Custom Home Design Process
The Design of a Custom Home or a Remodeling involves literally hundreds of decisions in many different areas of design and construction. Each area is a specialization in itself and requires a great deal of knowledge and experience to make well informed decisions. In fact, a home is one of the most complex design problems and is more involved than many other commercial or industrial projects of a limited nature. As a professional Architect, I am educated, trained and licensed to assist you throughout the entire design and building process. An Architect protects a client’s interests and organizes the design procedure by guiding the clientele through a decision-making process. In choosing your Architect one must feel comfortable with their methods of communication and confident with their level of experience. This initial decision is a critical key to the success of your project.
A typical project involves one or more initial meetings to determine your design needs, budget, scope of services and to analyze the site and all other project requirements. This is followed by “Three Design Phases” and may include the Bidding and/or the Construction Administration phases. The number of meetings varies from client to client, depending upon several factors including client involvement, extent of details and specified time frames.
1. Preliminary Design Phase
The first phase is the Preliminary Design Phase and it involves the initial process of evaluating your needs, special relationships, and functional requirements. Your Architect would design the site plan, floor plans, exterior elevations and sections with multiple design ideas for your review. These ideas are usually sketched freehand, to scale, and are open to discussion for revision and redesign until you are pleased with all decisions. At this phase, an Architect will discuss room finishes, ceiling heights, structural members, air conditioning routing, and other details. We suggest that you acquire 2 preliminary bids at the end of this phase to verify that the established budget is still accurate.
2. Design Development Phase
When the Preliminary Design layout is determined to be within your square footage range, approximate budget and is well suited to your needs, the Design Development Phase is initiated upon your approval. This phase consists of basic, computerized one-quarter inch scale drawings of the plans, elevations, roof, sections, and other relevant drawings necessary to describe the design of the custom home or remodeling. Once the computer-generated drawings are approved then we begin to involve a structural engineer for the foundation and framing.
3. Construction Documents Phase
Your Architect then proceeds to the Construction Documents Phase. Changes to the plan should be minimal after this point to eliminate what would be extensive revisions to the drawings. An Architect adds many dimensions and notes to the floor plans; draws finished exterior elevations, the roof plan layout, electrical layouts, interior elevations and cabinetry, detailed house and wall sections, the site plan, and all other necessary drawings. The Construction Documents are drawn to local standards and codes in order to obtain your building permit and are used by your general contractor to build from. These drawings are considered to be your legal documents describing the nature of the home you are building. It is very important that these drawings be thorough, clear, and complete. This will eliminate many of the stresses and miscommunications related to building or remodeling.
4. Bidding Phase
Your Architect can assist you in obtaining and reviewing formal bids from several contractors. This phase would be considered the Bidding Phase. If requested, your Architect will hold a bid conference answering questions for all contractors. It is recommended that complete specifications on materials and construction procedures be written so that all bidders understand the same requirements for construction. Get an insight to your bidders. See the quality of their construction both in process and completed. You should also talk with homeowners that the contractor has completed a custom home or remodeling for.
5. Construction Administration Phase
Architects are also knowledgeable to assist throughout the Construction Administration Phase. Your Architect makes periodic site visits to observe that the home is being built according to plans and specifications. If required, the Architect can administer the construction contract by verifying construction draws from the contractor through the bank.
6. Architectual Fees
Architectural fees for a Custom Home are typically quoted on a cost per square foot of construction. Fee schedules vary with each individual project due to size and complexity, the scope of services performed and the amount of information supplied. We recommend that you collect pictures of ideas that fit your lifestyle and tastes. These pictures can assist the Architect. She will take your desires, add ideas to them, and develop your designs faster.
The more you know you want, the less time it will take her to develop your plans, therefore possibly lowering fees. It also takes more time to design and draw a complete and thoroughly detailed set of house plans. The saying “you get what you pay for” is very true in this situation. Also, Many times the fees of an Architect’s service can be easily compensated due to their knowledge and experience in the construction practices, the utilization of standard material sizes and by the avoidance of potential delays, revisions and added expenses. Be aware that it costs less to put your plans on paper thoroughly now than it does to make changes or additions in the field during construction with labor and materials.
If you are planning to Remodel an existing home, your Architect would perform the same design phases with minor variations. It is recommended that you try to obtain a set of plans of your existing home from the past owners, the builder, the architect or the homeowner’s association. Remodeling is usually billed hourly and original plans can reduce your initial design costs.
The process of designing “Your Custom Home” or remodeling can, and should, be a pleasant and exciting experience. Your Architect knows what information is needed and when, and takes pleasure in seeing your dream home evolve as you work together throughout the “Custom Design Process.” Attention to detail and good communication skills with your Architect will assure your success. Consider the day-to-day enjoyment that you will get from your custom home and the added dimension that good design and planning can bring to you and your family’s life.