PROFESSIONAL SERVICES and the
TYPICAL PROJECT PATH
Getting from first concept to finished building is a complex process, and I lead my clients through it carefully, step by step. Here are the usual phases on a project.
Will Your Plans Work on Your Property?
If you aren’t sure your ideas will fit on a piece of land you own or intend to purchase, or if you are considering replacing or remodeling an existing building, a valuable first step is a Feasibility Study. This may include footprint diagrams and 3D volumetric studies, review of building and land use codes, utility availability, sewer access or septic viability, topographic constraints, zoning or community restrictions, cost and schedule projections, and other investigations to help you decide if the property is right for the project you have in mind.
What Exactly Are You Trying to Achieve?
Clients often have a general idea of what they want but need help with the particulars. This phase is an opportunity to build our partnership and clarify your goals in detail: the measurable needs (how much closet space?); the aesthetic aspirations (how will it look and feel?); your daily routines and lifestyle; and your future plans. We explore these issues with you through a detailed questionnaire to help figure out exactly what we will accomplish together in this project. The effort will produce the Project Brief—a written document detailing your goals and expectations that we will address in the Concept Design.
What Is It Going to Look Like?
Once we have a clear idea what we intend to accomplish (the Project Brief), we can begin to generate designs to show how the spaces can be organized. Sometimes one solution is clearly the best, and sometimes several approaches offer different ways to address your goals. We will review these design studies together and choose the direction that works best for you. If we need measurements of the topography, lot boundaries, and other site features to inform the design process, I can recommend a surveyor to bring onto the team. The Concept Design package will include preliminary plans, building elevations, and general material indications—enough information to help general contractors prepare preliminary cost estimates. With those estimates in hand, we can make adjustments to the Project Brief, your budget, and/or the construction cost estimates to bring all three into alignment.
DESIGN DEVELOPMENT AND CONSTRUCTION DOCUMENTS
Details, Details, Details!
The work of this phase develops the Concept Design in much greater detail—determining how the pieces fit together, what the finish materials are, how code requirements are met, and a host of similar issues. At this point we will expand the project team to include other professionals—almost always a structural engineer, and sometimes geotechnical and civil engineers and other specialists, depending on the project-specific conditions. I can recommend consultants for all these services. All consultant contract agreements are made directly with you, although I will coordinate their work.
The first milestone in this phase is completion of the drawings and forms needed to start the permitting review by the building department. While that review is in process, we continue to develop details and specifications that the contractor will need to price and build the job (beyond information needed for the permit). The aim is to have a comprehensive set of drawings plus material and product specifications, down to the cabinet knobs, completed by the time the building permits are issued. The more complete this package is, the tighter the cost quotes should be from the general contractor.
CONTRACTOR SELECTION PROCESS
Who Should Build It?
Occasionally a client will come with a preferred general contractor, but more commonly they are looking for recommendations. I have worked with a number of general contractors, some for almost twenty years, and based on the scope, size, and timing of the project, I can recommend those who would be a good fit. We usually introduce general contractors to the project at the end of the Concept Design phase, when we are looking for preliminary cost estimates. The end of the Construction Documents phase is when we ask for more precise estimates from these contractors, and at that time I can help you choose which one you feel the most comfortable working with. I can then help you complete the contract agreement between owner and general contractor, with attention to making sure it coordinates properly with the owner’s service agreement with the architect. The general contractor will select, contract, and manage the dozen or more subcontractors—the excavator, electrician, plumber, roofer, tile setter, drywaller, cabinet maker, painter, and so on— which is a large part of the value they bring to the job.
Is the Contractor Doing a Good Job?
As beautiful as a design might look on paper, the true satisfaction is seeing it built. I take an active role in the construction phase and provide my input to help the general contractor build it as intended. My efforts include regular site visits to observe and comment on construction progress and if warranted, reject work that is done incorrectly; answer the contractor’s questions; provide details to clarify or augment the construction drawings; review and approve shop drawings prepared by subcontractors for custom-fabricated items; meet with you and the contractor to review progress, schedule, and costs; and review the contractor’s payment requests. As the job nears completion, we generate a Punch List of small items to be corrected or installed and then review the completed work before final closeout of the construction contract.
POST CONSTRUCTION SUPPORT
Learning to Live in Your New House
A new or remodeled house has lots of products and features to learn about, along with new lifestyle routines to establish. The general contractor usually provides a binder of all the manuals, warranties, and maintenance instructions for products, and we often assist in explaining the regular maintenance programs the owner will need to follow to keep the house in good operation for years to come. After you have had a chance to live in the new surroundings for a while, we are also interested in learning how well the design and our work met your expectations and dreams.