was an interesting piece of advice that someone shared with you during the process?"I thought it was funny at the time, but someone told me: When you pour the foundation it will feel big, then when you frame the walls it will feel very small, but then when you put up the drywall the space will feel big again, but then you'll paint and it will feel really small, but when the furniture comes in and fills the space it will feel just right if you planned it right.  I thought that was unique, but it was definitely true during the build"What last words of wisdom would you give to other homeowners?"Building should be fun! It's the single largest investment you're going to make and you're going to spend a lot of time with the individual you picked to build your home.  So make sure you pick someone you can work with.  And lastly, this is your dream, do it with a grateful heart. You have a opportunity that lots of other people never will, so be grateful."

How To Keep The Momentum Going On Your Design Project

When doing a building project, momentum is key to a successful project.  Clients show up at the first few meetings with bright eyes and lofty dreams, but who drives the project after the newness has worn off and you are bogged down by the details of the project?  This is a discussion that I have had with fellow architects, clients, and marketing professionals in the last month and I thought it merited discussion.When a project first starts, the architect needs to lead the momentum.  One of the biggest reasons that projects fail is poor project management. After the first meeting, the architect should propose a time and an outcome for the next meeting prior to leaving the first meeting.  Give the client a schedule of events.  Unless the client has built a home or designed a project before, they have no idea what to expect.  The architect should ask for a project budget and a timeframe. Then they should backtrack from the end date to create a preliminary schedule.  Before leaving the first meeting let the client know  “I’m going to provide you with (XYZ), does it work for your schedule to call you or meet with you on (X) day at (X) time to discuss”.  This establishes a next meeting and requires that the client sets aside time to continue the discussion of their project. It starts the momentum from the very first meeting, lets the client know that the architect is organized and reliable, keeps the client on track, and lets them know what the next expectation is.Now that you have made it through the first five meetings, because I’ve been told that five is the number of contacts necessary to get a client to “buy in”, you are underway on the project.  It is at that point that the client and architect are now both responsible for maintaining the momentum. The second reason that projects fail is due to the client or the architect having lost track of what the problem was that needs to be solved.  When an architect gives the client homework, and they don’t do it, it backlogs the project. It pushes back the timeframe and increases the budget because now the architect has to have more meetings to maintain the process.  I also feel that it is important to give the client no more then three decisions at a time. Clients can get distracted by all the choices available and have difficulty staying on one course.  This is the point at which projects can derail, as the architect or owner has lost sight of the problem that needed to be solved.  Many studies have been done on how people make decisions, and it is clear that the client needs to maintain the goal in mind in order to get through the process and arrive at a solution to their project.  Although the information age give us endless possibilities, if an architect provides a client with endless design solutions the momentum of the project can be lost very quickly.  There is always some other way to do it, so providing the client with fewer options based on an architects professional opinion will keep the project moving forward and help keep the focus on the problem that needs to be solved.Clients often have no idea what the architect is doing or how much time they spend researching, planning, designing, or discussing the project with fellow colleagues, city staff, regulatory boards, and other jurisdiction requirements. It is important to know that they are going to spend far more hours dedicated to a client’s project, on things that clients typically don’t get involved with, but are necessary to successful projects.  So when an architect asks the client to do a little homework, please do it before the next meeting, or call the architect and let them know that something came up. Reschedule the meeting for a time when the homework is complete and everyone is ready to discuss the project. These steps are necessary to maintain momentum. If the client requests weekly meetings, make sure there is something to discuss at each of these meetings, solutions that move the project forward.  If the architect feels that weekly meetings are unnecessary, explain why to prevent micro management of a project that slows down and delays the work, it is up to the architect to manage the process and provide enough information at each meeting to instill confidence in the client.  The client does not know how to evaluate an architect’s ability.  So with all clients educate first and design second. It’s hard to know what people don’t know, once you already know it. Clients who have done a lot of research will appreciate the architect’s opinions on the subject.  Clients who have not done a lot of research will appreciate the information that is necessary to make their project truly successful.  I firmly believe there is no such thing as too much education, but there can be too much information.  So it is the architect’s responsibility to listen to the client and keep their goals in mind.It can be very difficult as the architect to both listen and teach.  There is a fine line between explaining your project and listening to the client’s response.  Answering questions and writing down answers or questions from the client all while explaining a design process or thought can be tricky.  If the architect works as a team, it is often beneficial to include a team member during the discussions that takes notes and can provide an alternate viewpoint when necessary.  However, in residential design, the budget may not be able to afford the extra cost.Maintaining the momentum during the project often happens through contact with the client, a simple reminder of what is going on, and providing them with valuable information.  People often worry about “bothering” their clients, or clients “bothering” their architect.  If you are going to make contact, just make sure you are providing valuable information, then the client, or architect, will be happy to receive your correspondence and feel like the project is important and a priority.  In many ways a design project is like a relationship.  The better the communication, the better the project.So as a client, if you are getting ready to design a new project, keep in mind that it is a two-way relationship with the architect to maintain the momentum of a project and complete it on time.  If you are an architect, it’s important to remember that you are not only the architect, but also the project manager, and maybe the technician who has to complete the work.  Create enough time to do all of them, explain to the client how long it takes, and what the process is.  By educating the client everyone will be happier and a successful project will emerge.